"Two cups of coffee, por favor."
It was Kenny's signature request. Two cups of coffee instead of one. While some customers were known for their eight sugars or requests for obsolete creamers, Kenny always took two cups of coffee simultaneously. Doris once asked him why, but had since forgotten his answer.
"It is going to be a hot one today," Kenny reported when Doris returned with his two cups of hot, black coffee. Kenny would squeal like a pubescent girl who just found out her ex-con uncle was reading her diary if any cream or sugar so much as touched his coffee.
"Almost a hundred degrees outside already and you're drinking two cups of hot coffee at high noon. You're a trooper, Kenny."
"I fight the good fight."
Kenny had been coming to the Lucky Dog Coffee Shop for three years. After his release from the state hospital, where he lived for four years, it was the first place he had come upon. Here in this small, disregarded town it was left alone in the storm of corporate sanitation. It was still the kind of place that kept a bulletin board of community events and available local services. If you needed some yardwork done, there was the flyer for Chuck's Lawn Service. If you wanted to know where this week's garage sales were being held, you went to the board at the Lucky Dog.
"You lookin' for lunch today?" Doris asked.
"I would not mind tasting a grilled cheese sandwich with six strips of bacon. You do still have real bacon, don't ya?"
"What else would we have?" winked Doris. It would be a cold day in hell before the Lucky Dog sold out and started offering bacon substitutes.
Kenny opened his newspapers. He liked to examine the news from a variety of sources. The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Weekly World News and the hometown paper were all in his queue today. Somewhere, in one of these newspapers, he would find a slice of truth. Truth no longer came as a package deal. You had to dig hard and fast for it.
"Men long ago submitted to the seductive power of the double-tongue," Kenny said to himself out loud. "Nothin' but agendas, agendas and sales pitches. It don't much bother me when they lie to me to sell me soap and candy bars, but now they lie to me to sell me ideas. It isn't easy fighting the good fight these days."
The master of lawnmowers and pruning shears himself, Chuck Gideon, was sitting behind Kenny enjoying a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with an extra-tall iced tea. He turned and leaned over the booth.
"Whatcha think about these new terrorist attacks they've been talking about this summer?"
"They don't have much issue with the people in this town, so I wouldn't much worry, Chuck."
"Yeah, but what about them big city folks? Ain't you much concerned about them?"
"I don't really know any of them too well. They don't letcha get to know them very well. They want this and that. They want to be left alone while they figure out how to make more money and install more locks and security systems in their homes. They went lookin' for something and then forgot what they were lookin' for. They ain't got nothin' on account of all that, so if you ain't got nothin' you ain't got nothin' to lose."
"How about them losing their lives from a bomb, or like those poor souls in them double towers that went down?"
"What was they doin' in there, Chuck? What are people doin' bein' in buildings like them? People just keep wantin' more. They want bigger, higher, shinier, richer... they want so much and then they want low carb bacon because they've gotten so fat on their own greed that they just don't know who they are any longer. They don't know what's real any longer. Low carb bacon? Shit, I ain't worried about them none."
Doris brought Kenny his grilled cheese sandwich with six strips of bacon. She refilled one of his two cups of coffee because it was now almost empty. Kenny thanked her and went back to his newspapers.
"Did you hear about old Clyde's boy?" Chuck asked Kenny. "I was takin' care of his crabgrass the other day when they came to tell him the news. His boy done got killed over there in that desert war."
"Yeah, I was pretty sad for old Clyde on that one," Kenny reported. "Mike was a good boy and a good soldier. He fought the good fight and they killed him with their lies. I remember I was in church when they announced that Mike was goin' to war. Wasn't right they made that boy who knew how to tend his own garden go fight and die so the double-tongues could keep messin' around in other people's gardens. Wasn't nothin' right about it. I done asked Jesus to look after that boy."
"I guess Jesus couldn't help him."
"Oh, he helped him plenty. He got Mike out of there before he got corrupted as well. Mike done died standing up, fighting the good fight. Old Clyde ought to be plenty proud of his boy."
"I dunno about you, Kenny. How can you say he died fightin' the good fight when you say this whole war is so wrong?"
"I has just got my own opinions, Chuck. What does my opinion matter except in my own little kingdom, in here," Kenny said, patting his chest. "If you done believe in something, you believe in it, and that's a fact. A lot of these people, they is just goin' through the motions. They don't believe in what they be doin' and they don't believe in much of anything 'cept what other people tell them. Once you stop believin' in somethin' then you is done fighting the good fight. That's just how it is."
Chuck finished his sandwich and his iced tea and paid Doris for the damages. Getting up, he put his hand on Kenny's shoulder.
"Keep fightin' the good fight, Kenny. Some of us are still with you."
"Look at this, Chuck," Kenny said, pointing to a story in one of the newspapers in his possession. "Some boy up there in Alaska was born with three hearts. I wonder what that's all on about?"