Old Home Café: The Next Generation

By Edward Floden, based on characters and situations created by William D. Fries, Jr.

Episode XVII: A Pause in the Action

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2003 May 19.)

30-plus hamburgers and a couple of cases of free beer later, the Sioux City Ramblers mounted their hogs and putted out of town, looking for a cool breeze. This July day was warming up, and the air conditioner in the Old Home Café was struggling to meet the need for a cooler environment. There was a coolant leak in the compressor, Jon knew, but he hadn’t gotten around to getting the unit recharged. Maybe tomorrow, he thought; I’ve got to work on the accounting today.

Jon was hoping that he hadn’t dived into really deep water when he bought the Café. He was a web wonk, not a restauranteur, and he often wondered if he’d made a good decision. The menu was good, with its staples of burgers and chops and salad, and he was making a list of new items to be added. The people of Pisgah weren’t shy about suggesting changes. The Café had far to go, if it were to be as popular as it was in its heyday of the ’70s; but Jon first wanted to get the business to a self-sustaining level. Opening day was, so far, a success. But could he maintain that popularity?

On his desk, in a room back behind the kitchen, lay “the books”, income and outgo recorded on their green-ruled pages. Folders of receipts sat nearby, the evidence of a mighty river of cash flow. Although the scene appeared business-like, Jon didn’t look forward to another late night shuffling papers. He really needed an accountant.

Larry and Jerry were out front, removing the last of the lunch dishes from the tables. The Café was, at 2 P.M., down to 3 customers, and those three, Jon was sure, had been there since breakfast. Or the “Debacle At Dawn”, and he was beginning to call it. Maybe the bottomless cup of coffee idea wasn’t so great, as these three loiterers must be an their 10th or 11th or 20th.

Jon helped with the busing. Not much else to do until the dinner crowd — and he was hoping that there would be a crowd, although not as large as that morning's — arrived.

He looked out of the windows. Every few minutes a truck or car passed by, hauling cargo or passengers to some place that wasn’t here. The drivers and passengers stared at the Café, probably looking for a sign that it was open for business. He saw a few people point to the black and white and orange “Yes, We’re Open“ signs on the doors, and hoped that they’d be back later.

Across Main Street, Avis Granelli exited from the bank and crossed at the street corner, walking north. As she approached the Café’s west door she paused, and looked inside. Jon noticed her and started towards the door, hoping to greet a new customer. But Avis just turned her head and continued walking up 1st.

Disappointed, Jon had turned back to the table he was clearing when the door bell (a genuine, tinkling bell) sounded. The door opened, and Avis Granelli walked in. She’d changed her mind, and had decided that a cold drink at the Café was an immediate necessity.

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