Pushing through the swinging doors and stepping inside, I allowed myself a moment in the doorway so that my eyes would adjust to the low light.
An old and woodworm-ridden pianist played an old and woodworm-ridden piano. He’d been playing fine until I entered; but now he hit some bum notes, faltered and then fell silent. All eyes in the room turned to me.
I crossed the saloon to the counter. Though she was mostly hidden behind a cloud of cigarette smoke, the floozy behind it looked me up and down before making a deliberate display of how unimpressed she was. “Nice suit, city boy. Don’t get many o’ your kind in here.”
I felt obliged to apologise for something, though I wasn’t sure what. “I’m just here for a drink … and maybe something to eat.”
Without breaking eye contact, she angled her head towards the back of the dive. “Hey, Hank!” she shouted, loud enough for all the patrons to hear. “Mr Fancy-Pants-Suit here wants something to eat. We do that?”
Hank appeared from the darkness. Broad-armed and low-browed; he wiped his hands on a rag that was so filthy I’m sure he was rubbing more back on than taking off. “Is that right?” he drawled. “Something to eat, you say? Not from ’round here, are ya?”
I shrugged. “Just passing through. I’m not here to make trouble.”
Hanks eyebrows raised in mock surprise, as if he’d never considered it until now. “Trouble, you think? No, we don’t like trouble here.” He eyed me as she had. “Listen, bud.” he said. “We don’t do no fancy-ass lah-tays or cinnamon-sprinkled-shit here. And we only like people who are passing through as long as they keep passing through. We don’t like no-one staying.”
“I’ll be twenty minutes, tops.” He stared. I folded. “Alright … ten minutes, then.”
I looked at the menu on the walls. “I’ll have … ”
“Burgers are off.” he interrupted.
“Okay, how about …”
“They’re off too.”
He paused. “Yeah, we got chicken.”
“Okay then … Chicken McNugget happy meal, please. And a tea.”
“Take a seat, sir. We’ll bring it right over.”
… and that, dear reader, is what it feels like to visit a McDonalds late at night in a small town.