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Late Night At The Texas Tavern

by Cheryl E Preston about a year ago in restaurants

In the wee hours of the morning a burger craving take a young girl on a secret journey where she has several unusual encounters.

Texas Tavern

It’s 3:00 AM and 19 year old Dreyla Jackson has just woke from a deep sleep. She finds herself craving a cheesy western burger from the Texas Tavern in downtown Roanoke Va. Her mom had taken her to this all night diner a few times, but never after dark. Dreyla’s fanily lived 12 miles out in the county and she regretted that she lived so far away. The fact that the Tavern was open 24/7 was sticking with her and Dreyla realized if she lived in the city there would be no problem. She eventually decided she could drive there on her own, from the county. The melted cheese over the fried egg on the chili burger was calling her name, and in her mind she was responding, “Yes, yes, yes”. She got out of bed and threw on her jeans and a shirt and prepared for her adventure.

Prior to her older brother leaving for college he had jokingly told her that her chances of being stopped randomly by the police were slim because she was so light she could pass for white. He shared how he and other young black men were stopped all the time for a little of nothing. Their dad had been stopped by police a few times for no reason but never their mom, who was female and also light complexioned. The only time mom was ever pulled over was for an expired inspection sticker.

Dreyla put on a pair of bedroom shoes and tiptoed to the kitchen. She reached up on the key rack on the side of the wall and silently lifted her keys. She quietly went out the back door and walked to the vehicle in the driveway. The sky was pitch black without a star in sight. It was warm but she shivered with excitement and also apprehension. She started the motor then took off into the darkness of the night or rather the early morning. The latest she had ever been out driving alone was close to midnight, so this was a challenge. She popped in a CD and began singing along. It was so dark with only a few street lights here and there as she drove down the rural road where she lived. There was such an eerie silence as she made it onto the highway but she ingnored it. She could actually taste that cheesy western as she drove along, taking note that she had only seen 2 other vehicles in the first 10 minutes of her drive.

Dreyla drove until she came to the light that indicated she was halfway to her destination. It turned red as she neared and she sat alone in the darkness. She thought she saw shadows out of the side of her eyes, but shook it off as her imagination. She looked to her right and realized that what she had seen wss a family of deer. They were illuminated by a passing vehicle and she saw there were 4 of them. They were romping. through the grass in the darkness and she thought it was such a beautiful scene. Dreyla began to wonder what would happen if the car broke down or had a flat tire. What if her dad got up to go to work early and noticed her vehicle was gone? Living at home while working and attending the local community college she did not have total freedom. She felt a responsibility to keep her parents informed of her coming and going. It was a matter of respect while still living in their home. The light turned green and Dreyla took off towards her destination. She drove slowly until she was sure she was clear of the deer. About 12 minutes later she entered the city. There were more vehicles, traffic lights and the glare of neon signs from various businesses.

Soon she was parking the car about a block away from the Texas Tavern. The key ring had a taser and pepper spray attached and she hoped she would not need to use either. She got out of the Toyota and clicked the key ring to lock the doors. As she walked Dreyla took in the scenery. There was a large parking garage on the other side of the street. A woman was asleep on the concrete in front of it and a few feet away two men stood chatting. She perceived that all were homeless and tears sprang to her eyes. In front of her there were about 5 people standing in line at the Tavern takeout window. Two police cars went past with lights flashing and sirens shrieking as she neared the Tavern door. Dreyla went inside and sat on one of the red spinning stools in the middle of the counter. The scent of the food was enticing as she looked at her cell phone which said it was 3:35 AM. She was enjoying the swivel seat as she began turning this way and that.

Two stools down on the left was an older white man with gray hair. He was stuffing a hotdog into his mouth with chili dripping down his chin. To her right with one seat in between was a younger white male, slurping a bowl of chili by using a spoon. Dreyla watched as the cook was preparing food on the metal stove top and it all seemed so fascinating, yet surreal. The cook was flipping burgers and turning over hot dogs and eggs with ease using a spatula. A middle aged black man in a jogging suit came in and nodded to her then sat down in the seat to her left. She felt odd being the only female inside. She watched the takeout window as the group she had passed, two young women and 3 young men got their food and left. Finally her order was taken and she could hardly contain herself as she asked for the burger and her mouth watered for the cheesy western. She looked out the open door and saw a couple walk by with backpacks and they looked worn and thin. She assumed they too were homeless and wished she could invite them in for a good hot meal. She saw directly across the street a woman who seemed to be propositioning a well dressed man. Dreyla had heard such things went on but had never seen it first hand. As the couple got into a parked truck, she heard loud cursing. She walked to the door and to her right further down the block she could see two police officers directly under a street light. They were trying to handcuff a young blonde man who was swearing and appeared intoxicated. He could hardly stand and as she watched her order was called out as being ready. It was now 3:53, so paid for the food and walked outside. Just up the street a bit she saw a number of people leaving a night club that was just closing. She felt better with a crowd around as she headed to her car.

Customers at the Texas Tavern

The night air was humid even for August. The smell of the food became mingled with someone’s cigarette as she passed a group of people standing in front of the club. She could also detect the scent of marijuana. It was not the skunk smell of the kind that was smoked in blunts. This had the sweet aroma she recalled as a child when visiting certain homes. Dreyla tried to be mindful of her surroundings as she did not desire her parents to have to go on any of those programs on the Discovery ID channel where they try to solve the mystery of missing people. The reality of being abducted after sneaking out weighed heavily on her so she and looked around again. Just then a black male with dreads seemed to come out of nowhere and was walking down the sidewalk towards her singing loudly. She quickly got in the vehicle and locked it again then turned the key in the ignition. The man walked past the car never looking her way. He went into the alley behind the Tavern and emerged with a bike then went on his way. As she drove away she prayed for safety on the way home.

Soon she was away from the bright lights of the city and traveling the lonely dark county highway once again. As she drove she did a lot of reflecting. She had watched so many crime shows that she was beginning to think it normal for teens and young adults to disappear and later turn up dead. It was not fair that she lived in a time when stalkers and sex perverts seemed to be on the rise. She wished this issue were not a part of life. It seemed as if in no time she was pulling up in her driveway as returning home felt as though it took less time than going to the all night diner.

When she pulled up in the driveway it was 4:25 AM. Her adventure had taken close to an hour and a half from the time she first woke up. She tiptoed into the kitchen and hung the keys up, poured a glass of milk then went to her bedroom. She turned on a table lamp, shut the door and climbed in bed. She then opened her cheesy western. It was still warm and the smell sssukted her senses in a very good way. Dreyla took a big bite of the burger with the egg, chili, and melted cheese. It was as delicious as she remembered and she savored every mouthwatering bite, then she began thinking. Was it worth her late night excursion, yes Dreyla thought it was. She thought about the deer, the young couple, the drunk man and the diner patrons. She fell asleep around 5:00AM and woke at 8 the next morning which was Saturday. Part of her was excited about her escapade because after all the purpose of an all night diner, is to have patrons at all hours of the day and night.

Texas Tavern

Dreyla discussed the situation with her best friend the next day and they came up with a plan. At least once a month they would take turns driving to the Texas Tavern after midnight to get cheesy westerns. In wisdom Dreyla asked her parents and older brother if they would like to join in some early morning. Her BFF’s parents decided they wasn’t Ed in so it truly became a family affair.

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Cheryl E Preston

Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, published author and former Newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psycology and Biblical studies. She enjoys sharing natural cures, and Nostalgia related info. Tips are greatly appreciated.

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