Mind you, spending chunks of my valuable time hanging out in a local diner was not my idea. I’m here to observe some intricacies of human behavior for a publisher who has me between a rock and…well, you know.
I‘m a hack writer. That's no secret. Turning out two-bit mystery paperbacks with formulaic plots has kept bread on my table. A few years ago, back from the war and with no prospects for a job, an answered prayer fell into my life…literally. I was sitting on a park bench when a passerby was knocked sideways by a tornado of preteen skaters. He landed at my feet.
“Hey, man…you okay?”
He looked a little stunned but brushed himself off, straightened his crooked hat, and extended his hand.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, a little unsteady.
He said his name was Joe. I convinced him to sit a spell and be sure nothing was injured or dislocated.
As we chatted, Joe showed great interest in my plan to become a bonafide author.
“I’m your answer, kid. You’re looking at an honest to goodness agent.”
In retrospect, I might question the honest, or even the goodness, but Joe gave me hope.
Being close to zero funds, I eventually signed whatever papers he put in front of me. You’d think I could read fine print, but I didn’t even know what it was. Pretty soon I was kicking out low-brow stories as fast I could type.
That brings me to why I spend my days sitting in this booth observing fork and spoon compulsions. It’s in the contract that I write at least one non-fiction book.
Turns out the big boss is interested in the why and what most of us are stuffing in our mouths daily, and the long-term implications. He knows the owner of this fried everything smelling place, so here I am.
Breakfast is my favorite time to eavesdrop. A couple of tables of regulars feed me the kind of first-person material the publisher wants.
I’ve spent weeks making notes on Chuck, Tommy John, Lester, and Bubba somebody. How any group could put away that much sausage, hash browns, eggs, biscuits, gravy, pancakes, bacon, and sugar-laden coffee is stomach-turning.
One morning, Lester was missing. Turns out he wouldn’t be coming back…ever. The obituary was glowing and had some touching scripture about running the race and fighting the good fight. I don’t believe portly Lester ever ran a race in his life, which may have contributed to him not having one; a life, I mean.
Across from me, by the window, there has been a daily meeting of four women of undetermined ages. Justine, Carman, Lilly, and Clarice tipped the other end of the dietary scale.
I was surprised this place even knew that granola or yogurt were edible products. Each lady had juice and hot tea. One usually had dry whole grain toast. Once in a while I saw a bran muffin. It was interesting how much they talked about Clarice when she would slip off to the restroom.
Carman seemed the most concerned. “She’s getting thinner every day. I’m telling you, something’s amiss. She’s not going in there to wash her hands.”
Recently, Lilly, the quieter of the hen-quartet, confessed in nearly a whisper, “She thinks she’s fat. That’s all she talks about.”
Justine agreed with the others that poor Clarice was a little malnourished, but that she looked real good in her jeans. Carman said that yes, she used to, but now they were baggy.
The day Clarice was absent from what passed for their breakfast, I had a sick feeling; a dread. Sure enough, the other three showed up but cried copious amounts through two pots of unsweetened tea.
The next day Justine declared she thought she’d have a fried egg sandwich and real coffee. Carman opted for a big Texas omelet with grits on the side. Lilly ordered two bowls of oatmeal with maple syrup and a waffle smothered in real butter.
Today, I’m wrapping up my keen observations and conclusions as I watch the ladies overdose on grease and carbs. The guys, believe it or not, are grimacing while trying to down fruit, bran cereal, gluten free toast, and scrambled egg whites.
My assessment: these people need to crawl back from the fringes and maybe meet somewhere in the middle. They might be a lot happier…especially if they jogged home.
Also, I’m thinking my next book will be about self-control…if I can just get motivated.
Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!
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