Save the DinerbyEgmontGrigor2011©
Sonny-Bill Tripp stepped off the bus at Flaxton City and passed wind, the legacy of half-cooked onions in a hamburger he'd eaten at the last stop four hours ago.
He was weary with a sore butt from sitting for 33 hours in buses traveling to his hometown. He was almost broke from a bad day and night at poker when his mom received the call from her mother Aggie Johnston to race to Flaxton to help the family save the farm. Actually it was to save the family's restaurant called Aggie's Diner on the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Walton Street.
Sonny-Bill's mom told her mother the fruit was ripening so she really couldn't be away for more than a few days and miss doing the year's preserving but she'd send Sonny-Bill. Aggie asked was he old enough to know anything and when Maggie said he ought to, he was twenty-eight. Her mom said she thought he little more than a boy.
Aggie sent her grandson a bus ticket for the long journey that had given him a sore ass. Well he didn't like air travel anyway because those things sometimes fell out of the sky or were trashed on takeoff or landing by incompetent pilots thinking of the stack on the new flight attendant instead of looking at the flashing warning lights.
Sonny-Bill hadn't been to Flaxton since he was eleven when his dad took the family to Texas to visit his parents. The old car broke down the day after arrival, from exhaustion grandma said. It proved too costly to repair (the motor and transmission were exhausted) so his parents cut their losses and stayed in Texas, never returned to their rented home and the junk they called their possessions.
All three kids went all the way through high school but Sonny-Bill, being the only male, went on to college because that was family tradition but money ran out at home because his father had run off with a redheaded woman half his age. Sonny-Bill had to return home to work and earn money to run the household.
He worked for almost two years at a feed and grain story and that was the time his father returned home and said 'Sorry.' Maggie with Irish ancestry hit him on the head with the breadboard and then chased him with an axe until she ran out of breath, and that wasn't too far. And hour later when Jake reappeared to test the water she took him back without even a sharp word and they locked themselves in the bedroom for the best part of two days. The kids left drinks and trays of food at the locked door.
Their parents emerged from the bedroom looking like refugees from a famine and that's when Sonny-Bill said to his father, "Take my job at Watson's Freed and Grain Store dad, I'm off."
Life showed no improvement for the young man. He pumped gas, delivered groceries, worked on a pig farm and cleaned roadside drains throughout the county. One day when riding his bicycle looking for work he came across this guy in a small town on the Mexican border who printed and sold college degrees. It was a big investment for Sonny-Bill but he handed across the twenty bucks demanded and walked away with a Master's of Finance from Peckham's Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania.
The fancy certificate was handed over with a cover note reminding the buyer there was no such institution but he/she only had to be emphatic that it did exist and because the name seemed so unlikely to be a fake everyone would accept that assurance without checking.
Sonny-Bill was fortunate to start with a lax firm and so his lack of knowledge passed almost unnoticed and those who did notice thought the Peckham Institute must be a bottom of the heap outfit. Through on-the-job tutoring he gained knowledge on financial management and climbed the promotion ladder, albeit slowly. He looked great and spoke well and that assisted being recruited when he went to different companies and the interviewers were female.
When the call came from his great-aunt to help save the farm (she meant diner) Sonny-Bill's mom contacted him and said he had to go and represent the family in fighting City Hall.
Sonny-Bill wasn't hold how City Hall came to be linked to the fight to save the restaurant but did was he was told by his mom as any good son would do. He resigned from his recently appointed position as an assistant investment manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and headed for Flaxton.
He had to travel without much money after losing heavily at cards and the bank withholding all severance payments following his sudden resignation. That called for an investigation into all of Mr Tripp's activities and transactions in the twenty-three days he'd been with the bank because sudden resignations to be linked to embezzlement was not an unknown reason for resigning abruptly with some cock and bull story about have to go to save the diner.
"Mom there's a guy seven feet tall and wearing a white Stetson coming up the driveway," Felicity called. The lingerie sales assistant was only in her bra and panties and so had no wish to go the door.
"Answer the door," called her mom Jessica.
"No do it yourself."
Jessica yelled, "You cheeky skunk."
Melody who was doing her nails called, "Stevie will get the door mom."
The 6 foot 2 inch blonde shift nurse tossed her Vogue Magazine aside, stood, stretched, tucked her shirt into her jeans and reached the door just as the guy knocked.
She opened it quickly and startled him.
"Gee that was an electrifying response."
"We answer the door every thirty minutes in case someone is about to knock," she said, straight faced.
"Yeah and I lie too. Where's you grandmother?"
"I need to talk to her."
"Why say please?"
Stevie (Stephanie) sighed and said he was difficult to converse with.
"Yeah and now you've had your bitch PLEASE get your grandma."
Stevie turned and yelled, "Mom! Come to the door."
When she'd turned the shirt pulled tightly over the shapely breast, arresting Sonny-Bill's eyes momentarily. He then eyed her entire body and thought wow. Hot stuff.
A pleasant-faced woman, a younger and less worried looking version of his mom, arrived and stood beside gorgeous. The face of Aunt Jessica lit up and she cried "Oh darling" and stepped forward and hugged and kissed the guy.
Stevie was shocked. Who the hell was darling?
"Sonny-Bill you came," cooed her mom. "I haven't see you since I visited your family in Texas nine years ago."
Stevie gasped. Christ Mr Difficult was Cousin Sonny-Bell. He wasn't seven feet tall but was pushing six and a half.
"This beauty is my eldest daughter Stephanie who is twenty-four but you will hear almost everyone but mother and me call her Stevie, the name of her choice."
"Ah so she did that to make it awkward for you?"
"Well I don't think so. One of her friends Pam who was originally named Pamela shortened Stephanie's name in Second Grade and gradually the usage spread and stuck. But to answer you specifically I can say Stephanie never seems to go out of her way to make things awkward for me. In fact she's of great assistance to me."
"The I've been unfair to you Stevie and for that I apologize."
What? Stevie thought. He was calling her Stevie already and apologizing for his rudeness.
"You are my first cousin Sonny-Bill so I guess I can overlook the slur and that makes your apology welcomed although unnecessary."
He ignored that and said, "I'd like to kiss you, er as a greeting."
She held up her lips and was kissed, surprisingly sweetly. Stevie had this feeling she could feel a force radiating from him, something that felt like power.
The manly cousin said, "Hmnm, nice kiss. I'd like some more of those sometime."
Jessica and daughter looked at him thoughtfully.
"Please come in after wiping your feet and meet my other two girls. You will be aware that I'm a divorcee?"
"Yes and you run your own business as a public accountant."
"Yes I'm surprised you know that."
"Yeah well mom told me three times and said to remember there was no Uncle Ted anymore and that you had an accountancy business. I guess she was out to reinforce that information to allow me to impress you."
"What impresses me is your honesty."
Sonny-Bill smiled at her and thought perhaps he should get Aunt Jessica to talk to the Federal Reserve guys who were investigating him for possible fraud.
Stevie floated off to the lounge and Jessica took her nephew to Felicity's room. She was in her underwear removing her stockings but stood to shake hands when introduced. After the exchange of pleasantries Sonny-Bill looked again at the red-lace bra and said, "You have a nice pair."
Felicity blushed but smiled proudly. Her mother grabbed Sonny-Bill and pulled him to the doorway and said, "What is Melody doing?"
"Her nails," Felicity said.
"Then there can be no embarrassment in visiting her," muttered Jessica who knocked and her youngest child called come in.
Melody was doing her toenails.
She saw her mom was with a guy and said calmly, "I believe this is an inappropriate moment to visit me."
She was fully nude.
"Some other time then," Sonny-Bill said, adding it was a pleasure as the girl's mom pushed him out of the room.
In the kitchen Jessica was pouring coffee and said, "You have seen more of two of my daughters that I would have hoped."
"They have fine bodies, a reflection of good breeding. Well done."
Jessica had to put down the coffee carafe she was laughing so much.
After coffee they went to Jessica's Jeep and she drove theme to the diner two miles away. She said the council was moving to compulsorily purchase the diner than was on a valuable corner site and erect a new city library there.
"That's no fair."
The faded blonde sniffed and said, "Well you are on of the few who think that, a handful like you plus a few hundred regular diner patrons."
"A few hundred you say?"
"Yes Sonny-Bill. Why do you ask?"
He said that was valuable information and Jessica shrugged.
"How old is the building?"
"It was built in 1933 by my grand parents."
"Does it have significant architectural merit?"
"I wouldn't think so. It's by far the oldest building fronting civic square and was designed in Art Deco style."
"You're kidding me."
Jessica said she rather liked Art Deco buildings and objects and Sonny-Bill said he'd learned about the style from his mother. They had seen examples in architecture in Fair Park in Dallas and nearer where they lived, the Houston City Hall and also in Houston the JP Morgan Chase Building.
"Are you saying the diner does have architectural merit?"
He said, "If elements of its design are authentic Art Deco I'd have to said yes."
"Well goodness me," Jessica said. "Why didn't we think of that?"
"Look if it's by far the oldest building fronting Civic Square that's a huge plus for not demolishing it because the diner becomes more historic as each year passes."
"Omigod Sonny-Bill, am I glad you've answered mom's call."
"Well my mom probably would have said the same things I've said but I'll fight tougher than she does if there is to be a fight. Where's the process at?"
"The legalities under Eminent Domain allowing council acquisition commenced and mom and her attorney and I decided the offer would be rejected because it contained no mention of compensation. The council was able by law to force us into arbitration because the purpose of acquisition is for public use of the land. Those talks collapsed when I let fly at a councilor who said there was no need to offer compensation to mom at her age because she'd not be around all that long."
"But I understand from reading that under the law compensation is a consideration?"
"Yes but it doesn't have to be offered initially. Well mom took off a shoe and threw it and the shoe at that councilor who made that outrageous comment and it hit him on the chest. He yelled assault but Mayor Rogers told him to shut up. A few minutes later the arbitrator, a retired judge, ended the meeting with both sides agreeing there appeared little point of continuing because we were at a stalemate."
"Thanks, that brings me up to date," Sonny-Bill said. "I'm twenty-eight. How old are you guys?"
"Melody is 22, Felicity 25, Stephanie 28, I'm 51 and mom is 75."
"How old was her mom when she died?"
"And her mother?"
"Eighty-nine I think. Oh god, I can see where this is leading. I must get documentation."
"Yes and consider changing your attorney on this matter. He ought to have anticipated a possible challenge on your mother's ability to continue in business and checked on her health and any longevity in the family."
"Omigod," Jessica said, slapping the steering wheel.
"We really haven't been approaching this as a fight for survival. Mom's business will be one of the oldest if not the oldest surviving businesses in civic square. Her grandparents began operating a diner on the site in 1901. They converted old bank chambers after the bank collapsed and went out of business."
"Jesus. We have them by the balls."
"Sonny-Bill!" Jessica giggled.
She said nothing and he thought back and grinned at it. "It's okay Jessica, you're a big girl."
"God this place is going to be fund having you around."
Jessica detoured slightly and a little later she said, "There's the diner, straight up ahead."
"Jesus," Sonny-Bill gaped. "That's obviously authentic Art Deco or splendid imitation. We need to get photos to an AD authority. It could be a move set."
"I was, not long after I married. An outfit making a Chicago gangster movie used it in the film and covered over its name with the signboard reading, Charlotte's Hotel for Ladies. The wounded crime boss used the hotel to live with his two fancy ladies while covering from surgery after machine-gun bullets were removed from his body."
"Oh Jess I mean Jessica. We really have to get everyone sitting down and giving us half-forgotten history of the diner. It's our duty in history to save the diner. You be in charge and provide the finance and I'll do all the legwork and lead the attack."
"Me in charge? Darling you don't remember you maternal grandmother do you?"
"She can be so utterly charming but be warned, she is very much in charge. Your mother's mother who is also my mother had dragon in her."
Sonny-Bill was left thinking that could present problems in planning strategy and gaining information but it sounded like she'd be a real fighter.
The premises appeared to be in good condition and well maintained but he was no authority on structural integrity, far from it. The main dining room had been relined but hopefully it would be original boarding behind the painted thin linings. They'd win this battle provided Aggie and her daughter could fund it adequately providing the council was unable to come up with a killer blow he hadn't thought of.
A beautiful brunette in a well-fitting business suit came forward to greet them.
"Hi Glenn we are here to see my mother. Glenn Barbour, this is my nephew from Texas Sonny-Bill Tripp.
"Hi Sonny-Bill, great name," she smiled, showing great teeth. He'd noticed the tailoring of the suit jacket had plenty to cover.
"That name bought me many fights when I was young but now most folk when they hear it just look at me and say nothing and perhaps pity me or think I'm a stage actor. Dad wanted to call my Sonny Boy because his dad always called him that when he was a kid. Mom didn't like it but suggested the compromise that I got. Do you run this place?"
She smiled. "Yes I'm day manager. Do you have a complaint?"
"Good humor Glenn. I'd like to see more of you. When do you change clothes?"
Glenn lost their smile and ignoring Sonny-Bill told Jessica to go through.
"You ought not to have spoken to Glenn like that?"
"You don't know everything Aunt Jessica. I endeavored to make an impression. She found interest in my name and now will remember me as the asshole who wanted to see her undressed."
"I can't see that working."
"I'll be dating Glenn within a fortnight."
"That I would have to see. Glenn has been going with the same boy for months."
"But she's not engaged or married?"
"And how old is she?"
"I think your age, twenty-eight. Sonny-Bill I really don't think you ought to treat woman as some sort of quarry?"
"I don't. But what about you? I can't imagine you, being so vibrant and having such energy that you are not without a man."
Jessica, scowling in obvious embarrassment said, "Young man that comment was uncalled for."
He looked away, ignoring her.
His aunt knocked and they entered the office of his grandmother when she called enter.
"Ah so this is my grandson?"
Sonny-Bill had expected Aggie to perhaps look as young as sixty but no she looked her age.
"Hi yes I'm Sonny-Bill here to help you save the diner and I will."
"Well that's encouraging to hear. My lazy daughter didn't bother to come."
"My mother is anything but lazy."
"Oooh, a bit of fire in the belly. That's what I like to hear and you also have the physical presence to stare down those Philistines. I have to say I wasn't being unduly critical of your mother. It's just that I have a rather sharp tongue."
"Thanks for the apology."
Aggie stared at him and Jessica said a little nervously, "Mother doesn't apologize."
"Stop speaking for me Jessica."
Sonny-Bill said, "I'm already liking Aunt Jessica. You'll have to do better if I'm to like you."
He and Aggie locked gazes and he heard Jessica beside him suck in breath.
There was silence until he said, "Well aren't you going to invite is to sit? I was taught it was rude not to sit in someone's home or office until invited and I'm sure Jessica is even more polite than I am."
"So it's Jessica now?"
Sonny-Bill turned to his aunt and she nodded, looking a bit wide-eyed.
"Yes and that clears the way for me to call you Aggie without the tag of 'gran' unless you have objections."
"I see; keen on efficiency are you?"
"I guess so, er when it suits."
She smiled and invited them to sit.
"Jessica will have briefed you."
"Yes, very well I guess. As I see it..."
"You have been here five minutes and you think you can see it all?"
"Please don't interrupt. As I see it you will win this fight providing you front up with the resources and we make the right moves. As your professional consultant I want payment starting from today of fifteen hundred dollars a week and would like you to think favorable on a bonus for results. I think you ought to replace your attorney if only on this matter, hiring one who has had experience in fighting actions under the Eminent Domain law. You have a building of possible national significant, you provide a service to the community and to people passing through the city of doubtless importance. You have one of the oldest if not the oldest buildings fronting Civic Square and the fact that this diner has occupied this site since 1933 means it's a building worthy of civic protection as a building of historic significance."
"How the hell did you get all that information?"
"From your daughter who in effect wasn't really aware she possessed such important information and that it would in gain importance when tied together I and added my bits of knowledge."
"Well my mind is telling me, against my resistance, that you are basically correct but this thing about my attorney make me suspect your arguments are flawed. One thousand a week but you better work hard otherwise the person to be fired will be you."
"Leave that for a moment Aggie. A councilor made what could appear to be a telling comment in arbitration when he alleged... note I said alleged... that at your age you would not be a around much longer. I find it reprehensible that your attorney had not briefed himself sufficiently to be able to counter than by pointing out you gave a right to expect longevity because your mother died at ninety-two and her mother died at eighty-eight."