Joe Surkiewicz

Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Bear slid into the booth opposite Ed—known far and wide as Ed the Head for his waist-length brown hair, tinged with gray, and his proclivity for drug dealing—and arranged a steaming mug of coffee and a gigantic cinnamon bun with white icing in front of him.

“They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Bear said, unfolding a paper napkin.

Ed had no reply. He contemplated his cup of green tea and watched Bear dig into the plate-sized bun, warmed in the microwave behind the coffee shop’s front counter.

It was their morning ritual—and Ed was sick of it. Bear always with the coronary-inducing pastry, the inane comment about breakfast blah blah, the way he dug into the bun with a knife and fork.

Real men eat pastry with their hands.

“Do you have any idea how much fat is in that thing?”

Bear put down the utensils. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the one fucking meal of the day–”

“Heart surgeons are probably the ones pushing the myth that breakfast is so goddam important,” Ed said. “I can hear your arteries clogging from over here.”

Bear resumed eating. “Hear about Tommy Ford?”

“Tommy who?”

“Ford, like Chevy.”

“Don’t know him,” Ed said, and sipped his tea.

“Yes you do. Becca’s brother, skinny kid with a skin thing. His face.”

“Becca has a brother?”

“At the beach, he’d go in the water and you’d pilfer his wallet.”

“That asshole,” Ed said. “Did he drown?”

Bear made a face. “Cops beat the shit out of him. Traffic stop. Claimed he ran a red light. Tommy started to argue.”

“There you go.”

“What the fuck, ‘There you go,’” Bear said. “All he said was he didn’t run–”

“Where?”

“Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, heading towards the steel mill,” Bear said. “Three in the fucking afternoon, broad daylight. Fucking cop pulled him out of the car and pistol whipped him. He’s in the hospital.”

“He’s not black, right?”

Bear rolled his eyes. “How the fuck could he be black if he’s Becca’s brother? Don’t tell me”—fork waving in the air—“coulda been adopted. You got an answer for everything.”

Ed leaned forward, hands in front, fingertips touching. “That dipshit Tommy Ford could piss off Mother Teresa. And he’s stupid enough to lip a cop, so I’m not feeling particularly sympathetic.”

“Just trying to make conversation,” Bear said.

Ed pulled his wallet out and looked. “Got any money?”

Bear stopped chewing. “It’s your turn. I’m broke.”

Ed put his wallet away and slid out of the booth. “Right back.”

Bear didn’t look up when a tray of dishes hit the floor, followed by a loud thump. From around the corner, near the counter.

Ed slid back in the booth and pulled out a wad of green. “How much tip?”

“I thought you were broke.”

Ed counted out six ones and shoved the wad in his pocket. “That enough?”

Bear slammed his fork and knife on the table. “You stickup our regular coffee shop and you’re gonna leave a tip?”

“Fuck you and the boat you came in on,” Ed snarled, scooping up the money. “I figured you’re on the side of the working stiff. Guess I figured wrong.”

“This probably a good time to leave,” Bear said.

“I think I hear a siren.”

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