Some people swore that the House was haunted. After all, there's something jarringly unnatural about the southern icon Waffle House existing in International Falls, Minnesota. You may as well put a Tim Hortons in Key West or an In-N-Out Burger in Kennebunkport, Maine. Locals characterized the joint as "special" and warned me against going on Friday (the 13th), when the full moon’s in the seventh house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars.
Naturally, I arrive late Friday night and find the place spiritually packed. The ghost of Mozart hovers at the jukebox, repetitively playing, "There are Raisins in my Toast." I sit down at the end of the counter next to the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Mr. Vonnegut chats with the former J. D. Salinger. "Listen: why'd you stop writing?"
"Ducks? What, did they come unstuck in time?"
"They're in Central Park all summer, but where do they go in winter? Does someone take them away in trucks? Are they manhandled by schmucks in mukluks wielding nunchucks? Until I figured out where the ducks went, why would I write?"
"Wow. Bummer, dude."
The lone waiter / cook is a tall, chubby, aged man with pork chop sideburns and a hairnet covering his silver pompadour. "Ya ready to order, darlin'?" he asks in a distinctive drawl.
"So, you're really...?"
"Dead? No, just had a midlife crisis, decided to downsize my life and move to IF, MN."
"Hold that thought a sec, sweetheart. Yo, Mozart! Give the raisin toast song a rest, will ya? Or at least mix it up a smidge - how 'bout, '844,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger?'"
Mozart replies non-verbally and rather rudely.
"The smartest moron of all time, that Mozart. Anywho, what can I get ya?"
"A waffle, hash browns all the way and sides of grits and raisin toast."
"Hon, they're your arteries; torture them however you like. Be up in a minute." I watch Elvis start my waffle before turning to Mr. Vonnegut and breaking the ice with, "Are you and Mr. Salinger getting along?"
"So so. All I can say is he's better company than Kafka."
Not knowing how to respond to that, I look around The House instead. There's a Money Table (Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, Franklin) and a Dream Couples Booth (James Dean and Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe and Narcissus). President Washington soon crosses behind me to join a Named After Table (Martin Luther and MLK Junior, George Washing Carver and GW). Right behind them is the "Just My Career is Dead" Booth (Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson, Macaulay Culkin, Oprah Winfrey) and a tiny booth holding Katherine and Audrey Hepburn. Android phone in hand, I try to decide what to blog first when President Lincoln shouts, "Mr. Presley, upon what misdeed are you embarking?"
"Settle your stove-pipe, son, I'm just makin' some grits."
"You're using instant grits! That ain't Southern!" George W. Carver cries.
"It don't matter, ‘round here no one can tell the difference."
The instant the powdery dehydrated grits hit the boiling water the unholy union of Southern Cuisine and Northern latitude is broken and along with it the spell allowing these spirits back in our astral plane. Their horrendous, communal wail rings all around me. Each specter looks like a liberated balloon skittering away haphazardly as they grow gossamer and shrink and disappear. I find myself alone with Elvis in an eerily quiet restaurant. (Lindsay and friends remain but quickly slink to their limos to text their agents.)
"Oops," Elvis says with a shrug.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.Copyright 2010, Kyle G. Roesler