Old Men's Cooking

by Lee Geist

The old man awoke first, before his spouse. He eased himself out of bed, conscious of his various ailments of age. It was about 6:30 in the morning, since the old man found it hard to sleep in much later than the rise of the sun. He bustled about, filling out the prerequisites for his average day. Coffee, enough for two, since he knew his wife would be awake soon. Then an English muffin, buttered and spread with grape jam. He took his time, since he didn't open the diner until 8:00, and he slept directly overtop of the diner.

He was finished with half of the meager breakfast when his wife came into the kitchen. After sharing the usual "good morning," she then retrieved a mug from the cupboard and poured herself some morning coffee. Her morning routine usually consisted of scrambled eggs over leftover steak fried on the stove with her coffee. By the time she was done preparing her start to the day, the old man had finished and was sitting on the couch watching the morning news and infomercials. He wasn't really watching, just looking at the TV while he sifted through his thoughts and memories. He wondered how his son was doing, and reminded himself to call him to arrange a visit to see him and his grandchildren.

"Evenya!" he called, "Remind me to call Mikhail tonight! I want to see when we can see Victor and Tanya again!"

"I'll write it down, Ivan!" she replied in the same tone from the entrance of the kitchen. The high volume of their chatter would not have been necessary ten years earlier, but, if humans are machines, then as with any machine, humans start to experience performance issues the older they get.

The old woman then sat next to her husband and also watched the TV while not watching it until the time came to start the stoves, light the oven, and warm up the grills in anticipation of the day ahead.

About ten minutes after flipping the OPEN/CLOSED sign, one of the most regular customers and a dear friend of the old man came in and sat down at the counter.

"Just the regular, Boris?" asked the old man, even though he already had the ingredients for his friend's breakfast.

"Da, special pierogies, kielbasa, and a bottle of Guinness, please."

The "special" pierogies were an item that only a select few people could order at the diner. What made them "special" was that a dash of vodka was added to the melted butter sauce and then topped with a pinch of garlic.

The old friend of the old man sipped his Guinness as he watched the old couple bustle about making his breakfast. When the pierogies and kielbasa were set in front of him, he slowly ate and made small talk with his friend.

"The town seems to be slowing down, doesn't it, Ivan? Not many people around any more," he said, looking out of the window. The town outside used to be a hub for a small Eastern European population that emigrated to the United States in 1933. They worked anywhere they could, whether it be in mines, in mills, on construction sites, or, in the case of the old man, in a diner.

Fifty years later, the population dispersed somewhat. Some of the children of the immigrants moved away, chasing a more successful life than the small town had to offer. Some even found one. For the people that remained, their kids and grandchildren still spoke their languages of descent. Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian, it was all spoken here, in a now-dying town.

"It is slowing down, but what can we do about it? I just make pierogis," the old man said to his friend.

"Damn good ones at that!" the old man's friend exclaimed as he lifted his bottle of Guinness as a toast.

After Boris ate, got his fair share of small talk, then left, all the other regular costumers walked in. A middle aged woman who ordered a kielbasa sandwich with grilled peppers and onions, a sixteen-year-old who came in fairly frequently in the summer, and a small selection of other people whom the old man new by frequent of his diner.

It was mid-afternoon when a young man walked in, around the age of 19, who said he was about to rent a house in town in the coming month. After he ate, praised the cooking, and left, the old man thought to himself about the young man and the condition of the town. He hoped he would be able to see his small town survive for the years ahead.

"But what can I do? I just make pierogis," the old man muttered to himself.

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