Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)
TITLE: Lou's Diner
By Sue Webb
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It was a hot summer that year in1955. I worked as a dishwasher at Lou's Diner just off Interstate 57. I had dropped out of school and came to the city. Soon after arriving, I spent all my money and was homeless. It was my first job since I had left home. Lou let me sleep in a storage room behind the restaurant. Everyone called it the pig pen because all the pork fat went into the big metal barrels stored there. Sometimes when I worked the late shift, Jeffrey would teach me how to cook. Cooking would give my hands a break from the harsh cleansers I used for the greasy pots. Most people didn't like Jeffrey but I liked working with him because he had a quiet patience and could tell a story like none I had ever heard. Some only saw his harsh manner, but I looked beyond his permanent scowl and saw him as a teacher.
He was a very quiet man about 50 years old. His tattooed arms were thick and spotted with scars from hot grease. Wrinkles like furrows deep as a plowed field jotted out from the corners of his dark eyes. His hands moved quickly and smoothly as he stacked hot cakes with a metal turner or sliced onions with the cold steel of a knife.
I'll always remember that Wednesday I went to work and Jeffrey wasn't there. Nobody knew why. After my shift was over I went to Jeffrey's house to see what was wrong. A neighbor told me that Jeffrey's grandma had died the night before and the funeral was that afternoon. I found Jeffrey out back on a swing all alone just staring at the sky clutching a bible in his scarred hands. After awhile, Jeffrey started talking and that's when he told me where all the stories had come from. His grandma had passed down the stories to him repeating them so many times and making them so real it was like Jeffrey lived them himself. The stories were from the Bible. I had never went to church or owned a bible. Jeffrey took the rest of the week off. The next couple of days I took my breaks in the walk-in cooler to get some relief from the sweltering heat. One night as I sat in the walk-in on a milk crate, I saw a small book on the top shelf. I stood on the milk crate to reach it. It was a Bible. I slowly opened the fragile pages. As I read one of the marked pages silently, I remembered it was one of my favorite "stories" Jeffrey told me. It was about the prodigal son. I contemplated what I had read. I tore a piece of butcher paper off of a slab of bacon and grabbed a grease pencil and put the paper into the Bible. I wrote, "I'm going home. Thank You, Jeffrey."
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