Maude had her own language when it came to the influx of patrons who descended on the Waffle Shack during rush time. She would alert the cook with “a deuce in the booth” or “triplets in the corner” or “a quartet that isn’t here to sing.”
If somebody came in by themselves, she would walk by and quietly say “we have a lonesome dove.” She saw no need to announce it because she knew how it felt to eat alone. And to live alone. And to be alone.
There was only one regular lonesome dove. He always sat quietly and almost invisibly, in the very back booth behind her boys. He never said anything but he seemed to listen to everything.
She would bring him more coffee when he motioned but he rarely made eye contact. Maude was never one to initiate a conversation when somebody looked like they wanted to be left alone and he looked like he wanted to be left alone.
Maude found him interesting. He wasn’t traditionally handsome but there was an allure about him. There was also an aloofness about him. He always politely took off his baseball cap when he came in and when he did, it revealed a shock of jet black hair. His face was a veritable road map of wrinkles that could be the result of grief, sorrow or just plain hard living.
Her boys came in and Chris looked a bit disheveled and haggard. He had been up all night, working the call that came in the day before.
There had been a drive-by shooting between two rival gangs and a little 12-year-old girl was caught in the crossfire. She was shot and killed. Even though everybody knew who the gang leaders were, of course nobody saw anything.
Chris was the youngest of the boys and even though he didn’t have children of his own, he was clearly shaken. It wasn’t the first time he had seen death but it was the first time he had witnessed the horror of seeing a childs’ life having been snuffed out by a senseless, brutal act.
The next morning, the firefighters who were at the scene put a boot out in their station for collections to help the family. Chris was the first to stop by and make a donation.
There was no joke telling that day. Their moods were somber and Chris seemed to be in a daze. Floyd knew there was nothing he could say to console Chris but offered company and a beer after their watch was over.
He said “death is something we see almost every day but the death of a child will get to you every time.” Chris said “how do you get over something like that?” Floyd shook his head and said “you never really do.”
Gary, who rarely cursed, was completely out of character when he said “we’ll get that mother fucker. One day, we’ll get that mother fucker.”
Maude noticed the lonesome dove gesture with his cup as if he was saying “I’ll drink to that.”
To be continued_______________________