"I got to do somethin' to rake in business."
Percy slid into the booth, looking...Father Tim pondered what Percy was looking...Percy was looking old, that's what; about like the rest of the crowd in the rear booth. He sucked up his double chin.
"Maybe I ought t' mess around with th' menu," said Percy, "an' come up with a special I could run th' same day ever' week."
"Gizzards!" said Mule.
"What about gizzards?"
"I've told you for years that gizzards is th' answer to linin' your pockets."
"Don't talk to me about gizzards, dadgummit! They're in th' same category as what goes over th' fence last. You'll never see me sellin' gizzards."
"To make it in th' restaurant business," said Mule, "you got to set your personal preferences aside. Gizzards are a big draw."
"He's right," said J.C. "You can sell gizzards in this town. This is a gizzard kind of town."
Mule swigged his coffee. "All you got to do is put out a sign and see what happens."
Percy looked skeptical. "What kind of sign?"
"Just a plain, ordinary sign. Write it up yourself an' put it in th' window, no big deal."
"When me an' Velma retire at th' end of th' year, I want to go out in th' black, maybe send 'er to Washington to see th' cherry blossoms, she's never seen th' cherry blossoms."
"That's what gizzards are about," said Mule.
"What d'you mean?"
"Gizzards'll get some cash flow in this place."
"Seem like chicken livers would draw a better crowd," said Percy.
"Livers tie up too much capital." J.C. was hammering down on country ham, eggs over easy, and a side of yogurt. "Too much cost involved with livers. You want to go where the investment's low and the profit's high."
Mule looked at J.C. with some admiration. "You been readin' th' Wall Street Journal again."
"What would I put on th' sign?" asked Percy.
"Here's what I'd put," said Mule. "Gizzards Today."
"That's it? Gizzards Today?"
"That says it all right there. Like you say, run your gizzard special once a week, maybe on..." Mule drummed his fingers on the table, thinking. "Let's see..."
"Tuesday!" said J.C. "Tuesday would be good for gizzards. You wouldn't want to start out on Monday with gizzards, that'd be too early in th' week. And Wednesday you'd want something..."
"More upbeat," said Mule.
Father Tim buttered the last of his toast. "Right!"
"Wednesday could be your lasagna day," said J.C. "I'd pay good money for some lasagna in this town."
There was a long, pondering silence, broken only by a belch. Everyone looked at Mule. "'Scuse me," he said.
"Do y'all eat gizzards?" Percy inquired of the table.
"Not in this lifetime," said J.C.
"No way," said Mule.
"I pass," said Father Tim. "I ate a gizzard in first grade, that was enough for me."
Percy frowned. "I don't get it. You're some of my best reg'lars-why should I go to sellin' somethin' y'all won't eat?"
"We're a different demographic," said J.C.
"Oh," said Percy. "So how many gizzards would go in a servin,' do you think?"
"How many chicken tenders d'you put in a serving?"
"Six," said Percy. "Which is one too many for th' price."
"So, OK, as gizzards are way less meat than tenders, I'd offer fifteen, sixteen gizzards, minimum."
J.C. sopped his egg yolk with a microwave biscuit. "Be sure you batter 'em good, fry 'em crisp, an' serve with a side of dippin' sauce."
From In This Mountain by Jan Karon, Copyright © June 2002, Viking Press, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
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No Man's Land
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