Wednesday, April 08, 2009

For Two Bucks

I don't go to church on Sunday morning. I might go to church if I could swap out the pipe organ for a good electric Hammond-B organ. The Hammond-B always sounds a little happy and a little sad; I don't know why. I'd like that.

Instead I go to Mickey's Diner for my Sunday communion. If I arrive at the old dining car around seven, I get the shift change. Dave, the cook, starts his shift with a clean grill and a can of Red Bull. Mary, the waitress, eats her bacon and eggs until her shift starts.

In the entrance there's a little vestibule. In one corner on the unmopped floor sit a large white and a large black garbage sack. The sacks are stacked on an old scale where for two cents you can get your weight printed on a ticket. Not recommended after eating.

The customer next to me, sitting on a stool at the counter, asks Mary, "What can I get for two bucks?"

Mary tells her, "A pancake is two dollars plus tax."

"I'll take that."

I see the sunlight starting to shine on the gold cross atop the Saint Paul Cathedral. Soon it will hit the new copper roof that cost millions of dollars.

Below the cathedral and just across the street is the Dorothy Day Center. Down the street I see the homeless citizens of Saint Paul are just starting to congregate at the Salvation Army (they call it "Sally's") where they can get a free hot breakfast. That's if first they're willing to hear a short sermon.

Most of the customers come in to Mickey's one at a time. One of the regulars, a middle-aged man with long straight black hair, quietly settles into the stool by the cash register, two down from me. He opens his newspaper. Mary brings him coffee.

"Hey, hi there, I'm Michelle," our neighbor announces.

"Richard, good morning," I respond.

Just then Dave fumbles with the milk and some spills on the back counter. "Damn."

"Oh, I can help clean it up." Michelle is already moving to get behind the counter.

"I got it honey." Mary pats her right arm.

My order is always the same: a pecan waffle and coffee. It comes out with Michelle's plate-sized thick pancake. We share the syrup. I smile when I see her generous pool of syrup.

After a minute of serious eating, Michelle announces, "Best pancake ever! How's yours?"


Dave turns on the radio. Springsteen is "the boss."

Michelle unfolds her two dollar bills and sets them on the counter. "Thanks a million. Gotta go."

"Sorry, there's tax on that, honey."

Before Michelle can get a word out, I add a quarter to the bills.

"Thanks, God blesses you." Michelle pats me on the back. She picks up her black and white trash bags and heads out the door. It looks like we're all getting a pretty good start on Sunday.

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