Song of Sinai, Chapter 3

Song of Sinai, Chapter 3

A Chapter by M. L. Zane

For whom does the bell toll?




Nice place you’ve got here. Not yours, Johnny Boy, but the guy running this hash shack should be proud. Even in the midst of the filth, it’s nice to see a clean establishment. Oh, a woman owns the place? Close enough.

Nice waitresses too. I decline looking at the menu. I know exactly what I want. But you, boy…that I do not know. All eyes on you, kiddo. Out of the kitchen comes a pretty little thing with too much makeup and too many nails, announcing her presence with the familiar chime of a school bell. Literally. Lacey’s Café holds a unique trademark of ringing an old bell whenever an order is up in the kitchen. Why or how they got it is beyond this old vagrant, but it’s an identifying mark that you can’t miss. Johnny seems a little put off by it, but I get the impression he had a joyless childhood.

“Just coffee for me.” Yep. My turn?

“Gimme the meatloaf. Mashed potatoes. Throw in a bread roll.”

Pretty little Barbie waitress scribbles it all down before asking me, “Anything to drink with that?”

“Yeah. Glass of water, no ice. Slice of lemon and one packet of sugar.”

“We have lemonade, if you’d prefer that.” She purses her lips up, giving me a sour look. Makes me wonder if she tested the lemons herself.

I shake a hand, washing an invisible window. “Nah. I like it watered down. Never could drink the sweet stuff.”

She shrugs, and struts off, shaking her tail feathers like the love of her life wanted a slice. I don’t bother with a second glance, hearing the school bell over the kitchen ring as she picks up a new plate. Never liked playing with dolls. A fresh gunshot rings out in the background, and Johnny Boy’s looking pretty nervous, doodling it up in his notebook; left handed. Interesting.  Anyway, I’m used to it, as are the other patrons. Somebody got capped, but that somebody was somewhere else. Just about all we can ask for.

John just can’t stand sitting in silence while I slip the salt shaker into my pocket, the only sound ringing from customers and the scritchy scratch of his pen against crisp paper. Out of indignation or a desperate distraction from a distant murder, he wrinkles his lips at me, assuming I didn’t notice. I ain’t one to let a gift horse give me lip.

“I saw that, kid.”

He sighs, sipping nervously at his coffee. “It seems a little extreme to steal salt shakers. Why bother?” Looks like the distraction worked. A*****e.

“I happen to like salt. Besides, I’m already stealing a free meal from you. No reason I can’t preserve the occasion.”

He doesn’t get it. “What?”

“Salt. Preservative.”

With another jittery sip, he raises an eyebrow. He clicks his tongue, soaking in the bitter flavor. “Yeah, but not table salt.”

My elbows take the table. “I didn’t mean it literally, Johnny Boy. It’s called word play. You know, fun with words.”

“I know what ‘fun’ means.”

I have my doubts, kid. Glad the drinks got put out, or I might’ve thrown back a snap at the joyless tyke.  A packet of sugar makes a great distraction, especially if you open the pack just right. Very small hole, very careful tipping, and you have a sugar hourglass to draw pretty designs on the surface of the drink. I scoop up the lemon, giving it a lick. Love the bite.

“How old are you, Johnny Boy?”

He raises an eyebrow, and all but his hand stops to focus on me. “What?”

“Age. Years. Birthdays. Years young. Excuses to get drunk.”

Puzzled, he answers me. “Just turned twenty a month ago.”

I give the lemon another long, thoughtful lick. I chuckle, and he jumps in before I have a chance to speak up. “Having fun?”

I crush the lemon to a pulp in my fist, letting the juices ooze into my water. “Smashing.”

As my hands remained unwashed since being kindly taken off the streets, this drew a look of disgust from the clearly sensitive Johnny Boy. He probably had a point too…I could use a shower, unless black is the hot color this season. My shades are starting to match my complexion.

Just as Johnny gets cozy, the bell goes off again. Kid’s nerves are so shot that he jumps a little. Might wanna check your pants. I give him a crocodile smile.

“Those bells will kill ya.”

He gives me a sigh of concentrated ‘I hate you’, as his doodling kicks up to the extreme. This kid’s a hoot.

The fine details of this excursion are boring. We had lunch. Oh, and I might have torn into my meat and potatoes like a wild beast. Animal, maybe. Starved, definitely. The whole time, this kid stares me down over dark coffee. Welcome to the zoo. Watch old Amos at feeding time. Don’t get too close; might lose a hand. Big Dog ain’t the only one with fangs. Wait, hold up. I hear something sweet on the jukebox. Stop the presses.

“Something the m-”

“Shut it. Listen.”

There he is. Mister Louis Armstrong, washing my ears with soft oils and a gentle hand. Every word and every note takes me back to another time. Better times, with hot showers, good books, and…family. Things change, and it’s all different now. Stay or go? Old times or new times? Cream or sugar? It’s nice to think about. Give me a kiss to build a dream on…


I jam a fork into the table, staring off in my dream world. I might’ve given John the finger, but kinda hard to say. Armstrong knows just how to drag me off. Reminds me of the good old days at the farm. Friends, family, and brotherhood. I lost the memory, but we’re back again. For a little while.

Good old days. Stupid term, but my imagination will drive upon that kiss. Onomatopoeia. Trumpet sounds. I wonder how you spell that? Ah, s**t, the songs over. Minutes turn to seconds in memory, and it melts like butter in a hot pan, leaving a little burning smell in my brain. Kid’s still staring, though his jaw is a little slacked. Never seen a man shank a table before, I guess.

His lip quivered, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think the kid feared for his well being. I haven’t stabbed a guy since the soup can thing last February. You oughta be more trusting, Johnny Boy. “Can…can I talk now?”

“Yep. Songs over. ” Inside, I’m exhaling smoke from a long drag. Heaven.

Johnny reaches into his pocket, drawing out a cigarette. As he’s reaching for his lighter, I snatch it, tossing it over my shoulder. I’m making this kid nervous again, and it’s damn fun. “Okay. What-” ‘What’ nothin’, kid.

“Nope. My turn.”

Exasperated, Johnny sighs.“Your turn to what?”

“Questions.  I got a few.”

Kid is visibly frustrated, though he’s doing his best to cover. Little Johnny probably never told a lie to anyone but his mama about the last cookie.

“Like what?”

This youngster is due for a plot twist at some point, so I’ll shake him up a bit. The steak knife makes a great toothpick, after dusting off the wood shavings. In between scrapes, I’ll interrogate the little squirt.

“Why do you care so much about Big Dog? Never figured there were degrees in myths and legends, ‘specially of the urban variety.”

Looks like the plot twist is on the other page this time. Johnny Boy looks away. I think I’ve pressed where he doesn’t want to be pressed. Good. But, I’m not a cruel b*****d.

“Cat got your tongue, kid?” Okay, maybe I am.

Would love to know what’s eating John about such a benign and justified question, but it’ll have to wait. Getting the last scrap of meatloaf and onion bits out of my teeth, I lean forward and smile. He raises a hand, stopping me from more mischief.

“Not right now, Amos.”

Casually pocketing the pepper shaker, I give him a dominating leer, still grinning. “Aww, I see how it is. Let old hobo man tell all the stories, and you just sit and listen. Not fair at all, kid.”

He pleads, ever so unbecoming. “Leave it be.”

“For now?”

Chugging steaming black courage from his mug, Johnny agrees. He takes in the brew with a quaking hand. Lefty ain’t real reliable. “For now.”

Have half a crocodile smirk. I’m thinking.“Okey dokey, I’ll take that.” My name ain’t Sherlock, but even my wrinkly a*s can see that hand’s not for poker.  

Let’s upgrade that smirk to full smile, free of charge. “So, you want a tale from old uncle Amos.”

He stares through me, clearly sick of my monkey shines. I’ll give him a break.

“All right, kid. I’ll tell you a story. Remember that pup I told you about?”

There, that did it. Eyes on me again. Time for the show. The spotlight shines brightly, and I’m glad my eyes have protection. No photographs, please. Prohibited during the performance, ushers are packing flashlights, find your seat and shut up. Thank you, you’re too kind.

“His name was Cassius. Cass-shuss. Funny sounding name, ain’t it?”

Kid relaxes a bit, sinking his shoulders. He gives me that ‘you piss me off sometimes’ eye, and the poker leftie cools his jets. Poker leftie? Yeah, I like that. Let’s make it a proper noun; ‘Poker Leftie’. Congrats, kid. I just named your hand.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

I slip the shaker out of my pocket, sprinkling a little bit into my palm. Over the shoulder, onto a clean table. C’est la vie. “If you want to know anything about Big Dog, you gotta start with the pup. And boy, let me tell you. You may not have seen anything wrong with it…but the Roman Empire sure did. He was the black pyramid on their doorstep.”

He’s confused. Understandable. Rich boys never see the symbol. “Trinity, kid.” I form a triangle with my index fingers and thumbs. “I’ll explain later.”

The waitress is buzzing around us like a fly over a fresh deposit until she hovers at our table. I raise two fingers, still too unwashed for the comfort of my young friend. “Apple pie. Heat it up. Pass on the ice cream.”

Johnny Boy never ceases to surprise me. “Yeah…I never liked ice cream much either.” You’re all right, son.

© 2014 M. L. Zane

Author's Note

M. L. Zane
As usual, if you enjoyed it, spread the word.

My Review

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Pretty exciting book, the writing style's really funny and amusing to read.
I like the main character, gruff and such, and this future.
You wouldn't, by any chance, be completing this?

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M. L. Zane

8 Years Ago

SOS is on the way to an Amazon release soon. I'm waiting on confirmation of royalty info (so, tax st.. read more

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1 Review
Added on January 7, 2014
Last Updated on February 18, 2014
Tags: Chapter Three, Run Iscariot, John, Amos, Lacey's Cafe, Bells, Yearley


M. L. Zane
M. L. Zane

Canton, OH

UPDATE: Song of Sinai is finished. Sample chapters available. Give it a peek. If you like, you can pick up a copy for your Kindle here: Now, on with the profi.. more..