The Hamburger Man
by
Cherie

The rich, red, tangy, sweet sauce oozes thickly over the smoked beef as the plates leave the warm kitchen followed by a smile, a white apron, and borne by the unmistakable hands of a gentleman.
“Green beans,” complain two small boys in chorus.

The white apron is adjusted, the smile widens, a mysterious whisper and a chuckle gently rumbles forth,. The boys grin up into the mischievous blue eyes. Forks move eagerly to the dread, sugar-sweetened vegetable, as they share some great secret with the tall vibrant frame.

Joe, the junkyard man, slides into the narrow side of the booth, softly communicating his ‘today’ to the familiar countenance, aside calling his regular order to crisp, stolid Marge. Immaculate Mason-ringed hands straighten the white apron as it rises from the wide side of the booth and disappears behind swinging doors to enter the scrumptious smell of love and labor.

Now, they are coming - Scotty and his wife - “How are ya Fred?”
The Thompsons, the Shubert family, the divorcee and her children, all sensing and seeking the comforting Cajun welcome as strongly as the physical sustenance for which they pay. The surprising circumference behind the white apron now supports on one arm the dimpled, cooing second generation of former french-fry addicts. They beam approval as the quick long strides move from table to table displaying their prize possession.

Mechanical clinking of the cash register adds to the hum as someone in the back expresses disappointment, “No more two-crust strawberry pie!”

One by one, “Good night Fred, See ya.” The damp silver curls above the now-spectacled nose jostle slightly as a boyhood tale of Louisiana mischief is interrupted to call out daily farewells.

Stragglers sip coffee and smoke as the apron is loosened and agile hands shuffle bills into green organization. “Y’all come on over to the house now,” he calls as the worn moneybag and imposing pistol are readied for the trip home.

A smile, a wave and another day ends for Fred, who calls himself, “the hamburger man.”