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The Day I Killed Jesus and Flashed a Whole Restaurant

Some stories are so ridiculous they can only be true.

A diner setting with a vinyl round booth.
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

I arrive at the restaurant to meet my friend, Bob, for lunch. He is late, so we immediately sit down and order our $3 “Chicks and Eggs” special with a couple of steaming cups of joe. Our chosen meeting place is ChickenHaus, a Garland staple, at least if the staple was rusted nearly in half and stained with a century of nicotine vapors. The old vinyl booths have cracks that could pinch a plug out of a bare thigh and the tables are so de-laminated that getting a splinter while enjoying an afternoon meal is a high probability. Nonetheless, for those of us that grew up here, it feels like home.

Bob and I catch up in the way that friends do when they’re with someone that is truly one of their tribe. Six months or six minutes, our rapport returns like a rehearsed Laurel and Hardy routine. We’ve had our differences over the last few years but much like ChickenHaus, Bob is broken and stained but feels like home.

Bob’s antiquated flip phone rings and he answers with a “Yep.”

“ChickenHaus,” he cries after a moment and hangs up, smiling triumphantly. “Mom and the fam are joining us, Kitten.”

I think Bob plans it this way on purpose because he’s afraid to be alone with me. It happens nearly every time we get together. I think sometimes Bob’s passion for life overtakes him and any woman in mating range risks getting caught up in the current of pheromones. Our one and only kiss, which surprised us both, ended with a mutually resounding, “Yuck.” We both agreed it felt like kissing a cousin, and by that, I mean a first cousin and illegal, not to mention immoral. No judgment though, Bob, if that just felt normal to you.

But I never mind these additions to our dates. Bob’s family is golden, salt of the earth people. And by that, I mean salty as hell people. By their very nature, they are storytellers and comedians. I’d sell tickets to our meetings if I thought I could get away with it. A Night at the Improv has nothing on a day out with the Bobs.

Within 15 minutes, the backup arrives and we move to the corner booth, the big circular one with the vinyl version of spike strips that cops use to stop car chases. As we squish in, I feel one, then two, tears in my new tights and at least one I probably want to heavily disinfect after I get home. As I settle between the two large men, the warmth of the booth surface reminds me of going down a playground slide in the middle of July and a layer of sticky thigh meat sizzles. No matter, I think, who needs thighs. And scars add character.

The window above us simultaneously blinds and cooks us with the infiltrating afternoon sun. From the corner of my eye, I see Evelyn wink at me awkwardly. I look away quickly and listen to Bob finish a story about his latest conquest, the one they call “Bob Barker,” because she barks like a seal during orgasm. I glance back and Evelyn winks again — once, then twice. She must have caught me staring in alarm because she is quick to explain the sun streaming in above the booth is making her eyes water. I offer sweetly to try and climb up and pull the shades, despite my petite height and the fact I’m wearing a skirt.

“Uncle Archie,” Evelyn barks to her brother, “pull down the shades for me.”

“Buford,” Archie, a slight unassuming man, asks in his polite, soft voice, “please pull down the shades for your wife.”

Buford, a big man that looks like a Navy captain playing opposite Frank Sinatra in a war movie, ignores him as he continues a story about taking Evelyn and Aunt Trudy to see the Radio City Rockettes in New York City.

“Well, I don’t fucking understand paying 75-damn-dollars to see some women in their panties. At least not if I’m a damn woman with my own panties I can see for free!” he tells Bob, his face incredulous.

“It was entertainment, ‘ya pervert,” Evelyn retorts. “Besides, they’re not panties, they’re world-famous dancers in dance costumes.”

Bob leans in, squaring his gaze on his mother. “But the important question is: Did you catch any fur shots, Mom?”

I struggle with the thought of asking my mother the same question. Even more so, I am horrified at the thought that my mother would know what “fur shot” meant.

Evelyn looks at me, smiles her embarrassment, and reaches over to pop Bob’s arm. “Bob Benjamin!”

Bob winces while he and Buford cackle in harmony.

“Maybe we did,” answers Aunt Trudy thoughtfully. She’s an elegant woman in her mid-50s with a trendy haircut and a fancy t-shirt embroidered with flowers. “But I don’t think so. We were several rows back. But maybe if you had been in the front row. No, no fur shots that I recall.”

“Well, I…” Buford starts.

“And,” interrupts Aunt Trudy, “I know you’ll be shocked to hear this, but it wouldn’t turn me on to see their ‘panties’ or ‘fur’ even if I did.”

“Then WHY in the hell did you pay 75-damn dollars of my hard-earned money to go see that shit?” Buford hollers, catching the attention of half the establishment, despite the loud whine of Billy Ray Cyrus over the jukebox.

“Your money, huh?” interjects Evelyn saucily. “The money you work night and day for? What would you have done with it, Buford?”

“Could’ve gotten a damn good hooker for that money.”

“Now, guys, hey, hey, hey,” stutters Bob.

I’m thinking he is surely about to steer the conversation in a more appropriate direction as we continue to draw even more attention as the subject matter and volume escalate.

“What I want to know, Buford, is if that $75 includes the gas to get to Mexico?” asks Bob. Nope, no censorship in this crowd.

Archie looks perplexed.

“What’s wrong, Archie?” asks Evelyn concerned.

“I just don’t understand why you’d have to pay $75 in New York or Mexico when we have good-looking hookers in Garland.”

I choke on my coffee, not aware Garland has hookers and equally surprised to hear Archie is aware of such things. Bob pounds me on the back hard enough to make me gag just as the waitress arrives to take the rest of the orders.

“Watch out for that one,” Aunt Trudy warns the waitress, pointing a bony finger at Buford. “Everything other than the words “eggs” or “bacon” that come out of his mouth are complete bullshit.”

Buford makes a rude gesture and turns a charming smile on the waitress. “Now Darlin’…”

“Save it, buddy,” the waitress quips and turns to Aunt Trudy. “And you don’t gotta tell me, Sugar, he’s a man ain’t he?”

The womenfolk at the table have a good laugh and the waitress leaves smacking the same wad of gum she was working two hours ago when we first arrived.

I glance over to see Evelyn wink again.

“Evelyn,” I say quietly. “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the special attention, but would you like me to pull the shades for you so you can stop winking at me?”

She snorts and nods. I carefully rise, protecting the group from a “fur shot” and reach for the pull cord on the spring-loaded shade. Now, mind you, I’m five feet tall. I’m wearing a short skirt, semi-sheer tights, and high-heeled leather boots. As I reach my full height, a stiletto heel sinks into the cracked vinyl. I brace a knee against the booth top and balance a hip on Bob’s head to avoid splaying my backside smack into the center of a platter of biscuits. I refuse to make eye contact with Bob and hope he doesn’t notice my ass on his head. I am rewarded for my bravado with the shade nearest me slipping down into place and staying put.

I shift my weight and switch knees, trying to balance only on my toes to keep from puncturing the vinyl. Belatedly, I realize this is a moot point as the booth is more punctures, cracks, and duct tape than actual material. Each battle wound here in ChickenHaus has been bravely earned over decades of enduring late-night drunks and rowdy locals. Respect. I stretch for the second shade in the far corner but can’t quite grab the dingy ring. I reach one hand behind me to tuck my skirt between my legs and say a little prayer as I lean out over Trudy and Archie. The tip of my pointer finger loops around the pull and I give it a little tug, afraid to breathe and lose my balance.

Nothing. Dammit. I tug a little harder. Nothing happens again. I take a deep breath, curse under my breath, and lunge like an Olympic competitor yanking that bastard shade with all my might. A loud crack, followed by a metallic clank, result. I lean back to regain my balance and survey my work.

As if in slow motion, a ripping sound reaches my ears just as the entire shade gives way and comes slamming down on the porcelain nativity display below. The nativity scene that is probably older than the Baby Jesus himself, and that I have somehow managed not to notice before now, explodes. The small swaddled Jesus antique goes flying across the room, bounces off a bald man’s head, and crashes to a halt before resting in a fine white powder on the restaurant floor. Mary, Joseph, a donkey, and what looks like a figurine of Winston Churchill, rain down around me like hellfire and brimstone, landing in bowls of picante sauce and sawmill gravy.

Without looking up or anywhere other than at my feet, I step back attempting to slink down to a sitting position. My heel catches in one of the cracks and I smash my face against the tar-covered wallpaper while my skirt flips almost to my waist. My knees buckle and I land with a bounce and a thud back on the vinyl booth, my feet awkwardly crunched beneath me. I consider momentarily ducking under the table and crawling for the door. The deafening silence is broken only by Tanya Tucker and my beating heart.

“Goddamn,” I hear from the back of the lunch counter.

“Woo-wee,” I hear from the far corner near the bathroom.

“Hot damn,” says someone at our table.

I make the mistake of looking directly at the waitress. Her frown is extraordinary. I didn’t know the human mouth could turn that far down.

“I’m sorry about your Jesus,” I whisper and wave my hands wildly like a rejected Rockette doing a vaudevillian routine.

No one says a word until Evelyn graciously puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “Thank you, Sweetie.”

Bob punches my arm playfully. “Good job, Kitten.”

The laughter finally comes and with it a huge sigh of relief mixed with a wave of hot embarrassment.

I sit for another 20 minutes with my back to the rest of the patrons, pretending I’m someone else, somewhere else. I apologize to Bob, but he is too preoccupied with the picante sauce and eggs on his chin, shirt, and crotch to be concerned with what I am saying.

Blissfully, the checks finally come, signaling an end to the afternoon.

Bob snatches up my ticket. “This one’s on me, Kitten.”

I nod, noticing our food is quite literally on him, but am still too embarrassed to even make a joke.

“You can get everyone’s ticket, Mr. Moneybags,” Buford offers, but Bob politely declines.

Buford then turns to the frowning waitress. “Hey, how about I give you a naked picture of me in exchange for this bill?”

“No, I don’t think so,” she responds, never missing a beat. “I don’t like old men. You all look wrinkly and shriveled.”

“Not naked, I don’t. Only with my clothes on,” Buford assures her, but she ain’t buying it. Just like she still ain’t buying my apology.

I hug Evelyn and shake hands with Archie. Trudy smiles sweetly and excuses herself to the ladies’ room. Buford goes in for a bear hug and then I turn to Bob.

“Thanks so much for lunch, Bob.”

“No, thank you, Kitten. You provided all the entertainment.”

I redden with embarrassment.

“Besides,” adds Buford on his way out the door, “For $3 a piece, we all finally got that fur shot.”

And that was the last time I had lunch at ChickenHaus.

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Mindi Boston

Mindi Boston

Mindi Boston is a former freelance writer. She employs Hemingway’s advice in her personal works — to ‘simply sit down at the typewriter and bleed.’

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