Gator-Burgers

I was sitting on the bench eating a Gator-Burger, when a man from the Fish and Game came up to me. “You eating a Gator-Burger?”

I said, ”Yes sir.”

He said, ”Where did you get it?”

I said, “Over at Ollie’s Gator-Burgers.”  Any fool could see that. The wrapper said “Ollie’s Gator-Burgers,” plain as day. Well, him and another Fish and Game went off to Ollie’s. I followed right along. There ain’t much happening in town and this looked like excitement.

They went in and ordered Gator-Burgers and fries. Ollie cooked them up and brung them over. They pulled a plastic box out of a bag, put the Gator-Burgers in, and snapped a lid on. Then they say, “You’re under arrest for cooking an endangered species, and this is evidence.”

Ollie’s jaw dropped open. He said, “I didn’t cook no endangered nothing. I cooked Gator-Burgers!”

They said; “Gators is now on the endangered list, and you cooked em. We’re taking you in.”

Ollie said “I can’t leave the place open like this!”

They said, “We don’t care, you’re coming with us.”

Ollie takes out his keys and throws them at me. “Here, you take care of the place, while I’m gone,” and off they go. I’m just a 16 year old kid, but I was the only one there. He didn’t have much of a choice.

I sat for a while wondering what to do, when a customer came in.

“Where’s Ollie?”

I said, “Ollie’s not here.”

“Well, I want a Gator Burger and coffee.”

I said, “OK”, and went behind the counter.

You’d never know it, but it’s a whole different world, behind the counter. I mean, from the front all you see is the ketchup, sugar, salt, and pepper. But on the back side, there are plates, cups and saucers, silverware, glasses, napkins, and everything.

I had watched Ollie cook, so I knew what to do. Under the grill, was a drawer with Gator-Burger patties, and buns. I put one on the grill, and got him coffee. I flipped the patty and opened a bun and put it face down to warm. There was a cold drawer next to the grill, with tomatoes, lettuce, and dressing. I put the bun on a plate, added, lettuce, tomato and dressing, then the patty, and served it up.

He ate it, without complaint. The burger was $1.25, the coffee, $.75. I rang up $2.00, and put it in the till. He gave me $.25 tip. I put that in my pocket. I spent all day cooking  Gator-Burgers and serving coffee.

It was summer and school was out, or I’d be up the creek. I was tall for my age, and people just accepted me.

I got home about 9:30. Ma said, “Where you been all day?”

I said, “You’ll  read about it in the morning papers.”

Well, you sure did. There was not much news in town, and this was big stuff. There were big headlines in the papers:

‘OLLIE ARRESTED FOR KILLIN AND GRILLIN’

‘GATOR GRINDER GETS  NABBED.’

Then there were stories about the ‘Plucky youth who was taking over during Ollie’s absence’

Well, the next day was hell. Everybody came in for the last of the Gator-Burgers. We ran out, but a restaurant supply truck came by with regular burgers, and saved me. I made up a big sign:

‘WE CANT SELL GATORS NO MORE, BUT OLLIE’S STILL GOT THE BEST BURGERS IN TOWN’.

People just kept coming in. Gator, or no Gator.  We kept the “OLLIE’S GATOR-BURGER” sign, cause that was the name of the place. Ollie got two years, I got made a partner. I dropped out of school, and made more money than anybody.

That just goes to show you that crime pays, sometimes very well.

  (Written Jan 12, 2014)

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