The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Dusk At The Diner

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2011

This post is part of the September 2011 Blog Chain at Absolute Write, wherein the challenge is to respond to a picture. In this instance, Edward Hopper’s seminal piece of Americana, the 1942 composition “Nighthawks”. Even if you haven’t seen the original before, you’ve probably seen the image in other media.

It was great fun watching the strands of the narrative come together last month, so this post follows on directly from the first post in the chain, so head over and read that first. I was conscious of the era and setting when putting this together, so some of the references may be more oblique than I would normally throw into something like this.

Acknowledging the historical events of 1941, while writing something which is (hopefully) entertaining to read, was harder than I expected, though weaving in enough for the following participants to play with was quite entertaining. I guess, if anything, you can explain this away as another episode in my Wold Newton obsession.

Dusk At The Diner – Part II


Allison tapped her foot nervously as a police car drove slowly past the diner. “Max, another coffee over here.”
“Sure thing, ma’am,” came the reply from behind the counter.
“That’s a mighty fine ring you are wearing,” Charlie remarked, almost offhandedly, as he slid his hat off the counter and clutched it in his lap. “It’s not often you see something like that hereabouts.”
“It was a gift.”
“I’m sure. Looks a lot like the kind Sala and her air pirates wore.”
“How did you-”
“Seems that throwing your lot in with the commies isn’t your worst sin. And what, precisely, is your interest in the book? Don’t tell me you’re another Aristide Torchia obsessive?”
“You seem to be clutching that hat awfully tight. A girl might think you’re using it to hide your interest.”
“And you’re changing the subject.”
Max placed a fresh coffee in front of Allison, nodding to Charlie before moving to the back of the diner.
“The book is important to an old friend.”
“This old friend wouldn’t happen to be named Strack by any chance?” Charlie asked.
“Eddie Valentine, actually.”
“Well, lady, you sure know how to make friends with all the wrong people.”
“Strange times make for strange bedfellows.”


Max raised the knife and plunged it into the slab of meat, levering the blade and slicing it in two. Separating the flesh from the bone was not as difficult as he had imagined, and, once he had removed the head and hands, the trembling voice in the back of his head had stopped questioning. He could get away with this if he was careful, and mixed in just enough of the regular meat so as not to affect the taste of the burgers.
“Hiya, Max.”
Spinning on the spot, the knife still held in his hand, Max looked for the speaker.
“You did a nice job there. Probably better than you expected.”
“Who is that? Who’s there?”
“C’mon, you can’t tell me you’ve never read Edgar Allan Poe? The Telltale Heart? Ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom.”
“This ain’t funny, whoever you are.”
From the shadows stepped the last man Max expected to see – the man he had spent the last three hours cutting into pieces…


Vince stared into the large window of the diner, and paled as he saw his reflection. The last week had been hard, and it was now showing in how gaunt and weary he appeared. From somewhere east of him, the police sirens which intermittently cut through the night began again. Another guy in a gray hat was probably being questioned about the killing two towns over – the only consolation he had was that the eyewitness accounts were so vague. It would be impossible to convict a man on the color of his hat alone.
Jingling the loose change in his pocket, he decided that the safest place to be was off the street. If that meant he had to spend his last remaining money on a warm cup of coffee and a meal, then that was what he had to do.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here.
robeiae (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines
dolores haze

12 Responses to “Dusk At The Diner”

  1. ralfast said

    Lots of story seeds plus air pirates. You can’t beat that! 😀

  2. Alynza said

    Ooo the ring! I see this going to great places. 🙂

  3. […] Tweet of the Day: Dusk at the Dinner […]

  4. “From the shadows stepped the last man Max expected to see – the man he had spent the last three hours cutting into pieces…”

    Hahahah, PRICELESS.


  5. Excellent job continuing the story from the first post. I didn’t realize we were doing that. I’m confused as usual.

  6. BigWords said

    To be completely honest, I had no idea this was going to be an extended narrative either. The opportunity was too delicious to pass up, so I figured I would throw this open as another continuing narrative. Everyone who follows is free to carry on with the tale as it is, or write an original story as they see fit.

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. It’s good to know I didn’t ruin this. 🙂

  7. Max has weird hours…

    Nice work!

  8. Nice to see the ring again. Sorry I didn’t read first before posting so I could continue the narrative. But I like this little glimpse you’ve given us, though I won’t want to eat a hamburger for a really long time now :).

  9. Dale Long said

    Man-o-man! First you capture the vernacular and tone of the time period and gumshoe periodicals, but then you throw in the Air Pirates? I LOVE when authors hide little nods and winks to fans of a genre in their writing. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    It read like the radio shows sounded. And I love The Shadow type mystery man that confronts Max. I thought Max looked nervous in the picture.


  10. BigWords said

    Thank you – this was a bit of a departure for me, so I wasn’t entirely certain that I had captured the tone. One of the reasons for the cluster of in-jokes and era-specific references was my nervousness at attempting something so obviously pulpy.

  11. Cath said

    Wow, uh somewhat grim and bloodthirsty. This got a whole lot darker a whole lot quicker.

  12. alexp01 said

    Ow, my characters!

    Just kidding. It’s kind of neat to see these people from a very grounded mystery suddenly turn a corner into fantasy and intrigue.

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