The highway exit’s dining selection was scarce, so I opted for the non-chain restaurant of the two. An enormous egg adorned the side of the building – and it was wearing an apron, had arms, legs, a human face, and was waving invitingly to all enter. The lighted sign overhead read “Egg Shoppe.”
Despite the extremely late hour, six employees move hurriedly throughout the place – busying themselves with unknown tasks. At the far booth sit out-of-towners. They have no accents, dress oddly, and though there appears to be two men and three women, they actually have only one woman in their midst. Inexplicably, an oversized moleskine notebook sits on their table. Complete with elastic band and black faux leather bindings, it was the size of a photo album – and what one might expect to see in a Dr. Seuss story. They break into giggling frequently. They’re definitely not locals. At the far end of the restaurant, an old man sits bolt upright in his booth and stares at me. I do not stare back.
The diner door swings open roughly and a drunk man staggers in singing. Maybe 25, covered in tattoos and earrings in both ears, he’s immediately followed by a girl in jeans and a Realtree camouflage coat. She and another friend – an extremely heavyset girl still in her mid-teens (and wearing a spandex outfit), closely supervise Daryl as he slumps heavily into the booth behind me. As he lands, he rams his elbow into me unintentionally and begins the first of four sincere, drunken apologies. I inform him it’s no big deal and he begins to prattle.
“Is that a Dodge?” he says hopefully, staring out the diner window.
“Oh,” he growls a moment later, “it’s a goddam Chevrolet.”
“Daryl, SHUT UP! We shoulda’ just took you home.”
“Why, woman?” He directed his attention to the waitress behind the counter.
“Can I get a Bud?”
“I WISH we done had ‘em here” she called back.
Realtree camouflage girl walks over to the jukebox with spandex girl and five minutes later the entire diner, excluding myself, is singing along to Hank Williams, Jr. Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” plays next and this time Daryl makes up his own lyrics, sufficiently crass that Realtree camouflage girl clamps her hand over his mouth. I can still make out the clever lines, which very involve private acts in very public places. He switches to singing about runny eggs.
“Where’s MY plate,” he whines to the waitress.
“It’s comin,’ sweetie. Real soon.”
The girl in the Realtree camouflage jacket leans forward yet again.
"Shut UP, Daryl! There's cops coming in!"
The group with the giant moleskine notebook started roaring with laughter again. Something about pickle races and vomiting onto Baby on Board signs. The out-of-towners pay and leave as the four cops take their seats by the bathroom door.
"It ain't no thing. I'm gonna go over there and piss."
"Like HELL you ain't. You're damn drunk!"
"They'll never know."
"You been sangin' about beer and runny eggs since we got here. They'll know."
“My uncle’s a cop.”
Another man sitting nearby felt the need to pipe up at this point. “It don’ matter, son. They’ll still jail your ass. Hey, y’all goin’ south tonight?”
Realtree girl indicates that they were.
“Well, watch out up through there. They got some real nasty law dogs up down [sic] there.”
Daryl wanders off to do his pissing, and ends up standing, swaying, and reeking of booze right next to the cops’ table. They smile and greet him and he somehow avoids a “dumb in public” citation. Realtree is still paranoid and continues talking to spandex in his absence.
“We should just pay and leave. I got money. I’m so scared of cops.”
Spandex girl whispers something incomprehensible and then I hear, “shh! He’s a MARINE!”
Daryl returns to his seat and attempts to tell our end of the diner about his bathroom experience and how he fooled “them cops.” More “shut ups.”
The guy across the aisle pipes up again. “Y’all goin’ up down [again, sic] to the river this weekend to fish and drink?”
Daryl moans. “Aw hell no. I’m never drinking again. I just wanna drive home and sleep.”
“Like shit you drivin,’” Realtree camouflage interjects. “I’ll drive, and you’re parking your truck.”
“Aw come on. Everybody drinks and drives around here. Everybody!” He starts getting loud. Realtree hits him and he amends his argument.
“Um, whenever we drink around here, we always walk. It’s safer.”
The doors opens again and a middle-aged man wearily trudges in. His baggy jeans look several sizes too large, and they’re tucked into his enormous rubber boots. His face is blackened with coal dust and streaked with the occasional stream of sweat from his temples. He looks exhausted. His son, covered in tattoos and piercings and probably 17 years old, sits across from him in silence. Neither of them utter a word for as long as I was in the restaurant.
Daryl also quiets, prompting sarcastic remarks from spandex girl.
“You gonna throw up now? You had enough?”
I wonder if it’s occurred to her that Daryl, sitting directly across from her, will be throwing up onto HER. It’s time to go.
As I pay, the four cops, ignoring the drunks and everybody else, stare at me intently. As I leave the Egg Shoppe, a fifth police officer pulls up hurriedly. Leaping from the car, the attractive female officer slams the door, lays her hands on her sidearm, and storms into the diner. Daryl must have just thrown up.
It’s 2:47AM and I’m home now.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved