Monday, March 29, 2010

Looking for Bad News

Benjamin walked out of the clinic hesitantly out into the back alley. He wanted out of there, but he didn't want to leave. He hadn't heard what he wanted to hear even though it was good news. He slowly headed out to the street waiting for something to happen. When he made it to the busy sidewalk with no occurrence, he headed back downtown.

He stopped at the diner he usually stopped at a little early since he hadn't had breakfast this morning. It wasn't really his favorite diner or anything, he just usually stopped there. After he sat down at a booth, Audrey came to his table without a menu and with a glass of water.

"What today?" she asked with a shrug.

"Club, no mayo," he replied without looking back up at her as he took a sip of his water. The water at the diner was from the tap and wasn't very good. What water came into the city was fairly fouled up already and the chemicals they treated it with never really made it out of the water.

Ben set down his water and looked up. He saw Old Sam down on his usual seat at the counter. Everyone called Sam Old Sam because he was old. he was retired and nearly always in the diner while it was open, which was almost always. Ben usually didn't interact with Old Sam, except for a polite nod or hello when they happened to make eye contact. Today was different.

Old Sam turned around to Ben and grinned, motioning for him. Ben got up with his water, taking another sip, and headed for the counter. While Old Sam watched him, Ben took a seat next to him.

"Hello there," Old Sam said jovially in his gravelly voice. He had an accent, but Ben didn't recognize it. It went well with a little old man. The accent, like him, was unassuming and nonthreatening.

"Hi," Ben responded with a nod. He took another sip of his water.

"How are you today," Old Sam asked.

"Not too good. I just got some bad news."

"Sometimes, you got to hear the bad news. It ain't always good. But where would we be if it was always good news? How'd we know the good news if we never had the bad?" Old Sam asked. "Eh?"

"It's not that simple really." Ben said and took a sip.

"Look at me. How much bad news you think I ever heard? Huh?"

"This is different."

"Sure. 'I'm different than everybody else,' said every man that ever walked."

"I'm glad we finally talked, Sam," Ben said as he got up.

"Hey. Listen. I know you're bad news ain't really bad news."

"And how do you know that?" Ben asked, eyes wide.

"I seen bad news in a thousand man's eyes. I don't see that in you. So why you pretending?"

Ben stared at Old Sam for a moment. "Can I ask you a question?" Old Sam nodded. "Why did you wave me over here today? We must been in here together a thousand times and we've never said more than hello."

"Like I said. I seen the look on your face. You didn't have bad news and that was the worst news you ever got."

Ben paused again. "You take care Sam."

"You too Ben. And call me Old Sam. I like that."

Ben turned as Audrey grabbed his club from the kitchen counter. She motioned with the sandwich and asked with her eyebrows where Ben wanted his sandwich.

"You want a club, Old Sam? No mayo."

"Sure. I take a club, if you're giving it."

"My treat," Ben said as he left a five dollar bill on the counter for Audrey. He turned towards the door. Ben stepped outside and put his hands in his pockets. It started raining and Ben smiled.

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