just as the girl calling herself red had told him, ray found the old diner he had known as dave’s, at 17th ave and 34th street, changed into a chipper’s chicken.
snow was piling up in front of the entrance and ray kicked it aside and entered .
ray had never been in a chipper’s chicken before. he was a wendy’s guy, always had been.
there was only one customer in the place, but ray barely glanced at him as he approached the counter.
places like this usually had teenagers behind the counter, but this one had a big mean-looking guy with five o’clock shadow.
a big sign on the wall behind the counter proclaimed “your just like momma used to make all you can eat special - 5 dollars”.
“you want the special?” the big guy asked ray.
“uh - no thank you.”
“then what do you want?”
suddenly ray was ravenously hungry. he glanced over the counterman’s shoulder at the menu.
“um - a chicken sandwich, and a cup of coffee. light cream.”
“cream’s over there. you want anything on the sandwich?”
i should be giving him the message, ray thought. but he just said - “everything.”
the big guy started to turn away and ray said, “one more thing.”
“i’m looking for dwight. foster sent me.”
the big guy stared at ray. “why didn’t you say so?’”
ray didn’t know what to say, but the guy did not wait for an answer and pointed to the lone customer, seated at a table in front of the window. “you want the doc over there.”
“uh… thanks. ”the doc” … red had said something about a doctor.
“you really want that sandwich and coffee?”
“oh yeah, sure.”
“coming right up.”
ray approached the customer, the “doc”.
the “doc” did not look up at ray but continued to stare out at the swirling snow.
the “doc” was very old, maybe the oldest person ray had ever seen. he was wearing an old-fashioned gray hat of a kind ray had never seen, except maybe in an old movie.
ray noticed beside the “doc’s” chair a contraption he never seen before. it was an old-fashioned doctor’s black leather bag, with wooden handles.
“excuse me,” ray said.
“yes?” the “doc” finally looked up at ray. his eyes were barely visible in his old face..
“i’m looking for dwight. foster sent me,”
“yes, i heard you tell blue that. have a seat.”
ray guessed that blue was the counterman’s name. he pulled a chair out and sat down.
“my name is doctor frank,” said the old man.
“pleased to meet you,” ray answered.
the doctor ignored this. “who sent you?”
“uh - like i said, foster.”
“that was the password, young man. you have successfully given the password. who actually sent you?”
“red. a girl named red.”
“red. so she hasn’t come to a bad end yet.”
“no,” said ray, “but - uh - somebody else has.”
“oh?’ the doctor turned away from looking out at the snow and looked at ray.
“cindy. cindy has.”
“and what is the matter with cindy?”
“she’s dead. at least she seems dead. she seemed dead to me.” ray decided to skip telling doctor frank that he, ray, had carried cindy’s dead body through the streets for several miles. “but red seemed to think you could do something.”
“i see.” the old man turned back to looking out the window.
“i can show you the way,” said ray, “if - if - you think - “
“oh, i will go wth you,” the old man said. “but didn’t i hear you order something from blue? do you want to wait for it?”
“well, i can -“
“can you eat and walk at the same time?”
“i think so. i ‘ve done it before.”
“good. then we will wait until blue gives you your order, and then we will depart on our errand of mercy.”