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Trouble: Chunked, Covered & Country

Miller savored a bite of his patty melt. Yankee comics mocked it, but they never understood The Waffle House’s context in southern culture. Also, for a simple fare, it tasted so fine, especially after a job.

He’d been two hours on the road after the split from taking down an Outfit owned Nashville record label. His boss went by a different name on each job – Porter, Walker, McClain- and loved hitting The Outfit. He used Miller for southern jobs. Probably because of his charming drawl or being a dead shot with a Colt .45 three inch. Anyway, the job went smooth and his cut was sweeter than Aunt Betty’s ice tea. Still, he was tired and hungry.

Then that yellow neon sign appeared out of the night, welcoming him like it always had; after football games and late-night partying in high school. The first meal he ate, back in the States from the Sand Box, and the first stop after a five-year stretch. It was his oasis and this night proved special, limited time blueberry waffles.

He thought about them for dessert as he plowed through his hash browns, chunked, covered, and country; diced cheese, ham, and gravy for the uninitiated. The boss always needed a woman after a job. All Miller asked for was plates covered with gravy and syrup.

He dined with the classic 3A.M. crowd. A Long-haul driver read his paper, four stools down, drinking his fifth cup of coffee. Some college buddies in the booth behind him sobered up over plates covering the entire table. A nurse worked a crossword puzzle in her booth, deflated from her shift. Then the quintessential lone traveler in battered cowboy hat and handlebar mustache. When you walked through the doors, you entered an Edward Hopper painting of a Johnny Cash song.

His waitress, Dawn, put his check down.

“I’m far from done.”

She graced him a working-class angel’s smile. “I’m here all night.”

“I might out last you.”

She noticed the full duffel bag on the stool next to him. “Always bring your laundry?”

“Just robbed a bank.”

“You think ladies will believe anything.”

The flirting and the vibe broke with two assholes storming in, one with a shotgun, the other swinging around a .38.

Miller sized them up. Both tightly wound, no aiming at anyone or asking for the manager. Amateur night. Surprised they weren’t sporting Born To Lose tattoos. Hell, they were robbing a Waffle House. Didn’t they know, no shirt, no shoes, no knuckle-heads?

Thirty-eight finally pointed the pistol at Dawn. “Register.”

She did as she was told, taking herself out of the line of fire. Miller read an energy in their eyes that told him they never flipped a trigger. The Three-inch strapped between his T-shirt and loose flannel one in a pancake holster practically tingled on his back.

Thirty-eight kept the gun on her. “Everybody else, hands on the table.”

Miller followed the order. “This going to take long?”

“Where do you have to be at this time of night?”

“Just trying to get back home.”

“Hand over that bag and maybe you can.”

Miller took his chance, kicking the bag onto the black and white tiles. Both robbers looked down at it. He tore out the Colt, grouping two shots into .38’s chest. He yelled at the college bros to get down as he dived into the booth behind them. Shotgun blasted off tearing into the seat. Miller popped up and blew away what little brains Shotgun had out the back of his head.

Only the ringing of spent bullets hummed through The Waffle House until one of the college kids peered up and said, “Cool.”

Miller got up, retrieved the bag, took out a stack of bills, put it next to his ticket, told Dawn to keep the change, and walked out.

Everything would be fine. The plates on the truck were switched and he could dump it in a Tupelo chop shop and pick up something else. Still, he felt bad.

Oh well, there was a Waffle House in Tupelo. He’d get his blueberry on there.

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