Toxic Blowout—George Davis
The Walkway Restaurant in Cumberland Falls, Maine is a rundown, one-time railroad car. The eatery was, at one time, a first-class diner, owned and operated by the Perkins Family.
Twelve years ago, this famous truck stop was sold to Ivan and Nancy Pratt. Neither Ivan nor Nancy were cooks. Ivan rolled up his sleeves and made an attempt at being an in-house chef. His trials failed. Nancy, feeling the pinch stepped into relieve her husband of these kitchen duties. She failed also. The diner was up for sale four months after it was opened by the Pratts.
A northern man from the County bought the diner and renamed it The Walkway, as it was built on the sidewalk on Main Street in the town. The owner, Milton Perkins remains the owner to this day.
Milton had some experience in the kitchen. He was the sous chef at the Magic Muffin in Portland, for two years.
“Hey, Milt, how about some over easy eggs, and don’t burn ‘em like you did yesterday,” Monty Silver hollered. It seems, Milt gets flustered when he has more than one customer. He boosts the heat on the old gas grill, heating it so hot. The eggs do the fandango on the sizzling surface, causing the cackle berries to burn around the edges while the interior remains slimy.
“Come on, Milt. Can’t you crisp up an order of bacon without scorching it to death?” Ned Blake shouted.
“Hey you guys,” Milt yelled from the kitchen. “You want fast service, but you don’t let me take time to get it right for you. What do you expect from me?”
Monty said, “something edible, Milt. I wouldn’t come in here if it wasn’t for your waitress, Millie. “She’s a cute one, ain’t ya, Millie?”
“I like to flirt with you guys. You make a girl feel special.” She laughed.
Milton Perkins came to the Falls thirteen years ago with his wife, Bonnie. Who, by the way, ran off with the milkman four years ago. She wasn’t a great asset to her husband’s business. She was downright nasty to some of the customers. Ned Blake, the town barber was her hate target. She, for whatever reason, hated the sight of the barber. She insulted him from day one.
“Yep, old Bonnie hated to see me coming,” Ned said. “She loved to make me the brunt of every joke. That’s the reason I hated to come in here. As you noticed, I stayed away until four years ago when big mouth ran off with Wally Smith.”
“The Walkway Restaurant is the meeting place of poor and infamous rather than the rich and famous. Anyone in their right mind would not spend a dime in this dive. The ambiance is tantamount to dining in a slum lord’s deserted building. The rose-colored paint is peeling. The once black-and-white tile floor is as faded as an old sepia print. The booth in which two ladies sat had more duck tape than a broken-down fiberglass canoe.
Monty Silva was a frequent customer. He came in every weekday morning for breakfast. The lunches were not even edible he says. His two eggs over medium, wheat toast, home fries, and bacon crisp makes it necessary to follow the meal with four Tums and a shot of Pepto. Still, he comes to the eatery every weekday. Saturday and Sunday he gets free coffee and pastries at church. The Bickford Community Church serves these fresh cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, and peanut butter fudge.
Monty says, “I get my fill at church every Sunday. My sweet tooth is sated to the max.”
Tough the Walkway is open Sundays, they do little business, especially since McDonalds and Burger King opened on Main Street.
“Hey, Milt, why don’t you advertise? You’d do more business,” Mel Moody said. “Those fast-food joints are giving you a run for your money.” Mel is no fool. He is known in the town as Mr. Fixit. There isn’t a man-made appliance he can’t repair.
“I gotta pick up Miss Purdy’s toaster, Milton,” Mel said. “I’ve told her the last time I repaired it she should consider buyin’ a new one, but she won’t listen.”
“Well, Miss Purdy is ninety-five years old, Mel. She’s set in her ways I’m afraid.”
“I know it. She is a good customer. I only charge her a dollar to fix that old relic. She can’t afford my regular prices, Milton.” Mel’s regular prices are pre-WWII.
“Hey, Sadie how about some more mud?” Monty shouted at the new waitress. She was new to the diner, but not to the town. Sadie Miller a maiden lady in her forties, had dated more men in Bickford than she could count. However, none met her rigid specifications. She wanted a man who, as she put it, ‘knows his place, and keeps his mouth shut.’ Few men, according to her, meet her qualifications. Old Bat Moreau came close. He’s a deaf-mute.
“You gonna sit here all day, Monty? Ain’t you got someplace to go to?”
“Yeah, I’ve got to see Ned Blake. I need a trim.” Monty’s hair was halfway down his back, but he only needs a trim?
“Morning, Monty,” Ned Blake said. “Sit down. What’ll you have?”
“Just a trim. How much is a trim?”
“You ask me that every time you come in here, Monty.”
“Well, you keep goin’ up on your prices. My name is Silver, not Rockefeller.”
“You’ve got the first buck you ever made, Monty, or at least you know where it is.”
“Wrong. I’m not a miser, Ned. I’m just careful with my money. It’s too easy these days to overspend with all those plastic credit cards.”
The two wrangled over prices for half an hour. Monty paid the four dollars, but not without protesting first.
Wednesday at the Walkway Monty ordered the Monte Cristo for $6. The coffee was extra, $2.50. After complaining to Milton about the price of coffee. He went home and posted on social media a picture of his meal with the caption: this is what you get at that Walkway dive on Main Street in Bickford, Maine. Burnt eggs, overdone bacon, mushy home fries, and three-day old coffee. This dive is the worst joint in Maine. Avoid it, if at all possible. Ptomaine lurks behind every plate.
I like to end this narrative with a quote from P. G. Wodehouse. “Memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them.” P. G. Wodehouse