Hot Dog Diner in Los Angeles

An excerpt from my novel in progress, What the Hell ever Happened to Yuri Rozhenko?

She had to stop by again. She couldn’t help herself.

Feeling almost like a junky who should know better, she went home via Garcia street, knowing what was on the way.

It was a small place, designed like one of the old roadside diners.  It had a large plastic sign and the building had sharply angled contours.

Inside, the sparsely furnished eatery appeared drab and worn, even though the plastic counters and brightly colored walls and tables were supposed to give off a bright impression.  It was almost as if they came across as drab because the colors were so bright that it was too obvious what it was trying to do. It made everything dull.

There were always one to three customers in the place, never any more or any less. They were always seated at or near the counter, and they were always middle aged or older. The customers were always quite plain looking: Plain clothes, plain hair, plain shoes with plain expressions and plain attitudes. Many times they looked out from behind large windshield glasses.  They were so painfully plain and normal it made them seem freakish.

But the strangest thing about these customers was that they never had any food in front of them, just cups of coffee or sodas. They were never waiting for food either, because no one was ever cooking anything unless Skye ordered something. The employees were always older women who were worn and slightly wrinkled and always a little thin, who were wearing bright uniforms that would have been much more suited for the usual young and distant teenage employees.

The employees always seemed to be in a good mood, and were always quite cheerful with bright smiles. The customers never seemed happy. Every person that Skye ever saw sitting in the diner was always looking off into the distance, with a faraway look that spoke of resigned despair.  It was as if they had fallen so far down there was no point to anything at all anymore, not even suicide.

And Skye never saw the same person in that diner. Ever.

Skye almost always ordered the same thing: A turkey dog and a medium coke. When she felt like treating herself she would add fries as well. She couldn’t explain her craving for this place’s fare, not even to herself. It was better than most hot dog stand food, but it was still cheap diner food. Something about it drew her in. Maybe it was reminding her of something, some lost little childhood comfort zone that she had forgotten through the forest of virtually non-stop parental and sibling abuse. She was reminded from time to time of an old carnival memory that came back to haunt her now and then when she was in the diner, the place with the really complex haunted house that she could only remember in quick, short, and very sharp snippets.

She always got her order to go. She often entertained the thought of actually eating it in the Lynchian restaurant, but she had not mustered up the courage. Perhaps it was a fear of becoming one of the temporary hot dog diner wraiths who had all of their joy sucked up by the overly-cheerful workers.

She realized, only after a time, that the only people who were ever in that diner were white. That was unusual. There were not very many white people in that neighborhood, and the white people who did live nearby were almost all either white urban trash, struggling college students, Sketchy thrift store bohemians, or punks and rivetheads. None of the diner’s customers came close to fitting any of those descriptions.

The whole thing made he realize how quickly she had gotten used to her neighborhood.  Thinking it over, she almost felt as if she had been living there for years.
~  ~  ~
  “You went to that creepy hot dog place again, didn’t you?”
  “Man, you’re the only one I know who’s ever been in there.”
  “No shit?”
  “Really, that place is evil!”
  “It’s a weird place, but I never thought evil.”
  “Totally evil.  My most fucked up friends refuse to set foot in there.  I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a front for Frank Booth!”

Author: termberkden

I am a writer, a software engineer, and a refugee from the punk/metal/new wave/my-God-what-did-we-do-last-night daze of 1980's and early 90's San Francisco scene. I write, I run, I actually stop and smell the roses, I meow back at cats, and I pet strange yet friendly dogs.

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