I was a fry cook for forty-two years. Now, before you bust a truss laughing, you hear me out. Wasn’t no McDonald’s, or Burger King, none of that shit—this was a decent place. Sure, a bit of a greasy spoon, but there’s nothing wrong with that. You tell me you don’t enjoy the now-and-again taste of a proper big-ass burger, and I’ll call you a liar. And hell, if you’re into that health food, we had you covered there too: we had a fruit plate, or a chef’s salad with lite dressing and even an ostrich burger: half the fat of beef and just as tasty.
Oh, you’re quick, ain’t ya? You noticed I said I was a fry cook. True, true—my circumstances have changed somewhat. Sure, I’ll tell you about it.
Was a Friday night when it happened, and the place was near-to empty. Funny, but Fridays were probably one of our slowest nights, on account of we had no bar. Nowadays every damn place has a full bar and so many fancy brews you’d have to twist a testicle to pronounce half the names. But at the Dinner Bell Restaurant, we had no liquor license, and so far as I know, the place still ain’t got one.
Sorry, I get to wandering—doctors here say it’s cause of the Old-timer’s. Hell of a thing. Runs in my family—or used to, at any rate, seeing as how it don’t look as though I’ll be carrying on the line.
Shoot, there I go again. Where’d we get to? OK.
Friday night: no crowd to speak of, dinner-rush over, I’m in the kitchen manning the spud-spinner. Door busts in, a guy in a ski mask, waving around a shotgun sawed down to barely more than a pistol-length. He was sweating right through his blue shirt—I guess I’ll go to my grave seeing that dark on light pattern where his shirt stuck to him. Some days it looks like something I could almost put a name to, if it wasn’t for the Old-timer’s. Other days it’s something that happened to someone else.
He was all jumped-up, waving that fool gun and bellowing like a Jesus-shouter, saying for everyone to get their hands up, stick-em-up, and other nonesuch. Had a voice sounded like as if brains were dynamite, he’d be lucky to blow his nose. I knew who it was, you see: hell, now that I think about it, it occurs to me that most everyone in the place knew who it was right from the get. Bucky Stringer, it was, sure as the sun shines on a dog’s ass. The gig was up soon as he started yelling. Boy had the worst kind of stutter: sounded like a record album on a rail-car. Eh-eh-eh-ver’body get on the f-fuh-uh-uh-floor, this is a-ah-ah stick-up. Woulda been funny, except it was so sad.
That’s true, Bucky didn’t have the smarts to plan such a thing. Maybe he did get put up to it by some inside man, willing to split the haul down the middle.
I crept up behind him—that many years in the same place give you a real good idea what places make what noises—and I clocked him over the head with the big cast-iron fry-pan we call Bertha. You know, like the cannon.
I swear I didn’t mean to hit him so hard. Wasn’t part of the plan at all.
Maybe time had something to do with it. Time has weight—you’re young, you don’t know what that means… but it does. It does. And maybe all that time spent behind the Fry-O-Later just built and built and built until I killed Bucky Stringer with that frying pan. A hell of a way to go, like that: like something out of a Sat’day morning cartoon show.
Sure, put on the cuffs: suppose I knew I’d wear ‘em eventually. Boy, ain’t they heavy.
You don’t know about the weight of time yet… but you will.