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Coffee, Waffles, and Gunsmoke
This morning I struck up a conversation with an old man over breakfast at the local Huddle House. He was sitting by himself drinking a cup of coffee. He wasn’t looking for company but I had ordered a big omelet and that’s the sort of thing worth making conversation over.
“Look at the size of that thing,” I said.
“It’s a biggun,” He said.
“I reckon there’s half a hog’s worth of ham in it.”
“And a fat hog at that.”
“Nice to meet ya, Jerry.”
Jerry raised his coffee cup in my direction. He sat looking out of the window towards something in the middle distance before speaking again.
“My wife could sure make a omelet.”
“Is that right,” I said.
“You know it. She always kept a few hens. And nothin’ beats fresh yard eggs. She’d whip up half a dozen or so of those and load em’ down with sausage and bacon and that good melty kind of cheese. Best omelet you ever had.”
Then he fell quiet and turned his gaze to that spot of private interest somewhere on the other side of the window. It was apparent to me that it really wasn’t the omelets that Jerry missed, but I suppose it’s easier to talk about eggs to strangers than dead wives and regrets.
“Well, this one doesn’t sound near as good as your wife’s, but it’ll do in a pinch,” I said.
“Yeah. It’ll fill the hole in your belly.”
Then I risked a dangerous question.
“What was her name?”
“Anette.” He said and turned his lips into a wan smile. “We’s married 46 years. Damn cancer.”
“I hate cancer,” I said. “My uncle is dying of it right now. Probably won't make it to Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah. I hate it too,” He said. Then he added “I hate everything anymore.”
“Nothin’s the same now. The kids live halfway across the country. I retired 7 years ago. I’m too damn old to hunt and fish. I just don’t take no pleasure in much anymore.”
“How’s the coffee?” I asked.
“The coffee’s good. I come here most mornings. I like their coffee.”
“So you don’t hate everything then,” I said.
He laughed a little. “Well, I guess not. Those waffles ain’t bad either. I get some of them sometimes.”
“Coffee and waffles. Breakfast of champions,” I said.
“Well, I don’t exactly have to watch my figure too much these days. After breakfast I don’t do much but ride over to the feed store and jaw with some fellas I used to work with and then head home and watch The Rifleman and Gunsmoke for the rest of the afternoon.”
“I like ole Matt Dillon, now,” I said.
“Oh, me too.”
“Coffee, waffles, and Gunsmoke. This is startin’ to turn into a list,” I said.
“I guess it ain’t all bad. Some people’s got it a lot worse. I’m pretty healthy for an old man. I can still see to drive and don’t have to get up but about 100 times in the night to go pee.”
He laughed again. A real laugh this time. Then looked back out the window. This time I looked too. There was a red Chevy pickup parked outside with a border collie sitting in the driver’s seat.
“That your dog?” I asked.
“No. Well, I mean now he is. Anette was the animal lover. I just tolerated em’. But I have to say, since she’s passed I’ve become partial to that dog.”
“What’s her name?”
Now it was my turn to laugh.
“I named her that when Anette brought her home. Kinda like a joke. But Anette said just for that she was gonna keep the name. And she did.”
“I love good dogs,” I said.
“Me too,” he answered.
“If you ain’t careful somebody’s gonna get the idea that you don’t hate everything.”
“Well, since we’re at it. I like barbecue pretty good. And I like a good pair of boots. Oh, and my recliner,” he said, laughing.
“I like Andy and Barney. I like old Country songs. And the way the air is turning cooler. I like football games when my team wins. I like the way these waffles smell and the way the Paper Mill doesn't anymore.” I chuckled.
“Yeah, it ain’t all bad,” he said. “I reckon I still like a lot of things.”
“Let me buy you another cup of coffee?”
“I think I’d like that too,” Jerry said.
It was good to hear him laugh.