by Mike Murphy
Published on June 7, 2019 9:05 AM
DG Mag Issue 1
Shirley was thrilled to see the car slowly parking amid the quickly falling snow. “Here he comes!” she called to Sylvia in the kitchen. The short, salt-and-pepper-haired man entered the diner, stomping the snow from his feet on the mat by the door. “Welcome to Dan’s Diner,” Shirley greeted him from behind the counter.
“Thanks,” he replied. He looked around: All the chairs were upright on the tables. “You getting ready to close?”
“Not for another thirty minutes,” she informed him. “With the storm, it’s been dead here. We’re just getting the cleaning done early.” She gave him a little smile. “Could you please sit at the counter?”
“Sure thing.” He took a seat on one of the padded stools.
“Can I get you something?”
“No thanks. I’m here to meet someone.”
“Here?” Shirley asked, surprised.
“I’m a little early,” Edgar answered.
“I don’t know what you’d call her.”
“A woman,” Shirley said, her eyes opening wider.
“Yes,” Edgar replied, looking down at the counter.
“You sure I can’t get you something? It’s a cold night out there.”
“Actually, that might be a good idea,” he answered. “What do you suggest?”
“We’re known for our chicken gumbo,” Shirley told him.
“That sounds good.”
“Oh, it is.” She called to Sylvia. “One bowl of gumbo!” As she heard the pot lid being removed, she told him, “That’ll be just a minute.” She poured him a glass of water and put a napkin and spoon down. “So you’re meeting a lady here tonight?”
“Uh huh,” he answered, taking a sip of water. “Are you always so. . . chatty?”
Shirley chuckled. “It’s a bad habit of mine. You’re the only customer we’ve had all night, and Sylvia isn’t much of a talker.” She leaned a little closer to him. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You didn’t,” he replied. “Yes, I’m meeting a lady. She called me up out of the blue and said she really needed to talk with me. I don’t know how she even got my phone number! She said that she wanted to talk here.”
“I have no idea. I haven’t thought about her in years.” Shirley heard Sylvia put the bowl of gumbo down outside of the sliding window leading to the kitchen. She excused herself, got it, brought it to Edgar, and placed it in front of him. He sniffed at it. “Smells good.”
“It really warms you up.”
He slurped a spoonful. “Very tasty,” he said.
“It’s our own special recipe. A lot of the diners around here have tried to outdo our gumbo, but none have.” He took another couple of spoonfuls and wiped his mouth with the napkin. “So, tell me about this lady you’re gonna meet here tonight,” the waitress continued. “An old girlfriend?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“More than that.” He paused, rested the spoon in the half-empty bowl, and sighed. “I’m afraid I didn’t treat her very well back in the day.”
“What was her name?”
“Lucille,” Edgar answered, getting back to the gumbo.
“I’ve always loved that name.”
“Yeah, me. . .” In a flash, Edgar’s face went white, and he dropped his spoon. It clanged off the counter and fell to the floor.
“Something. . . wrong?” asked Shirley.
Edgar was starting to sweat. “I. . . I’m not sure,” he said. “I’m feeling kind of. . . funny.”
“Butterflies in the stomach?” she asked with a smile.
“No, it’s. . . it’s more than that.”
“Don’t you worry about it, Edgar.”
“But I. . . How did you know my name?”
“Lucky guess,” she told him.
Edgar was sweating more now. “My. . . legs feel weird.”
“They must have fallen asleep. That happens sometimes on these old counter stools. Get up and stretch them.” Edgar stepped off of his stool and, within seconds, lost all feeling in his legs. He fell onto one of the tables, sending it and the chairs on top of it to the floor. He fell in a heap beside the mess.
Shirley calmly walked out from behind the counter and stood by his head. “What are you doing down there?” she asked, amused.
“There’s something wrong with my legs!” Edgar nervously told her. “They. . . I can’t feel them!”
“The drugs are starting to work.”
“In the gumbo. First, they paralyze the limbs so you can’t get away.” She chuckled and added, “Wait 'til you hear what they do next!”
“But why?” he wondered, looking up as best he could. “I only came here to. . . to meet Lucille.”
“I’m Lucille!” Shirley bellowed.
“Yup. A few years gone by and a little red hair dye. You never even noticed. It shows how important I was to you back then.”
“Lucille, I. . . My throat!” He grabbed at it with both hands. It was on fire.
“Part 2 is coming on,” she informed him. “Your throat will close up like an interstate under construction. It won’t be long now.”
Edgar struggled to speak. “I didn’t. . . hurt you so bad.”
“You’ll never know!” she angrily replied. “I had to change my name, start a new life. Getting over it took years on a shrink’s couch.”
“I came here,” Edgar choked out, “to. . . make it up. . . to you.”
“Too late, gumbo boy,” she said. Edgar gasped, wheezed a few times, and was silent. “Now we’re even,” Shirley said. “I’ll get rid of his car later.”
She called into the kitchen, “Sylvia, get the big pots out. It’s time to make some more gumbo. Your old boyfriend will be here tomorrow night.” She looked down at Edgar’s body as she heard Sylvia getting ready. “It’s a good thing they all taste like chicken.” ♦
Mike Murphy has had over 150 audio plays produced in the U.S. and overseas. He’s won nine Moondance International Film Festival awards in their TV pilot, audio play, short screenplay, and short story categories.
His prose work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies. In 2015, his script “The Candy Man” was produced as a short film under the title DARK CHOCOLATE. In 2013, he won the inaugural Marion Thauer Brown Audio Drama Scriptwriting Competition.
Mike keeps a blog at audioauthor.blogspot.com.