Open All Nite ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
“You’re probably not going to leave your wife for me, are you?” the waitress asked as she came toward him with a pot of coffee.
“I don’t have a wife,” he said, as if anticipating the question.
“That makes it easier, then, doesn’t it?”
“Not for me.”
She started to pour him a cup.
“I don’t want any of that,” he said.
“I said I don’t want any coffee.”
She looked at him in disbelief. “Well, now, you really are unique, aren’t you? Ninety-nine men out of a hundred want coffee when they come in here.”
“I’m that very rare one percent who doesn’t,” he said.
“What are you having tonight?” She set the pot down and took a pad out of her apron.
“How about some hot water, a tea bag and some lemon?”
“So, what you want is a cup of tea?”
“You’re very perceptive.”
“Why don’t you want coffee?” she asked.
“It makes me vomit.”
“Well, we can’t have that, can we? That’s very discouraging to the patrons who come in here to eat.”
He looked over each shoulder and back at her. “You don’t have any patrons.”
“Well, that’s because it’s two in the morning and all decent people are at home in bed.”
“Does that mean I’m not decent?” he asked.
“You tell me. Does it?”
“I’m sure I’m just as decent as you are. Maybe more so.”
She brought a little pot of hot water, a cup, a tea bag and two slices of lemon.
“What do you have that’s good to eat?” he asked.
“Well, let me see,” she said. “We’ve got some Hungarian goulash, some chicken fricassee and some salmon croquettes.”
“Bring me a ham and cheese on rye and some cottage cheese.”
“I’m not sure about the cottage cheese, but I’ll check.”
She found some in the back of the refrigerator on the point of turning and, arranging it artfully in a small bowl on a lettuce leaf with a maraschino cherry on top, took it to him.
“You’re not the usual run of truck drivers and traveling men we get in here at night,” she said.
“No?” He looked at her without expression until she had to look away.
“Where you coming from?”
“East,” he said.
“Where you heading?”
“It’s always lovely there this time of year, I hear.”
A few minutes later she brought him the ham and cheese on rye on a large plate with a profusion of lettuce. She set the plate down and said, “Will there be anything else, sir?”
He shook his head, his eyes on the sandwich.
When he was finished eating, he motioned to her and she gave him the check.
“Was everything all right, sir?” she asked.
“I was never here,” he said.
“You never saw me.” He took a gun out of his pocket and laid it on the counter beside the plate.
“There’s about twenty-one dollars in the cash drawer,” she said. “Take it.”
He smiled for the first time. “I don’t want your twenty-one dollars.”
“What’s the gun for? You don’t need to be flashing that in here.”
“You’re here all alone, aren’t you?”
“The cook’s in the back. He’s deaf and dumb. Never says a word to anybody.”
“So, just you and the cook at almost two-thirty in the morning.”
“That’s right, but business is about to pick up, I’m sure.”
“You’ve never seen me.”
“All right. I got that.”
“I’m not even here.”
“Fine by me.”
“I’ll be back this way and I’ll know if you told anybody you saw me.”
“Nobody here,” she said. “Slow night. Just me and the cook in the back and he never says a word to anybody.”
“It seems we understand each other.”
He stood up, took a bill out of his wallet and slapped it on the counter. “I’ll be seeing you again,” he said, and then he was gone.
Business began to pick up about four-thirty, early risers on their way to their important destinations. She was taking an order from a couple of old people when two police officers came in and sat down at the counter.
“What can I get you this morning?” she asked the officers as she poured their coffee.
“Been here all right?” the younger of the two asked her.
“Since about ten,” she said.
“Have you seen this man?”
He thrust a picture at her; she took it from him and held it close to her face. It was without any doubt the man who had had the ham and cheese on rye and the cottage cheese with the maraschino cherry on top.
“He has beautiful eyes,” she said, handing the picture back. “You just don’t forget those eyes.”
“Have you seen him?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Keep the picture and if you see him in here, give us a call.”
“What did he do?”
“Murdered his wife.”
“I’ll bet she had it coming.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know. Just a thought.”
“You shouldn’t romanticize crime,” he said, lighting a filterless cigarette and blowing a purple cloud into the air above his head.
She waited for them to leave and after they were gone she folded the picture and slipped it into her pocket before anybody else had a chance to see it. She would keep it for private viewing later.
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp