“Six O Six.”
“Is that your dog?”
“I have no dog.”
“So that’s not your dog?”
“No. They do not allow dogs in here.”
“I thought maybe it was one of those comfort dogs.”
“There is no dog.”
“But they do allow those comfort dogs.”
“I hope not, people eat in here.”
“I’ve seen them in here. They have a cover that says comfort dog right on it.”
“But you see a dog now and there is no dog.”
“I quit seeing it when you told me.”
“Sorry, what kind of dog was it?”
“Could you buy me a cup of coffee?”
“Sally!” Sally stopped topping off cups and came to my table.
“You being bothered?” she asks as she fills my half full cup.
“Could you bring this gentleman a cup of your finest, and an order of toast?” Sally doesn’t look like she wants to but she gives me a paid for smile and walks toward the kitchen. I motion toward the bench seat of the booth across the table from me.
“I didn’t know her name was Sally,” the tall, aggressively thin man said as he curled his legs under the table. “Know what she calls me?” he waits for my reply.
I swallow my sip of coffee, “What?”
“Get the hell out,” he said with a laugh covered with a dirty hand. He waited for me to get the joke. “That’s what she calls me,” he adds, just in case I didn’t get it. Sally shows up with the coffee, toast, a bowl of creamers and a basket of sugars, “here you go sweetie,” she says in full waitress mode.
“You come in here often?” I ask as the wisp of a stick man starts opening sugar bags three at a time.
“Just cold mornings, nothin’ like a hot cup of coffee,” he starts dumping premeasured plastic containers of creamer into the cup. He has to drink a little to make more room.
“Have you ever tasted coffee?” I ask as the dilution continues. He starts to point to the cup in front of him before he gets my joke. Showing he’s the most courteous person at this table he covers his mouth with his hand and gives my attempt at humor a quick laugh and snort.
He dunks a half slice of toasted bread and pushes it into his mouth. While he starts to chew he says, “My thanks,” a bit of bread tries to escape his mouth along with a dribble of sugar milk and coffee. He stuffs the bread back into his mouth, the dribble cleans a path down his chin and neck.
“You’re hungry,” I wave down Sally and she comes to our table because that’s what she’s paid to do. She waits with her pad and pencil. “One of those breakfast specials.”
“How would you like your eggs?” she asks making sure to only look at me.
“How would you like your eggs?” I pause, “I don’t know your name?”
“Over easy,” he answers.
“And how do you want your eggs?”
He does the hand over face laugh and looses most of a mouthful of toast; he’s really catching onto my sense of humor. Sally is long gone by the time he recovers and gets the mass of dough stuffed back into his mouth. “They call me Toby,” he says while still grinning, amid the chewed slime I can see several of his teeth still cling to his gums. He wipes his right hand on his dirt-encrusted pants and reaches across the table.
I shake his hand and say, “they call me Jack.” I pick up a napkin, wipe my hand and make a note to not get that hand anywhere near my face. Sally puts a breakfast special in front of Toby. As Toby dives into his meal, almost literally, I realize our conversation has ended. I stand and attempt a good-bye but Toby is lost in eggs stirred into hash browns. As I pay Sally for her dedication I look back and see Toby empty a Ketchup bottle onto his plate and stir it into his breakfast mixture. He sees me looking and waves good-bye with the upturned bottle leaving a line of ketchup across the table and onto the floor. I hand Sally her tip. Sally looks at me like I’m some kind of joke. I dig out another five.