The best time to go to the Little Brooklyn Diner for breakfast is about 9.30 in the morning. Situated on West Fifty Sixth Street, it is the current early morning favourite of the ‘suits’ from Random House Publishers who pop in on their way to the office. It is also a favourite of the ‘room only’ tourists who have read about it on Trip Advisor, and who to a man, woman, child order the red velvet waffles topped with banana, strawberries and blueberries which apparently are ‘to die for!’ It is finally a favourite for the fifty something joggers from nearby Central Park who order plates of carbohydrates with freshly squeezed orange juice and jugs of iced water on the side to rehydrate.
The time between these comings and goings and lunch time is known by the regulars as ‘the eye of the storm’, a time when they can sit in comparative ease, eat and put the world to rights while eating their favourite breakfast.
Larry enters just as the last jogger, filling his pockets with sachets of sugar, is leaving. He nods to Morey who is wiping the surfaces. Morey nods back then nods to the open kitchen. The three nods in turn mean,
“Good Morning Morey. I‘ll have scrambled eggs and bacon, an English Muffin, rice and black beans”.
“I’m very well – not that you would notice! Thank you for not enquiring. Miriam’s back is playing up again. Muffins are off today but we have some Scotch crumpets, freshly made this morning. And would a please be too much to ask? I hope you throw up!”
“Get this son of a bitch his usual! Hold the muffin and give him one of last night’s crumpets. They should be nicely stale by now.”
Morey is not a morning person. He wears an expression which suggests that all his female relations and possibly himself have just been gang raped by a horde of Visigoths. He prides himself on not knowing the names of any of his regulars. He just knows them by what they order.
‘Eggs and bacon’ settles into the cubicle. The red leather seat is still warm from someone else’s backside. He hopes it is one of the secretaries from Random House but suspects it belongs to a flatulent Romanian jogger. Anyway, he remains where he is. It is his usual seat in his usual cubical at his usual time. He likes order in his life. Morey knows this and sometimes puts his place settings the wrong way round. Morey enjoys this. Larry does not.
He listens to the sounds of the diner. The hiss of the latte maker, the sizzling of the hot plate as bacon rashers curl into submission, the clatter of the knives and forks as they are emptied from the dishwasher. It is like a well rehearsed orchestra and he is sitting in the best of the House seats. He closes his eyes for a brief moment and conducts in the steamy atmosphere.
A retired banker, he opens the financial pages of the New York Times and checks the Dow Jones. It is merely out of interest. He has little to invest after his wife has cleaned him out in a very messy divorce. His neatly pressed suit, laundered shirt, purple tie and Gucci shoes give him an air of importance which he no longer has.
‘Bagels and Cream Cheese’ is next to enter. He is Amos to all who know him and the one person who used love him. Dressed in Redskin sweat pants, baggy Yankees top and a Canadian Blue Jays cap, he is a medley of sartorial contradiction. He chews on a permanently unlit cigar. He would like to have been a sports reporter and indeed he talks of little else, but he is in fact a copy writer for the Christian Science Monitor. He works from home in a house as empty as Larry’s and met Mariah Carey once in a hotel lobby. She said “Hello” to him!
He sits facing Larry who simply acknowledges his arrival by looking up then down again. He pulls out his Suddoko book from his hip pocket, needlessly licks a stub of a pencil and begins.
“Keeps the mind active!” loud enough for Larry to hear.
“Indeed!” says Larry noticing the smell of dead Jack Daniels on his breath.
Morey brings the breakfasts and like two lovers in mid tiff, they sit apart, eat and say nothing.
‘Denver Omelette’ comes through the door just as Larry is making a mental note to watch the progress of Allied Chemicals which has traded well over the past week. He is a mountain of a man with a cowboy hat, leather and sheepskin waistcoat over a Woodstock T shirt and stonewashed jeans. Christened Harry at birth, he renamed himself ‘Toke’ in the Sixties and it has stuck. He likes to smoke stuff which increases the depth of his basso profundo voice.
“Usual please and hold the onions today,” he shouts to Morey.
This pisses Morey off as he asks for his omelette without onions every day.
He nods to the fellow occupants of the cubicle. They grunt back without moving up. He settles into a space and pulls out a well thumbed copy of the National Enquirer and notes that aliens have landed again – this time in Punxsutawney. He chuckles to himself that they will land there every day from now on!
As usual ‘Cheerios’ is last to arrive. He says his hellos and sits down next to Toke.
“Sorry I’m late!”
‘Cheerios’ is always late.
Today’s excuse is that he had to get off the subway at Columbus Circle due to a fault on the line. He rewinds his time warp Walkman and plugs it into his ear. Morey can hear the faint strains of Beethoven’s Fifth as he brings the bagels.
“Pretentious bastard”, he mumbles. “Probably thinks the John Dunbar Theme is classical as well!”
‘Cheerios’ aka Ronnie is a small tubby little man with a grey Poirot moustache, rimless spectacles and a thinning comb over. He dresses permanently in the garb of a professional golfer and has an opinion on everything. He is on the faculty at NYU but finds the time to have extended breakfasts at the diner every morning.
Morey brings the last two breakfasts and some more black coffee for the table. Toke reminds him that he takes his with milk. He does this every morning and every morning Morey ignores him and clears away the plates. Larry notes it is 10.23am, three minutes later than yesterday.
“Well gentlemen. It’s Monday. Walk in the Park as normal?”
A collective silence indicates that they are in agreement.
They rise to go, each emptying his pockets of shrapnel to give to Morey as a tip. As usual Larry asks for the rest of his coffee ‘to go’. As usual it ends up in the sink.
“Miserable bastards”, mutters Morey as he pockets the $1.90.
They shuffle out into the harsh winter sunlight and make their way to the Wollman Rink to watch the ice skating and to commence what can only be called virtual betting. Each Monday, they view the skaters and select the one who will fall most times. A five dollar bet is wagered by each one but it is never be placed nor collected. Larry reckons that they must have wagered more than $2,000 over the years. He actually keeps a book which notes that he is in front but he never calls in the bets. That would be crass.
The rule is that they watch the skaters for one minute then they pick the one likeliest to tumble most in a ten minute period. Larry chooses a child in a red anorak. Toke selects a pimply faced youth with a quilted body warmer. Amos plumps for a sixty something woman with a balaclava and a grey sweatshirt. Toke nominates the little kid, as black as the falling snow and ice are white.
Toke and the kid win. He has watched him the day before and knows that the kid will be WBA boxing champion long before he can skate!
Ronnie says he has a freshman class at 1.00pm so they go their separate ways. By 10.00am next morning they are seated in the diner again. Tuesday is orange juice and tall stories day. Morey is reputed to make the best OJ this side of the Pecos Mountains. They always get a pitcher with their breakfast on a Tuesday. Toke prefers grapefruit but Morey never brings him any.
Each takes it in turns to tell a story and it is up to the others to decide if it is true, exaggerated or simply a prefabrication. Morey picks the winner, purely on a rotational basis. Only Larry has seen through this, as a statistical analysis of his book of results shows that he wins every fifth Tuesday. Today he tells one about a bear and a fish and Morey declares him to be the winner. Ronnie thinks his is better but says nothing.
Wednesday is Strange Facts Day. Again Morey is the judge and his ruse this time is to make sure Amos never wins no matter how good his effort is. Amos does not mind as he always makes his stuff up while the others trawl the Internet, Guinness Book of Records and Trivia Books for hours to get their material.
Thursday is open floor day when they take it in turns to discuss a topic chosen by whoever is in the Chair. They have discussed things like the best way to make a Brandy Alexandra, the optimum Tog rating for duvets in the summer months and the pros and cons of Ronald Regan as an actor.
Today Larry is in the chair. He chooses as his topic the best way to commit a perfect murder. When Morey has cleared the breakfast dishes he begins and gives the floor to Amos.
Amos states that it should be motiveless.
Toke adds that the victim should not be known to the murderer.
Ronnie says that the murderer should never be caught.
Larry agrees but says that it would be more stylish if the victim knew his killer.
They admit that this would give the killing the edge but are not keen on the idea.
Morey brings more coffee.
Larry asks for a modus operandus.
Ronnie offers poisoning. He could sit beside someone in this very diner and slip something into a random cup of coffee.
Toke suggests using a stiletto in the crush of the subway. The victim would fall down and people would suspect a heart attack. As they tend to him, he would simply walk away.
Amos chooses strangling the nun who goes for a walk every morning in the park as he takes his own constitutional. She is always alone. She would have no enemies, it would not be a mugging as she has nothing to take.
The group like this but Toke is worried as strangling is ‘an art’ and needs to be practiced. Toke is a Vietnam vet.
Larry suggests that the most sublime idea would be that one of their little group picks off each of the others one at a time. It would be like Agatha Christie’s film “And Then There Were None”. Morey reminds him that there is a more recent version called “Ten Little Indians” although it is not as good as the original. He has seen both several times and has read the book. He says he likes Larry’s idea but it would have to be modified and continues with the place settings for lunch. He thinks grown men should have something better to do.
Amos has to go. He has a regular appointment at this time every Thursday. The group suspect it is with a hooker but never say anything.
The group does not meet on a Friday. Friday is family day – time to spend with loved ones. They do not have loved ones! Friday is a lonely day! Weekends are lonely too. They wait for Monday.
Morey is not lonely. He has Miriam and a Miriam with a bad back and bad attitude is better than no Miriam – just!
Larry arrives at 9.31am on Monday, two minutes earlier than last Monday but later the previous Monday when he arrived at 9.30 am exactly. His average arrival time over the past year is 9.33am. He keeps a running log on a simple spreadsheet program at home in his condo.
By 9.57am Amos has still to arrive. Toke thinks he may have man flu as he did not look well on Thursday. Morey suggests that he has caught a ‘dose of crabs offa the hooker’ and has gone to see the dick doctor. They go for their walk in the park and visit the zoo. It is not he same without their friend so they leave after thirty seven minutes. Ronnie has a class at 1.00pm anyway.
Orange Juice Tuesday and Toke is the first to arrive. He is surprised to see a small glass of grapefruit juice laid out for him as well.
“Enjoy” says Morey.
There is no sign of Amos again and Ronnie, who is always late anyway, fails to show also.
Toke asks Larry if he is playing Ten Little Indians. Larry tells him if he is, he will find out tonight. Toke laughs nervously. Morey tells him that Larry is only yanking his chain. Toke does not take his grapefruit juice. Morey is not pleased.
It is Wednesday and not only is Larry the first one to arrive, he is the only one to arrive. Morey eyes him very closely as he eats his breakfast. Larry makes no reference to his absent friends. He leaves a five dollar tip and goes.
‘Cool bastard’, Morey thinks.
It is 7.00am the next morning. Larry has not slept well. His bell rings. He shuffles to the door and opens it. It will be the super coming to fix the leaking faucet.
And then there are none!
Morey turns and walks away quickly and quietly. He has breakfasts to make.
Paul Anthony is a drinker. His first efforts were with beer then he progressed to a series of exotic spirits. He has settled on Jamesons whiskey and occasionally partakes of a challenging red wine. When he is not drinking, Paul likes to write.
His first book, “The Adventures of the Tricycle Kid” is a humorous account of growing up in Belfast in the Fifties and Sixties. He is also a contributor to anthologies such as “The Incubator”, “The Blue Hour”, “Crannog”, “Silver Apples” and “A New Ulster” and is proud to have his work featured in the “Big Issue”.
He has been guest author for “Creative Frontiers” and his is poetry has found a home in “The Camel Saloon” and “Athboy Anois”.
At present, he is working on a book of short stories and a novel about the Book of Kells. He toggles between homes in Belfast in the North of Ireland and Clonmellon in the South.
In a former life he was a University lecturer and when not drinking likes to bowl and shoot things.
He can be contacted by E Mail……...email@example.com
Also see his pages at