It was always beyond Eleanor that no one had ever thought to open a diner and put better names for food items on the menu. If you went to all that time and trouble to open a business, why not make it a true standout among all the many others? Or did people’s ardency and care for things simply run out after a certain amount of exertion? Did they reach a finite zenith of giving a shit and decide to put nothing more than “Bacon and Eggs” on their menu? Along with other plainly named fare like, “Pancake Shortstack” or “Belgian Waffle.” If it were up to Eleanor, she would own a diner that took true pride in the naming of its foods. And soon it would be up to her, for at long last, after years spent saving to do so, Eleanor finally opened the establishment that could show customers and other diner owners what they had all been lacking in the title department.
And no, she certainly wasn’t about to call her diner something prosaic like “Eleanor’s,” instead preferring to brand it with more panache: The Breakfast Bomb. It had the alliterative quality she so enjoyed, and got straight to the point of what her establishment was all about. Sure, they would also serve lunchtime options, like your classic club sandwich (which Eleanor dubbed the “In Da Club Sandwich” in honor of 50 Cent) and your burger with fries (which Eleanor christened the “Iceburger Straight Ahead!” rounding it out with a frothy, ice cold milkshake included in the price). Maybe she had been cut out for a career in copywriting since she did so love to come up with clever names and puns, yet that wouldn’t have been right—for copywriters are perpetually reined in on their creativity, told to “dial it back” and think in terms of what would appeal to the common man. Well Eleanor couldn’t give a fig about the “common man”—even if that’s who history had shown diners were meant to appeal to. She was different kind of diner…she was a bad(ass) diner.
Thus, she set about finding the right people to hire who would share in her vision. As such, she had to pay them a lot more adequately than minimum fucking wage. People could only care so much, after all, until you paid them accordingly to care just a little more. And Eleanor was willing. As mentioned, she had saved up for most of her working life to arrive at this moment—and matters were helped by the fact that the space the diner occupied was one she had inherited from her grandmother, who sanctioned her to repurpose the commercial “dump” however she wanted to. Fixer-upper or not, it was a free location, and a good one at that. Right on the corner of the road, where everyone could see it. Would be hard-pressed not to come on in and delight in Eleanor’s cuisine crusade. Her first hire was Ronaldo, an émigré from somewhere in the north of Italy. It was a fitting choice as, evidently, the name meant “ruler’s counselor,” which is exactly what Ronaldo would turn out to be for her. Her constant companion, at her side when he wasn’t in front of the stove or the prepping area. For his loyalty and talent, he was offered the sum of fifty dollars an hour. Unheard of, particularly ‘round these parts, which was, to keep it vague, somewhere in rural California. But Eleanor meant what she said when she wanted to play host to the “ultimate” diner. And that meant finagling people who would stick around in the long-run to not only make it great, but keep it great.
Next on her hiring list came Camille. She was a twenty-one-year-old college dropout who had just returned from Los Angeles because she said she couldn’t “move through all that tinsel.” Her striking appearance—mocha skin, green eyes and long dark hair—made her a natural fit as the first server (Eleanor didn’t like diner conventions, therefore the word “waitress” would not be used on any female) to be hired. And Camille would certainly not disappoint in terms of delivering exactly what Eleanor was expecting: that is to say, she reeled in plenty of pervs who thought they had a chance with her, only for them to stick around for the food and tell their friends about it—the “legend of Camille” was just additional insurance that they would show up.
The third key player in the operation would be David, an unassuming British white boy with perpetual stubble who never quite got around to mentioning how a bloke like him ended up in this part of California. It was almost as though he didn’t want to be asked. Eleanor always assumed he was on the run from something—perhaps the guilt of his country’s imperialist history; but then, what the fuck was he doing in America if that was the case? Eleanor chuckled to herself thinking this as she arranged the latest pie on the cake stand: her Strawberries, Cherries and an Angel’s Kiss in Spring Pie. A pie she said could invoke world peace if only she could figure out a way to give everyone a taste of it. But that was the thing about spreading joy: it was impossible. People could only believe in joy so much before the misery set in again. Or the reality, to use a more accurate word. Still, eating and ogling (even from the female perspective) were one of the two best ways humans could distract themselves. And distract they did, at least inside of The Breakfast Bomb.
One day, however, all the peace was ruined. Everything Eleanor had worked for—the business she had carved out for herself solely so she could have the pleasure of naming items creatively—was about to be obliterated by the worst villains of this world: the privileged white male jock. He came in, like all nefarious presences, at high noon. He was with two other friends. It was a proverbial goon squad. Eleanor glanced over at Camille, who was ready to take the table, though she had a look of dread on her face that Eleanor could see quite plainly. It was an expression that apparently only women could recognize in other women—all of them having been subjected to dealing with ominous men in their lives. Grady was no exception to that rule of ominousness. And yes, of course his name was something like Grady. How could it not be? These men are stereotypes for a reason. They exist in droves, after all. Enough of them to keep the world on the path toward inevitable destruction. And today, one of them felt like destroying Eleanor’s dreams. As wrapped up in the clever quips of her menu, which Grady immediately took to mocking as he repeated some of the phrases with a too-loud, tittering voice. “Francis Bacon and Eggs,” he laughed as he looked at his friends. “Wasn’t that guy a fag?” Eleanor, from her perch in the corner, had to admit she was surprised that he even knew who Francis Bacon was at all, but then, maybe the best education money could buy was helpful to projecting an illusion of intelligence. Camille edged closer to the table, flashing Eleanor a side glance of dread as she did so. Both women could feel the sense of foreboding palpably.
Grady eyed her up and down like she was a piece of meat and he the lion before commenting, “Yo girl, does this restaurant love fags or something? Why is there a plate named after Francis Bacon?”
She blinked at him. “Can I take your order?”
He glared at her, disappointed that she didn’t find his brand of “humor” entertaining at all. He put his index finger and thumb to his chin, rubbing his smooth, white face “thoughtfully” as he returned, “You know what? I think I’ll have the fag bacon and eggs. Maybe it’ll turn me gay, but I’ll take a chance.”
Camille turned to the two friends facing him on the other side of the table. They chimed in like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, “We’ll have the same.”
Camille nodded, writing nothing down as she started to walk away. Before she could flee entirely, Grady smacked her on the ass and said, “How about some Nigger Black Coffee too? That’s what this menu probably calls it.”
Camille froze in her tracks, wanting to turn around and claw his eyes out. In fact, she knew if she did turn around, that’s precisely what she would do. So she kept walking. Minutes later, she returned with a pot of coffee to pour, trying her best not to grimace in their presence as they yukked it up over talk of some recent conquest of Grady’s. Apparently against her will. Grady ceased his narrative to stare directly at Camille’s cleavage as she poured the coffee. “So sweetie, you got any other life goals or is this it?”
She stopped pouring and smiled sweetly, “How could I possibly want to do anything else apart from serving twats like you?” And with that, she poured the blazing hot coffee all over his lap. His screams spurred her on. His goons watched in horror, fearing they would be next—and they were. Because Camille knew that guys like Grady only thrived in this world because of complicit lackeys like these, so she splashed coffee in their faces, scalding them as well. As they screamed and shouted obscenities, Eleanor looked on approvingly. She had to admit to herself that she would have done the same thing, and probably sooner. And what was the point of having a business anyway if you couldn’t let an employee get away with an “indiscretion” such as this now and again? This was one “snafu” Eleanor would be happy to let Camille get away with. But she was a fool to believe that men like these would simply walk away. The goons might have, but not when they were called to action by their master. Once Grady regained his bearings long enough to fully process the affront, something in his eyes flickered, as though the demon inside was completely activated. It was at that moment when he told one of the goons, “Hey Josh, why don’t you go outside and get my lighter. Eric, help him.”
Eric and Josh obeyed, moaning through their pain as they got up to oblige the command. Even though it was not a two-person job, Eleanor reckoned that two of their heads constituted half a brain. If that. While they were away, Grady proceeded to act as though nothing had happened, demanding of Camille, “Where are those fag eggs, huh? I’m getting pretty fucking hungry.” In that instant, Ronaldo dinged his bell and called out, “Order up!”
The silence inside The Breakfast Bomb was drenched with tension and Eleanor knew she should have intervened long ago, but like a trainwreck, she could only watch it happen, knowing full well there was nothing to be done to get things on track. Ronaldo and David were both aware that there was fuckery going on, but they seemed to be biding their time. Or so Eleanor had hoped. As Camille went to get Grady’s order, uncertain of why she was going on with the charade, Josh and Eric came back inside, one carrying a lighter, the other a can of gas. Apparently they had taken some extra initiative. Grady smiled from ear to ear as he took the materials from his sycophants. The lighter, incidentally, featured an image of a cartoon Joker, grinning similarly.
When Camille set the plate down in front of him, Grady said, “So, let’s try this little fag plate, shall we?”
Camille stood there, not able to walk away. All she could do was watch him shovel the bacon and eggs in and wait for the other shoe to drop. Which it did in the wake of about six robust bites. After that, he slapped his fork down and declared, “Goddamn! It’s actually pretty fucking delicious. Mighta turned me gay for all I know, but it was good.” He started igniting the lighter repeatedly, like a nervous tic. “But you oughta to be careful about all the cutesy names on this menu, ya know? Maybe mention it to your owner—oops, that’s not like a slave reference or anything. Though you are kind of dark-skinned.” He smiled at her. “What’s your ethnicity?”
Eleanor could stand it no longer. She finally emerged from the far corner of the counter to announce, “I think it’s time that you and your friends leave. No charge. Just get the fuck out.”
Grady turned toward Eleanor. “Well, well, well. Who do we have here? The aging proprietor?”
What was it with men always using age as a source of derision for women? Eleanor calmly replied, “I’m the owner of this diner, yes.”
He arched his brow. “I’d like to lodge a complaint then. You shouldn’t name things so ‘cleverly.’ It can offend some people.”
Eleanor stared daggers at him. “Anyone it might ‘offend’ I don’t want in here. And it’s my fucking prerogative.” She really wished the jukebox would have timed things to play the Britney Spears version of that song right when she said the words. But life isn’t like the movies.
“Oh is it now?”
Eleanor rolled her eyes. “Can you get the fuck out?”
Grady nodded, something sinister glimmering in his expression. “Sure, sure. I can get the fuck out.” He started to slide out of the booth, making a gesture to Eric and Josh as he collected their menus. The duo, in turn, started to gather up all the other ones on the tables as the five or so additional patrons inside waited for all of this to be over. Laminated or not, the menus would make an ideal pyre for Grady. He went on to light each one, with a surprising deftness that made Eleanor wonder if he was a seasoned pyromaniac. It all happened in what seemed like the blink of an eye, including the dispersion of the gas can. One second the diner was there, the next it was going up in flames as Grady and his goons exited, locking them all inside. Eleanor was appalled. Horrified that she, Camille, David and Ronaldo had all stood idly by as though in a state of shock, yet also aware somewhere deep down that men like these could never really be stopped. They knew they were untouchable. How else could one explain the total lack of concern for consequence Grady had in setting the place ablaze? All of Eleanor’s dreams about to burn to the ground, and she along with them. Kabluey.
The Breakfast Bomb turned out to be too apropos a name. Eleanor had to admit there was something satisfying in that, in its own way. For it proved her talent for naming. As for Francis Bacon, maybe she’d see him in hell. Maybe they would have breakfast together.