Open the Door, Chuck!

Okay, it seems like every time I tell one Shakey’s story, another one pops into my brain. This one, surprisingly, involves someone y’all might know; if, that is, you’ve been reading any of my other stories.

This one took place after hours while I was still there doing the bookwork, counting the money, and almost ready to get the heck out of there and go home. We were open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, and this was on one or the other of those days. It was nearing one in the morning, and I was tired and ready to go home. One of the young employees was there, waiting for me to give her a ride home.

I almost jumped out of my skin when someone banged on the front door. Michelle—the employee—squealed behind a hand she’d thought to quickly put over her mouth. We looked at each other with wide eyes—whoever was out there could not see us in the office. The door to the office was open, however, and anyone looking in through the large plate glass windows that lined the restaurant could see the office light was on and someone was probably in there.

This particular Shakey’s was on Central Avenue in Phoenix, which was, at that time, a fairly rough neighborhood. A robbery was not out of the question. In fact the person who’d ran this Shakey’s before I took it over had been robbed and beaten severely on more than one occasion; that was why he’d quit the job.

Michelle and I stared at each other; both hoping whoever was out there would give up and go away. No deal. The banging started again, louder and more insistent than before, then the man began yelling.

“Hey!” he shouted. “I know you’re in there! Open the door!”

I reached for the phone on my desk, intending to call the police, but suddenly things got quiet. I didn’t know if this was a good thing or not, but I hoped it meant the guy had given up and left. Michelle was trembling and whispered, “Call the cops!” I raised my hand to signal her to wait then leaned back slowly until I could see around the door jamb. He was still there!

He looked young and had very long straight blonde hair which didn’t mean anything—lots of people had long hair back in the early seventies. But even from where I was the light from the overhead lights shining on his face told me the guy was mad as hell. I ducked back out of his sight, and the banging began in earnest again; the shouting was loud and threatening.

“Open the damn door!”

I grabbed the phone and began to dial, but was stopped by something the guys said. He fairly screamed one word that froze my fingers above the dial.

“Chuck!”

My eyebrows knitted together above my nose, I shot a glance at Michelle, then hung up the phone and stood up. As I was going out the office door, Michelle was pleading in a high squeaky voice for me to not go. I waved her off and said, “It’s okay.” She hissed, “I’m calling the cops!”

I stopped, backed up and said, “Don’t! If I yell, call them, but I think I know who this nut is.”

I walked to the door—the rest of the dining room wall that faced the street was lined with large plate-glass windows—and the guy was standing in front of the one next to the door. He had his arms outstretched and an angry what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you scowl on his face. I actually had to get right up to the window before I was absolutely certain who he was. When he yelled again, eh said exactly what the scowl had indicated he was thinking.

“Open the door, Chuck! What the heck is wrong with you?” He grinned—even with the long hair, I knew without a doubt who it was then—that grin is one of a kind. He threw his arms wide again and added, “Don’t you know your own brother?”

Yep. It was little brother, Ken. I hadn’t seen him for months—maybe even a year—and had never seen him with such long hair. He was much taller than the last time I’d seen him, too. Add to that the fact he’d decided to surprise me with a visit, and you can see where things got kind of messed up.

The key to clearing things up; the reason he wasn’t surrounded by the Phoenix police, was when he yelled, “Chuck!” Ken, you see, is the only person who has always called me Chuck. It very seldom—almost never—that anyone else calls me by that name.

My first question after he was inside and the door was once again locked was, “Why didn’t you identify yourself right away?”

“Identify myself?” he said in a questioning way. “You didn’t recognize your own brother?”

Priceless!

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