Waffle House is full of people who are fleeing a hurricane. While I write this, Hurricane Michael is circulating in the Gulf like a Margarita in a cheap blender. I’ve seen TV footage of this storm filmed from outer space. This sucker looks angry.
Hurricane Michael slowed down last night, but meteorologists tell us he’ll get meaner when he hits warm Gulf water.
Satellite images on the national news projected the eye of the storm making landfall around 7:00 PM. Then, computer models estimate that Michael will gain strength and run directly into my garage door.
So this is what everyone’s talking about at this interstate Waffle House. This one-room building is alight with nervousness in the air. We are all evacuees, eating waffles and hash browns.
“You think the storm will hit our house, Mom?” says a boy behind me. He might be six years old.
His mother is tall, lean, and wearing a service uniform. A hotel maid, maybe. Or perhaps she works in dry cleaning. Her hair is a mess. Her eyes are baggy like she hasn’t slept in ten years.
“Hush,” she says. “And eat your dinner.”
But the boy is becoming anxious. He’s hardly touching his waffle. “What about our house?” he says to his mother. “What’ll happen to it?”
“Eat, I said.”
“When will we be able to go back home?”
“I don’t know, now quit worrying and eat.”
Join the crowd, kid. You and two million others. Michael is a storm that threatens to suck our houses from the foundations and launch them into orbit somewhere near Jupiter.
Behind the boy is an old man seated on a stool at the counter. The man wears a cap with “Massey Ferguson” embroidered on the front. He overhears the boy and his mother.
The man wipes his mouth, leans over the divider, and says, “You ever seen a fifty-cent piece?”
The boy doesn’t know how to answer, so he doesn’t.
The mother smiles with an uncomfortable face. The last thing she needs tonight is for her son is to disrupt someone’s supper.
“Answer him,” his mother says. “Go on, tell him.”
“No,” the boy says in a weak voice.
His mother elbows him.
“No SIR,” the boy adds.
The old fella smiles. He reaches into his jean pocket and removes a silver half-dollar. He holds it to the light. The kid stares at it. He knows he’s supposed to be impressed, but he’s not. It’s just a coin.
“This thing is magic,” the old man says.
“Nuh uh,” the kid says.
The old man looks hurt. “You don’t believe me?”
The kid shakes his head.
“Oh no? Well, watch this.”
The old man shuts his eyes. His furry eyebrows are the picture of every American grandfather you’ve ever seen. He holds his palm facing upward, he places the coin on his open hand.
With eyes still closed, he says, “I’m gonna make this coin turn from heads to tails by resting my hand on it.”
The kid is skeptical.
The man places his hand over the coin. He breathes. He whispers something like: “Sim sim, balla bim, hocus pocus.”
The boy is craning his neck forward. So is his mother. And the waitress.
The man opens his eyes. His bushy eyebrows raise in a smile. He lifts one hand. The coin is gone.
The boy’s eyes are bigger than truck tires.
“Hey! Where’d it go?” the kid says.
The man rubs his chin. “Now let me see… Where DID it go? Gee wiz, must be around here somewhere.”
The man looks under his plate. He checks his back pockets. He pats his shirt.
“Guess it’s gone,” he says.
But the man begins to cough. Not a real cough. This is all for show. He covers his mouth with a fist and a half dollar falls out.
The kid almost passes a kidney stone.
“That’s COOL!” the kid says—which is the highest compliment a child can pay an old man. “Do it again!”
“Ssshhh,” says his mother. “Quit bothering this man and finish your food.”
“How did you do that?” the kid says.
The old man hands the child the fifty-cent piece. He winks. “Magic.”
Then, the man pays for his meal. Before he leaves, he tells the kid to mind his mama. He leaves the restaurant and I see him through the window. He crawls into a large truck and he is gone.
I don’t know where he is right now, or where he’s going. But I know that no matter what kind of hellish hurricanes hit this old world, there is a special place in Heaven for old men who can make little children forget about them.
Britton Jade - October 10, 2018 5:51 am
You never cease to amaze me. Stay safe. I’m here in FL with you. ?
Connie Havard Ryland - October 10, 2018 6:33 am
Be safe. I hope you found shelter without too much trouble. I’m an old Alabama woman, and have been through my share of storms. This one is going east of me, but my friends in Florida and beyond are in my prayers. Love and hugs to you and your family.
Pamela McEachern - October 10, 2018 6:55 am
I am praying for God’s Mercy for everyone and all animals in the path of this storm. Please protect them all Heavenly Father.
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Mary - October 10, 2018 8:39 am
Glad so many are heeding the warnings! Y’all all stay safe. Texas is a good landing spot, barring any unforeseen change in direction! Sorry about the mess it’s gonna make, but at least y’all will be safer. Be careful!
Karen Dees - October 10, 2018 9:13 am
You too Sean, he’s a mean un .
GaryD - October 10, 2018 9:19 am
Yall be safe.
Nancy Thomaston Rogers - October 10, 2018 9:33 am
Thank Heaven for Old Men and Waffle Houses.
Kelly - October 10, 2018 9:44 am
Be safe. Prayers coming up from Central Florida.
Terri C Boykin - October 10, 2018 11:13 am
Y’all stay safe, ya hear? Praying for everybody concerned. Love you much Sean.
Grace - October 10, 2018 11:45 am
Stay safe. Prayers for all in this and any storm!
Joyce Mullikin - October 10, 2018 11:56 am
Stay safe. Praying for you & everyone else in the storms path.
Linda Brown - October 10, 2018 11:57 am
Praying for all our panhandle friends! Our favorite winter home
Jo Ann - October 10, 2018 12:33 pm
Praying that you & your family of 2-legged & 4-legged beings will be safe, also your home will survive whatever comes. Thank Heaven for Waffle Houses everywhere.
Jean Aguanno - October 10, 2018 12:46 pm
Praying for you and all of the gulf coast folks. Stay safe.
LeAnne Martin - October 10, 2018 1:06 pm
Amen to that! Praying for you and your dear ones, and for everyone in the eye of the storm. Stay safe, Sean! The world needs you.
Sandra Smith - October 10, 2018 1:26 pm
Hope y’all are somewhere SAFE this morning, Sean.
THINGS can be replaced, believe me, I know.
YOU CAN NOT !
Amy Smith Whitesides - October 10, 2018 2:16 pm
that's jack - October 10, 2018 2:33 pm
Us old men do that. We love it. I carry Gold dollars for the same reason,it is a thrill to see a kids eyes change when a minute ago they were rowdy or crying. Ca-doos to the old man!,
Edith Clark - October 10, 2018 2:40 pm
I hope you have something left after Michael visits your home
Jack Quanstrum - October 10, 2018 2:45 pm
Wonderful story! In the face of adversity!
Brenda - October 10, 2018 3:44 pm
So thankful I got to meet you, I feel blessed
June - October 10, 2018 3:51 pm
Prayers for those in the path of hurricane Michael including my family and friends and you and yours Sean.
Phillip Saunders - October 10, 2018 3:58 pm
Super story, Sean. You are right, Thank the Lord there are still guys in this old world like the Massey Ferguson magician. I am praying for you and your loved ones and all those waffle-gorging evacuees and for yours and their homes to be spared.
Gordon - October 10, 2018 4:17 pm
You stay safe, Sean.
Janet Mary Lee - October 10, 2018 7:24 pm
Waffle houses are beacons of help in emergencies! Thank the Lord for them and the occupants! Just be safe and I pray for protection for your family, friends, and all in the path ! My heart aches for people, animals, livestock, and all creatures at this time! Hang tough!!
Shelton Armour - October 11, 2018 12:26 am
All of you in the Panhandle take care. Irma scared me to death last year and Michael looks to be even worse. God bless all of you and keep you and your homes safe. People are praying for you all including this old man.
Ellen - October 11, 2018 1:12 am
The magic between old men and children is real!! Stay safe! ❤️
Clark Hining - October 11, 2018 7:41 pm
I’ve always said that every young boy needs an old man around. Another home run Sean! Thanks and keep em coming.
Anita Crabtree - October 11, 2018 10:32 pm
Sean I have had the pleasure of seeing you once in Hartford then following your blog on email and this is one of your best writing because it did release the Fear of a child at least for a few minutes. I have a fishing cabin on Jolly Bay so I truly relate to your talking about Black Creek. When my family lived in Texas I worried about my mom if she was at our Bayhouse or in Geneva our permanent house