The day turned from sunny to dreadfully wet and the plummeting temperature went to freezing when I thought I had bought my ticket to Heaven but as it turns out I received one straight to Hell. It began with a man who came in my restaurant when the temperature ticked below thirty-two degrees. It was damn near the coldest day in November.
I suspected he had no name, none that he’d give us, he had nothing on except a blue jacket with a black t-shirt, blue jeans, and a grey beanie. No other possessions he shown, not even a wallet or keys. He came from off the streets to escape the dropping temperature and pouring rain. He spoke to no one, not until the bartender asked what he would have. “Tea,” is all he spoke. The rain battered down on the ceiling and all was quiet except for the light music coming from the jukebox.
After an hour I asked the bartender if he had ordered food. “just a tea,” she said. “He doesn’t seem to have any money. He’s been muttering to himself. It’s strange.”
“Everybody talks to themselves.” I said.
“Not like this, it’s not natural. Usually I can make out what somebody is saying, the bar is loud and you have to be able to read lips. But this guy, it’s not English, I know that.” The bartender shrugged and asked, “should we give him any food?”
“I don’t think so. If we do that then they’ll continue coming back and we can’t have that. As long as he doesn’t cause any trouble or disturb the other guests, he can stay out of the rain here.” I said.
“Why can’t he have anything? What’s wrong with giving him just a bit of fries?”
“Unfortunately it’s bad for business. Guests don’t want to see homeless people here. It makes them uncomfortable. If we give one food, then they’ll be up here expecting it.” I replied. “It’s not really us, or any other business that’s against them, the people that come in, our guests, they’re the ones that don’t want to see them and we’re forced to kick them out and then we’re the bad guys.” After awhile he got up and went to the restroom. The bartender told me he was in there a bit excessively, even after four cups of tea. She said he had gone in at 2:17pm, it was now 3:03pm. I had two guests walk in the restroom and immediately walked out, laughing uncomfortably about the man inside.
I walked in the restroom to nonchalantly check on him. I went to use the urinal then turned around to wash my hands I used my peripheral vision to peer into the cracks of the restroom stall door. He wasn’t on the toilet, he was just standing there. Standing looking at the wall. I listened with my ear close to the door, hiding my feet by keeping them away from the door. I nearly fell inward towards the door as I kept my balance. He was speaking to himself in a strange whisper of words I couldn’t make out, a foriegn language I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t odd. It was darn right creepy, his shocking whispers he spoke. I knocked on the door, just twice, “Hey man, are you alright?” I asked.
“Yes,” he responded. It was unnerving, shocking and twisting my stomach insides how quickly and quietly he ceased his mutterings.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I wasn’t sure, I wanted to be sure he was.
“Yes, thank you, sir.” he said. He said in a sort of hushing whisper as if he wanted me to be quiet, quit talking. It wasn’t right. I walked out of the restroom and posted myself up near the front door keeping an eye on things.
“What was he doing in there?” The bartender asked.
“Absolutely nothing. He was just standing there. In the stall.”
“You spied on him? Ew gross.” She gasped.
“No, I just peered in the stall, he wasn’t on the toilet, he was simply staring at the wall.”
“That’s some creepy stuff. He on drugs?” She asked, washing and rinsing off her bar glasses.
“I don’t think so. There’s something more to him.” I was sure of that. If it were drugs, it was unlike any drugs I’ve seen before, and in college I’ve seen quite a bit. I’ve seen people act weird, quiet, shy, reclusive, but this was like she said, unnatural.
After twenty more minutes the man in the blue jacket came out of the restroom. There was a sort of casualness to his walk out, as if he wasn’t just there for over an hour. He walked towards the front door and around the back end of the bar, the long way around. The man began muttering to himself, in a low tone not to be heard. He just sat at the bar looking around playing with a straw wrapper. Muttering in his creepy, unnatural, strange manner. This was the kind of man you wouldn’t want to make small talk with and when I did try speaking to him he wouldn’t wander his eyes off elsewhere.
“Excuse me, mister,” an older, smaller sort of lady walked in and got my attention. Accompanied with her were two small children, I assumed they were grandchildren. She had old, filthy clothing on her and the children were dressed no better. They seemed happy, though.
“Yes, mam?” I inquired. She motioned for me to come closer. I obliged and took a couple of steps forward towards her. Usually I was uncomfortable being too close to people, I called it my hula hoop. I never wanted people within mine, and I didn’t step into theirs.
“Mister, me and my grandkids had stayed in the night in the hotel behind the McDonalds up the road. We have no food to eat, can you spare anything, anything at all to help us?” I looked down towards the children and couldn’t say no. The only thing else that could sway my empathy would be a dog.
“Yeah, I can do some kids meals. Could I get them something to drink?”
“Sprite,” she said. I told her she can take a seat at one of the booths and I’ll bring it out to them. “Thank you, sir.” I went to the back POS and rang in the order. I asked the kitchen to put some extra chicken tenders and fries in the box to be enough for each of them. One of the female servers asked me what was going on and I told her.
“Yeah, she has two kids, I can’t just say no. I couldn’t sleep at night,” I said.
“It’s good karma,” the server told me.
“It’s my ticket to Heaven,” I joked. “Besides, I don’t want to chance it and not give them anything and the children really do have nothing to eat. I’d feel terrible. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
“That’s true,” the server said.
“I’m not going to hell over some damn kids meals.” I joked again. But I was serious, it wasn’t worth it. Give them their kids meals, and I’d build up some good karma. Christmas was coming soon, and my birthday.
While I was waiting for their food to come out an older man came in that I recognized but didn’t remember his name, what I did remember was he cursed at me for not turning down the volume of a football game on. That day he said he’d finish his coffee, he didn’t need his food, and he’d leave. He sat near the older woman and two children so I asked the server to bring out their food. The man was a grumpy sort, wore an old military veterans hat, loved his coffee and hated noise of all sorts. They threw their kiddie cups on the ground and made quite a disruption.
The server approached me, “Hey, that old guy wants to to speak to you.”
“Ah, damnit. What does he want? The noise?” I asked.
“I think he’s going to complain about the children. I walked over the old man and asked him how I could help.
“It’d be really nice if you could shut those nasty kids up.” He said in easily earshot of the family. I couldn’t believe his blunt rudeness.
“Sir, I’m sorry I can’t, there not doing anything out of the ordinary of normal children.”
“They’re being damn bastards that’s what they are, did they even pay?”
“Sir, that’s none of your business and if you can’t respect them I’ll need to ask you to leave,” I told him.
“That’d be how it’ll go then? FIne, I’ll finish up and leave damnit. You’d be damned not to send them out those cursed people.” The old man sat and seemed to pout like children. He was a rude man and needed to go but I wanted him to leave in the most peaceful fashion possible.
It’s funny the thing about children. When I was young, my family didn’t have a lot of money and looking back we were definitely poor. But we didn’t know it. We didn’t know the difference between then and later when we had money. As children, we just knew we had loving parents and we had each other, siblings. Children don’t understand the concept of poor, until they go to school and meet rich snobby kids who don’t know the concept either and the two worlds collide.
I had a bike that was put together with spare parts and I could have sworn it was the coolest thing on the block. A friend just a few blocks over had a bicycle from a bike shop that probably cost hundreds of dollars. We both thought we had the latest hit set of wheels on the road. It’s all about perspective.
After the old man left later I went by the older womans table to see how they enjoyed everything. “It was good, God bless you.” One of the children, a girl, looked up at me and smiled, ranch smeared on her face. I was pleased with myself, got my ticket to Heaven sure enough! The older woman and two children left not long after. They finished their plates and drinks, and even cleaned up their table as if they were never there. How kind of them!
Around 6pm a woman in a pink jacket came in and was walking around the restaurant talking to each of the guests. Our bar was a rectangle and she went seat to seat speaking to each person. I went up to her and asked her how I could help her, attempting to be polite. “I’m selling chocolate bars for charity,” she said.
“I apologize, you can’t solicit here mam.” I calmly told her.
“You all have let me do it before, the girl at the front said it was okay.”
“I’m sorry but she’s not a manager. I’m not sure who said you could in the past but you can’t tonight.” I said.
“Well, I don’t understand, I’ve done it before. Employees have bought them last time.” She continued on.
“Mam, again I apologize, but there is a no soliciting sign in the front, you can’t sell the chocolate bars in the restaurant I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” I stayed profession and by the script.”
“Okay, okay, thank you, God bless you, sir, burn in hell,” she said abruptly and left. It sent a shiver down my spine. It was the calmness, the casualness of her tone when she said it that spooked me. The lady just couldn’t take no for an answer, even when I was being extremely polite and professional to her. It was frustrating, I just wanted to scream at her. What else can come in tonight, I wondered?
The man! I forgot about the man in the blue jacket and grey beanie. I spun around towards the bar and he was gone. He’s been there all day. “Hey, did that man in the blue jacket leave?” I asked the Bartender as I looked around.
“Nope, restroom, for about forty-five minutes so far.” I went in there and peaked through the toilet stall door crack and he was in there, staring at the wall and muttering to himself in incoherent words I couldn’t understand. Maybe it wasn’t a different language, I thought. This time I didn’t do a verbal check on him and just let him be. I was tired of this. I was ready to kick him out.
Another two hours went by and the man in the blue jacket has been sitting at the bar for awhile now. I walk by doing my table touches and shockingly he asks for me. He waves me over. “Could I have a refill?” I look at him, his leg is hanging over another chair like he’s on vacation in the Bahamas. He has a black french fry bowl in front of him, the bottom of it covered in ketchup.
“Sure, just let the bartender know and she’ll take care of you,” I said to him as I pointed towards the bartender. The bartender waved me over to her.
“I haven’t rang him up for anything, I’m not sure where he got those french fries from,” she whispered. That was strange, where did he get the bowl from? It was either given to him by another guest, or he took a dirty bowl with some fries in it. Maybe he was just eating a bowl of ketchup, I didn’t know. The image of anybody pulling a filthy used bowl from a bus tub was hysterical. But there are probably tons of people every day going through dumpsters foraging for food, it was disgusting, but necessary, eating rat-infested food filled with roaches and other undesirables.
“Then I guess don’t worry about it. He’ll probably leave soon once he realizes he can’t get any more fries.” I was wrong about that. He didn’t leave. He stayed sitting there, muttering in his incoherency. Later he began testing his limits and our patients by asking guests for money and food. All day he has been fine, as fine as he could be muttering in incoherent and unnatural words, standing staring at the wall in the restroom stall, talking to himself at the bar, but now he had to go.
It wasn’t a big ordeal, I barely exchanged any words at all with him when I asked him to leave. Of course, he muttered some more incoherent words probably in an unknown foriegn language, but he walked right out of the restaurant. This was about an hour before close.
The rest of the night went reasonably smooth. We didn’t have any more panhandlers, beggars, or weird ladies and men come in with unusual requests and preternatural behaviors. The kitchen closed down and they were the first to leave the restaurant, being extraordinarily quick tonight. The server and bartender left together while I locked up and went out shortly afterwards. I made sure to turn off the restaurant lights and set the alarm as the timer started it’s sixty seconds, “beep, beep, beep, beep” it continued as I went out the front door.
The rain was still pouring down and it was borderline freezing outside but thankfully the roads were not icing over, yet. As I walked to my car the parking lot lights had shut off. It was total blackness outside the restaurant with uneasy eeriness surrounding me. There were no street lights on. I felt a strange presence looking after me as I walked to my car. I gaped around my shoulders as I picketed my pockets for my keys, shuffling around I took them out and readied them.
Looking up I didn’t realize immediately, but my car wasn’t right. An uneasy shadow was swaying back and forth inside. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust correctly in the pitch blackness outside and through the rain, but water was pouring out from the top of the windows, nearly bursting out. I reacted quickly and pulled out my car keys to open my door but the rain made my grip wet and I dropped them. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t have the luxury of wondering, how or why. I bent down to pick them up and slid my keys in my door lock, twisting and turning the key as hard as I could to open my door. A wave of water crashed down on me knocking me forcibly on my back hitting the pavement hard.
What shook me harder than the water and pavement was that the water was red! It was all over my face. Crimson red, like red paint, no, blood red! My car was full of blood. Astonishment and terror I’m sure was all that could be seen upon my face as I wiped it off with both my hands. In the rush the continuing river flow of water pouring from the inside of my car I was smacked in the face with the blunt force of a log, but it wasn’t a log but that of a body! The man in the blue jacket it was! His body drifted out of my vehicle, knocked me back down and slid onto the pavement. I was appalled, horrified! How did he get in there I wondered! I was delirious. I mustered what sanity I had left to gaze into my car. I saw the roof my car had a gaping hole cut out for the man to have gone in with the rain filling up my car with water.
I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. I went around the front of my car, hands gripped to my face. The windshield of my vehicle had what seemed to be painted with our sidewalk chalk. I was paralyzed and couldn’t muster to move a limb as I stared upon the words printed on my windshield, “Spare The Children, Curse The Man, Burn In Hell, Samaritan.” I sat there in the rain until darkness crept into light, covered and soaked, wet in crimson red until found the next day wondering why my ticket to Heaven turned into a ticket to Hell.