Part 22 of 30 -- Psycho Squad
Everyone in the Psycho Squad biz knows the 72-year war, presently the average lifespan of our species, a long time to have psychotic problems. But to the person with it — who knows? — it might fly by in a flash. They don’t know. They're just lurching from one crisis to another, more or less oblivious: It's someone else's problem.
So, for me, yes, I have plenty to do. But I also have 72 years, a good chunk of time. I can afford to kick back a few minutes, take a snack — coffee, tea, or me — the work will still be waiting when I get done. I pulled into one of those all night eats joints where the food’s hot and maybe the waitresses. Me and romance, though, not always a good combo. The Psycho Squad stuff doesn't go away: If there's a problem, you act on it now, no time to wait, no time like the present.
That was the scene I met at this all night place. With a waitress I’d tangled with before, but not in the way I’d like. 'Your thicket or mine, let's tangle... We're both stoved up and hot, instant on, a bad way to be when there's no feast to be had.' Reminds me of the old Westinghouse we used to cook with: Don’t turn it on till it’s time, the thing sparks into action right now. That’s what sparked in me when I saw Doris -- "Doris," her beautiful name tripped off her tag to the tip of my tongue, a goddess conjuring as if by magic coffee, sausage, and more sausage. I thought, "No need to check the state of play, I'm a man." But I warned myself, "Easy, boy, down! Stay cool till we're invited!"
Yeah, but these damned joints will break your heart every time. It's the same old story. There’s not an innocent bird in the place. I scoured the scene. Every one of them's been around the block so many times they’ve carved ruts. Street savvy. They know their way around a guy. They should, they’ve met enough creeps to last a lifetime. Once they had the git-up and go, now they’ve turned the corner. And bedded down in the paddock and taken their oats.
That's right, a few years in the waitress biz is all it takes. And who can blame 'em? Ridden hard, put away wet one too many times. And I bet she's got a dozen cross-eyed brats in foster homes up and down the tri-state corridor. Little bastards maybe showing up wanting her tip money, the old guilt trip. Yeah, I could see it in her eyes. No wild oats for her. Just looking for the straightaway home. That’s good for the jockey in her mind, not what's in my jockeys. I mentioned instant on, this was instant off.
But I laughed it off and gave her a wink as if to say, "You old kidder!" But she was impossible to break with the Night Shift Syndrome. I sat there then quiet like, simmering, trying to ignore her. A little more cream for my coffee? And she kept up a brisk pace, playing the mind game of making me drink as fast as possible and get the hell out. But psycho tricks are always on my side; the game had shifted, and in this game I had her right where I wanted her: She’s gonna give me coffee refills from now till doomsday! I would not be forced out...
So I sat there three hours — it was a grudge match and I had nothing better to do. When, damn it to hell, there had to be a Psycho Squad call about 5 in the morning! Some twerp with a God complex dangling from the water tower. And He was holding two hostages, possibly the Son and Spirit, with rusty nails held to both their throats. Huh? I couldn't stew over theology, I had to ascend and get going.
Just then, seeing my dilemma, Doris backed against the counter and started playing with herself, mocking me. I laid it on her real square, the bad news in one painful body slam: “Save it, baby, the coffee was cold, but hotter than you...”