Modus Operandi

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Modus Operandi graphic

David poured the refill and set the coffeepot in the center of the table.  He folded his arms across his chest and looked back and forth at his two customers.  “What did you do with this one?”

“Excuse me?”  The man clenched his massive hands together, cracking his woolly knuckles.  The woman sipped her coffee and seemed oblivious to David’s presence.

“This is ridiculous.  We’re gonna be here all night.”  The man wrinkled his forehead, knitting his eyebrows together into one long, furry, black caterpillar which squatted an inch below his surgically-enhanced hairline.  “I’d like to speak to the manager,” he rumbled.

David held the man’s reptilian stare, and silently counted to five before he turned on his heel and strode to the front of the restaurant.  The manager was crouched behind the checkout counter, rearranging the breath mints and candy bars in the display case underneath the cash register.

“Mr. Dullens?”  David stood stiffly in front of the counter, arms at his side, perfectly still except for his fingers, which twitched convulsively.  “The man at my table wishes to speak with you.  He will complain about me because he wants his check, but I have written it four times and then he asks for…”

“Whoa, slow down.”  Larry Dullens stood up and ran his fingers through his thinning, curly chestnut hair.  “He lost his check?”

“No, he has it… I don’t know.  I write the check and put it on the table. Then they ask for more coffee or water. I return, and they ask for the check again.”  David anxiously scanned the restaurant.  “Cindee can tell you, but she’s on her dinner break.  She saw me.  I give it; then they ask again.  Now he wants you.”

Mr. Dullens locked the cash register and looked around the counter.  “Where’s that extra ticket pad?  Here it is.  Lemme talk to ‘em.  Smartass kids like to jerk you around sometimes.”

“They are not children…”

Mr. Dullens’ eyes followed David’s finger, which pointed to the couple at table six. 

“That’s okay, David.  You wait here.”

The man and woman at table six stood up and ambled toward the checkout counter.  Mr. Dullens hitched up his trousers, smoothed his hair again and approached the couple.

“Larry Dullens, night manager.  Can I help you with something?”

“We’ve been waiting on our check.”  The man ignored Mr. Dullens’ outstretched hand.  “We finished our meal some time ago.  Our waiter, David Nee, n-something — what’s his nametag say?  I can’t pronounce it.”


“Yeah, I thought he looked Vietnamese.”

“Amer-asian. He’s American, actually.”  Mr. Dullens cleared his throat.

“Just off the boat?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”  The manager placed his hands on his hips.

“Perhaps they do things differently where he’s from,” the woman purred.

“I doubt that.”  Mr. Dullens tugged at the elastic waistband of his trousers.  “Here in California we bring the check to the table when the meal is finished.  You two from out of state?”

The couple exchanged glances.  “We wish!” the woman snickered.  “After all the troubles these last years…”

“I didn’t mean to get you sidetracked.”  Mr. Dullens glanced impatiently at the checkout counter.  “I’ve got a register to audit and…”

“We need our bill.”  The man feigned checking his watch.  “Perhaps there’s a communication problem.  He seemed real busy.”

“We’re not that busy.  He’ll have it right away.”


Mr. Dullens turned toward the sound of Angela’s voice.  “Excuse me one moment,” he said to the couple.  Angela signaled through the kitchen window for him to meet her at the drink station.  She came out from behind the kitchen counter, wiping her hands on her apron.

“Don’t you listen to those poker-pullers.  David brought their check three times already.  He told me, so I watched ‘em the last time.  He gave it to the lady, and when he went to get more coffee she slipped it in her purse, real casual.  Then she and her hairy-ape husband or whatever the hell he is cackled at each other.”

A server placed a ticket on the kitchen counter and slapped the order bell.  “Hold your horses,” Angela hollered.  She jabbed her finger at Larry’s sternum.  “You watch those two.  She’s probably got a purse full of checks,” Angela said, hurrying back to the kitchen, “and I’d frisk that jerk in the cheap plaid suit if I were you.”

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Robyn Parnell's C&W song, "If You Can't Live Without Me Then Why Aren't You Dead?", mercifully remains unpublished and unrecorded, while her fiction and other writings have appeared in over eighty books, magazines and journals (several of which have not filed for Chapter 11 protection). Notable publishing credits include her children's picture book, My Closet Threw a Party, and her collection of short fiction, This Here and Now. Current projects include adult and middle grade novels, a second short fiction collection, and whatever else might be found at