FICTION – Sinatra’s at White Castle by Adam Shafer

So, I’m on deadline to finish proofing one of the textbooks we were publishing. This was July of ‘65, I think it was. And I make the deadline, but it’s almost midnight by the time I’m done and I’m famished, so I duck into a White Castle there downtown – there used to be a White Castle downtown, there isn’t one now – and I order those little Slider hamburgers and sit down and the only other person in the place is a little guy in a real nice-looking suit and he’s kind of slumped there, laying in the crook of his elbow, so I can’t see his face, but he’s wearing a real nice-looking suit and his hat is sitting there next to him on the counter and he’s finishing the last of his Slider hamburgers and he’s the only other customer in the place. And I’m eating my Slider hamburger and I hear someone ask me what I’m doing here alone so late. And no one else is around, so I know it’s the little guy in the nice-looking suit. And I look at the guy and he’s looking at me now and he looks familiar, so I look closer and the guy says, “Yeah, it’s me.” And I look closer still and he’s right, it is him. And by him, I mean Frank Sinatra. So I throw his question right back at him. I say, “What am I doing here alone? What are you doing here alone?” And he gives a little laugh like he thinks I made a good point, and he says, “I love these things,” and he holds up the last bit of his last Slider and then eats it. So I say, “Did you know the castle design of this restaurant was modeled after Chicago’s Water Tower?” And remember, the tower was just a few blocks from where we were sitting. And he’s chewing, but asks me “Is that a fact?” with his mouth full, which I did not find to be at all gentlemanly. Then he slides down a few stools, so he’s a little closer, not right next to me, but closer, and I can only imagine the guy working the register wished he had a camera because it’s not everyday Frank Sinatra is wiping his hands with your napkins. Sinatra says his show let out and the restaurant was on the way back to his hotel, which was true because Sinatra always stayed at the Ambassador Hotel, which seems like a boon for the hotel, but what do I know? And I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking this is Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra is telling me where he’s staying and scooting down a few stools to talk closer and things are heating up, but no. Instead, he says, “Is that true about the Water Tower?” And I say, “Of course, it’s true, what do I look like?” Then he says that I never answered what I was doing out and I told him I was editing textbooks and meeting deadlines and he didn’t have much to say about that – mostly, I think, because he played two or three shows a night back then and he was pooped. So to keep the conversation up, I tell him about the time I saw him at the Villa Venice a few years back, but after I say it, he doesn’t say anything right away until he asks me why I didn’t see him tonight and I tell him I’m a professional woman with deadlines and I half expect him to be happy for it because otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But instead of telling me how happy he was to have this conversation, he says he must be losing his touch if editing math books is a bigger draw for me than he is and I say I didn’t mean it that way and he tells me not to worry, that he was just kidding around and then he stands up to leave by putting on his hat and tilting it forward like he always did, only now it looks more sad than cool, like he was hiding. So, y’know, he says to me, “Safe home, madam,” over his shoulder as he’s leaving and I have to admit to being a little surprised he didn’t offer to pay for my dinner because that would have made a nice topper to the story, but I guess I had already paid for the burgers by then, so nothing’s perfect, even for Frank Sinatra.

Adam does most of his writing in the city of Chicago from a computer named Horace. When he’s not writing fiction for fun, he’s writing advertising for a living. He values humor, irony and quiet interactions and hopes his writing reflects that. He’s been published in the Florida Review, Prick of the Spindle, Straylight Literary and Carve Magazines, and was recently honored with the Nancy D. Hargrove Prize for Fiction from The Jabberwock Review. 

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