Hello there! This is the narrated version of one of my stories, Coin Toss in a Diner, and I hope there will be more. I’m doing this with a mind to improve my story performance skills, and also for the damned fun of it. I really hope you enjoy the story/narration as much as I enjoyed putting it together,
Diner’s got that yellow light, or maybe I’m just jaundiced; hostility drips off the bricks, flows along the streets outside, hops the curb and oozes under the door. It crawls up the black and white three inch tiles of the bar, and into my cup. But BBW bleach blond Betty—bless her—drowns it in hot coffee, and the anger dies. Screamin’.
Do you know what the scalded bones of inefficacious rage look like, when they’re floatin’ in thick coffee, like Pleistocene megafauna in a tar pit? If I cared, I’d tell you they look like apathy, but caffeinated; apathy with energy . . . That’s what this world needs, just a perkier sort of not givin’ a shit. That, and more stale cherry pies in half-mirrored rotatin’ cases that whine with high-pitched effort in their endless quest to keep spinnin’ in circles. Sisyphus turned sideways, am I right? Spinnin’ in circles.
“What’ll it be?” asks Betty.
What will what be? Food, I hope, but I don’t say that. I carry my share of misery, maybe more, but I don’t go spreadin’ it around. “Special, please,” I say, knowin’ it won’t be.
There’s pictures on the wall, and they must be old because the faces all smilin’, and smiles know better than to show up around here these days. Unless they’re disguised as a leer, or I guess some cultured smirk that’s gone slummin’. One’s a picture of a girl in graduation robes, high school edition, looks a bit like this hot realtor I’ve seen on some bus stop billboards, minus the spray paint glasses and blacked-out tooth–but she looks a bit like Dani, who works the corner on 5th and Main, too, minus the fishnets and knocked-out tooth—a present from some jackass who drove a green Prius.
Joe rings the bell (Ding! Order UP!) and Betty brings out the food. Might be mine. What was the special, anyway? But no, it’s for some guy I didn’t care to notice who didn’t care to be noticed. Damn. I think about being impatient but Betty the big-girl-Barbie’s back with coffee—bless her again—and the feel of the hot ceramic in my hands pushes me away, back into my thoughts.
I heard once that every time you toss a coin the universe splits, heads and tails, and there is no “road less traveled” because we take them all. Maybe that girl grew up to be the hooker and the looker, one winner, one loser, she goes both ways? Not that Dani doesn’t, mind you. Maybe somewhere there’s another me, sittin’ in a diner where people smile.
I wipe some grease off my spoon with a brown napkin and smile at my reflection just to see what it looks like: out of place. It looks lost and confused and far from where it belongs. So I drop the spoon, pick up the fork and bend the tines to pass the time, until they’re mostly bent the same.
(Ding! Order UP!) A plate lands in front of me. The eggs are too crispy and the bacon’s a bit runny, and if that seems weird, ha, well, I’ve had worse. When it’s gone I’m not sorry, no sir. It’s better than nothin’, and I’ve had extra helpings of that lately. I take a quarter from my pocket. Heads I leave, tails dessert.
Tails, it is.
More coffee appears, and the man who I didn’t bother to notice walks out. I order a sundae and it’s everything I hoped it would be: Ice cream with chocolate on it.
I pay my bill and empty my change onto the counter for a tip. Just for the hell of it, I flip the quarter onto the counter, but I don’t watch which way it lands this time–that’s not the point of the exercise. Take that Universe, some quiet voice says, you’ve given me scars on my scars, but I can tear you in half whenever I please. Life’s not fair, but make no mistake, there is justice in this world. Well, even odds of it, anyway.
(Ding! Order UP!)
Walkin’ out, I stumble over the man who didn’t care to be noticed. He must have been right outside the window behind me when they hit him, but I never saw him go down, and I didn’t notice them takin’ his wallet, either. How do I know they took it? I checked, of course. Before or after I checked to see if he’s alive? Hmmm. Mind your own damn business. After checkin’ to make sure whoever done it’s gone, you can be damned sure of that.
I look up, and Betty’s looking down through the window, frownin’. I hold my hand to my ear like a phone, then spin my finger in the air to the rhythm of a strobing police light, a beat we both know, and she nods. She puts two fingers of her right hand on her left wrist, quirks her head so the left half of her face rests on her second chin, gaze questionin’.
I shake my head. No, we don’t need an ambulance.
She shrugs. What can you do?
You can stay for dessert, that’s what you can do. Good thing I did, too. Somewhere in another universe, there’s a quarter heads up on a counter, and some man I didn’t care to notice shakin’ his head over my body–assuming he didn’t step right over it—and that poor sonofabitch didn’t even get a sundae.