Andrew Jackson pulled on his worn and weathered cowboy boots, grabbed a random hat from the shelf, zipped up his fall jacket and opened the front door to go out. He turned at the last moment and yelled back into the house.
“If anyone needs me I’ll be at the café!”
Rose’s voice called back from deep inside the house. “If anybody needs you I’ll be surprised!”
Andrew grinned. “Good one!” he shouted. He stepped outside, closing the door, and got into his truck which stood ready in the driveway.
A spattering of rain covered the windshield as he drove, so lightly that even the intermittent setting on his wipers only needed to be turned on intermittently to keep the windshield clear. He arrived at the café a few minutes later and saw Grant Toews’ truck already parked in front.
“Good morning,” he said as he seated himself a few moments later at the usual table by the window.
“Morning,” said Grant, who sat with his back to the window.
“If it is a good morning,” said Arvid Delorme who was seated across from Grant. “Which I doubt.”
Andrew chuckled. “You sound exactly like Eeyore,” he said to Arvid as a young server poured him a cup of coffee.
“I don’t know who that is,” said Arvid, “but I take it he’s a smart guy.”
“Anything else for you, Mr. Jackson?” asked the server as he finished pouring.
Andrew looked up. “I’ll have the usual,” he said.
The boy stood awkwardly for a moment. “Umm… I’m sorry, I don’t know what the usual is,” he said.
Andrew nodded. “Of course you don’t,” he said. “You’re new here.” He looked the boy up and down for a second. “You must be Jack Kettner’s son, am I right?”
The lad nodded. “I’m David,” he volunteered.
“Nice to meet you David,” said Andrew. “I’ve heard about you, from your dad. He says you’re really good at something, I just can’t remember what.”
“Pouring coffee,” said David. “Examine your cup. Fully 95 per cent of what I poured went in the cup.”
“That’s it,” said Andrew with a laugh. “Jack says you’re a comedian.”
“I charge by the joke,” said David. “You owe me $1.50. And the longer you keep me talking the higher that bill is going to get, so you should probably explain what ‘the usual’ is while you still have money in the bank.”
“Here’s how you get me the usual, my boy,” said Andrew. “You wander out through the kitchen and open the back door and yell out “Andrew Jackson will have the usual!” and then, when she finishes her cigarette, Sheila will cook me up three eggs, over easy, but more easy than over, with three strips of bacon, crisp but not crunchy, three sausages, hash browns fried just a little longer than most and two pieces of rye toast, almost, but not quite burned, buttered so that there is no dry surface area left visible. And a little container of raspberry jam, which I do not want and will not eat. Can you remember all that?”
“I think so,” said David. He turned over his order pad, on which he had been furiously scribbling, and showed it to Andrew. “Is that it?” The order pad had the words ‘Andrew Jackson, the usual’ written on it.
“Perfect,” said Andrew. “Now before you go, please explain to Arvid here, who Eeyore is.”
“Really?” said David. “I’ll have to charge extra.”
“Go for it,” said Andrew. “I’m feeling rich.”
David turned to Arvid. “Eeyore,” he said. “Old grey donkey. Friend of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet and, I assume, Christopher Robin. Best described as morose. Gloomy. Glum. Dreary. Dismal. Miserable. Sad. Pessimistic. Cheerless. Glass half empty. Woe is me, I can’t find my tail.”
“Sounds like a donkey with his head on straight,” said Arvid, approvingly.
“Yeah,” said David, turning towards the kitchen. “Unlike his tail.”
There was a moment of silence.
“There is snow on my fields,” said Arvid, “and my granaries are half empty.”
“Ah,” said Andrew. “Hence the gloomy outlook.”
“Perhaps,” said Grant, “your granaries are half full, not half empty.”
Arvid pondered that for a moment, then shook his head. “I checked,” he said. “Definitely half empty.”
Grant gave him a look of genuine sympathy. “That’s rough,” he said. “I got some oats still in the swath myself, but my granaries are half full. At least I have that.”
Arvid pushed his chair away from the table and got up to go. “Some people have all the luck,” he said. He turned and headed for the door. Andrew and Grant watched him go.
“He reminds me of someone, the way he walks,” said Grant.
“A donkey maybe,” said Andrew, “with his tail on straight.”