Burgers, Fries, And Beer

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Julio sat with Odetta and Fenton. The Club was empty. None of the regulars were in and, as usual, Fenton was opening. It was early yet—just past two in the afternoon—and the three had nothing to do.

Julio Sanabria looked at his two co-workers. “For two bits, I'd get rid of everything and move away from here! Lousy daughter and her kids, stinking mortgage . . . I should just leave them, and all the rest of this crap.”

Fenton Mase nodded. “Grantville just ain't worth hanging around anymore. Hell, everyone except the regulars either won't talk to me or figures I'm just as big a racist as most of the crowd around here.”

Odetta Thorpe spat tobacco juice into a coffee cup. “Look. It could be worse; you could be like me. Half the down-timers think I'm sick and the other half think I'm a whore. I sure ain't going to try to compete with the likes of Hot Pants Cooper or Angie for the few single men who come in here.”

Julio growled something that nearly made Odetta swallow her wad of tobacco. “Sorry, Julio. I forgot!”

“Come on, Julio. You have to admit it. Angie has earned her reputation.” Fenton snorted. “She has the twins and she has another bun or two in the oven right now. Besides, she was in here last night with Hot Pants before she took off.”

Julio felt like he'd been kicked. It had been busy and he'd been stuck in the back. The regulars had been hollering about how it wasn't right, having all those Krauts on the police force. Then there had been an altercation between Ronnie Murray and someone else—it didn't matter who. Ronnie had been given the old heave ho.

Somewhere between the fight, his sixth burger and fries order, and washing the skillets again to make more fries, Angie and Hot Pants had left. Connie had, once again, been a no-show, leaving him to pull double duty.

Being chief cook and bottle washer in the Club 250 was no joke. He'd been stuck watching the fries so they wouldn't burn in the lard. Making French fries was a lot more work now that the cooking oil had either run out or been taken for some other use. Actually, Julio thought the fries had a better flavor, but to hear the regulars bellyache, you'd think they were being forced to eat shit.

Julio snapped back to reality when he heard the voices of Ape and Monkey Hart. It was time to get into the kitchen. The two jerks would want their standard burgers, fries and beer.

“Well, that's it.” Fenton tapped out his pipe. “Time to earn our dollar.”

Odetta spat her tobacco wad into the cup and handed it to Julio. “Damn it, Odetta! You could at least dump the thing out and rinse it.”

“Got customers, Julio. You wouldn't want Ken to fire me, would you?” Odetta smirked.

“Forget it, Julio,” Fenton said. “The way Ken has been losing waitresses—and I've had to do their work, too—I don't want Odetta fired.”

Julio marched into the kitchen. Damn Fenton and Odetta! Like Fenton busted butt behind the bar. And Odetta sure didn't hustle. She spent more time leaning against the bar shooting the breeze with Fenton than serving customers.

“Hey! Git over here and take a payin' customer's order.” Ape Hart yelled across the room.

It was just another day at the Club. Tonight, he'd have to go home, let the babysitter leave, and supposedly watch Angie's twins, Julie and Juanita. Hell, he was usually so tired he just collapsed. But the poor kids only had the babysitter and him most of the time.

Damn Angie! Why couldn't she be like her sister, Amy? Now that girl had a future. Angie was pregnant again and didn't even know who this father was. What a surprise.

Julio checked the temperature of the deep pan of lard. At any moment, Odetta would yell for burgers and fries. He would be glad when Connie started her shift. Then he'd just have to wash the dishes and prep cook if it got busy. Things just kept getting worse at the 250. Since that crap with young Tommy, her brother-in-law, Connie just didn't work as many hours.

****

Julio scraped the charred tobacco from the clay bowl of his pipe. He'd broken two of them since he'd started smoking a pipe. He couldn't buy cigarettes anymore, something about not having decent paper for them. Besides, no one wanted to make them anyway.

He wouldn't mind if someone did, but he had the feeling that wouldn't happen any time soon. Besides, tobacco wasn't all that cheap and there was only one tobacco shop in Grantville. It was owned by a Dutchman and Spaniard.

It was break time. Connie Cooper had finally shown up. She watched the kitchen while Fenton had the bar and Odetta worked the tables.

The more Julio thought about it, the more he realized that he really had to get out of Grantville. It wasn't just Angie, the twins, or even the job. His life had gone to downhill when Juanita had had her accident back in ninety-two. It had been all he could do to cope with her injuries, much less try to raise three kids.

If his cousin, Sergio, and his wife hadn't helped out, the whole lot probably would have turned out like Angie. But John and Amy were good kids. That was Sergio and Janie's doing more than his.

The best thing he could do for everyone was to just sell out and leave. Go off somewhere and start over again.

It would serve Angie right if he dumped her and she had to fend totally for herself. Maybe someone would take the twins and give them a decent home. John and Amy could fend for themselves. They were both pretty self-sufficient as it was. They certainly didn't need him. He didn't have much of a relationship with either of them, anyway.

“Julio, your break is up! Get back in here!” Odetta yelled. Ken must have come in and she was warning him before the boss decided he was loafing.

Hell, he hadn't even started his smoke. He pocketed the pipe and headed back to the kitchen. He saw the back of Odetta's bean-pole shape, skinny butt, and chicken legs as she made for the main floor. Connie was flipping a couple of burgers and a pan of grease was spitting. He was going to have to peel some more potatoes and have them ready and soaking in a bowl for Connie.

He didn't have any dishes in the sink right now, so he was supposed to make sure she had things on hand for the burgers and fries. That meant slicing the bread, preparing the potatoes and onion slices. All that kind of crap had to be done between washing dishes. There was no lettuce or tomatoes this time of year, which made his job easier.

Tonight, when he got home, he'd have some of the shine he'd stashed in the pantry—if Angie hadn't found where he'd hidden it. He would give some serious thought about where to go and what to do while he sat back with a big tumbler of hooch.

****

Julio dragged in from the Club. Three thirty-seven in the morning and his house was a pig sty. Angie's babysitter was still here, crashed on the couch with the old crib next to her. The twins were asleep, which was good. If they would only stay that way until he got a few hours of shuteye himself. They were nearly into their terrible twos. He could still remember Angie at that age. She had been the worst of his three kids, but the twins were putting her to shame. He felt like kicking Angie right out the door. Damn her staying out all night. If he didn't help pay for the babysitter he didn't know who would take care of her kids. He was too busy working and John and Amy had their own lives. He wouldn't expect either of his two younger kids to help him, and certainly not Angie. It was a good thing Juanita hadn't been able to see what her daughter had become.

Julio shuddered, headed for his room, and nearly slipped on part of a newspaper the babysitter had let fall near the couch. He picked it up, intending to wad it and throw the thing against the wall. His eye caught a bold headline about the rapid growth and opportunities in Magdeburg, the capitol of the CPE or whatever.

Hadn't Magdeburg been burnt to the ground? Well, damn! Julio headed for the kitchen to read the paper. Let the babysitter sleep. He looked around for the bottle of shine, which Angie hadn't found. He pulled the cork and took a swig.

He looked at the paper and, for the first time since the Ring Of Fire, saw news that wasn't filtered through people like the Coopers and Harts.

Maybe life would be better in a place like Magdeburg. It mentioned the planned navy base in the article. Julio thought about all the new service businesses that would be springing up around the base. Magdeburg might just be the place for him to go.

Julio laid the paper down on the cluttered table, took one more pull on the bottle, and hid it again. He walked past the babysitter and the twins. He'd sleep on the idea about getting away from here. Maybe things would be clearer in the morning.

****

It was absolutely dead in the Club. Fenton Mase and Odetta Thorpe wandered into the kitchen. Julio was kicked back, looking at a paper. “Horse shit! Julio, you know better than to bring anything German into the Club. Ken or one of the regulars see that, and all hell will bust loose.”

“Look at this, Fenton.” Julio held the paper up for him to see.

“You know I can't read that crap!” growled Fenton. “What's it say that's worth knowing about?

Julio translated as he read Fenton the article about Magdeburg's growth. “You know, the more I look at this, the more I think I'll just pack up and go.”

“You have to be crazy to even consider it!” Fenton's voice was sarcastic.

“No. Think about it. I looked it up. Magdeburg is far enough away that I ain't goin' to have a bunch of people remembering me as one of the Club 250 trash; but it isn't that far away. At least it will be better than here.”

Fenton snorted. “Hell! Julio, that place isn't America! It's full of foreigners and the US Navy Base there isn't American—even if that is what the paper says. They don't even got ”˜lectric or flush shitters there. Magdeburg ain't civilized yet.”

“Well, I'm seriously thinking of going. What do I have here? A job washing dishes and flipping burgers for a bunch of shitheads nobody likes. They don't even like each other.”

Julio stopped Fenton before he could say anything. “Don't give me any crap about the good old boys. You know as well as I do, the Club has been going downhill since that first election. And how many waitresses has this place gone through? Brandy quit; Marlene quit; and Angie isn't worth a hill of beans even when she does show. All the good ol' boys do is complain about how everything would be better if it weren't for all the Germans—or Mike Stearns, or the sky isn't blue today. I don't need this no more.”

Fenton started to rebut Julio but thought again. “Read that to me again. But get the paper out of here before Ken sees it.”

“Yeah, read it again, Julio,” Odetta added, a look of wanderlust in her eyes.

Julio started reading the article once more. Two people seemed to think he had stumbled onto something.

****

A few days later, Julio had made up his mind and headed down to Grantville Homes and Land. He saw Huddy Colburn himself. He wanted to sell his home and fast. It wasn't a case of going for the best price. When Juanita had been injured in ninety-two, he'd pretty much given up on life. Since the accident, his rock and confidante couldn't give him the support he had come to rely on. It had almost been a blessing when she had finally passed away in 1632.

He hadn't been much of a father after Juanita's accident. His cousin and his wife were more parents to his youngest two children than he'd been. Maybe that was why they had turned out better than Angie. She'd been sixteen at the time and had just gone wild—too wild. Her life had been spiraling downhill ever since.

Huddy made an offer of his own for the lot and house. Some major work was going to have to be done to bring the place up to standards. Julio had allowed the house to fall apart bit by bit. Huddy had made sure he understood that he was going below market value on the place; but it was going to cost him to have the place repaired for later sale.

Well, it wasn't like Julio wanted to wait around for Huddy to put the place on the market and wait around for a bite. He'd decided to leave, and that was final.

“Two weeks enough time to vacate the place?” Huddy had asked.

Two weeks was more than enough time. The next day, Huddy had the contract and the check for the place ready. Julio had two weeks to pack up and go. Magdeburg or bust. So long, Grantville.

****

Julio had just finished telling his oldest daughter that he was leaving. And that she would have to find someplace else to live. It had taken two days to catch her and she now had less than two weeks to find a new place.

Angie Sanabria glared at her father. “What do you mean, you've sold the house and I'll have to find somewhere else to live? This is my home, too, you know!”

Julio looked at his daughter and smiled. “It was my home. You just live here. How much have you contributed to maintenance and food? Now it belongs to Grantville Homes and Land. I could have sold it for more, but I just want out of here. So I dumped it for the first offer. After the bank grabbed their share to pay back the mortgage, there isn't all that much left. Finally, if you'd ever been around, you'd have known what I was going to do.”

“You can't do this, Papa! Where will me and the twins live now? And where are you going to live?”

“I don't know where you'll be living, to tell you the truth. You have your partying friends and can probably live with one of them.” Julio pointed to himself. “Me? I'm moving to Magdeburg. So you'll just have to grow up and take care of your own life.”

“You can't do this!”

He looked at her. “That's where you're wrong, Angie. I can do it and I'm going to. You have to learn there's more to life than just one big party.”

****

Odetta listened while her two co-workers talked about moving to Magdeburg. They even had a plan for starting a business there. Both had something to put in, though most of the money and other things would be coming from Julio Sanabria.


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About John Friend

This is a short introduction to John and Patti Friend. We work together. She provides the grammar and writing skills I lack while I come up with the stories most of the time.

I will start out with John Friend since I know more about myself and will let Patti do her own section. Besides I am biased and would probably do it up too nice.

I was born in 1950 in Barberton, Ohio. I have lived in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, California, and Washington State. I traveled across the US thirteen times by the time I was thirteen. My father was a bricklayer who was also a jack of all trades. We moved where the grass was greener continually. Many times the work waiting was not what was expected. My family even operated a ride with a traveling carnival for a time.

My last few years before joining the Navy I lived in Washington State. That was the longest time in one spot ever—if you count moving to five different houses in three years. I have twenty-two and a half years in the military, but didn’t retire due to red tape, time in Guard service, and disabilities. Seventeen of those years was in the Navy, five and a half in the Army National Guard which required eight years service at the time. Like my father, I am a jack of all trades. Unlike him, I am a master of none. I have been a ditch digger, roofer, hod carrier, electronics tech., wheel and track mechanic, department head in retail, millwright’s assistant, valve fabricator, ad infinitum. Now I do a bit of writing, mostly to keep myself occupied.

Patti Friend was born Patricia Elaine Knapp at the Group Health Hospital in Seattle, Washington on August 2, 1951. Unlike John, I have lived my entire life in Washington State. My father was a sixth-grade teacher for the Kent School District and my mother was a homemaker.

I am the second of four daughters. We grew up on a small five-acre goat farm where we took care of thirteen nannies and a good-sized garden. I learned to can fruits and vegetables by the time I was six. When I was nine, I was helping with the milking.

I enjoy singing. My first impromptu solo was at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington when I was four and a half. I’ve been singing ever since.

Along with my singing, I enjoy crafting, reading, and—most of all—writing.

John and I both graduated from Kent-Meridian High School in June of 1969. After graduation, we went our separate ways and didn’t see each other for many years. In 1991, our paths crossed again. We had both recently been widowed and we renewed our acquaintance. We were married in June of 1994 in Marble Flats, Washington.

I have worked off and on doing several jobs. I have been a waitress, nurse’s aide, cook, tree farm worker, and institutional cook. I have volunteered an hour a week singing at a retirement center. I know many songs senior citizens really appreciate and it lifts my spirits to have them sing along with me when they know the songs I sing.