Coffee With White Devil


Peter N. Dudar

Copyright 2010 Peter N. Dudar

      “More Coffee, please.”

White Devil sits back in his chair, his cool blue eyes keenly fixed on the waitress’s breasts as she leans forward to refill his mug.  The waitress nods politely and then asks me if I need a refill as well.

“Yes, please.”

She walks around to my side of the table and fills my mug as well.  Both White Devil and I are admiring the way her apron and G-string accentuate the lovely curves of her figure.  She is an undeniably beautiful girl, charming and demure in spite of the fact that she’s waitressing in a topless doughnut shop.  As much as I am in love with my wife, I can’t help but imagine what sex with this girl would be like.  But before my imagination carries me away, she pulls a handful of plastic dairy containers from her apron pocket and drops them casually on our table, and then turns away to bus coffee at other tables.

“Someday I’m going to own a place like this,” White Devil says with a smile as he snatches up a creamer and pours it in his cup.  I know where he’s coming from.  Mark’s Topless Doughnut Shop is an extension of Mark’s Showplace; the only exotic dance club in the city of Portland.  The doughnut shop opens at 6 am (just a short hour before the end of our work shift at the Post Office), and serves coffee and doughnuts as well as cold beer and mixed drinks.  In my younger days I’d have opted for a couple of cold brewskis rather than the coffee and a three-day-old doughnut, but people do change over the years.  It’s cheaper to go to Denny’s or Dunkin Donuts, but we find ourselves hooked on the service more than anything here at Mark’s.  Service meaning being served by some single mom with her tits hanging out to help pay the bills when Johnny and Judy head off to school, or some college gal hustling for an education.  It has become our weekly treat.

We’re not the only ones here either, this morning.  Two tables away from us is a guy in a charcoal-gray business suit and Italian leather shoes.  He has a briefcase open at his table, and he is leafing through documents left and right, only looking up when the waitress comes over to refill his coffee.  She’s been trying to hustle this guy hard, turning on the charm and ponying up for a big tip, and who can blame her?  He’s obviously a successful lawyer or business executive.  Whatever he is, he’s far too distracted with his work to offer her more than formal pleasantries.  She fills his cup again and walks toward the kitchen with a pout on her face.

Another table has a couple of police officers getting ready to start their shift.  Yet another table has a party of fraternity dudes from the USM campus.  And sitting at the bar is an older fellow in a biker jacket with a POW/MIA patch sewn across the back and a baseball hat that reads “Korean War Veteran”.  This guy has been drinking gin and tonics since we arrived (and subsequently every other time we’ve seen him in this particular establishment), and has been ignoring the waitress in favor of the sports scores which are currently running on the news channel on the television above the bar.  When the waitress returns from the kitchen with the doughnuts White Devil and I ordered, he hails her over to order another drink.

“Frank, you have liver cirrhosis!” the waitress protests.  “You’re going to kill yourself at the rate you’re going…”

“Don’t you worry about ol’ Frank,” the veteran slurs in reply.  “Goddamn slants couldn’t kill me, and they shot me in four different places!”  Frank runs a hand over his shoulder, then over his hefty stomach, and then down his hip and right leg as if to prove his point.  “Besides, at this point it ain’t about quantity of life, but ‘quality’!”  This last part he bellows out loud enough to draw in everybody’s attention.  He is loud enough to make the guy in the suit jump and accidentally spill coffee on some of his documents.  He is stunned for a moment, and then is frantically grabbing napkins and sopping up the spill off his paperwork.

The waitress sighs and comes back over to our table to deliver our doughnuts.  Again, White Devil’s eyes fly up to her lovely breasts as she sets our plates in front of us.  Her nipples are rock hard, and stand out in defiance of the cool air inside the darkened restaurant.  Outside is a picture-perfect New England end-of-summer morning.  The sun was dazzling when we got out of work, climbing over a landscape horizon of trees slowly turning red and orange and yellow.  The waitress pays no attention to White Devil’s ogling, and instead politely turns to me.

“Can I get you anything else?” she asks, smiling, knowing secretly that for the moment she owns both of us.

“I’m all set, thank you,” I reply and smile back.  I reach into my pocket for cash, but White Devil waves me off.

“I got the tab this morning,” he says, dropping a twenty on our waitress’s tray.  “That guy at the bar, Frank…I want to buy him a drink!”

“He’s already had plenty,” she protests.  “He’s already drunk as a skunk.  I’m going to have to call him a cab as it is.  He’s in no condition for driving.  And besides, his liver is all but dead.  He doesn’t need it!”

“That guy fought for our country, and I want to buy him a drink.  What’s he drinking?  Gin and Tonics?  His next one’s on me.”  And then shouting across the restaurant, “Hey, Frank…Thank you for serving!”  Frank turns and offers a snaggletooth drunkard grin at us and then lifts his glass in a toast and downs it.  White Devil turns back to our waitress and smiles at her.  “Keep the change,” he says, and then toasts her with his coffee cup.  Our waitress rolls her eyes at me as she turns and walks away, and I can tell she’s both insulted and annoyed.  Just like us, and every other working slob on the planet, some days on the job just ain’t worth getting out of bed for.

Like today.

“We’ve been coming here for months now,” he says between sips.  “How come we haven’t gotten her name yet?”

I’m busy stirring my own coffee and watching customers come and go.  The police officers have politely settle their tab and beat feet out to their patrol cars to begin their rounds.  The latest entry, a burly truck driver with tattoos up and down his forearms, strolls past us and takes the table between the guy in the suit and the college kids.  “I don’t really need to know her name,” I reply.  I try to take a sip, but my coffee is still too hot.  I watch as our waitress walks over to the truck driver’s table to take his order.  I can see the sparkle of glitter on her perfect skin.  I imagine her getting ready for work in the morning, with her little pump-bottle of glittered lotion sitting in front of the mirror in her bathroom.  I imagine her squirting a handful of the lotion into her cupped hand, and then running it all over her bare breasts until they glisten in the light of the vanity’s halogen bulbs.  The waitress looks over at me and notices me watching her, and then offers another smile.  A secret just between the two of us.

“I’m pretty sure it’s Amanda,” White Devil says.  He is trying to play it cool, to not stare like I am, but I know he’s stealing glances just the same.  White Devil is at least ten years younger than me…and roughly the same age as the waitress by my estimation.  I try to put myself in his place, try to look at her through my own eyes as if I were ten years younger but find that I cannot.  I’d first met the woman who would become my wife ten years ago, fell head over heels in love with her the first time she smiled at me.  It occurs to me totally out of the blue that it isn’t our waitress’s beauty I find attractive, but that moment of time she encapsulates and forces me to recall.  A moment of time that can only exist in sweet memory.

The waitress brushes past our table on the way to the kitchen, and the light catches on her navel ring just right, so that it sparkles and shines in spite of the dimness of the restaurant.  I hadn’t noticed it before, and now it captivates me, along with the fragrance of her glittery body lotion.  It all intoxicates me, and I try not to sigh out loud.  It shames me to realize that I should not be here.

In the background, the television is broadcasting highlights from last night’s games, and White Devil’s attention falls away from our waitress like a broken promise.  The Red Sox have lost again, and the hopes and dreams of a winning season die for their legion of diehard fans.  Including us.

“Those fucking losers,” I comment, sipping my still piping-hot coffee.

“They’re just doing it to get their manager fired,” he opines.  “They’re all pissed off about their pitching coach getting the axe.  They’re tired of all the scapegoating going on.” White Devil lifts his coffee to his lips and drinks.  The mug looks extremely wan compared to his rosy cheeks and the blond whiskers of his mustache and beard.  “It’s a necessity, if you think about it.  Nomar and Pedro will use the rest of the season to recuperate.  And in the meantime, they can work on management reorganization.”

I offer a weak “mmm-hmm,” and drink my own coffee.

White Devil is usually right about these things.  It is useless to argue with him.  He’s terribly smart for his age, and terribly charismatic in a way that Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones can be called charismatic.  I remember how he got the nickname White Devil.  His real name is Jeremy.  He’d gotten into an argument at work with the Chinese foreman back when we used to work the loading docks.  It was as if he knew all the right buttons to push to turn the normally serene Mr. Pang into a raving typhoon of anger, spitting expletives in both English and Chinese.  Pang’s rant ended when he pointed at Jeremy and screamed, “You no-good sonofbitch.  You crafty White Devil!” before storming off the dock and slamming the door of his office shut behind him.  I remember feeling horrified.  I never cared that much for Pang, but seeing him reduced that easily for Jeremy’s self-serving entertainment disgusted me.  Some days I don’t even know why I hang out with the guy.

“It was a minor victory for me and God that day,” he mused about the incident later on.  “Mostly for me, though.  White Devil that I am…”

And so the name stuck.  And the name fitted, the same way the lawyer’s suit and Italian shoes fit him.  Or the way our waitress’s apron fits her.  Or Frank’s leather jacket and veteran’s hat.

The waitress who may or may not be Amanda appears again, carrying her tray with several cups of coffee precariously balanced on it.  Her nipples stand out hard in the stale air, and I wonder how she can feel so comfortable while standing virtually naked in a room full of men who would give their last breaths and heartbeats to have sex with her.  At the same time, I wonder what path in life has led her to this job in this place.  To be standing here in front of me, her most private parts less than an arm’s length of my reach.  The thought passes, and a new thought filters in like an epiphany.

It’s only flesh, I think to myself as she passes by.  And flesh is human.  Nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.  After all, is there really that much difference between the flesh of her breasts and the flesh of her cheeks?  Or her elbows?  Or the flesh of her ankles and toes?

But my wife would insist there’s a difference.  Which is why I shouldn’t be here…

The baseball highlights on the television blank out, and then there is a news anchorman with a stern face staring back at us.  He begins to rattle off in a nervous, excited tone, and before I can even fathom what is being said, the man’s face disappears.  In his stead is video footage of the twin-towers of the World Trade Center.  One of the towers has flames erupting from its shattered windows and twisted steel.  A voiceover is informing us that an airplane has just struck the tower a few minutes ago, and is spouting out information too rapid and broken to understand.  But all of us in the restaurant understand moments later as we all watch the second airplane fly into the second tower and burst into a massive ball of hellfire.

The restaurant falls into a horrible moment of shocked silence.  The silence lasts all the way up to the moment when our waitress drops her tray to the floor and sprints, crying, in through the door labeled ‘kitchen-no admittance’.  My eyes dart helplessly around the room.  The lawyer fellow’s mouth is gaping wide, all the color gone from his face.  The truck driver is crying, as is the table of college boys.  One of the students is actually pinching the skin of his hand, trying to see if this is really just a dream or if he’s awake and this is our reality at the moment.  Frank the drunken veteran stands up and removes his hat, and places it over his chest.  This guy is obviously no stranger to war, and as he soaks in what’s going on, it’s obvious he knows that America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is looking at war once again.  Frank stands in silence for a good minute as all of us in the restaurant take in the devastation and watch helplessly.  Then he puts his hat back on his head, lifts his drink (the one that White Devil bought him), and guzzles it down.  Frank puts the glass down on the bar and turns to walk away.  He only gets about five steps when his heart gives out and the veteran falls dead on the floor right in front of us.

Chaos reigns.

The news channel switches over to the footage at the Pentagon.  More devastation.  Sirens howl in the background as billows of black smoke puff up into the bright blue September sky.  What was a normal Tuesday in America has now fallen apart.  Smashed into a billion pieces of shattered glass, twisted metal, smoldering ash, and crumbled concrete.  New York City is now a war zone, and the World Trade Center is Ground Zero.  American civilians are dying before our eyes.

“America has fallen into the hands of evil,” the unseen anchorman’s voice announces over the footage as those of us in the restaurant respond to Frank’s collapse.  One of the college students, a young buck in a New England Patriots jersey, is performing c.p.r. as we wait for the emergency medical service people to respond.  The lawyer has called 911 on his cellphone, and I can hear the sirens already rapidly approaching.  The truck driver is watching, paralyzed, from his table.  His hands are folded in front of his mouth in a portrait of horror even Rockwell couldn’t duplicate.  The waitress is standing above Frank with her arms crossed over her breasts.  I pick up my jacket and walk over to her, and drape my jacket around her.  She is crying, but manages to whisper, “Thank you,” to me.  I pay no attention to the fact that my jacket is going to be returned smelling and looking like glittery body lotion.  At the moment, I just don’t care.

I glance over at White Devil.  He hasn’t budged an inch since any of this began.  He’s taking it all in coolly, with a hint of amusement twinkling in his eye.

“That’s not evil,” he announces, and then the whole bar stops to look at him.  The faces of everyone in the restaurant are already shocked.  Mouths are agape.  Eyes are wide open.  People are crying and trembling and looking for strength and unity.  And here is White Devil, with his unearthly charisma and frightening brilliance.  I can’t help but think of Hitler as he gave his infamous ‘Beer Hall Putsch.’

“Evil is secretive.  It’s a beautiful poison.  It doesn’t long to destroy in violent quakes and blasts.  Evil seeks to diminish in little deceptions.  Small lies that quietly turn us against ourselves,” White Devil turns toward the lawyer.  “How many guilty men have you put back on the street?  How many did you know were guilty, but still took their money and set them free?”  And to the truck driver, “How about that old woman you killed?  You told the cops that you fell asleep behind the wheel, but we both know you’d been drinking earlier that day.  Hell, you’ve lied about it so many times that you’ve actually convinced yourself.”  And to the waitress, “And you…You know my friend here is married, but you’ve been flirting him awfully hard.  What are you hoping for?  A big tip, or that he’ll leave his wife and take you away from all this?”  And to the college students, “And you…Tell us about that gay kid who tried to pledge your fraternity.  Tell us how you rammed a hotdog in his ass over and over until he bled.  Tell us how he went home that weekend and committed suicide.  Blew his brains out with his daddy’s shotgun.”

And then White Devil turned to me.

“You?  You’re a good guy.  The only bad thing I can say about you is that you hang out with me.  Guilt by association.  But hey, I love you for it, bro!”

I don’t bother getting my coat back from our waitress as I get up and walk out the door into the bright, blue September morning.  There is no smoke and twisted metal here, and yet the day is as ugly as I’ve ever known.  I’ll go home and spend the rest of my day huddled with my wife as we watch the towers fall, turning Manhattan into a mushroom cloud of poisoned smoke and devastation.  My eyes can’t seem to look away from the television, and it isn’t until the local news coverage comes on and I see Frank’s covered body getting wheeled out of Mark’s Topless Doughnut Shop that I break down and cry.

A part of me has died.  The rest of me feels that beautiful poison flowing through my veins.  For the first time in a long, long time, I fall on my knees and pray.