The man sat alone at a table in the restaurant. In terms of a type of restaurant, most people would call it a diner. There were counter seats (ease on up to the bar, little one) for the terminally lonely, booths for those who wanted to fiddle (the smirk hides and tells all...too much blush, baby) with their eating partner without being too out in the open about it, and tables for families (don't play with your food...I said stop) who didn't want to sit too close to each other. The waitresses wore blue dresses with their names tagged on their chest with a piece of plastic. Over the blue dresses they wore white aprons. The aprons didn't always stay white throughout a whole day (sorry 'bout that coffee, honey, been a long day), but that's why they were aprons and not dresses. As far as a name, most people would call the place "Ginny Hen's," but the man remembered it as "The Dive," and before that, "Johnny's Table." The man didn't recall when it had been that way, but he remembered just the same.
Most people would call the man Jim Brown. They would make fun of the fact that he didn't live up to his name and could never play football "even if his life depended on it," they would joke. He was a small man, never weighing more than 130 pounds. Most people would call him Jim Brown, but he remembered when people would've called him Duff Chelsea, and before that, Henry Jeffries.
When was that?-he tried to think.
He didn't know exactly, but it was before. Before now-before "Ginny Hen's" and Jim Brown, but he knew it had been that way all the same.
Jim sat and ate his number two special. It was a burger (cooked rare-I wanna see the blood mix with the A-1) with spicy fries and lettuce. Jim never ate it in that order. Jim remembered Henry hated spicy fries. He smiled a little and dipped his spicy fries (a combination of chili pepper and a splash of Tabasco sauce is what the waitresses described as making them 'spicy') into a pool of ketchup. Ketchup was the all time best condiment for covering the taste of food, Jim thought. Henry liked mustard, however. Jim remembered that, but didn't know when it had been so. Henry was dead. Jim was sure of it. He hadn't remembered him for a long time. Jim dusted off the burger with its grease dripping (and just a little bit of blood) and the lettuce hanging out limply around the sides. He called the waitress over.
"I need some mustard, please," Jim heard himself say.
The waitress did too.
"No problem, Honey." Jim looked around for Honey. Jim hadn't seen him for a long while. There was something Jim wanted to tell him.
When the mustard came, Jim spread a generous amount over his fries. Maybe Henry was right.
Jim finished his number two special and got up from the table. When he walked over to the cash register to pay, the girl standing there smiled.
"Was everything alright, Honey?"
"I think he was here earlier," Jim muttered. "I need to tell him something."
"Whatever," the girl behind the cash register said as her smile disappeared. She took his money quickly, as if further association with Jim was not desired.
Jim frowned back. He couldn't remember what he had to tell Honey, not to mention Henry. It was all quite perplexing.
"You've got some mustard on your cheek," the girl said as she hastily gave him his change.
"Henry!" Jim yelled. The girl, startled, looked behind her out of the front window of the diner but didn't see anyone. Jim bolted out of the restaurant.
Jim hurried to his apartment. 3156 James Street #17. It was always there. Every time he looked. Jim was impressed with the way his apartment was so consistent.
He hadn't seen Henry on his way home, that was good because he still couldn't remember what he had to tell him, not to mention Honey.
Jim took his mail out of the slot marked #17. There wasn't much. Mostly junk mail proclaiming he had won a million dollars. Jim didn't understand why Ed kept sending him mail. They had only talked once.
He pushed the key into its slot and opened the door to his apartment. It was just as he'd left it earlier. Jim sat down in his reclining chair that liked resting in front of the t.v. It was very comfortable, lots of cushioning. Jim looked through the mail, most of it was for him, but there was a letter for Duff. Nobody wrote to Duff anymore. Duff had been banished years before. Duff was dead, like a dumb duck. Why would someone want to write Duff? Jim opened the letter. He was a little nervous. If Duff found out that Jim was reading his mail, Duff would be mad. And Duff could be rough.
The letter read:
I bet you are surprised to see that name. Yeah, you tried to get away from us with that federal protection shit. So stupid, Duff.
No one gets away from us-we are the law. Be expecting a call from someone you know real soon. You remember Henry Jeffries, don't you? Well, if not, you will be reacquainted with him real soon. (Jim gasped when he read this. Henry had been around at the restaurant. Jim hadn't seen him, but that was Henry's way.) We're real happy we caught up with you Duff.
See you soon,
Jim put Duff's mail down. It had been so long. There was no way they will find you (cigarette filled room, blue lights, bad haircuts...bags under every eye), they had all said. It's like a totally new life. They had promised him this. Jim had believed them.
Unnerved, Jim got up from his comfortable chair and went into the kitchen. Looking in the refrigerator, he took out everything that looked edible. He left the mustard and ketchup on the shelf. Duff liked horseradish. If Duff was coming back, he was going to want to eat things the way he liked them.
Jim stared at all of the food he had taken out of the refrigerator. It would feed three Jim's, but Duff could take it all fine. Starting out with a fork and knife, he began tearing and chewing his way through the cold food. Somewhere along the way, the utensils broke and were discarded. It was much more natural to eat with his hands anyway.
About thirty minutes later Duff sat back and looked at the empty food containers on the table. It was good to have enough to eat for a change. He was surprised that Jim had stocked that much in the way of munchies-Jim didn't have to eat that much. Oh well, good riddance to that little pigmy of a guy-he was such a weakling.
Duff got up and walked to the bathroom. He stripped, stepped onto the scale and peered over his hairy belly at the indicator. 235 pounds. Not bad, almost back up to weight. Grunting, he stepped off the scale, shuffled over to the toilet and let out a long, hot stream of urine. It was a few minutes before Duff was done. He picked up his undershorts and began putting them back on. The long piss had made him hungry again. A trip to the supermarket was definitely in order. Just as Duff was picking up his undershirt, he heard a noise from the hallway outside his apartment.
Sensing something was wrong, Duff crept into the kitchen again and pulled the largest knife from the tiered wooden holder on the counter. He held the blade tightly in his right hand. The florescent lights made the smooth and shiny knife glow slightly, like a small, deadly flashlight.
Duff tip-toed over to the door. He looked through the peep hole and saw a shadow lurking in the darkness. Something about that sounded wrong, but the blood (and adrenaline...go, go, go) was rushing to his brain and thoughts of thinking were washed right out.
As he started to unlock the deadbolt, a dark arm came through the door. It grabbed a hold of Duff's head and slammed it against the door. Strangely, the arm did not make a hole in the door, merely passed through- unimpeded by the wood. Duff's head, however, did not have such powers against the wooden door's solidness. He fell back heavily after head butting the door, landing on top of the hand that had been holding the knife. The force of Duff's body hitting the floor pushed the knife all the way through his back, ribs and stomach, making a little bit of the tip come all the way through. The tip, about three or four inches of it, stuck out of Duff's chest like a deadly mountain peak. Duff, however, was not terribly concerned about this protuberance, he was eyeing the shadow that was looming over his face.
Actually, the shadow was hovering above Duff's body-only inches separated them. This meant that the knife was also sticking into the shadow's depths, but it did not seem to notice this either. The shadow seemed to be staring into the darkening colors of Duff's eyes.
Duff stared back until the staring became natural. Then the stare became glassy and lifeless. Duff was now truly dead-like a dumb duck. The shadow melted over Duff's body and became one with its unlucky victim.
Out of the slit where the knife stuck through Duff's stomach, a finger began to slide up. It moved slowly up the shiny blade and was followed after a time by another finger. This continued for quite a while, until an entire hand was curling its fingers around the knife. A hand that seemed to originate somewhere inside of Duff's stomach.
"What the hell? Tommy, come look at this." The police had come to 3156 James Street #17.
"Oh god," Tommy began and then jerked his body around to lose his supper away from the crime scene.
"Get a grip, man. This is fucking grisly," a man holding a camera said, apparently impressed by the strange sight on the floor of the apartment. He began snapping pictures, repeating the last word he had said like a mantra: "Grisly, grisly, grisly."
The dead man's body was flat on his back with his right hand underneath him. The knife was now four to five inches out of the stomach-the body had pushed the blade farther as it settled in death. The hand that had curled around the knife (it would have been a left hand-if it was connected to a body somewhere) had made a tighter grip on the blade and had bled a bit. It looked like some kind of suicidal masturbating hand. The entire body was covered with a dark dust that, as the coroners and police found out later, stuck to whatever touched it and was not easily washed off.
"Get this guy out of here," Tommy's partner yelled, pushing the blood crazed photographer away from the scene. The man with the camera was smiling as he was led away (crazy police never know when to quit)-he had shot up an entire roll of film before being pushed out.
"How should we work this?" Tommy asked after washing his face. He was looking at his partner, deliberately keeping his eyes away from the mess on the floor.
"I don't know. This is fucking weird. I say let the damn body baggers deal with it." The two cops walked over to the coroners, who were smoking cigarettes and talking about an old woman who had fallen down a flight of stairs after apparently tripping on a piece of loose carpet. "This one's yours, we can work without the body from now on." Tommy's partner said.
"Yeah, we're gonna head over to Ginny Hen's for a cup of coffee. Hopefully we won't be back until you've finished scooping this guy up," Tommy said. He had controlled his stomach pretty well, but if he had to stick around while the black bag guys did their job, he might lose his breakfast too.
As Tommy and his partner walked down the street to the diner, they kept their talk away from the scene they had just witnessed.
"Sometimes I really hate this job," Tommy said, absently fondling his balls through the loose fabric of his khaki pants. He had needed to take a piss for the longest time and came close to letting his bladder go at the same time he lost his dinner.
"Yeah," his partner grunted. After a few minutes he pressed his hand to his stomach and let the gas run rough through his body. "Jesus, I'm hungry. Let's get some fucking pancakes while we're here."