Category Linkin Park
Mike thanked the waitress for the coffee, even though he had ordered tea. She left the table with a smile and the confidence that she would be getting a good tip from the nice man that had been so polite. “I’m waiting on someone,” he had told her when he’d first sat down, stuffing his ball cap and jacket in the booth beside him. “I’ll wait and order after he gets here, but I’d love a cup of coffee.”
She remembered him saying coffee.
Mike remembered saying tea. I even asked what kind of teas they had and she named them off: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Lemon Zest, and something from Lipton, he thought as he dug through the little white ceramic dish that held the sweeteners.
He pulled his cellphone from his pocket as he stirred the artificial sweetener into his coffee. The spoon swirled in the cup like a small hurricane. He checked the time - 11:05. Mike sat his phone on the table and peered out the window. There was a handful of cars in the diner’s parking lot, and right across from that was Lincoln Park. Mike let his chin rest on his palm as he leaned on his elbow and smiled. The small park hadn’t changed much over the years. Trees lined the one side, casting their shadows over the benches and pathways that wound from one side to the other. On the far side was a small play area and beyond that was a basketball court.
I won last time, Mike remembered as he pictured the two hoop court in his mind. The cement was cracked and the nets of the baskets were usually moments from falling off, but they worked. He and his friends had played many games there. Sometimes they played for money - $10 a game or the infamous swap. Clothes, furniture, artwork, and decorative items of all types were on the line. It was never easy to go home and tell your wife that you lost the coffee table in a game of basketball, but that didn’t stop any of them from doing it. That was the game, it was part of the thrill. Part of the bet. Mike recalled that he once lost his favorite shirt in a game against his band’s bassist. Dave had won, it had been fair, and in the end Mike had to hand over his favorite shirt, the one he’d gotten during their last European tour.
One day I’ll get that back, Mike thought as he checked the time again. When Chester had called the night before and asked if Mike would meet him at the diner, Mike knew it was serious. This was the place. This was the place where they had their first meeting with Chester when he had flown up from Arizona to audition for their band over 15 years ago. This was the place they had gathered to celebrate their record deal when one had finally been offered after years of bad shows and begging people to notice them. This was where Mike had told his bandmates that he was getting married. This was where Chester had announced the news of his wife being pregnant, and every time there was a new child added to their ranks, it was around these tables that they heard about it. After every new album was finished, with last words sang and last chords played, Mike and his bandmates would come here and have a meal together. Before each tour and at the end of every tour, this is where they would sit and plan or reminisce. It was their place for things of importance and major announcements and decisions, and now Chester had something to say.
Mike sipped his coffee and a grimace followed. Decaf. Why? He sat the cup down at the edge of the table, hoping the waitress would get the hint that something was wrong.
“Sending your tea back? That’s very un-Shinoda of you,” Chester laughed as he slid across the bench seat opposite his bandmate. He sat his backpack close to the window and pulled off his baseball cap, scrubbing his fingers over his shaved head.
“You’re late,” Mike was sure to say first. “And it’s not tea. She brought me decaf coffee.”
“Then by all means send it back!” Chester smacked the air next to the discarded coffee cup. “You know how I feel about decaf; it’s such a poser.”
Mike nodded with a smile. “I know,” he said softly. “How was the flight?”
“Eh, you know, same old, same old. I’m thinking about buying my own airplane and getting my pilots license. Nothing big, of course, just a small passenger plane to run me back and forth between here and AZ. It would be big enough to cart the kids with us and Talinda could be my co-pilot,” he said, his face brightening as he thought about his wife wearing a jumpsuit and one of those helmets with a microphone on the side.
Mike felt his chest settle. Is that it? Flying lessons? “It’s a great idea,” he offered, hiding the disappointment in his voice. He had thought for sure that Chester had something big to tell him. Flying lessons was something that Chester had mentioned before in passing conversation over the years. This was nothing new. This wasn’t diner worthy. Mike picked up a menu from the metal stand that sat by the window. Pot Roast, Turkey Sandwich, Chicken Noodle Soup - they were all more interesting than flying lessons.
“I think so,” Chester agreed as he leaned on his elbows and watched as Mike kept his eyes glued to the menu, like he was suddenly reading CIA secret documents or the newest issue of Playboy. Chester cleared his throat. “So, that’s not why I asked you to lunch.”
Mike looked up. Chester was scratching the edge of his cheek and pulling at the hollow, silver plug in his earlobe. He’s nervous. Screw the pot roast, Mike thought as he sat his menu down. “Ok,” he said leaning forward on his arms. “I’m listening.”
Chester looked away. There was an old couple sitting at a table just a few booths from them. The man must have been in his 60’s and the wife wasn’t far behind. She had an oxygen tank and he had a walker, but they were laughing as they ate their eggs and fruit.
“Chester,” Mike called, pulling his bandmate’s attention back to him. “Come on, what’s going on?”
“Did, uh, did you see the new Jurassic Park movie?”
Mike sat back, the seat squeaking under him. “Yes, we saw it together, remember? You spilled my popcorn.”
“Right, right, that’s right,” Chester stuttered as he pulled at his ear. “I forgot. And I did buy you another popcorn.”
The waitress walked over to their table and sat a tall glass of soda down in front of Chester. “There you go. Let me know if you need anything else,” she said as she wrote something on a little green notepad and then walked away.
“Did I order this?” Chester asked as he picked up the drink and took a sip.
“No. But I didn’t order coffee either.”
“I love this place,” Chester laughed as he sat his drink down and crossed his arms on the table. “So I took the kids to see Jurassic Park too. Tyler really loves the T-Rex. He’s really getting into dinosaurs. He’s learning their names and drawing pictures of them. I think he has some art talent in him.”
“I thought about taking Otis,” Mike said. “But he’s still too young. It would probably scare him. The last time I let him watch something that gave him nightmares I almost got divorced over it.”
“Jaws?” Chester grinned.
Mike nodded with a laugh. “Anna was so mad. How could you let him watch that? We’re at the beach constantly and now he won’t even go near the water!” he said in his best Anna voice. “I haven’t told her yet that I’ve already promised him that we’d watch Jaws 2 next time mommy is out of town.”
“Invite me over,” Chester begged, a spirit of excitement zipping across is eyes. “I’ll bring the snacks.”
“Alright,” Mike agreed before he let out a hard sigh. “Come on, Chaz, what’s this about?”
The light left Chester’s face as he sat back in his seat, picking at the table ledge. “What if I told you that I wanted to take a break from the band?”
Mike felt the floor disappear from under him. His feet were no longer on a solid surface as nausea set in, like a scratch from a cat’s claws, it was quick and painful. “A break?” he repeated, just to make sure he’d heard right, but Chester’s silent nod told him he had. “What do you mean by break? Is this because of STP?” he asked, figuring it must be because of Chester’s side project. He knew the passion and dedication Chester had for the other band that he fronted in between his duties for Linkin Park, but a break? Mike felt his fingers curling as he took a deep breath.
“No, it has nothing to do with them,” Chester assured him. “I would be taking a break from that too.” He could see the twitch visibly disappear from Mike’s face, and it was replaced with a long stare, like he was trying to read Chester’s mind for the answer.
“Ok,” Mike said, sitting up straight. “Is something wrong? How long of a break are you talking about?”
“Everything’s wrong,” Chester mumbled, his eyes dropped to the table. “The thing is, is that I want you to take a break with me.”
“Alright, I have a grilled chicken platter,” the waitress said as she sat the steaming dish down in front of Chester. “And a cheeseburger with the works.” She sat the second plate in front of Mike. “Can I get you gentlemen anything else?”
“No,” Mike said. “Well, a glass of water, please,” he asked, and she promised to bring it right back.
Mike picked up his plate and handed it across the table, and Chester happily swapped for his chicken. “I love cheeseburgers,” Chester said as he picked the pickles off and sat them aside. “I never get them anymore. Talinda says they’re bad for me, which, she’s right, but screw it.” He picked the juicy burger up and chomped off a large bite, licking his lips.
“They are terrible for you,” Mike muttered as he watched. “At least you can say you didn’t order it, it was forced on you.”
“Exactly. I’m completely innocent here,” Chester agreed as he snatched the ketchup from the end of the table, squirting a large pile by his french fries. “So back to our break, what do you think?”
Our break, Mike repeated mentally. Where is this going? “I don’t know,” he answered as he unwrapped his silverware to cut up his chicken and scoot the steaming broccoli away from the potatoes. “What would we be doing on this break?”
“Singing and dancing, mostly,” Chester said between drippy bites of french fries. “You could rap, of course. But the important part is that we’d be doing it in dinosaur costumes.”
Thanks for reading everyone :) I hope you enjoyed the beginning of this odd little tale.