Upon return home from afternoon Scranton School bus run, around 4:15 P.M., I became extraordinarily hungry. Driving family 2007 KIA Sportage, I started to question the joys of eating more of Carol's chicken legs and green beans for dinner. A stubborn liberal, I suffered pangs of hypocrisy and admitted guilt for a willingness to needlessly spend over $7.00 in order to satisfy personal taste buds. Uh-huh, I summoned Norman Vincent Peale strength and confidently passed by Main & Union Street, the way home.
To quickly re-et positive value system, I placed Jackson Browne C.D., Standing In The Breach, into our KIA's player, touched the tab for song number 7, a meaningful Latino tune titled “Walls and Doors.” A 63rd birthday gift from my two sons, I listened to Jackson sing, “Because we know that we know it, there can be freedom only when nobody owns it.” Carol's chicken legs and beans had no hold upon me, so I kept driving toward Old Forge Borough, a town flooded with restaurants.
Soon, a sign “Welcome to Old Forge, Pizza Capital of World!” Proceeded south on Main Street, I weirdly sensed being on set of 1985 film, Brazil, and intimidated by an endless chain of alluring billboards! At 25 mph speed limit, I looked at restaurant signs, left and right. For example, in consecutive order, relative King Lear choices; Augustine's Club 17, Dunkin Donuts, Fanucci's and Anthony's restaurants, Burger King, McDonald's, Arcaro & Genell's, Rinaldi's, Revello's and Ghigarelli's Pizza.
However, by the time I reached Ace Hardware, the $7.00 inside my pocket dictated appetite sustainability, and a change-of-course became necessary. Retreated north on Main Street, pulled into Burger King parking lot, frowned, figured even a Cheese Whopper and Fries would beat Carol's chicken legs and beans.
No one in line, I quickly ordered Cheese Whopper Meal, paid bill, and a pretty young girl (with spook red hair and silver earring in right eyebrow) handed me a medium cup which I filled with Diet Pepsi, looked cautiously around for employee “eyes,” took long sip, refilled the cup. Had no idea whether or not Burger King management cared about customers taking extra soda, and once again, I summoned Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking, seized meal, sat down at table which faced Main Street so that I could watch passerby's on a very dismal and cold Spring day. Unwrapped Whopper, recited quickie “Grace,” took big bite and caught the stare of a lady, perhaps late 60s, and who looked like Golden Girls “Blanche,” with much more hard mileage, knocks.
“What's the matter, buddy? Are you hitting on me or something?”
“Why no, Miss. I just sort of case out places while I eat, and happened to catch your big brown eyes!”
She wrinkled brow, set aside Scranton Times-Tribune, and reached inside purse, extracted pocket mirror.
“Well, let me tell 'ya, 'big brown eyes' you say, eh? That sounds flirty, I'll say!”
“Look Miss, I did not really mean it that way. Besides, you're the only one here... and O hell, let's change subject... what did you eat?”
“A fish filet and coffee. Am fasting even though Holy Week is over!”
“Uh, was it good?”
“Would be better if a nice man would buy me another coffee, maybe desert?”
A tough situation – of course she looked tip-top for age, and my eyes really should not wander, especially on a $7.00 budget. I deceptively placed left hand beneath table in order to hide evidence of wedding band. She started to put on lipstick, crossed bare legs, kicked the right one up-and-down. Although cold outdoors, she wore flop-flops, her toes painted red. Jesus – the Burger King Whopper sauce spilled upon my shirt! A tremendous taste for leftover chicken legs and green beans hit me.
“Look, Miss. The truth is I have only $7.00 and I'm married for 25 years.”
“So how come you're in Burger King all alone?
“Look, I admitted to having only $7.00. Besides, maybe some hunk with bucks will walk in and this conversation will be history?”
“No big deal! Ha-ha. I'm taken... later I'm off to Mohegan Sun Casino, will play slots, and my 'squeeze' will not have fast food sauce all over his shirt.”
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“You seem to have lots of fun, read lots of cultural stuff?”
“O yes indeed, am retired Phys. Ed teacher! Was just reading newspaper headline, and story about a 30-ish Old Forge couple who played strip poker along with two minors. Why can you imagine? A mailman came upon their porch, heard alarming noises, called cops, and the couple got arrested.”
“Father Knows Best world's done! Did you happen to see the most recent Taco Bell, TV commercial?”
“Maybe, but be assured I only watch A&E and the Home Shopping Network. Where do you think I got these flip-flops... they're not Kmart-brand I assure you. What TV commercial you talking about... uh Mr. Robert Young?”
“Ha, ha, you are funny! But I'm talking about the Taco Bell commercial. Did you ever see the one where an elderly couple are parked inside a car and eating a Chickster sandwich?”
“Why you dirty Travolta! I knew you were flirting.”
“You got it my dear.. But back to, er, Taco Bell Peyton Place? The couple in the commercial enjoy “Chickster” sandwiches, and suddenly, the lady gets affectionate, places sandwich aside, raised her blouse, exposed breasts to partner, and he looks quite tasered.”
“O, how romantic! Are you sure you're not lying about being married today, honey?”
She batted long eyelashes. I gulped, pondered Jackson Browne's song lyric, “And I know and you know there can be freedom only when nobody owns it.” Why hell, I reasoned, Carol and I are not legally free and mutually own chicken legs. Shucks, nobody will either know or give a damn if I hit ATM machine and withdraw family money for one stupid coffee and cheap desert for 'Blanche'?
“What time you say is your date at Mohegan Sun Casino?” I asked.
“Humph. Should have expected this, you gigolo! All the time you're talking Father Knows Best and your tongue's wagging for a taste. Humph, you know what?
“Someday I'll be sitting here in Burger King, and to my surprise, I'll be swept away by a man who is like that common Slavic construction worker who won over Liz Taylor's heart!”
“Hey wait a minute, lady..., why I am a COMMON Polish guy!”
“Well, let me tell you something. I know a political guy who used to come in here regular, and complain about Obama not approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. He'd constantly brag about calling local talk radio, and telling locals how they're being deprived. Bullshit, I say, it's only the common people who give a
flying (expletive) about us.”
“O yea, Miss. Back in day, there were probably lots of Average Joes staffing Underground Railroad and tycoons staffing oil pipelines.”
“Look here, put your ring atop table, and let me buy you a Junior Whopper? My treat, Bob Cratchit.”
Wrinkles in both throat and forehead deepened. I own the wrinkles and she's free to buy me a Junior Whopper! However, wife Carol's sure to wonder why no appetite for Midnight Snack. I faked need for “pee,”stepped away. Lady's a former Phys. Ed. teacher and she knows Dickens? Cold water upon face, anxiously rubbed like a beaten boxer. Zipped and confidently exited Men's Room, she's gone. I gazed upon her warm seat, a Burger King coupon left behind, “Buy one large sandwich, get one free.” Tossed food waste into garbage can, placed empty tray atop shelf. Back on road through Old Forge Brazil, indigestion, it's too bad Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky never made it?