Hackneys -- Chapter Two -- The Regular (part two)
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Hackneys -- Chapter Two -- The Regular (part two)

Hackneys -- Chapter Two --   The Regular (part two)

“Nice to meet you,” Niti said.

Niti held out his hand, and Nestor shook it. Sue bent down to the little boy.

“Who are you?” Sue asked.

“I’m Jesus,” the little boy said. “Do you have pancakes?”

“We have great pancakes,” Sue said. “I’m Sue, and this is my dad, Niti.”

“Nice to meet you, Jesus,” Niti said and shook the boy’s hand.

“This is my wife, Jazz,” Nestor said.

“Nice to meet you,” Niti said.

The woman gave him a nod, which Niti replicated.

“Who’s this?” Sue asked.

The little girl hid her head in her mother’s shoulder.

“This is Maria,” Jazz said. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Please, take a booth or wherever you’re comfortable,” Niti said.

“Our regular is pancakes and two eggs, anyway you want them,” Sue said. “Our soup tonight is Minestrone.”

Nestor and his wife nodded to Sue and went to sit in a booth. Sue brought a highchair for the baby and helped Jazz settle the baby. Sue brought over a few wrapped saltine crackers for the baby.

“Oh, thanks,” Jazz said. “She’s teething.”

Sue nodded.

“Take your time, and let me know what you’d like,” Sue said, dropping off three sets of silverware and paper napkins. “Just relax. We’re open all night.”

Sue went to get the water pitcher and filled two cups of water for Nestor and Jazz. She filled a sippy cup with milk and brought it back to the table.

“Oat Milk,” Sue said. “I thought he might be sensitive.”

“He is,” Jazz said. “Thanks.”

“Just wave me over when you’re ready,” Sue said with a nod.

Nestor nodded to Sue. She went back to her spot in the U of the bar seats.

“Do we need more veggies chopped?” Sue asked.

“Nah,” Niti said. “We don’t know if we’ll be busy. What would you like to do?”

“I’m behind in our book,” Sue said. “I’d like to read.”

“Better get caught up,” Niti said with a grin.

“Thanks, Dad,” Sue said with a broad smile.

She took out her book. She was reading a collection of stories called The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie. She read about ten pages before she saw Nestor wave to her. Sue set her book down and went to take their order.

“One regular with bacon and a soup,” Sue read to Niti. “They’d like a bowl of rice and broth for the baby and some dollar-sized pancakes for the boy.”

“Ask them if they’d like some Congee,” Niti said. “For baby.”

“I forgot all about it!” Sue said with a grin.

“Your greed for Congee rears its ugly head,” Niti said.

Sue laughed.

Together, they said, “I can share.”

They laughed. Sue went over to talk to Nestor and Jazz. Sue tucked the ticket into the circular ticket holder and went back to the table.

“My dad makes this stuff called ‘Congee,’” Sue said. “It’s a kind of Chinese baby food. Everyone can eat it. I mean, I eat it when I feel scared or if I’m sick. It’s very comforting. Mostly, it’s for kids. It takes forever to make, but we have it in the freezer. Would you like some for Maria?”

Nestor looked at Jazz, and she shrugged.

“Let’s try it,” Nestor said.

“Good,” Sue said. “We’ll warm some up for her.”

Sue went back to the half wall.

“Congee?” Niti asked.

“They said they’ll try it,” Sue said.

“Can you get it out for me?” Niti asked.

“Of course,” Sue said.

“Thank you,” Niti said, working on the meal.

Sue went in the back and grabbed a frozen portion of Congee and brought it to Niti. He set the bag in warm water to defrost it. Sue got Jazz a fizzy water and a soda for Nestor. She refilled their water.

She went to check on Jeffrey and filled his water.

“More coffee?” Sue asked.

“Please,” Jeffrey said.

Sue filled his coffee and went back to her spot behind the counter.

“Order up,” Niti said.

“Thanks,” Sue said with a smile.

She washed her hands and grabbed two rolls with butter. She grabbed a large plate for the soup and the rolls, so the woman could share with her kids if they wanted some. She brought Jazz her food first. She brought the dollar pancakes for Jesus and a regular with meat for Nestor. She brought the baby the Congee.

“Just let me know if you need anything,” Sue said, filling their water.

Sue went back behind the counter and watched the restaurant. It was a busy for a first night. They usually had the police in on the first night.

Whichever gang that controlled this area would likely come by tonight as well. It was always normal.

Nestor’s family and Jeffrey were a pleasant surprise.

Maybe Denver would be good for them. Sue smiled.

She heard the door open above. The metal detector went off. The doors to the restaurant closed. Nestor looked up at Sue.

“Metal detector,” Sue said. “You’re not locked in. There is a deterrent at the door for people carrying weapons.”

Scowling, Nestor nodded. Sue went to the wall and pressed the video button.

“Hi, we don’t allow people to carry weapons in the restaurant,” Sue said. “Please leave your weapons in the lockers along the wall, and come on in.”

“Let us in!” a man with tattoos on his face said.

“Just leave your weapons in the lockers, and you’re in!” Sue said with a smile.

She flicked off the video.

“Have you done this before?” Nestor asked.

“They did it in Portland,” Jeffrey said, turning in his seat. “It makes it a nice place to come because you know that no one will have weapons.”

Jeffrey nodded and went back to his book.

The people on the stairwell banged on the door for a while. After a moment, Sue clicked on the video.

“When you drop off your weapons, just head back up to the top and come on in,” Sue said.

The men trudged to the top and then started down. As usual, someone didn’t understand the rules, and the doors closed fast.

“Come on in,” Sue said with a smile. “Feel free to sit anywhere.”

The leader nodded to Sue and took a spot at the bar. He was young — maybe twenty-five. He was thin, and his eyes had the vague look of someone who’d been smoking marijuana for a decade or more. His skin was light brown, more white than anything else. He spoke with a Colorado accent.

“Who are you?” the young man asked.

“I’m Sue. Sue San. That’s my dad, Niti,” Sue said. Niti raised a spatula toward the young man. “We moved here from Portland about six months ago. We’ve been cleaning up the house and getting the restaurant ready. Who are you?”

The young man looked at her for a long time before saying, “I’m Carlos Jimenez. Most people call me ‘Patron.’”

“Nice to meet you,” Sue said. “Can I get the Regular started for you?”

“Sure,” Carlos said.

The last of the group of young men made it into the restaurant and sat down around Carlos.

“For me and the boys,” Carlos said.

“Coffee?” Sue asked.

“Not for me,” Carlos said.

He waved to the young men around him. A few of them ordered coffee or iced tea. Sue set out the dairy-free creamer.

“How about meat?” Sue asked.

“Let’s just see what we get,” Carlos said.

“Okay,” Sue said. “We can add things later. We also have a Minestrone soup.”

Sue looked down the row of young men.

“Soup?” Sue asked.

The young man on the end raised a finger, and Sue nodded.

“I don’t like eggs,” the young man said.

“Okay,” Sue said with a grin. “Gluten okay, or would you like some gluten free?”

“They’ll take the gluten,” Carlos said. “What’s the deal with the weapons thing?”

Niti came out from the kitchen.

“We’ve had trouble with too many weapons,” Niti said. He and Sue looked at each other. “Since before Seattle.”

“You’ve owned places like this before?” Carlos asked.

Jeffrey turned around and nodded.

“Jeffrey’s from Portland,” Sue said.

“We’ve worked in restaurants for all of our lives,” Niti said.

Sue grinned.

“He used to tie me to his back when I was a baby,” Sue said.

Carlos’s eyes jerked to the present. His eyebrows furrowed, and then his eyes went vague again. He nodded. Niti went back to the grill. Within a few minutes, Sue served ten Regulars and one bowl of soup with rolls. She checked to see if they had water and drinks. When the young men were eating, Nestor came up to pay the bill.

“It was nice to see you,” Sue said from the cash register.

“We enjoyed our meal,” Nestor said. “There aren’t many places we can come after work with the kids.”

“You’re welcome any time,” Sue said, handing him back his change. “How was the Congee?”

“It was good,” Nestor said. “Really good. We all tried it. Maria is a little fussy, but she ate every piece of the Congee. I was impressed.”

He put a couple of dollars into the tip jar.

“I wanted to tell you that my wife, Maria, has a cleaning business,” Nestor said. “She cleans the restaurant I work in. That’s why we were so late.”

“That’s wonderful,” Niti said, from the back. “We hoped that we would find someone to help with a deep clean. Can she come in the morning?”

“That’s what we were thinking,” Nestor said. He nodded to his wife, and she smiled. “She could come after our daughter is in daycare. You don’t mind if the baby comes, too?”

“Not at all,” Sue said. “I go to school right after we close. But Dad’s here. He loves babies.”

“I do,” Niti said.

Nestor nodded.

“We’ll work out money tomorrow?” Niti asked.

“Sounds good,” Nestor said. He had a big smile on his face. “I’m so glad that you came in today.”

“Me, too,” Sue said. “Thanks for coming by!”

Nestor and his family waved to Sue and went up the stairs to the alley. Still eating, Carlos and his young men watched the family head up the stairs.

“You have WiFi?” Carlos asked.

Sue pointed to the sign that had the WiFi password on it.

“Because we’re downstairs, it only works down here,” Sue said.

Carlos nodded. He took out his cell phone and began scrolling. Sue picked up his empty plate. As they finished, Sue picked up the other young men’s empty plates. Carlos pointed to the young men and then to Sue. Each man coughed up the money for their food and even a small tip. One at a time, they left the restaurant. When they were all gone, Carlos looked up at Sue.

“You mind if I hang out a bit?” Carlos asked.

“Not at all,” Sue said. “We have a little library in the shelf over there, if you’d like to read. Feel free to take a table if it’s more comfortable. You’re also welcome to stay at the bar.”

Carlos looked around the restaurant. He moved to a position at the bar near the halfwall.

“Would you like something to drink?” Sue asked.

“Do you have green tea?” Carlos asked.

“We do,” Sue said.

She went about making Carlos a pot of tea. Like the head of all of the gangs in all of the cities Sue and Niti had ever had a Hackneys, Carlos settled in for the night. He was quiet, respectful, and seemed genuinely grateful for a warm place to sit. She was sure that he would become a regular.

They had a few restaurant workers come in around 11 p.m. Most restaurants closed at 10 p.m., so they ate in silence and headed home. A couple of pot shop workers came from the shop a few buildings down. Their next big group of people came in just after 2 a.m., when the bars closed. They said that they’d seen Sue’s post on social media, so they wanted to try it out. Four young women ate pancakes at a booth and two groups of two young men sat along the wall where Jeffrey was reading. An hour or so later, the bartender from the bar up the alley came in for a meal.

The night was pretty slow for a standard night, but for their first night open, they were positively hopping.

They had a short rush of people heading to work early, and, then, as always, it was super slow. Sue did her final cleanup, set the dishes in the machine for her dad to start when he was done, and headed upstairs to shower and get ready for school. She came through the restaurant to see if Niti needed any help.

Niti gave her a big hug for luck, and she kissed his cheek.

Carlos was gone, and Jeffrey had fallen asleep.

“Jeffrey?” Sue asked to wake him. “We’re about to close. I have to get to school.”

“Oh, sorry, Sue,” Jeffrey said.

“Not a problem,” Sue said. “It was great to see you.”

“I wanted to tell you. . .” Jeffrey looked up at her. “I have written a romance novel.”

“You have?” Sue asked. “That’s wonderful! Congratulations!”

“Would you read it?” Jeffrey asked.

“Sure,” Sue said. “Why don’t you leave it with my dad? I’ll read it tonight while I work.”

“You’re sure that’s okay?” Jeffrey asked.

“Absolutely,” Sue said. “I bet it’s awesome!”

Jeffrey grinned at her.

“See you tonight,” Sue said.

“Have a good day at school,” Jeffrey said.

Sue took the stairs up to the alley. She turned off the “Open” sign when she passed and locked the door to the alley. Whistling a pop song, she walked down Colfax Boulevard to East High School.

Hackneys will continue in two weeks...