White Castle
John A. Ward



Rico and the boys were ravenous. They had starved themselves for three days in preparation for their attack on the Viking's Table All-You-Can-Eat Smorgasbord. They dreamed of big baked potatoes with all the necessary condiments, roast beef sliced dripping from the haunch, and yams. Rico was wild about yams. They skidded their flair-finned Chevy Bel Air to a stop on the Stygian asphalt of the suspiciously dark parking lot and piled out, jostling each other to be first to the door. But salivation was beyond their reach. On the padlocked portal hung an ominous sign: "Closed For Remodeling."

So there they were, with the price of one meal and ready for a feast, their shrunken stomachs screaming for relief. They huddled, pooled their collective wits and came to the obvious solution for a carload of belly-rumbling boys in 1957 New Jersey. They headed for the crenellated facade of White Castle, emporium of the fifty-cent hamburger.

They marched in and sat down, bypassing the to-go window because they were serious diners in search of a feast. A waiter came over, order pad at the ready and asked Rico, "What will you have?"

"A dozen burgers, six orders of fries and a Coke," he replied.

"Wait a minute, one at a time, okay?" said the server.

"Okay," said Rico.

"Now, what will you have?"

"A dozen burgers, six orders of fries and a Coke."

"Is this just for you?"

"Yes."

It was not unusual for someone to order three hamburgers, because they were silver-dollar size on a dinner roll bun with a single slice of pickle and a suggestion of onion. But, a dozen for one person was unheard of. The waiter took the orders, each as gargantuan as the first. He gave the order to the cook, who told him to watch them. They looked like a bunch of wisenheimers and this might be a trick. They might be planning to bolt, that is leave without paying. The cook called the manager at home, who said to collect up front. That was unusual in those days, but is common now due to the proliferation of wisenheimers in society. The waiter explained that due to the unusual size of the order, they would have to pay before he could serve them. Subdued by pangs of hunger, they ponied up without protest.

The waiter brought their food. He and the cook sat and watched them eat. It was an otherwise slow night. When they finished, they ordered seconds. When they left and the waiter gathered up the fragments of the meal, there were none. For years after, the waiter and the cook spoke of that night. Today, they are telling their grandchildren.



First published: November, 2003
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