TIME: Monday morning, 9 A. M. Central Standard
PLACE: Hardee’s, Metropolis, IL.
NAME: Lonnie Cruse
OCCUPATION: customer, writer
I take a seat by the front window with the strawberry biscuit I’ve been dying to sample and a decaf coffee, small. Hubby sits across from me with a sausage biscuit and a regular coffee.
To my left, near the door, the ROMEOS (Really Old Men Eating Out) are seated at their usual table, laughing, drinking coffee, and calling out greetings to all and sundry. Hubby often tells me (clutching dramatically at his chest) that he really knows no one in Metropolis despite the fact that we’ve lived here over eleven years, but I can’t help noticing the ROMEOS recognize him and wave, though not to me. Truth to tell, he knows more people than the President of the United States. And they all know him.
To my right, near that door, four couples hold down a table with the women folks at one end talking about important stuff and the men folks at the other end pretending to talk about important stuff.
Directly across from me a woman sips from a large paper soda cup and reads a paperback book. She’s about three-fourths of the way through the book. As an avid reader and an author, I’m absolutely dying to know what book she’s reading, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her to ask. (I tried to sneak a peek as I tossed my trash into the can behind her, but my contacts don’t reach quite that far.)
Another obviously married couple sits at a table near the ROMEOS, drinking coffee and taking in the surroundings but not talking to each other. Two tables down, in our row, an elderly woman lowers a window shade to keep the sun out of her eyes.
A man enters the building, comfortable in his clean overalls, silver hair curling just below the nape of his neck, beard needing a trim. He orders, eats, and exits before the rest of us, obviously with places to go and people to see. Possibly a farmer still caring for crops or retired and still dreaming about them?
On our way to Hardee’s I’d mourned the fact that I’d forgotten to take my zip-up sweat jacket because it’s bound to be cold in there. After all, it’s August outside so the air conditioner will be on high inside, right? Hubby, a frequent Hardee’s customer, assures me it will not be cold inside. I’m not convinced. But as I gaze around the dining area, I realize he’s right. And I realize why. While no one on the kitchen side of the counter appears to be over twenty-five, no one on the customer side (including yours truly) is under sixty. A cold dining area would almost certainly trigger a riot in this crowd. Sigh. Where was I?
If I were to give this scenario to a group of writers and ask them to write a story using this setting, the resulting variations of those stories would be nothing short of amazing. Some would come up with a romance: Widow/widower beginning a new life? Adulterous gazes across the room? May/December romance across the serving counter? Others would make it into a mystery: Poison slipped into a coffee cup while someone is picking up the rest of the order at the counter? Hit and run in the parking lot drive-through? Or a thriller: Drive-by shooting? Fiction novel covering the life of one of the ROMEOS: He/she was a CIA agent, Presidential advisor, undercover cop, now retired but knowing which closet holds which skeletons? Hmmm.
The problem with becoming a writer is that you can’t just sit down and enjoy a quiet strawberry biscuit and a cup of decaf on a lovely August morning without checking out your surroundings and filing away facts for a possible story line later. Much like a cop sitting with his/her back to the wall, firearm at the ready, scanning the same seemingly innocent room for possible trouble, writers scan rooms for possible stories. And we always get them. Or at least we get an blog post like this.
If you are a writer who is suffering from writer’s block, why not take a ride to your nearest Hardee’s, get one of those lovely strawberry biscuits and a cup of coffee, and find yourself a story? It’s there. And be sure to tell them I sent you.