November 17, 2021 by Art of the Angle
The skies for the first part of the day were the perfect Carolina blue. A darker shade of pale without a single cloud. There was a gentle breeze through the gorge that kept the gnats at bay and a slight chill in the shade.
The fishing was awesome as usual but the catching, not so much. It was new water and another combat style fishing that we loved but took a lot out of us by lunch time.
Midday came on the wings of a surprise storm that crept up like a bad pair of underwear and every bit as uncomfortable. I looked at Charlie and said “welp, reckon we should get lunch before this shower?”
“Yeah, might as well. Hey, let’s hit that place on the highway coming in, we haven’t been there before.” Said Charlie.
“Why not” I answered with a knot already assembling in my gut. I know the place he spoke of and there were specific reasons I avoided it. I have eaten there before and the entire experience was less than mountain stellar. But it was for Charlie and at the very least I could eat French fries and water, kind of hard to screw that up I suppose.
We wound up the fly line and stowed the rods in Charlie’s Chrysler 300, I was driving. As we pulled into the parking lot of the mobile home turned restaurant, the marque was flashing “72”. “It feels warmer than 72 out here” said Charlie staring at the vintage’ stuttering sign.
“That’s the health inspection rating, not the temperature!” I said as I slid the 300 into park.
“Aw, it don’t look so bad, come on.” Charlie insisted.
Life had been too normal for me up to that moment so I figured a little dysentery wouldn’t hurt. We unbuckled the seat belts and made our way inside. “Counter or booth” came the shout from behind the partition from a middle aged, bleach blonde woman.
Charlie wide eyed at the welcome looked to me for guidance. “Your call” I said offering no assistance as I battled the urge to bolt for the car.
“Counter” answered Charlie as the shouting lady approached the counter wiping her hands on the prep stained apron. There stood our hostess in a short denim skirt 2 sizes too small, red cowboy boots just over the bulging calves and a blue jean shirt unbuttoned under the sternum.
As she walked it looked as if a couple of piglets were wrestling over a bag of peanuts in her shirt pockets. That’s when I knew why we were sitting at the counter.
Charlie’s former trucker days taught him the finer ways of diner dump diva’s and he wanted a meal and a show. He looked at me and grinned, dysentery would never taste so good he was thinking.
We made our order, Charlie would have a substance labeled meatloaf dinner and I of course was on a diet that had coincidently started the moment I put the car in park. I figured water and lemon would be safe enough and maybe a dinner roll. Hell, at least I would be able to see the mold regardless of how many times it hit the floor.
As we waited for our “meal” we talked about the fishing and the flies that were producing. Charlie never cared much about hatches and preferred to fish nymphs with an indicator or a heavy wooly bugger that incidentally found the back of his head more than once on his forward casts that he was notorious for. Having to pick him up from the drink more than once kept the brotherhood on close watch when he fished them.
As our hostess with the mostess sauntered about the dining area, Charlie spoke intermittently with a fixed gaze and confusing sentences. Eventually I stopped asking questions shaking my head and starring out the window beyond the dirty pane of glass.
When the food came, Charlie looked pleased with his choice and I felt safe with mine. “Now that is a home cooked meatloaf right there” he said pointing to the gravy covered heap on his plate.
“No doubt brother” I said wondering whose home and what year it was made. Nothing was moving on the plate so I felt a little relieved but still worked out an emergency plan for when his stomach blew up.
The meal came with the tab which I dutifully picked up. Charlie always fought me on the tab but I felt like he had a deductible coming so he needed to save the cash. With dinner finished and batteries recharged, it was time for round two with the fish.
As it turned out, the meal Charlie had didn’t affect him as much as it did me and the fishing was better in round two. I never went back to that joint and it is still there. The marquis still flashes the same digits and I swear it is the health inspection rating.