Saturday Morning Breakfast Chicken

I called Manny’s house what felt like far too early, but Manny’s mom answered and didn’t seem angry to do so. For some reason I had woken up even before Martin had turned all the lights on at 7 AM. My eyes had just snapped open at 6:41 am.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Frank. I hope I’m not calling too early? May I speak to Minh?”

“Hi Frank. No, you not too early. We are morning people here. Today is an important day, my mother is 80 years old. We will have big party, lots of good food. Do you want to come?”

I was surprised to be invited. Touched, really. I almost said yes then and there, but in the end my business sense won out. This spot we’d found was only good on the weekends, and today was the last day that we could sell there.

Plus, going to a gathering full of Manny’s family just didn’t seem right. What if none of them spoke English? Would I be the only non-Vietnamese there? It’d just be awkward.

“Thank you, but no. I have to work today.”

“Work is good. Work hard, and your life will be good. I get Minh for you.”

I heard the phone being sat down, and Manny’s mom yelling in Vietnamese.

“Minh! Bắt ₫iện thoại.”

Ten seconds later, Manny picked up.

“I’ve got it, Mom,” he yelled.

There was a click as Manny’s mom hung up the other extension.

“Hey, Bro. I can get my mom to stop at the Maximarket and drop me off for a little while. She’s going grocery shopping, but I won’t be able to stay long. Eight o’clock, okay?” He asked.

“Yeah, but why can’t you just drive here yourself? You can meet her at your aunt’s, can’t you?” I asked.

“Nah, Bro. That ride is registered to Manny, not me. You can’t mix that stuff, it’s real dangerous. I don’t have a car on the light side.”

That was an interesting twist, but I guess it made sense. If for the purposes of the law Minh and Manny were two separate entities than of course Minh couldn’t drive Manny’s car. At least, not without setting up an inconvenient link between his light and shadow sides.

“Yeah, I guess. Eight o’clock.”

“Give or take a few minutes, Bro. I’ve gotta go help my mom get ready. Make sure you come in the light. I don’t need my mom seeing me hanging out with anybody walking in shadow. She thinks she’s dropping me to hang with Frank.”

“Got it, no problem.”

“Cool, Bro. Later,” Manny said and we both hung up.

I still had 40 minutes or so to kill, and Martin had finished his morning routine so I had a quick shower and put the same set of clothes back on. It felt really strange, not being able to walk through the house just wearing boxers or a towel, like I was living in some kind of weird boarding house with rules from another century. But Martin’s roof meant Martin’s rules.

While I had plenty of money in my pocket, I certainly didn’t want to have to spend it on a new place to live. At least, not until we paid off Brass Lee. That would be soon, and then before my thirty-day grace period was up I’d be bidding Martin a not so fond farewell.

“Working today?” Martin asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Great. Should you be in your uniform?” He asked.

“They have a changing room there,”

Martin nodded. “Good to see you working hard. I know fast food isn’t glamorous, but it’s money in your pocket. If you’re interested, I can put a good word with the Air Force recruiter for you.”

At one point when I was a kid, I had dreamt about flying helicopters and jets in the military. Somehow over time that desire had been extinguished. Sure, I’d love to be able to fly a helicopter on my own but doing it as a member of the military no longer held any appeal.

Besides, enlisting in the Air Force didn’t mean you got to be a pilot. With my luck, I’d enlist, and they’d make me one of the guys that drives the fuel trucks. Or the guy that has to clean the vomit out of the cockpits.

“Thanks. I’m good for now. I’ll let you know if that changes, sir.”

With that, I went back downstairs and gathered up what I would be bringing with me that day.

The weed clown uniform had never left the plastic bag, so it stayed there. I would change in one of the phone booths.

The gun I’d shoved under my mattress before I slept last night, and it was definitely coming. There was no way I was leaving it here. More and more the pistol was feeling like a piece of necessary equipment for my day-to-day life. I didn’t know whether that was something I should be alarmed about or not, but that’s the way it was.

The only other issue was my cash. It felt good to have such a nice big roll, but taking it with me didn’t seem smart. What if I got robbed again? Not only would they get the weed, they get my entire bankroll as well. It wasn’t like I needed it to make change.

With that in mind, I peeled off a few hundred in small bills and stuck it in my jeans pocket. The rest felt heavy in my hands, and I wondered where to put it. It wasn’t like I had a safe, and I didn’t want to explain to Martin how I’d gone from penniless to having $1500 in cash in a couple days while working a minimum wage fast food job.

When I’d first met him, he had threatened regular inspections of my room. I’d been making my bed, just in case, but he hadn’t actually followed through with it as far as I could tell. At least, he hadn’t had any real comments.

In a fit of paranoia, I stood on my bed and lifted up one of the drop ceiling tiles. Just above were the bare wooden rafters of the main floor, and a lot of dust covering various pipes and cables. I set the roll down in the shadows nearby, and carefully let the tile drop back into place.

Ready to go and starving to death, I took my stuff and headed upstairs.

“Martin, I’m headed out. See you later.”

I didn’t wait for an acknowledgment, opening the side door and stepping out onto the street.

There was a bit of a chill this early in the morning, but the sun was bright, and the sky was blue as usual. You’ve got to love California.

I headed north, crossing Florence Avenue toward the JMC. Chicken for breakfast again wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but food was fuel.

I was disappointed see that Mindy wasn’t behind the counter this time. I ordered the usual breakfast menu, chicken, fries and a cola, and was happy when they immediately filled my tray and sent me on my way. Who knew that a chicken restaurant would be efficient during breakfast time?

I sat down and ate, my thoughts drifting. It was times like this where I missed my smart phone and the Internet.

The other thing that my phone had that I missed was a clock. I looked around the restaurant and found a clock on the wall. Eight was approaching quickly. I finished my breakfast and left the restaurant, not bothering to bus the tray.