Restaurant by Rachel Shine

December 19, 2008

Restaurant

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by Rachel Shine

A late November wind tails a young man through the door of a Super Burrito.  He has eyes that glisten and he walks to the counter with a comfortable confidence that suggests he comes here often.  The young man talks softly to the woman at the counter then takes off his coat and sits at a table close by to wait for his food.  A few moments later, the business of this cold Tuesday pushes a man in a sand-colored trench coat through the same door.  At the counter he asks the cook about items on the menu.  After settling on his usual two gorditas he turns to the man sitting on a stool reading a paper who keeps a modest survey of the movement in his restaurant.

“See, I’m from the South.  All we eat is soul food.  You know raccoon?  Ever tried that?”

He barely understands english and looks at the man in the trench coat with windowless curiosity.

“Raccoon. . . Raccoon. . . Raccoon. . . The animal. . . Raccoon.  With the tail?”

“Oh.” He has a breathy accent.

“Yeah, we call that wild game.”

“Yeah.”

“We say we’re going out hunting and we catch some.  Gotta know how to cook it.”

The young man, still waiting for his food, whistles the first line to the song “Downtown.”  The same melody three or four times, he whistles.

Trench Coat turns away from the man on the stool and says “we almost had them this year,” pointing to the young man’s Cubs hat.  “Yeah, they just choked,” he said.  “First game.  Unbelievable.”

“Next time.  Next time.  Dezi still around?”  Trench Coat asks.

“Yeah, he’s around.”

“I haven’t seen your brother in a while now either.”

“The two of them, they together right now.”

“Oh, alright.  Alright,” he nods.  “Or that guy, he’s dark – Puerto Rican.  Lives right here?” he points southwest to Division.  “Bald.  Big guy.”

“You talkin’ about Tutu.  He’s locked up.  Been locked up a while.  A few months now.”

“That’s where everyone is around here you don’t see for a while.”

“Yeah,” he shrugs as his platter of food is brought to him and he starts to eat quietly bent over his plate, scooping beans with his fork.  Trench Coat gets his two gorditas and gets up to leave.

“Yo, Doc.  Yo, Cubs Fan.  Me and you, we cross our fingers next year.”

“Man, I do it every year.”

“I know it.  I know it.”  He chuckles and pats the young man’s shoulder on his way out.  “You take care.”

“Yes sir,” the young man replies.  He finishes his meal in silence.  In the meantime a white girl returns to the counter with her black plastic basket and asks for one more avocado taco, please, in spanish.  The woman behind the counter repeats the request in english and fulfills it.  When he’s done he brushes extra rice grains and lettuce shavings into his hand and onto his plate and brings the small mess to the woman at the counter.  Then he bundles up against the autumn cold and takes the cigarette from behind his ear and walks out the door.

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