Chicken and Waffles, Chapter 1

Anthony Albot Armensen had worked at Marcus Overson Accounting for eight years and had hated all 16,640 hours of it. He had never taken a vacation day, never called in sick, never came in late; he was a hard worker who had never enjoyed a day in his life. Until August 20, that is.

It was Anthony’s 34th birthday and he started the day the way he normally would, with some burnt toast and black coffee, before he wrapped up breakfast and headed to work in his Toyota Corolla. At lunch, he received a call from his girlfriend, who promptly broke up with him because “she wasn’t ready to be in a committed relationship” but let’s be honest… there was another guy. Anthony took the news hard but kept it inside as he did all news and got back to work. It wasn’t long before he received another call, this one from his mother.

“Anthony, your father is dead,” said the voice on the other end.

This news penetrated Anthony’s heart even more than the first news, but he kept working. He wasn’t particularly close with his father.

At 2:43 pm he received another call. Surely nothing could make his day worse! But of course he was wrong because his childhood friend had passed into a coma and the doctors said it didn’t look good. Oh, and if he could please look after his cat, that would be fantastic! 

For the first time in eight years, Anthony snapped. He walked into his boss’s office, declared his resignation, gathered his things and left the office. He didn’t go home, however. He drove to a car sales place where they sell old cars for cheap, bought the biggest bus he could find, which used to be an elementary school bus, and drove it back to his apartment. He emptied everything of importance from his apartment into the bus, turned off all the lights in his apartment, locked the door, and drove to the bank, where he proceeded to take out his life savings in cash. Then he started driving. Where, he didn’t know nor did he care. He was making adventure for the first time in his life. It was the only way he felt he could cope considering the recent events. He never stopped to think of the consequences of his actions or where this drastic lifestyle change might lead him. It was a complete impulse decision to leave, and he was happy… which is ironic because he was clearly not happy. But he thought he was happy.

His first day of travel went rather unobtrusively and for the first time in his miserable life, Anthony felt alive. He wasn’t sitting at his desk in his oddly-lit work building next to an elderly woman who ate canned tuna every day and had putrid B.O. He was, rather, driving an unusually large yellow bus down the highway somewhere in Ohio, the windows cracked and the music as loud as the not-so-great sound system could handle. 

“I’ll live on my own for a while. Sleep in my bus, shower at gyms, go to a national park or two… This is the life!”

The sun set on that monumental August day and Anthony stopped at a diner for some breakfast for dinner. It was one of those days, he decided, where one eats breakfast for dinner. The practice had always struck him as odd and honestly, a little annoying, but today was unlike other days. He was being adventurous. He ordered chicken and waffles.

“Isn’t this a southern thing?” He asked the waitress.

“Yes. If you want good chicken and waffles, go to Texas,” she replied.

“I guess that’s where I’ll go, then,” said Anthony.

“Is that your bus out there?” asked the waitress.

“Yes it is. Got it today! Only six thousand dollars! It’s going to be my—“ he stopped as he saw the worried look on the waitress’s face as she glanced out the window at his new purchase.

Anthony followed her gaze to see a couple of highschool dropouts with spray paint vandalizing his new bus. Anthony sprung into action.

“I’ll take the chicken and waffles to go, please!”

He leapt up and sprinted outside, yelling at the kids to leave his new baby alone! The kids heard him and bolted, but not before they added a finishing touch on their masterpiece. By the time Anthony got to the bus, the kids were gone and all that was left were the words “DEPORT THE MEXICANS” in big black ink. Fortunately, they hadn’t slashed the tires so his bus was still highly functional.

Anthony ate his chicken and waffles messily as he drove the evening away. Around 9 o’clock he began to get drowsy so he pulled over at a truck stop for the night. He found the comfiest few seats in his bus and laid across them to sleep. It wasn’t very comfortable. He’d have to do something about sleeping arrangements tomorrow, he thought as he dozed off.

—————

RAP RAP RAP.

Anthony bolted up so fast he hit his head on the roof of the bus. 

“Frickin frick monster freakin OUCH,” he yelled. A moment passed as he sat down in sleepy terror, wondering why, who, or what was the noise that awoke him from his slumber. 

RAP RAP RAP. It was coming from the front of the bus. Somebody must want something.

“Coming, coming!” Anthony reminded himself of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit in that moment, running to the front door to greet a very tall bearded man with a staff. But when Anthony opened the bus door, it wasn’t Gandalf that greeted him, but a short, bald man wearing all brown. He didn’t look very happy. 

“Hi, can I help you?” Anthony said.

“No, I just pounded on your bus six times to wake you up and make you angry,” the man said sarcastically. 

Anthony couldn’t tell if the man was being sarcastic or if he was serious, so they just stared at each other for a long time. A minute passed, then another. Anthony fidgeted a little bit. The man in brown stared straight through Anthony. This was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable he had ever been.

“Okay, what do you want?” Anthony finally said.

“Where are you going with your big yellow, racist bus?” The man asked. The way he spoke was very strange. His head remained very still and only his mouth moved. His eyes stared unblinking and he left his hands dangling at his sides. Expression was not his thing. 

“I don’t know. Why do you care?” Anthony responded. He was sleepy and every new moment of speaking to this ugly man was making him angry.

“My truck died yesterday,” the man said, turning very slightly to look at his truck, which was was parked several yards ahead of Anthony’s bus. “I need a ride to Texas.”

Texas?! Could this be destiny? First the chicken and waffles thing, and now this?! Anthony took this as a sign from heaven and decided with confident resolve to go to Texas. He would be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t go to Texas! 

Anthony shrugged in reply to the short man in brown. “Okay. I’ll drive you to Texas.”

The man didn’t smile, he just nodded. He didn’t say thank you, he just stepped inside the bus and walked all the way to the back of the bus and sat down. Anthony watched him curiously, wondering what in the heck he had just gotten himself into. But he reminded himself that he was living for the first time, and life comes with some weird surprises sometimes! This was his first test. Should he pass the test, he could come away with a new friend. If he failed, at least he’d learn a lesson; better than living a boring life at a boring company with boring co-workers and boring everything!

“I’m just going to take a quick shower, I’ll be back in a few minutes… mind looking after the bus for me?”

“Yes,” the man said.

“You sure there’s nothing you can do to fix your truck?”

“Yes.”

After a short, awkward pause, Anthony stepped off the bus and headed to the showers, making sure he had his keys just in case the brown lunatic in the back of his bus tried some funny business. 

After a five minute shower, he was back to his bus and ready to start driving. He decided he loved driving more than anything in the world. He buckled his seatbelt, cranked up the A/C, and put the bus in drive.

“What’s your name?” Anthony shouted behind his right shoulder at the creepy man who had made a home in the back of his bus.

“Anthony,” the man in the back called back.

“No way! That’s my name too!” Anthony shouted. 

Anthony didn’t respond.

“Hey, come up here and talk to me!” Anthony yelled.

Anthony made his way to the front of the bus and sat down in the closest seat to the driver’s seat.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” Anthony asked.

“No,” Anthony responded.

A few minutes passed, both men thinking about nothing, as men do.

“Let’s clear this up. I’ll call you Antwon for short, and I’ll be Anthony. That way if we meet anyone else on the way to Texas, it won’t be confusing. It’s going to be a long journey to Texas, man.”

“Okay,” Antwon said.

Another long silence ensued before Antwon breached the quiet.

“Can I trust you, Anthony?”

Anthony looked back at Antwon. For the first time in their short relationship, Antwon was showing signs of expression. His eyebrows were furrowed slightly, his lip was pouting in the slightest way, and his eyes were downcast. The man has feelings after all! This was Anthony’s chance to make a breakthrough with this hardhearted man. The image of a dragon shedding its scales to reveal soft, beautiful skin entered Anthony’s mind for a split second before he lunged out of his daydream to respond to the question.

“You can trust me.”

Antwon proceeded to tell his life story, through several bouts of torrential sobs. The next four hours were consumed with his heartbreaking story. Had a more heartbreaking story ever been told? I would suggest no. But you can be the judge of that. If this isn’t the most heartbreaking story you’ve ever heard, you have permission to email me and tell me your more heartbreaking story. Okay, enough with the stall, let’s get to the heartbreak.

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