THE DINER

NEVER EAT FOOD AT A LONELY DINER, OR YOU MAY END UP AS A DINER'S DINNER...!

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3. THE PENNY BEGINS TO DROP

      'Another round of sandwiches and four teas again please, and where's the toilet? My wife and kids need to use it,' said Archie to the Owner as he leaned on the counter.

      'Out the back, but you'll probably have to clear away the snow from the door to get inside. Here, take this broom that should do it. You'd better take this torch as well 'cos ther's no light in there! Still, safe enuff to use the torch now since they stopped attacking the airfield!'

      'Huh...! Stopped attacking the air--- Oh I see, still in charactor are you? One joke too far methinks... Surely you must have and indoor lavatory?'

      The Owner gave Archie a puzzled look, and shrugged dismissively.

      'For cryin' out loud, are you really telling me that there's no inside loo?' said Archie incrediously.

      'Well I've got a bathroom, but the lavatory's outside like I said. An' shut the door after yer lot have finished, 'cos I dunt want snow packin' up in the bog. Other folk have to use it yuh know.'

      'Look, it's none of my business, but don't you think you're taking this theme park thing a bit too seriously? After all this is two thousand and eleven, surely you can provide better sanitory arrangements for your customers. I mean this is ridiculous.'

      'What you goin' on about sir? Two thousand an' eleven did yuh say? This is nineteen forty one; you lot act as if yuh didn't know there's a war goin' on! Where 'ave yuh been fer the last year, on the moon or summat?' crowed the Owner.

      'Alright, you win,' said Archie in exasperation; picked up the broom and torch, and indicated for Margie and the kids to follow him outside the back door of the Diner.

      'Are you mad Archie it's freezing out there, the children will catch their death? Why can't we use the toilet in here?'

      'Because the Diner hasn't got and inside lavatory that's why! So either you use the outside loo or do it it your pants,' snapped Archie.

      'Okay, keep your hair on... Don't get graphic-I didn't know did I?'

      'Sorry luv, but all this is beginning to get to me. We'll let the kids go in first, and then you and me can go next---'

      'Come on children, follow your father, and keep your heads covered, I don't want you both catching a chill,' growled Margie.

      The lavatory ... a free-standing wooden shed arrangement with a diamond shaped hole in the door was about five metres away from the Diner, and by the time they reached it they were all shivering uncontrollably. Archie used the broom to brush away the piled up snow from the entrance.

      'R-R-Right Abby, you go in first and hurry up will you, your mum looks as if she's about to burst,' said Archie through chattering teeth.

      Abby took the torch and was in and out in a flash; she clung to Archie and he wrapped his overcoat around her. Stephen was next, and didn't waste much time in the loo either. Margie took a bit longer, and eventually came out carrying part of a newspaper. By this time Archie needed a pee as well, and avoiding Margie clutching at his arm, he disgorged himself from Abbey; took the torch; went into the reeking hut and came back out with his nose wrinkling in disgust.

      'Bloody hell. it's just a plank with a hole in it; not even a flush lavatory... Must be a septic tank down below. C'mon lets get back inside and drink that hot tea... This is turning into a nightmare.'

      'You don't know the half of it Archie, wait till you see what I've got,' said Margie, and flapped the remains of the newspaper at him.

    The Owner scatched the stubble on his chin and addressed them in a distinctly less friendly voice than before as they re-entered the Diner. 'All comfortable at last are yuh? Right, I'll pour them teas now then.'

      'Not really. We and the children need to wash our hands,' rematked Margie.

      'Hmm,' yeah, okay if yuh must. You can use the sink back 'ere, but dun't use too much of the soap... That's getting expensive these days,' snapped the Owner.

      'Bloody Nora!' mumbled Margie, and after finishing their ablutions she conducted the children back to the booth leaving Archie to wash and dry his own trembling hands. Picking up the tray, he shakily carried it with the sandwiches and fresh tea across to the booth. As he walked, some of the tea over-spilled from the cups onto the tray. Sitting down, he rubbed his hands together, yawned, and shook his head from side to side to clear the cobwebs. Infected by his yawn, the others stretched and followed suit.

      'I wanna go to bed daddy, I'm so tired,' moaned Abby.

      Archie nodded; smiled at her and picked up his cup. 'Ooo that's better,' he said after taking a large swig of the steaming liquid. 'Ev'ryone warmed up are they? Blast it, I feel really sleepy as well Abby. A bit weird actually! Pity this isn't a motel, we could stay for the night, but at least we've got some heat in here, that's something.'

      'Yes, but two paraffin stoves isn't exactly like central heating is it? God Archie, how can people live like this in the twenty first century?'

      'Middle of the twentieth century Margie! You said it yourself... Atmosphere!'

      'Speaking of which Archie, take a look at what I found in that disgusting lavatory to wipe my ar--- you know know what?' whispered margie, and laid the frontpage of the torn newspaper in front of him.

      Archie frowned and read the headline of the Daily Mirror dated December 7th 1941...

 

      JAPAN DECLARES WAR ON Britain and US: 3 FLEETS IN BATTLE. It went on to describe the awful events of that day, and was followed by the sub-heading: 350 KILLED BY BOMBS ON AIRFIELD.

 

      'Pearl Harbor... This is bizzare,' said Archie.

      'Bizzare darling, what do you mean?' remarked Margie curiously.

      'Well think about it. Today is the seventh of December, and if this newspaper is from seventy years ago, why isn't it all yellow and faded?'

      'Yeah, I thought that as well ... maybe it's a reprint.'

      'Possibility I suppose. But if that's the case, why spend all that money on a reprint and then stick it in the lavatory to be used as toilet paper? Surely it would've been stuck up on the wall like all of those posters'. It just doesn't make any sense'.

      The Owner loomed over Archie and peered down at the newspaper. 'Terrible business that! Still, at least we've got the Yanks in the war now... Ol' Winnie must be as happy as a sand boy.'

      'Winnie,' remarked Archie feeling somewhat uncomfortable at the presence of the Owner standing over him.

      'Winnie, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister! Don't tell me you haven't heard his famous speech?'

      By now, Archie thought he'd better humour the Owner and play along with his fantasy.

      'Now which speech was that?'

      '"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many."' August of last year it was, in the House of Commons, an' then we heard it later on the radio. Surely you've---'

      'Oh yeah, of course I have, the Battle of Britain! It ended officialy on the thirty first of October nineteen forty didn't it?' said Archie.

      'That's right. The airfield took quite a hammering in the first few months of the war. After the Hurricanes and the Spitfires the Nazis were. This place nearly copped it as well and---' His voice trailed off. For a moment the Owner looked confused and frowned. 'Bombers mostly there now ... rattle my false teeth they do when them Wellingtons take off an' land.'

      It was then that Archie and his family heard them ... the distant, heavy drone of aeroplane engines.

      'Hmmm! They're back late today ... usually return when it's still light! Berlin I should think. Hope they gave Hitler a taste of his own medicine! Oh well, some of the boys should be in for their grub soon. Got me own pigs an' chickens yuh see. Government takes some of the eggs and ham, but as I serve the RAF lads, they've given me a dispen--- whatever it['s called.

    'Dispensation,' said Archie. Now convinced that the Owner was either stark raving mad or a clever showman, he raised his head as the soumds of the aircraft got louder. I'll call his bluff he thought. This is not happening Archie, he said to himself, and gathered his thoughts into some semblance of reality. 'Well I must say you go all out to create an authentic experience... Speakers on the roof are they? Got a button you press under the counter. Brlilliant, it almost sounds as if the planes really are overhead.'

      'Speakers...! What are yuh on about? They're Wellingtons back from a raid. If yuh look out of that window you can see 'em. Um, I hope they've cleared the runways of snow. Gonna be a tricky landin' in this weather. Still, can't stand around 'ere chattin' all night ... got hungry pilots to feed. Not as many as before of course... RAF has taken a terrible toll. All those young lives lost. Tragic it is... Still, when the yanks arrive and start using the base, my Diner will be filled up to the brim again. Place could do with a bit o' livenin' up. Like their ham and eggs those yanks do. Are yuh sure yer family wouldn't like summat hot to eat before the rush starts? My sausages are well flavoured yuh know? Special ingredients,' he winked.

      'No we've----'

      The sound of a loud explosion and wailing sirens nearly caused Archie and his family to jump out of their skins.

      'Oh bloody hell, that's the third Wellington to crash land this year. I 'ave to get over there to help. Just look after yerselves allright,' yelled the Owner fearfully.

      Saying that, he grabbed a heavy coat and a tin helmet with a large white 'W' painted on it from behind the counter; rammed it onto his head and hurried out of the back door of the Diner. The Patersons' rushed after him to the open door and were staggered to see the night sky lit up red, below which, massive flames could clearly be seen through the swirling snow. The noise of of a motor bike engine staring up diverted their attention for a moment, and the sight of the Ownwr sat astride it was just visible through the blizzard. As they watched in amazement, he revved the engine; ploughed through the snow, and headed across a field towards the blaring siren's and intense conflageration.

      'S-S-See, I told you dad, we've gone back in time,' yelped Stephen.

     'Don't be so flipping stupid son, this is all part of the----- Margie, this can't be real, can it? Let's get the hell outa here,' croaked Archie.

      But Margie was too gobsmacked to reply ... and then, Abby began screaming-screamin-screaming. Staggering back inside the Diner, the Patersons' rushed to the front door of the Diner and tried to open it, but it was stuck fast. By now, the effects of the drug that the Owner had spiked their tea with was beginning to take effect. Abby was the first to fall unconscious to the floor; then Stephen; then Margie. Archie grabbed a counter stool and attempted to smash a window with it, but the stool slipped from his hands, and with a glazed look in his eyes he slumped down next to his family, and babbling in terror; then finally whimpering, he went out like a light.

       

     

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