Sometimes, you want the glass window painted “Chuck’s Donuts,” the spring-slammed screen door, the poorly-drawn dinosaur on the smoke-yellowed walls, the curled Polaroids, the cathedral-high ceiling and time-tortured floor, veterans astride rusty barstools, the unseen Chinese baker and his unseen recipe… the psychic struggles of AA contestants bleeding through from the meeting next door, the throwback-bad coffee from the never-washed pot, the carcasses of printed news strewn across the burned and scarred linoleum tables, dads and daughters staring into the display, pointing their choices, the gregarious Downs man (always glazed raised) and his mom (always jelly-filled), the high-octane circus-barker owner, the wall-eyed cashier who lived in a haunted house… the percussion of the cash register, the small talk and mumblings about politics, injustice, weasels in Washington, the senseless violence of the front page… the friend with a cicada practical joke, the plastic letters on the plastic board—sign and prices unchanged in forty years… the membership of stepping into the kitchen, past the WWII-vintage dough machine with the arm-ripping kneaders, navigating the stacks of trays, the sacks of flour, the cool grease to access the primitive toilet… trading low cholesterol to be part of the family…
Sometimes, you just want a donut.
Chuck’s, requiescat in pace.
Everybody has a thing.
For some people it’s a bar.
For others it’s church.
Me and Cliffy, we had Chuck’s.
We’d go on stray mornings over the past five years or so – ever since I moved into the neighborhood. No reason why. Just to do it, I guess. I’d show up, sit on a stool, fiddle with the newspaper and point to an applesauce special. Chuck, who the place was not named after, would set it on the counter on a piece of tissue paper. Cliff would show up and start eating mine, which was ok…because I’d like to think I’m ok with sharing.
Besides, I don’t even like donuts. They’re disgusting, really.
I’ll get fat on ‘em, but Cliff hasn’t been able to put on a pound since he got a nasty case of amoebic dysentery at Hooters. But I’d show up anyway, and Cliff would bring his own coffee in because the coffee there was awful, and we’d sit and talk…to each other, to the guy with down syndrome and his grandmother, sometimes to Chuck behind the counter. We were frequents, and we had a card to prove it – though we never redeemed it.
We went through apple fritters and Cliffy starting his woodshop, raised glazed and me quitting my dumb job, old fashioneds and the intricacies of how to catch woodpeckers.
And now we don’t.
Chuck’s closed a couple years back – a casualty of the war on I-25, though some have flung around rumors of krispy kreme world domination, health code violations and back taxes. Can’t say we were surprised.
I thought I wouldn’t miss it, but I do of course. Not the donuts, but the thing.
So, if you see two guys wandering the streets with a chewed up Frisbee, nice-fitting pants and a sense of longing…don’t be afraid…it’s just me and Cliffy looking for a place to be, a new thing, a place to redeem our card. Anywhere will do.