Scene: Goffle Grill –
Time: 1:30 pm
(As I enter, the cashier, dressed in a topcoat and fedora, stands with his back to the counter, a plume of smoke billowing above his head).
Me: Ahem. Hey, how are ya?
Cashier: That depends on who wants to know, fella.
Me: …Uh, Chris?
(The cashier turns around. His face looks worn, even without the open gashes and purple bruises. A nametag on his chest reads “Phil”. A nearly extinguished cigarette defies gravity, dangling off his lower lip.)
Phil: I was lying – I’m doing the same no matter which of the world’s billion saps is doing the asking. I’m doing just great. My head splits like a bad bowler and I just got some cosmetic work done on the old chompers by a careless gorilla with a bad attitude, but other than that, it’s all roses and sunshine.
(A thin stream of blood trickles down from beneath his hat.)
Me: Holy hell. You need to see a doctor.
Phil: There ain’t no doctors round here with the prescription I need.
Me: I’m pretty
sure there are. This is
Phil: Is that a threat?
Me: What? No. I’m just saying that you’re very badly hurt and probably need some stitches.
Phil: I’ll tell you what I need – the truth. And make it snappy. I’ve got a date with the Queen of Sheba and she hates when I’m late.
Me: The truth? Is that my order?
Phil: You’re quick for an ignorant lug.
Me: Hey now, that’s not…
Phil: Now don’t get all worked up over the little peeps of a well-meaning mouse like me. Save your fists for someone who gives a damn. Your order is all I need.
Me: Fine. Two dogs all the way and a black and white, to go.
Phil: (writing down the order) And where were you last night around 11?
Me: That’s none of your business.
Phil: My business is finding out everything that isn’t my business. If you’ve got a problem with that, we could enter negotiations and hammer out a deal.
Me: Is that a metaphor? Who speaks in metaphors nowadays?
Phil: Men with nothing to lose but their lives. Care to join the club? I get a discount for every new member I sign up.
Me: I can’t even tell – are you trying to fight me?
Phil: I wouldn’t dream of it, you dumb ape.
Me: OK, yeah I got that. Screw you. I want to see your manager.
Phil: I don’t think anyone wants to see my manager – he’s not quite the most attractive man, plus he’s got the temperament of a wet mongoose with a parking ticket.
Me: Just get him.
(Phil leans up against the back wall, trying to position himself in such a way that the fluorescent lighting hits his fedora and casts a shadow over his eyes. He can’t find the spot. Instead, he throws down his half-finished cigarette, stomps it out, and retires to the back. A minute later, Phil comes back out with another trenchcoated man. It could be his brother.)
Manager: The name’s Sam Spade. What the hell do you want?
By CS Van Orden