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Thursday, October 23, 2014

JOE’S DINER - Chapter 1


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Joe’s Diner is a café on route 66 at the edge of town that Joe started some five years ago.

Joe was a massive man at this stage of his life. He had served four years in the army during the big war and ended up as a cook.  

Both at boot camp and in the field you had to move depending on who was advancing, the enemy, or our units.

Shells had hit near the cook shack more than once and trying to keep hot food for the troops wasn’t easy.

Joe had involved himself in martial arts, wrestling and boxing while stationed at the boot camps and had won everything he participated in.

When the war ended he stayed in the army a couple more years for they offered to send him to culinary school for reenlistment.  While at the culinary school he met and married a lady named Jenny who was also enrolled but who was a school teacher.

He asked why she was going to culinary school if she was employed as a school teacher, and she said she loved to cook and wanted to improve her skills.

Besides the culinary classes were just for the summer while school was out and later she could take some evening classes.

He asked her if she didn’t go on dates and she told him, not very often because she had other interests.

Joe, even though he was a large man he was very reticent when it came to women.  It was in part because he respected them and in part because he was afraid of them.

Not physically afraid, but it seemed their minds were quicker than his and they could put him down if they choose to.

He felt women were fragile and he didn’t want to hurt any of them but whatever the cause, he wasn’t an aggressor when it comes to women.

For some reason hard to understand, she was attracted to the large man and he was smitten by her.

After Joe finished his hitch in the army they were married but only after she proposed to him for he was too embarrassed to ask her.

When Joe finished his tour of duty he bought a building on route 66 and converted it into a café.  Several rooms were added on behind the café and served as an apartment for them and they rented out the rest.

The rental rooms were always filled with salesmen or truckers. It wasn’t long before their business was thriving and he had to hire some extra help.

Eighteen months after they were married Jenny had a daughter and called her Missy. 
She named the baby Marilyn but found herself saying, “Now look here Missy,” so she finally always just called her by that name.

Joe was awed by this little bundle of humanity and vowed no one would ever harm either the mother or daughter.  Although Joe worked long hours in the café but it was like he was always home because they lived in the back of the restaurant.

After Missy was born Jenny stopped teaching at school but did some tutoring of both children and adults that needed help in certain areas.

Joe built her a studio where she could paint and tutor in her spare time. From the beginning she taught Missy math, English, and the arts.

Missy showed early on she was very independent.  Jenny saw this as a good thing but one that need a lot of guidance without being overbearing.

As it turned out Missy was the only child they would have because there was some trouble with Missy’s birth.

Joe left most of the raising of her to Jenny, but at an early age taught her how to defend herself.  She learned all of the vulnerable spots that would disable a person with one blow. He taught her how to gain strength without getting bulky and losing her femininity.

Missy spent a lot of her time in the restaurant from the time she was small and would help by getting things like onions and potatoes for Joe.

In their apartment Jenny let Missy bake cakes and the like. She was able to do all this by the time she was seven. Her favorite was baking cookies.

Once she was in school she would take some of the cookies to school and made a lot of friends that way. The teachers wanted to skip her forward in grades because she was far ahead of her classmates due to the fact her mother had taught her at home.

The fact Missy was smarter than the kids her age Jenny decided to home school her and only let her attend the school social functions. The school went along with this for it eliminated a problem of trying to fit her in the structure of their teaching schedule.

By the time Missy was ten she was preparing a lot of the food in the kitchen like pastries and salads.  She became one of the waitresses at the age of twelve and had begun to blossom out as a young woman.

Being in the diner all these years she had heard a lot of coarse language and guys hitting on the other waitresses and by now she had heard it all.

With her uniform on she looked older than she was and now every so often some guy would make some lewd remark in her direction which she would totally ignore.

Joe had new menus printed and at the top it said, “The only thing served here is food. If you want anything else go where they sell it.  Save your fifthly remarks for your wife or mother;” below all that was the food menu.

Most of the patrons got the message but on occasion Joe would have to make it a little plainer to some guy.

It was about this time I got a job after school washing dishes and mopping up around the place till closing. I was fourteen, a couple of years older than Missy.

She was a lot standoffish as far as I was concern and we almost never spoke unless she criticized something I was doing.

I would thank her for her suggestion and say I would watch it from now on. She would usually turn and walk away without saying anything else.

Because of school and working I didn’t have much of a social life.  Sundays was the only time I had to myself and my mother insisted I go to church with her.

I had several friends but didn’t have time to hang out with them.  When I did they would tease me about making out with Missy.

I couldn’t convince them that she wanted nothing to do with me in any way.

Usually I would have to let them rave on and let them believe what they wanted to believe.

One day Missy came storming in and really chewed me out for spreading around school that I was her boyfriend.

I knew she wouldn’t believe me if I said I didn’t do it so I just apologized and said I wouldn’t do it again and if she heard any more rumors they wouldn’t be true.

She told me that my job was on the line and if I wanted to continue to work there I had better shape up.

Joe asked me, “Marvin what that was all about?” and I explained that I never said anything about her to no one except to deny it when they teased me about her.

He said forget about it for he knew how boys were and how rumors get started.

During some slow time if I was caught up with my work Joe began to teach me several kinds of martial arts to practice.  He had some gym equipment to work out on in my small spare time.

After a few months I felt I could defend myself if I had to.  Joe said the only way to fight is to win quickly and disable the foe with whatever means at hand. He said forget about fair play when fighting for that can get you hurt badly.

I told him I would remember that for it sounded like good advice. He said he learned that in the army where it was kill or be killed.

Nothing changed between Missy and me over the next year and a half. She still looked at me with contempt for some reason.

I had never given her a reason to treat me that way but I just accepted that this is the way it’s going to be; so live with it.

I'm Telling You to STOP messing with her - -
I did something that made things worse.  Missy was waiting tables and Joe wasn’t there. As she was taking orders a man started to get fresh with her along with a couple of buddies with him. When it looked like it might get out of hand I went over and told the men to, “Knock it off.”

One of the men said, “Who are you to tell us what to do?”

I said, “I’m her boyfriend and I’m telling you to stop or to leave.”

The guy who was getting fresh stood up and said you must be a tough guy and shoved me back to the counter.

I remembered what Joe had said about fighting, so I hit the man in the throat with two fingers.

He collapsed and was trying to get some air in his lungs. His friends looked as if they were going to take me apart when Joe appeared and asked if the two men had a problem.

They looked at the size of Joe and said, “No we were just going to help our friend.”

Joe pulled the man to his feet and sat him down in the booth they had been sitting in and massaged his throat till he could breathe freely again.

He then said, Missy take their order and let’s get these men fed. The one I had trouble with said he wanted some water and a bowl of soup.

The others ordered the “Blue-plate special,” and afterward Joe told them “it was on the house” and to come again.

I had gone back to my duties when I saw Missy heading my way, and I knew she was madder than I had ever seen her.  I guess hearing all the coarse swearing over the years had fixed itself in her memory for she lit into me with words I never heard her use before.

This went on until I finished all my work. She would stop and I would think it was over then she would start up again.

After she had wound down I asked, “What do you want to tell me?”

She turned red again and said, “How dare you say you’re my boyfriend.”

I said, “Well, we both know it’s not true so what’s the big deal.  He was getting ready to put his hands on you and unless you’re objecting to me stopping that I don’t get it.  Is that what you are objecting to?  You wanted him to continue - - -if that is it then, I apologize for spoiling your fun but you know he wasn’t going to stop there.”

She just swelled up and started to speak but nothing came out.

At this point I couldn’t help myself but had to laugh and said; “Does this mean that we are breaking up?”

She took a big swing at me but missed and walked out of the kitchen.

A couple had walked in and sat down and she gave them some water and took their orders. Joe had left but came back in and cooked their order for them. After Missy had served them Joe told her to go to the apartment and cool off and he would deal with the matter.

It was closing time and I cleared the tables and washed up all the dishes.

Joe said he hated to do it but since Missy and I just couldn’t get along he was going to have to let me go.

I told him I was sorry to hear that but I understood his reasoning and agreed it was probably for the best.

School was almost ready to start so I decided to try to make the football team this year since I wasn’t going to be working. This was my senior year and I had missed the three years I should having playing so I couldn’t make up for the time missed and didn’t make the team.

The coach said I could suit up and be a bench warmer if I wished but I declined although I appreciated the offer.

Track and field was starting so I tried out for that but wasn’t fast enough for that either.

To be Continued

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