Those Darn Demon Burgers
By Charles Dean
When I was a teenager, living in Arizona during the late fifties, our family would often go for drives on weekend afternoons. Sightseeing was much more economical than taking the five of us to the movies as gas was only twenty-four cents a gallon back then. Mom and Dad, Grandma, Sis and myself, would pile into our blue and white 1953 Chevy coupe and off we'd go.
We always brought along our own ice chest filled with plenty of cold sodas. There was nothing quite like an ice cold soda in a glass bottle. People nowadays don't know what they're missing. Cans had not even been thought of yet, and fountain sodas were only sold in little bubble-sided glasses at drug and dime store lunch counters.
One Saturday afternoon we made the seven mile drive to downtown Tucson from our home on the city's northeast side. My mother and grandmother could shop for hours and were teaching my little sister those same addictive habits. Dad and I would try and kill as much time as we could looking at things we had no intention of buying. After several hours, Grandma was beginning to get tired and suggested it would be fun to drive around and look at houses in some of the finer areas of town. This was one of the many things people would do for entertainment when they were on a limited budget.
Diving through a well kept older middle class neighborhood we came across a tiny mom and pop eatery nestled between two houses, a few blocks off the beaten path. It was strictly a walk up and takeout. There was no off street parking or inside seating, just a couple of picnic tables under a large shade tree out front. Being late in the afternoon and well past the lunch hour we were the only customers there. Gathering around one of the picnic tables we proceeded to look over the posted menus.
Even before we began to read, the smells coming from the cheeseburgers frying on a well seasoned grill inside, were weaving their intoxicating spell on us. As our mouths began to water, there was no need for lengthy decisions, no time for debate. It was unanimous. None of us could resist trying one of those fragrant bits of beef and cheese.
Dad ordered us one apiece and brought them to our table. We gobbled them down as if we were starving. Within an instant they were gone. They disappeared before we knew what had happened. We looked at each other in disbelief, stunned at what had just taken place. Trying to rationalize our behavior, we begin to compare our thoughts on the food we had just devoured.
We all agreed the meat was grilled to a crunchy perfection, blissfully married to the sharp cheddar, garnished with a mustard relish combination of unequal character and topped off with a lightly toasted bun of distinction. In other words, they were simply the best darn cheeseburgers any of us had ever eaten! The aroma reached out again, grabbing us by our taste buds and forced dad to buy another round. We couldn't wait to get those succulent little morsels into our hungry mouths. But even that was not enough to satisfy our mortal cravings. I could hardly believe my eyes when our own penny-pinching grandma, who never offered to pay for anything, handed Dad money for a third round. It was as if we were under some demonic spell. My sister said they must be demon burgers, leading us into temptation.
My own hundred fifty pound father was being reeled in like a fish on a string, his eyes glazed and his stomach possessed by that devil scent hanging in the air. But we were no better. We were all trapped and we knew it. Still, it didn't matter as long as we could have another mouthful of those culinary delights.
Dad went back four, five, six times. I'm not sure. I lost count. We were out of control, over our heads, still those demon burgers kept calling us back to the window. Back again and again. Mom was digging in her purse trying to scrape up more change when it happened. Just like that, without any warning. An unseen voice from behind the screen wire uttered those fateful words. Words we were not prepared to hear.
"Sorry folks, we're closing now. We're all sold out." Needless to say we were devastated and speechless. We felt abandoned and betrayed, but vowed to return the next weekend.
But, alas, it was not to be. For try as we might, we were never able to find that little refectory again. It had simply vanished. Never again would we taste that magical combination of mythical proportions. Never again to partake of those succulent Demon Burgers we had discovered once upon a time, somewhere, just off the beaten path.
(This is a true story. We finally came to the conclusion that the older couple running the place must of meant this was their last day of operation and the building was tom down the following week leaving no trace in the sandy Arizona soil.)
*Charles "Dean" Winstead is a Charter Member of the SEMO Writers Guild, Published author of fiction and narrative non-fiction under the pen name Charles Dean. He attended Southeast Missouri University and holds degrees from Vatterott Collage and AlA, a graphic artist in visual layout and print media for brochures and advertising.
Love this story!! Life was so much simpler then and this story takes me back. - Jayne Perry
Great story. Wish I could've been there. Just reading about it is making me hungry. Sometimes the mom and pop places are better to eat at than most of today's fast food places. Again, great article about what it was like to spend time with family and being able to enjoy yourself without having to spend a lot of money. - John Rice
This article was very descriptive a much simpler time. I grew up in a small town with these very same eating spots. I enjoyed the article very much. - Mary Stamp
Bravo! This is a beautiful story, enticingly written! - Jody Gibbs
This story made me want to eat something that is not very good for me ... unfortunately, the place I will go to eat will not disappear and I will
have to return there again and again! - Sean Winstead
Well done! I very much enjoyed your essay and I look forward to more essays in the future. Thank you for sharing your memories. - M. Stemberg