Tales of the Old Home Café

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

Tale II: Not Too Long Ago

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2007 February 11.)

[Ed.’s note: This Tale occurs before the first-ever episode of “Old Home Café: The Next Generation”. Consider this to be the real beginning of the story.]

Bob Rainey sat on a red vinyl stool at the counter of the Old Home Café, looking out the front window and counting the license plates. In the past ten minutes he’d spotted eighteen out-of-state cars, three trucks from Iowa, and a motorcycle of indeterminant origin. He was pretty sure that the bike was a Harley, though.

Other than that vehicular entertainment, Bob had nothing to do. The Café was empty; not a single customer filled a single seat. Outside, the parking lot was empty except for a broken-down 1985 Chevy Nova that George Balin has sworn to move ‘the next day’. But that next day was three weeks ago, and George had sworn on every visit since then that he’d move the car ‘tomorrow’. Bob was starting to think that the Chevy would still be there when the leaves fell in the fall.

In the kitchen, Mickey was finishing up the cleaning of the morning dishes, what few there were. And he had turned down the propane on the grill, just keeping it just warm enough in case someone ordered a burger or two. But as noontime slowly passed — the time was now 12:49 PM, Central Daylight Time — the probably of a combination of meat and grill seemed more remote with every tick of the clock.

Bob sipped coffee from his personal cup, an old souvenir from the Café’s better days back in the ’70s. On the cup was a man leaning over the lunch counter and telling the waitress that “Old Home Is Good Buns”. The coffee was getting cold.

A waitress wasn’t on duty, even at this time which should have been the busiest period of the day for a restaurant. Carly, the one and only waitress at the Café, had ended her morning at 10; she’d be back at 4 for the evening rush. In-between then she did some baby-sitting and tried to sell her arts and crafts on eBay.

The customers of the Old Home Café tended to be early risers, and someone was always waiting at the door when Bob opened up at 6 AM. Between then and 10 o’clock about two dozen Café regulars would drop in, with maybe four or five truckers who were passing by during an early morning run between Des Moines and Omaha. Not exactly heavy traffic for the only gulp-and-go for twenty miles either east or west.

Bob greeted the customers, took their orders, served them, and bussed the tables during the mid-day lull. And when he wasn’t occupied with the business of running a restaurant, he was wondering why he was running a restaurant and contemplating how to gracefully exit the business of running a restaurant.

Previous · Next