10
Feb
09

Fate Pays The Rent (Fourth Installment)

“He’s been like that for about an hour. He looked okay when he came in- maybe a little weird- and he gave me his order and he was kind of grouchy and then he just fell over. I thought maybe he was asleep.”
“It’s not food poisoning. I can guarantee it’s not food poisoning because everything is made fresh and he didn’t even eat anything. Caroline brought it over and put it down but his fork is even still clean. See?”
“He just fell over like that and I thought well maybe he’s taking a little rest and then he’s gonna eat and then he never did. I waited and waited and I thought I didn’t wanna call 911 if it wasn’t really an emergency and then thank God you guys came in so I asked you to look at him.”
“You did fine, ma’am. That’s one of the reasons we like to spend time in a place like this; if we’re out here then maybe we can help somebody.”
“Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with actually consuming food. Lucky for us.”
“I’m gonna need you to step back, ma’am. If this gentleman passed out here, there could be a lot of different reasons for it. There’s a lot of unusual people walking around this time of night. You probably see that every night.”
“Well, we know it’s not food poisoning. He might be on drugs or something but he didn’t eat anything and you can see his fork is clean.”
“Now, sir, I’m going to check your pulse and your breathing. I’m not arresting you. I’m not going to hurt you. I just need to make sure you’re alive and that you’re all right.”
“He isn’t dead, is he? I mean he wasn’t snoring and maybe when I saw he wasn’t snoring I should have called 911. I’m going to be so fired if he’s dead.”
“He isn’t dead. He has a pulse. It’s a bit slow but that’s to be expected if he’s been here and out as long as you say. He seems to be breathing fine so I’m going to try to wake him up now. I need you two ladies to step way back. If he is on drugs or might be having some kind of mental issues then we have no way of knowing what might happen when I try this.” Caroline took one step back. Susan went behind the counter, took up a coffee-pot and started topping up the customers who were watching but trying to pretend they weren’t. “Sir, I’m going to need you to try to wake up now.” He reached over and gently shook Clement’s arm. “Josh, let’s see if we can sit him up a little bit. If we end up carrying him out of here it’s gonna be a lot harder with him partly under the table like that. Is there anybody at the table behind us? Okay then reach over the back of the seat and see if you can get under his right arm and I’ll get under the left one. We’ll lift on the count of three. Ready? One. Two. Three. He’s sitting up but he still didn’t wake up. This guy is really out of it.”
“I say we get a pan out of the kitchen and fill it with warm water and stick his hand in it. Always worked before.”
“Sir, I need you to try to wake up now. I’m going to gently tap the side of your face and then I’m going to shake your arm a little bit more. You’re really starting to scare these ladies and that’s not fair. They’re trying to do a good job of serving people breakfast. They’re going to need this table and they need to be able to pay attention to their work. It’s hard to do that when there’s something like this going on. The breakfast rush really starts at six and this place is going to be packed.”
“What time did you say it was?”
“Don’t try to stand up, sir. We’re not quite sure what happened to you.”
“What time is it?”
“It’s about five minutes to six. What’s your name? Do you know where you are?”
“My name is Clement Powell and I’m in hell, obviously.”
“Well, he’s awake and talking but he seems disoriented.”
“Not necessarily. I wake up in hell every day; Why shouldn’t he?”
“It’s not hell, Josh. It’s just Five Corners. Sir, can you tell me why you think you’re in hell? Did you have anything unusual to eat or drink this evening uh last evening?”
“I had a cherry fruit pie and a Coke. They tried to give me some poppers but I didn’t want them. I didn’t think they were fresh.”
“Poppers?”
“With the jalapeno and the cream cheese and the grape jelly. A Mexican kid gave me some poppers and I didn’t eat them and he threw grape jelly at me and it got on my shoes.”
“Sounds reasonable. I like mine with ranch dressing but yeah grape jelly would be all right.”
“Sir, why did you say you think you’re in hell?”
“Is he really gonna be okay? Because if he’s really going to be okay then I should probably go help set up tables or top up coffee or something.”
“It looks like he’s going to be okay. His eyes look okay. If I need any more help, I’ll call you.” He smiled. Caroline picked up the other coffee-pot and joined Susan in her rounds. Their heads were together almost at once.
“Oh, yeah. Why are you in hell?”
“If you’d had a night like I have then you’d know. If anyone had had a night like I’ve had. I just want to go home.”
“Is there some medication you’re supposed to be taking? Would you like me to have Caroline bring you some fresh coffee so you can take it?”
“No no. There isn’t any medication. I haven’t taken any drugs. I had a Coke hours ago and I haven’t even had any of this coffee. I just want to go home. I want this night to end.”
“Why don’t you go home? Why are you sleeping in a Shari’s?”
“Josh. Did something happen, sir? Is that why you couldn’t go home?”
“Yes, something happened. The damn buses quit running. It was 3 a.m., I was in the middle of nowhere, the bus driver went home to sleep with his girlfriend, the old man went home to feed his cat, and I had no change. Again. I’m going to get two quarters and tape them to the inside of my shoe- as soon as I’m done beating Jeff to death with it- and then I won’t have to worry about it.”
“Susan, could we get a fresh cup of coffee over here? Maybe one of those sticky buns?”
“I’d like one of those sticky buns.”
“You can order your own breakfast. Just sit over there. I want to talk with this gentleman a little more. Cream? Susan, cream too please.”
When they had dressed their coffee, Clement said, “Look, it’s nice of you to get me coffee and a pastry but I really just want to go home. Okay? I’m tired. It’s been a long night. I just want to go home. You said it’s six so that means the buses are running again. I have a bus ticket so I’ll just pay for my breakfast and find the nearest stop and go home.”
“You’re going to get home but why don’t you eat a little bit of that bun and have some coffee and tell me more about you and Jeff. Did you guys have a fight?”
“No no. Jeff is a friend of mine. We’re not mad at each other. I’m not mad at him. I didn’t mean what I said before. I’m tired and I’ve had a frustrating night and he’s just the person I decided to blame it on.”
“Why were you riding the bus at three in the morning?”
“I dropped my car off at the repair place and then I decided I wanted to go somewhere to think. I don’t drink and I wasn’t hungry and a former girlfriend of mine was always bitching at me for driving everywhere instead of riding the bus so I decided to see what it was like to ride the bus.”
“You’ve never ridden the bus before?”
“Oh yeah, years ago. But I hadn’t done it lately. I didn’t know what it was like now. It’s pretty nice. The seats are better.”
“What time did you get on the bus? You want more coffee?”
“Yes. I got on the bus around 11:30, midnight.”
“Why so late? Isn’t that kind of an unusual time to be dropping off a car?”
“Well, yeah. See I hadn’t really decided if it was bad enough to go in. I wanted to drive it around, think it over. As I was driving along, I thought, ‘What the hell are you waiting for? You want to wait till you have to be towed in from somewhere?’”
“At three in the morning?”
“Exactly.” Clement laughed. He sipped his coffee and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
“Okay, here’s the thing, Mr. Powell. Your story is kind of odd. Actually, it’s very odd. You haven’t done anything though except ride on the bus and fall asleep in the Shari’s and that’s not illegal. I don’t think you meant to fall asleep here; You don’t seem to be homeless. You really scared the young lady there and I think it would be very nice if you gave her a big tip. If there had been something wrong with you, she might have saved your life.”
“Yeah, if she’d actually called 911.”
“So, you’re letting me go home?”
“You can go home but I don’t feel comfortable just waving bye-bye from the door there. Is there someone you can call to come get you?”
“Yeah, but I really hate to bother anybody. They’ll be on their way to work or getting ready to go to work or stuck in the drive-up line at Starbucks and it’ll really be a headache. I’ve got a bus ticket. Can’t I just take the bus?”
“Josh can come back for his hash browns and we’ll give you a ride to the bus stop and wait while you get on. The guys at the transit center will make sure you get on the bus at that end. Which one are you taking home?”
“The um 19?”
“There aren’t many riders on the 19 at this time of day so it will be easy for the transit folks to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. Josh?”
“Geez, I didn’t get the hot sauce mixed in yet. I’m gonna come back and they’ll be greasy and the hot sauce is gonna slide right off.”
“Okay, now, the nearest stop is a block and a half. Sorry you have to ride in the back.”
“It’s not the most comfortable but you clean it out, right?”
“Oh yeah, we hose it out every two hours. You see the game last night? Or were you already riding the buses?”
“No, I didn’t see it.”
“Then you probably didn’t have any money on it. Did you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“These effing guys. They’re favored by seven so I’m thinking, ‘It’s a touchdown and an extra point so how hard can it be?’”
“So what happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened.”
“We’re almost to your stop, Mr. Powell.”
“What happened is just when they’re lined up and they’re ready to make the extra point some crazy bit- um lady runs out onto the field naked and starts trying to tear down the goal post.”
“I thought they had those special goal posts you can’t tear down.”
“I said she ‘tried’ to tear down the goal post.”
“Here we are.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, there she is as naked as a monkey’s butt and they’re trying to take her off the field but they can’t show them trying to take her off the field because, of course, she’s naked and they go to a commercial and they come out of the commercial into the middle of another game.”
“Did they win? Did you get the seven points?”
“Hell no. It took the whole heart out of the game. They lost by three.”
“That’s too bad.”
“You’re telling me. That was fifty bucks I had to eat.”
“Well, that’s why they call it gambling, right? Is this my bus?”
“Yes, it is. This will take you right down to the transit center then you get on the 19 and you’re home. Are you picking up your car today?”
“I hoped to.”
“I’d recommend getting some more food and sleep before you try to drive anywhere. I don’t want to have to come look at you again.”
“Absolutely.”
“Nice meeting you.”
“Yeah. Good luck with the team.”
“Yeah. It’s up and down.”
“Take care of yourself, Mr. Powell.”
“Oh, I intend to.” They watched him board the bus then signaled left for the Shari’s.

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