“Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard sailed from the blue and pink-framed jukebox. Rachel Wyatt wasn’t a fan of the song, let alone country music, let alone Merle Haggard, but she kept her trap shut, still wanting to work at Moonlight Diner, a lonely establishment outside Las Vegas. With her sweet, cherub looks, Rachel could have made a good living as a showgirl, but making it big in Hollywood was her dream, and she wanted to struggle. Get in line, her friends from high school told her. Some friends.
Her sandy blonde hair tied in a bun and dressed in an egg-blue blouse and dress, Rachel went to a booth. The tray she carried was occupied by a bacon cheeseburger, ketchup-drenched French fries and a big Styrofoam cup, filled with ice cold Coke. The customer: a paunchy truck driver. Plaid shirt. Uneven, two o’clock stubble. Cap with a picture patch of the American flag on it. God or the government must have a secret factory where guys like him are put together, but Rachel hid her thought behind a warm smile.
“Much obliged, missy,” the trucker smiled.
Rachel turned away, hoping she wouldn’t get her derriere pinched. Fourteen times, it happened last week. If only she had a knife. . .but ten thousand dollars was her goal. Ten thousand dollars, she promised to save in the bank and leave, avoiding the fate of Lorna Selmer. A fellow waitress, Lorna probably had dreams when she was younger, but they went away quicker than a cancelled sitcom on the crappy Small Three (or Two) TV broadcast networks (if you don’t had cable), when she got knocked up by Dwayne Eldelson, her boyfriend from high school. For ten years, they’ve been married and breed three girls, eleven, seven and four. Hank works construction, Lorna waits on tables and her grandmother, Anna, keeps watch over Sidney, Tara and Charlotte.
Sure, she wanted kids, but Rachel wanted a career first, and she didn’t think being a plump baby doll was going to help her. Lorna was one. Red-haired. Freckled-faced. A bit cynical on how life turned out for her. A few paces away, she had two trays, one in each hand, which had the same meal: gravy-covered meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green peas and carrot cubes and a cup of orange juice. The couple that got them was probably on their second honeymoon. The man’s buttoned shirt was so loud, a deaf man could hear it, and the wife looked like Allison Janney of “The West Wing” without the charm.
“Hey, Rachel! Pickup! Booth seven!”
Al Tremaine tapped the bell on the service window’ sill as he peered through it, from the kitchen. The tray besides him had another bacon cheeseburger, but with a cup of lemonade and a slice of apple pie with a dash of whipped cream on it.
Rachel went to the service window and picked up the tray, “Is Billy still playing hooky?”
“Don’t get me started on that fool son of mine. The next time I catch him. . .”He picked up waved a meat cleaver.
“Then Lorna and I would be out of a job.”
“Joke on your own time, Rachel. Booth seven.”
Rachel turned away. An exact copy of the Vic Tayback, the late actor who played Mel the diner cook in the Martin Scorcese-directed dramedy “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and its family-friendly TV sitcom version “Alice”, Al Tremaine was a tough boss. Twenty-two years in the Navy made him that way. Ran Moonlight like a ship, ready for battle. One time, Al blew up and gave Lorna shit and a half for accidently dropping a fried egg on the floor. Racherl thought she was going to have a heart attach. Just think about the ten thousand, she told herself. Only $2,871.38 to go.
Rachel went to booth seven. Causally dressed, trim, clean-shaven and neat, a man sat there. He was kind of nerdy, like Dale Keating, a little boy Rachel knew from her kindergarten class, who was made fun of because he was naturally smarter than the other kids, and he threw up on the new sneakers of classmate Carolyn Bennett. It was an accident, but none of the kids, not even Rachel, would let him forget it. When he was ten, Dale and family moved to San Diego, leaving Rachel with feelings of regret. She liked Dale. Sure, peer pressure told her to shut the fuck up, fall in line and accept the status quo, but Rachel was young and dumb, and her feelings were more than true.
Rachel laid the tray on the table, “Excuse me. . .but you look familiar.”
The customer looked at her, “I do?”
“Who am I supposed to look like?”
“An old classmate from school. . .but older, obviously.”
Rachel blushed, “Well, I--I better get back to work before--”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Rachel grins. She left the customer as he took a bite into his bacon cheeseburger. “Mama Tried” dies down, and is replaced by “That’ll Be The Day (When I Die)” By Buddy Holly. Rachel thought he died too soon.
The dine’s door opened, tickling the bell hanging over it. Rachel stopped. The new visitor was tall, paunchy and muscular. His hair was long and jet black. A black leather vest, a white T-shirt, blue jeans and pointed cowboy boots were his clothes. Two identical tattoos marked his upper arms: OMB. With a serious look on his face, the man went to table four and sat.
Rachel shuddered. Yeah, the new customer was intimidating as a shark in a kiddie pool. Lorna went to her, “You want to serve him?”
“Lorna, if you want to, I won’t mind.”
“You need the money, sweetie,” Lorna tapped Rachel’s back.
Rachel sighed and gulped. She went to booth four, where the new customer folded his hands against each other on the table. The aspiring actress pulled out a small notepad and a pen from her blouse’s pocket, “What’ll it be?”
The new customer picked up the menu and studied it.
“Three things. One: black coffee.”
Rachel writes it down.
Rachel stopped, “Uh. . .that’s nice, sir, but--”
The man quickly pulled out a pistol from his jeans’s left pocket and pointed it at Rachel, who froze and dropped her pen and notepad. Lorna and the other woman screamed.
“Shut up!” the man said.
Silence, save for Buddy Holly. The door to the kitchen swung open. Al came out, holding a 12-gauge Winchester shotgun and aiming for the man, “Drop the gun, you--”
The gunman pointed his gun at Al and fired. The round barked, finding Al’s right shoulder. A geyser of blood flowed out. The waitress and customers dropped to the floor. So did Al, but he fell down hard. The women screamed.
“I said shut the fuck up!” the gunman was serious.
Silence came back again. Buddy Holly was still singing. Rachel covered her mouth, suppressing her needed will to scream. This wasn’t the way she wanted to go. After two husbands, some Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe, she would have preferred a prescription drug overdose, but that seems so stupid to think about at a time like this.
The gunman left the table, passing Rachel and arriving at Al, whose blood stained his shirt and part of the floor. He groaned. The gunman holstered his pistol and picked up the shotgun.
“Thank you, dipshit!” the gunman kicked Al in the belly and chuckled.
The trucker grew up a pair. He got up from his booth and ran to the gunman, who turned and fired the shotgun. The blast struck and lifted the trucker off his feet; his hat left his head and fell to the floor. The poor fool fell back, crashed through one of the diner’s windows and landed in the diner’s parking lot. Rachel and the other women screamed and cried.
“Shut up! Don’t you assholes listen?!”
Rachel cried. Bad move. The gunman went to and dragged her up by her blouse. Rachel squealed; she smelt beer and tobacco.
“Open the cash register, stupid! Now!” the gunman shoved her away. Rachel went behind the counter and crossed to the cash register. She quickly dialed some keys and the drawer popped open.
“Bag it all, bitch!” the gunman pointed the shotgun at Rachel’s head.
“Leave her alone.”
Silence. Buddy Holly still sang. The gunman focused on the man. The man who was causally dressed, trim, clean-shaven and neat. The man who ordered another bacon cheeseburger, but with a cup of lemonade and a slice of apple pie with a dash of whipped cream on it. He was finishing the cheeseburger as the gunman went to him, aiming the shotgun.
“Excuse me?” the gunman was annoyed.
“You heard what I said.”
Rachel whimpered, “Please, mister. Don’t--“
“Shut the fuck up!” the gunman went back to the customer, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
The customer sipped some of his lemonade, despite the gunman getting closer, pushing the shotgun’s barrel straight at his right temple.
“I’m talking to you, asshole!”
“And I’m listening to you.”
“Look at me, you shit!”
The customer abided.
“You see my tats on my arms?!”
The customer nodded.
“OMB. My name’s Grady Cole, but I’m OMB. One Mean Bastard. I like to fuck bitches, kick dogs and spill at little kids, if I’m doing gigs like this. I’m one mean bastard, and I’m damn fuckin’ proud of it, too. Damn proud. Now, you better tell me who the fuck do you think you are, before I get to five, you fuckin’--”
The customer quickly took the gun from Cole, surprisingly him, Rachel and everyone else. He then got up, tossed the gun aside and went Cole, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Desperate, the thug threw a right punch. The customer stepped aside quickly, but forced his right hand into Cole’s chest, piercing it. Blood erupted as the thug yelled; a pathetic stare marked his face. Shock covered the customers and diner workers.
The customer then ripped Cole’s heart with one pull. As the thug’s corpse, the women screamed. Then, Cole’s body shrived up, the same way a grape becomes a raisin but quicker. The customer then looked at the heart in his right hand, covered it with his left and squeezed it. His hands slowly glowed warm blue. The customer opened his hands. A butterfly flew out and from them. It fluttered outside through the broken glass window.
Rachel, after seeing this, fainted.
Rachel felt being rocked as she woke up. She wasn’t in the diner, but in a car, going fast on a highway. She was in the passenger seat, buckled. The customer was behind the wheel.
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Wyatt,” he said.
“What is this? Where are you taking me?”
“Far from here.”
“Let--Let me out! Stop the car and let me out!”
“Can’t do that, ma’am, and I wouldn’t even to hit me or leave a speeding car.”
Rachel couldn’t believe this, “Who are you?”
“David Halloran, at your service,” he grinned.
Rachel gives him a hateful stare.
“I’ll shake hands with you when we get to our destination.”
“And where’s that?”
“Any one I see.”
“You--You killed that man.”
“I killed a demon.”
“You know. A demon. One of Satan’s minions. Nasty fellows.”
“You’re an angel?”
“Why are you—excuse me—why were you were a waitress, if you have a brain.”
“You’re telling me that you’re an angel.”
“Oh, God,” Rachel covered her face.
“Don’t be so morbid. He loves you. He needs you. You’re the new Mother.”
Rachel looked at David, “The what?!”
“The new Mother. You’re responsible—well, partially responsible—for the second coming. I’m commissioned to keep you safe and happy.”
“The other people in the diner, Al, Lorna--”
“I called 911. They’ll be all right.”
“Let me out, you freak!”
David pulled over to the highway lane’s sleeve. He then grabbed Rachel’s left arm, “Look, Ms. Wyatt. I’m here to protect you, the carrier, the Mother of my boss’s Son. I’m not going to—excuse me—fuck it up, because if I do, I’ll be in trouble and so will the whole world, let alone all of existence. Being hysterical isn’t going to help. Being rational is.”
Rachel relaxed and started to cry, “All--All I wanted is to be an actress.”
David sighed as he let her go, “Rough luck. Just be strong,” He started the car and drove, “By the way, God not only wants me to protect you, he wants me to. . .well, I’m gentle.” He winked.
Rachel covered her mouth, turning white as a sheet.