My local McDonald's happens to be a pretty cool place to get some writing work done. It's not like your normal-looking McDonald's, but has an atmosphere much like an updated coffee shop, and I've gone there off and on over the years to write. It also helps that they have self-serve fountain drinks, which feeds my caffeine need (and only for a dollar). All a person can chug.
I was sitting at my table, working, and he was sitting at his alone. He had his phone charging, and for the hour and half or so in which he sat there, all he had was a small soda. He kept to himself and I kept to myself.
At one point, he came over to me, and I removed my earbuds. He asked if I could watch his things while he ran next door for a minute. I said of course.
When he returned a few minutes later, he said that he wanted to thank me and buy me an ice cream cone. I told him it wasn't necessary, but he insisted.
After purchasing two vanilla ice cream cones, he handed me one and then proceeded to slide into the seat on the opposite side of my table. I wasn't prepared for conversation, but I'm also not a jerk either, so I left my laptop open, my earbuds on the table, and gave this older gentleman my full attention.
He asked if I ever went to Wendover, NV, to which I told him that I didn't. I'm not much of a gambler, though I didn't tell him this. He talked about leaving the next morning on a bus to head to Wendover to take part in the slot machine tournament. He said that the year before he'd won $500, but that he'd gone home early and because you had to be there to win the money, he'd lost out on the cash. "Not this year," he said. "Not this time. I may stay two weeks if I have to."
"Do you go to Vegas?" he asked me.
I told him that we did, some times, when we were traveling through to California we'd stop there for the night.
He gave me a look as if I was crazy. "Don't go to Vegas. It's gross." Then he proceeded to tell me all about a short cut that we could take to avoid going into Baker. He spent a lot of time on the details of this shortcut and assured me that though it was out in the middle of nowhere, it would be worth it.
He asked what part of California we visited, and I explained about going to Anaheim for my daughter's cheerleading competitions. Again, he gave me another dirty look. "You don't go to Disneyland, do you?"
"Sometimes," I said. "But my kids are getting a little old for it now."
He told me all about Knott's Berry farm, and that if we get there early, we should make a reservation for the fried chicken first thing, right away, then we were to go do the park. When it's time for dinner, we can avoid the lines for the chicken and go right in. I thanked him for the tip.
"Do you like dolphins?" he asked.
"Who doesn't?" I said.
He told me all about Catalina and taking boats out to see the dolphins. "You can even go inside a submarine," he said. "The whole bottom is glass. I haven't done it, but it looks amazing."
He told me about witnessing a school of dolphins kill a shark that was trying to attack a surfer. "It brought tears to my eyes," he said. "It was amazing."
He told me about his days (many, many years ago) scrubbing the decks in the rain and fog on a cruise ship. He enjoyed this job because he found a lot of diamond rings.
"How did you find diamond rings?" I was thinking he must have taken part of in some deep sea diving. Buried treasure or something.
"Nothing like that." He smiled. "When couples have a fight, the woman almost always throws her rings in the garbage. Guess who has to take out the garbage?" He pointed to himself. "I was working on the ship and guess who tapped me on the shoulder?"
"Who?" I asked.
"Fay Dunaway." He smiled. "She was drunk and needed help to her room. She threw herself around me
know who Phil Spector was.
"Google him," he said. "He's the guy who killed my niece, Lana Douglas in his castle of a house." John made the sign of a gun with his fingers and put it to his head. "He shot her just like that."
"Had I been in California at the time, I'd be in prison now," John continued. "I'd held that girl in my arms as a baby, and when he only got twenty or so years for killing her, I wanted to take him out myself."
He asked what line of work my husband was in. I told him. He nodded and then told me about losing his wife three years before. "Hold onto your loved ones while you can," he said. "My next time I find me a good woman, I'm going to marry her right away."
"I don't have a lot of time left, you see? I'd have to marry her quick." He smiled.
Our ice creams were nearly done. He thanked me again for watching his things and I thanked him for the ice cream. He said he'd let me get back to my work and he slipped out of my booth and went back to his.
Before I left to head for home, I wished him good luck in Wendover.
He smiled and reminded me about the shortcut through Nevada. "Not many know about it, but now you do!"
Yes, know I do.
*I may have only written 1000 words on my work in progress, but I'm grateful to have met John. I really think he just needed someone to talk to, and I'm grateful that I could be that someone. I have no idea how much of his stories were true or not, and I don't care really. It made for a good conversation. If they are true, then all the better.*