“T.H.E. King” is an odd love story between a lonely coffee shop waitress and a man who isn’t all that self-aware. It was awarded second prize in the 2010 Okanagan Short Story Contest contest. It was published in Our Stories. You may also get a copy of it free at the iBook Store. You can also get a free, updated version of the ePub (751 Kb).
In this town, a butterfly fart makes the Hope Standard’s local news column. Because almost no one ever moves here – at least by choice – this big guy moving into the old de Lucci house should have been front page news, but it didn’t even make a ripple in the gossip pool. He was parked at the end of the lunch counter, on the stool closest to the jukebox. At first we wrote him off as another fat American tourist who’d just stepped out of American Graffiti. He was two-fisting enough food to feed a family of four. He looked polished. Except for his socks, everything from his black D. A. to his short, pointy black boots shone. His red shirt hugged his belly rolls. A row of chrome beach beauties decorated his black belt. His black pants fit so tight they made you feel like you were just punched in the crotch. Even though it was fall, he wore brown, gold-framed sunglasses inside, but they weren’t the kind of glasses cool guys wore. He looked like Elvis would in twenty years, if Elvis ate the same way as this guy. He shoveled down pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy like it was his last meal. Every now and then he inhaled a margarine-smothered slice of white bread from the stack beside his dinner plate. He ate like a pig but he didn’t make any eating noises. It didn’t take long before we called him Fat Elvis.
“If you don’t mind my saying so, ma’am, those were the best pork chops I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating,” he said. He sounded a little like Elvis. Agnes stood frozen across the counter from the fat man. His neatly stacked dishes, maybe a foot above the counter, rattled in her hands.
“They say food cooked and served with love is nutrition for the body and the soul. I believe my soul has never been more satisfied than it is right now.” He leaned back and patted his rolling belly. “As you can plainly see, I’ve got a lot of space to fill at meal times, and like no one before, you’ve filled me up.”
He smiled the kind of smile that sleeps in a glass beside your bed. His hand slid into his pocket and came out with a wad of bills, fatter than a logger’s just home from camp. The outside one was a fifty. Then there were some twenties, but most of the wad looked like it was ones and twos. He slid out three twos and a one and put them on the counter, even though his bill couldn’t have been more than two-ninety-five. I guess he felt me staring at him cos he turned and looked straight at me over the top of his shades. He smiled and winked.
“Well, you boys are indigenous, aren’t you?” he said looking from me to Skinny to JimJim and then back to me again.
“No, sir,” Skinny said. “We’re Indians. I mean me and JimJim are. Darryll there’s a ’breed.” He stopped to smile that poop-eating grin of his. “But he’s one of the good ones.”