Fast Fool by Michael C. Keith

A racist private eye recalls a time he lost his temper in a fast food joint; by Michael C. Keith.

Beware the fury of a patient man.
- John Dryden

One time I lost it and went way over the line, letting my temper get the best of me. Hey, I'll admit I have a short fuse, but on that particular occasion, I really just let it rip. Sure, I was drag-ass tired after a day shadowing this broad who was cheating on her old man, but that's no excuse for putting myself in a potentially bad situation. An assault charge and my PI license is a goner... and so am I, for that matter. Not a damn other thing I can do to make a living. No other skills, period. Suppose I grew up dumb on that score, but it's not been so bad. Got plenty of freedom, if not a lot of dough.

Anyway, here's what happened. I was on my way back to my pad, and I stopped at this White Castle on Langley for burgers... love those quarter size heartburns. So the joint was empty at 2 AM, except for this black dude waiting at the takeout counter. I took my place next to him and waited for service. Finally, this young Latino comes out from the back and begins cleaning the grill, totally ignoring us.

Well, me and this other customer just stood there figuring the guy would stop what he was doing and take our order. Wrong. He just kept scraping at the frigging grill like we weren't even there. The black cat looked at me and rolled his eyes, and I did the same back. Still, we didn't say or do anything, but I could feel my blood pressure beginning to rise. Is this patty flipper deaf, dumb, and blind? I wondered, and cleared my throat loud enough to be heard a block away.

Okay, still nothing. Now I realize he's making some kind of 'fuck you' statement, and I'm not having it any longer. I consider hopping over the counter and whacking him in his greasy noggin, but then I come up with another idea. I grab hold of a squeezable mustard container and fling it at him like I'm Roger Clemens. Threw it hard as a son of a bitch. And, man, to my supreme delight it lands on his head and bursts open, splattering its yellow contents all over him.

He's totally shocked by my fast ball and just stands there not believing what's just happened to him. The black dude standing next to me looks astonished, too, and then he smiles and gives me a high five. Now I know it's time to get the frig out of there to avoid some real shit flying, like the taco head calling the cops or something. So I hightail it from the place, and jump into my car. By the time I pull away, the refried is coming out of the door and yelling at me. I gun it and fly past him, giving him the benefit of my middle finger.

On my drive home, I can't stop laughing at what just happened - about how the mustard bottle landed so perfectly on the stupid prick's head. "Jesus," I mumble to myself as I reach my digs, "It just popped open and covered him. How freaking great was that? Asshole didn't get hurt either. That's good, but he got the point. Damn right, he did. Wonder if he'll pull that shit attitude on customers anymore?"

In the back of my mind, a little voice warns me that he may have gotten my plate number, but I just don't give one shit if he did or didn't. I'm feeling too high about everything at the moment. Besides, there's no way the other customer there would give me up for that wetback, I tell myself. He was as pissed as I was, and if I'm any judge of character, he was about to tear that burrito's head off, too.

Still, I have a hard time getting to sleep, because I can't stop thinking about those tasty White Castle burgers I didn't get. Maybe I'll go back tomorrow and get some and see if that enchilada got the mustard out of his dew rag.

The next day I go back to the White Castle because I still have this major craving for their bitsy burgers. I'm curious, too, if the Rican, or whatever he is, is there. I know I could get in trouble if he remembers me, but I do crap like this. I got a self-destructive side to me that's come close to doing me in a couple of times. Can't explain what it is. Maybe got it from my old man. He tried to off himself in a couple of times, but finally was done in by his three-pack a day habit.

So sure as hell when I get there, who's behind the counter still working the grill? Yup, it's him. No shit. I take a seat at the counter, and he immediately takes my order. What the...! You don't recognize me? What's with the good service, too? I wonder, and I order a half-dozen of their artery cloggers and a cup of Joe. Damned if he doesn't thank me with a wide smile. Yeah, what the...?

I gulp down my food and get ready to leave. As soon as I rise from my stool, a cop stops me and asks if I was in the place the night before. I play dumb. Then he tells me an employee says I attacked him.

"No way," I say, and show him my detective permit.

"Oh, yeah," he says, "I heard of you. Guys at the station say you're a standup guy. Helped them solve a couple cases."

"Yeah," I say. That was me."

The cop calls the White Castle loser over and questions him. "So you say he hit you with something? What something was that?"

"Mustard. He hit me with a mustard container, and it got all over me."


"Huh? No, Gulden's."

The cop turns back to me and says he's got to take me in, because attacking someone with Gulden's instead of French's mustard is a felony.

The lowrider and me look at each other with a "you got to be kidding me" expression on our mugs.

"C'mon," the cop says, grabbing me by the arm, and then he lets go and starts laughing like a hyena. "Leave a tip to cover his dry cleaning," he says, pointing to the mule.

When the flatfoot's gone, I put a fiver on the counter to pay for my food.

"Keep the change," I say, and begin to leave.

"Hey, this ain't gonna cover the cost of cleaning my uniform, man," says the nacho, waving his spatula threateningly.

This gets my goat, and I reach for the ketchup container this time.


  1. how many times have we felt like doing something similar?
    great dead pan style, has the feel of old black&white 50s film. really liked it. you have a great character here, hope he returns!

    Mike McC

  2. ... and where the hell did it all end? It seems the PI got his comeuppance anyway. A pacey tale told with attitude- good quality slapstick,

  3. Yup, could be a continuing character.

  4. Good thing it wasn't Grey Poupon. That would have warranted a life sentence without parole. ;-)

  5. Exquisite! Big fun ---- great character and a tasty plot, too. I like it!

  6. Another killer story, Michael.

  7. Great pace. Enjoyable. My kind of story. Good job!

  8. Great pace. Enjoyable. My kind of story. Good job!