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The Father, the Son, and the Holy Grail

From "Order Up!" to Romance

By Nickolas RudolphPublished 4 years ago 8 min read

Rain. Rain is not odd. Rain is merely the cooling of water vapor into the lower atmosphere and when that cooled water vapor condenses into droplets, one of the four fundamental forces brings in back to earth. And at this moment gravity is pulling quite a lot of the sky oasis down on this desert valley. The only odd thing about it is the perception of the inhabitants of this valley, notably rain falling in the Valley of the Sun, or the greater Phoenix metro area to those from elsewhere. Also it’s been aptly called Hell City by some of the more pessimistic lot of the city and hence names of tattoo conventions, motorcycle rallies, car shows, and lady bruisers of the Hell City Rollers, the current roller derby champions.

It’s morning, early Friday morning during monsoon season and the rain is coming down, the wind is blowing, but the sun is again shown by the rotation of the earth, painting everything a tinge of orange. Right now though there are orders to take, coffee to be refilled, plates to clear, and quick conversations to be had. In Gus’s Diner the staff knows they had always better be on their game. Not because the general manager would crack the whip. If he ever dared crack the whip or anything remotely deviating from saying please and thank you to his staff they would remind him quickly of how much he needed them more than they needed him. The staff of poodle skirts, bobby socks, and horn rimmed glasses wearing ladies were in fact a tough squad of young single moms, college students, and women that lived through enough to not have to be told to do their jobs. No one cracks the whip at them, aside from Heather but not in this context, because they know the more people they serve and serve well, the better the tips. Simple microeconomics and survival work ethics had created this dynamite staff.

Gus’s Diner was one of those retro 1950’s diners that tried to capture the swell innocence and slick rebelliousness of that decade’s misplaced nostalgia. An idealized American reaping the benefits of being the only industrialized country not bombed to hell in the previous decade. With new music, manufacturing in full swing, a home for everyone, rock n’ roll and Coca Cola as our cultural exports, and being the purveyors of liberty around the world. Or so the idea went. Add to that malts, burgers, fries, and a slice of apple pie to inject into the mainline feel good Americana. Gus’s Diner was a paint by numbers cliff notes version of that decade and only the most charming parts of it were allowed. Not by design but by a limited stock of knowledge and perspective do we get these 1950’s diners.

However, I’ll save the social commentary for another time. At this time though, at this moment Marcus and Rich come through the diner door and stand next to the glass case displaying many different trinkets with Gus’s Diner written on them. The main subscript for Gus’s Diner being “Dine in the Past, Eat in the Present”. A few other uses of silly 1950’s iconography, one example of when you let a first year philosophy major design a shirt; a picture of Eisenhower with the socratic jest, “I Like Ike, Ike Likes Waffles, I Like Waffles”. Not brilliant but clever enough to make some people smile.

So, Marcus and Rich are greeted by Rene to which Marcus nods and points to the counter. She smiles at him and gestures as Marcus heads to the corner of the counter while trying to surreptitiously scan for Rachel. Mary comes over for a moment just to confirm that like a good desert people, coffee and water is needed. Marcus knows exactly what he wants but is again just using the menu as a prop while periodically looking up to see if Rachel was here today.

To his delight Rachel comes from the kitchen and sees Marcus sitting at the end of the counter, her section. She is honestly delighted to see him, because she fancies him quite a bit but this is completely lost on Marcus every time he comes in because he cannot distinguish between if someone in the service industry is actually interested in him or if they are trying to win good tips. Either way, this was supposed to be the day he found out how she felt.

See, Marcus, while a fairly handsome fella and well liked by everyone that meets him, he feels he is not the kind of guy a woman like Rachel would go for, or would in any case settle for. On the flip side of this ancient coin is Rachel who has sent her 20s going from one shitty or neglectful or even abusive boyfriend to the next. She has learned that pretty boys are often dull and bad boys are, well, bad. So, at this moment she is ready to settle for someone like Marcus. Not the kind of guy that turns heads but as a rare lesson learned she realizes he could be just want she needs, proving John Hughes may have been right.

That drama would have to wait because now Marcus had to introduce Rachel to Rich, his father. They go through all the small talk, without any embarrassment and Marcus is feeling good about this. They order, Rich tries the Gus Breakfast Plate. Two eggs, over home fries with chopped peppers, shallots, garlic, and ground sausage. Sourdough toast and a small orange juice, as if it ever comes larger than in a glass a child could palm. Marcus goes for the Aloha Pancakes, pineapple bits in the pancakes and topped with a macadamia butter nut sauce and two slices of fried spam on the side.

Throughout the meal they all chatted and Marcus felt good about the exchange and decided next time he comes in he will ask Rachel out on a date, a proper date. For now, Marcus was just explaining how he and his father were off to the Superstition Mountains for the day and were going to be camping there through the night. They were looking for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and through a good deal of research they think they might know where it is. When Rich got up to use the restroom Marcus explained this little treasure hunt was just a fun way for him and his father to connect and spend time together. They both had a hard time doing so otherwise as Rich was a product of 1950s male persona and Marcus still often felt like that little boy that was always trying to prove himself to his father.

The bill paid and goodbyes said, Marcus looked back at Rachel and felt he should say something now, but his overwhelming fear of rejection petrified him. So, for now Marcus will have to practice his lines in his head and probably would do so through the night. They drove off leaving Gus’s Diner to the midmorning crowd.

As the midmorning crowd began getting their orders Rachel was interrogated by Mary who knew both sides of the coin. Rachel told her about Marcus and his father’s little treasure hunt. Another patron, Mike, overheard the conversation. Mike, a man in his 60’s who has been coming to Gus’s since it opened in the 1980’s. He often recalls for anyone that will listen how places like this were popular during the 1980’s as that decade had 1950’s fever with movies like Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Stand By Me, Dirty Dancing, and so many more. Mike perked up when he heard the Lost Dutchman and needed everybody to know it was actually a German man who supposedly found the gold mine but because Americans are largely uncultured they heard Deutsch and thought that just meant Dutch, as Deutsch is with an “oi” sound is how the Germans refer to themselves.

Another patron who caught the tail end of the conversation began adding his two cents about German immigrants settling in this area. As patrons came and went, one diner would add to the other diner’s information. Breakfast turned to Lunch. Mushroom swiss burgers, Hedberg Club Sandwiches, tomato bisque with a grill cheese, and vanilla cokes. At the end of the shift smoke session behind the diner, Mary divulged Rachel’s little crust to Lindsay with Rachel having to repeatedly tell Mary not to make too big a deal of it. Rachel told Lindsay she would let her know of any developments in this schoolyard romance after tomorrow’s shift.

Lunch turned into Dinner and more diners switched out, shifts changed and staff debriefed each other on the day’s gossip. Lindsay told Kim about Rachel's boy and his little treasure hunt. Patrons chimed in with questions and comments. As chicken fried steak, meatloaf, and lasagna were consumed dinner turned into late night meals for the drunk or going to get drunk. Late night meals continued through the night and into the last hope to make that connection with someone in the group and hopefully convince them to come home with them for poorly executed drunk and awkward coitice.

Throughout the shift changes and diner turnover the story of Marcus and his Dad searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine morphed to the Lost Deutchman’s Mine, then to Deutch Settlers finding treasure, then to German’s bringing treasure from the old world, then to Germans being teutonic, onto Teutonic Treasure, then Teutonic Knights being an offshoot of the Knights Templar, then how the Knights Templar were the protectors of the Holy Grail. Finally it was 6am and Rachel was again on shift and hearing the story about a father and son off to find the Holy Grail in the desert. This place acts as an organic game of telephone and in the past has concluded in some ridiculous tales. One in particular was about her wanting to go dancing one night and the following day, one of the patrons that owned a stripclub offered her come try out if she needed to dance to make some extra cash.

At that moment Marcus and his father came through the door. They looked like their night was nothing like they had experience quite a night. Dirty, scraped up, their clothes had some rips, and she could see it in Marcus’s eyes. Rachel looked at him in bewilderment. He steps straight towards her.

“Marcus, are you okay?” she asked. He seemed to be almost out of breath but closed his mouth and swallowed.

“Well, maybe, I have to ask you something.” he said through the tunnel that was his vision blocking out everyone else. “Would you like to go out with me, out on a date, like in a romantic way where at the end of the night I might be able to kiss you?”. The words were very blunt and to the point. Rachel could only manage a blunt answer as she was feeding off his vibe.

“Yes”, she said. Marcus had not looked away from Rachel but seemed to breathe out a sigh of relief that he had been holding onto for months. The few breakfast diners at the counter knew the story between Marcus and Rachel and were generally happy. All except one guy Chuck who fancied Rachel but he was caught up in the moment and happy for them.

“Good, so I found the Holy Grail”, Marcus stated. Rachel smiled and shook her head at the silly man.

“Marcus, it’s just a date, let’s not fall into hyperbole”. Rachel said with another smile, but a flash of fast love and infatuation filled her mind. Marcus smiled back and pulled his dusty satchel from his back. He reached in and pulled out a cup, a chalice made of old clay but seemed to shine like the sun creeping out from a cloud.

“No, we really found the Holy Grail”.


About the Creator

Nickolas Rudolph

Speculative Fiction and Commentary. Family, learning, investigating, music, and edgeworks are his passions.

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