When Marcus Sumter, a short order cook with dreams of being a chef, inherits a house in small town Marathon, Georgia, he leaves his big city life behind. Marcus intends to sell the house to finance his dreams, but a group of lovable busybodies, the Do Nothings, a new job at the local diner, the Tammy Dinette, and a handsome mechanic named Hank cause Marcus to rethink his plans. Will he return to the life he knew, or will he finally put down roots?
When you don’t fit in with the family God gave you, you go make your own.
The diner took up a quarter of the city block; its silvery siding glimmered in the morning sun. A metal bracket jutted over the diner door and held a bright neon sign that flashed The Tammy Dinette: Stand By your Ham and Eggs. Below the sign, two tall and wide single-paned windows showed the bustle of the crowd inside. Marcus could see that most of the booths along the windows were occupied, and a tall redheaded waitress stood next to one of the booths furiously scribbling on a pad and nodding her head.
“Let’s go,” Skeet said as he hopped to the door and yanked it open. He swept his arm across his body and said in a terrible British accent, “After you, my good sir.”
Marcus grinned at the boy and stepped into the diner. The sudden rush of country music mixed with the murmur of the restaurant crowd, the smell of greasy food and coffee, and the glare of fluorescent lights from the Formica tables and counter tops flooded Marcus with a sense of relief and comfort. The last bits of tension slipped from his shoulders as he watched the two waitresses in pink uniform tops and skirts scurry from table to table as different patrons raised their hands to get each woman’s attention.
“Now sign here.” Raff pointed out a line at the bottom of a paper. “Then initial here.”
Marcus scribbled his name where instructed, then set the pen gently on the table. He read the final paragraph of the will to himself one more time. To my grandson Marcus, I leave all my other worldly possessions, my assets and most importantly, my house, so that maybe, just once in his life, that poor boy can have a real home.
“So, it’s all mine?”
“Well, it has to go through probate and such, but yes. Basically, it’s all yours.”
“And I have to live in the house? I mean, she says she wants it to be my home.”
“Oh, good lord, boy,” Helen said and laughed. “Your grandmother was a former mayor’s wife, not the queen of England. It’s a will, not a proclamation.”
“My mother is correct. You can do with the assets as you see fit, once her few debts are paid off.”
“So I could sell it?”
“If that’s what you desire. As a matter of fact, my wife, Katie Nell, is one of the most successful realtors in Marathon. I’m sure she could sell it for you in a heartbeat if you want.”
“Raff, you quit trying to drum up business for that nitwit wife of yours.” Helen picked up the pen from the table and inspected it before opening her purse and dropping it in. “Marcus, you don’t have to decide anything right now. Why don’t you spend a little time here and see what you want to do with it? How soon do you have to be back where you came from? Back in…?”
“Um, Atlanta.” Marcus let his eyes wander off from Helen to the photographs on the wall behind her. “No rush. Nothing important waiting on me there.”
“Then it’s settled. You stay here for a few weeks at least and see what you want to do. The other Do Nothings and I have already gone through your grandmother’s house and got it nice and clean for you. Of course, there’s no real food in there, but we’ll get you settled, and I’ll bring over something for you to eat tonight. Tomorrow, we will run you up to the Piggly Wiggly and stock you up.”
“Well, I guess I can stay until the house sells at least.” Marcus looked at the table as Raff slid a manila envelope across the table to him.
“Here are your copies of all the paperwork. There are a bunch of things in there. Here are the keys to the house.” Raff pushed a key ring across the table. “And I wrote Katie Nell’s number on the front of the envelope so when you get ready to sell—”
“If you sell it,” Helen interrupted her son. “You never know, little man, we might just charm you into staying.”
Over the course of the next month, Marcus fell easily into the rhythm of his new life in the diner. The black ring around his eye faded, and thoughts of Robert and his mangled car began to fade as well. Francine and he perfected their frenzied dance around each other behind the grill when the diner was filled to capacity. As he worked, the familiar tools of spatula, whisk, and knife once again became extensions of his hand, and the smells of bacon frying and eggs cooking made his appetite for food and life return. The silly names the sisters invented for customers made Marcus belly laugh, the sensation of it bubbling up in his chest an almost-forgotten pleasure. With each passing day, it grew easier to rise early in the morning and catch a ride to the diner with Francine or one of the girls.
The only part of the day he dreaded was life outside the diner and returning to a too-quiet house filled with photographs of people who shared his face and name, but who were complete strangers. The house was in theory his home, but it still seemed as if he was intruding on someone else’s space. He hadn’t bothered to unpack the few clothes left in his duffel bag or put away the clean clothes from the laundry basket on the bedroom floor. In the silence of his grandmother’s house, he would hear the ringing of Robert’s plaintive texts, the nagging thoughts about what to do with his wrecked car, and the haunting words of his mother, “Baby, it’s time to move on.”
More and more, he lingered well past the end of his shift at the diner to avoid going to the house. Usually he would end his day by wandering over to the Do Nothing’s corner booth to check on the latest town gossip or to see how preparations for the hoedown were going. Marcus would shuffle his way into the booth and tuck himself between Helen and Inez so that the women could explain to him who each person they gossiped about was. Most of the names meant nothing to him until he began to connect them with their usual orders, just as he had at the Waffle Barn. The more stories the Do Nothings told about the customers who hurried in and out of the diner daily, the more the citizens of Marathon seemed like friends. He would sit happily silent and let the women’s laughter and rapid-fire words sooth his work-weary muscles as he sank into the padding of the booth.
But not today.
He had finished cleaning the cooking area, flung his apron onto its hook, and headed into the dining room. He’d been tired but, for the first time since Robert had pressured him to quit working at the Waffle Barn in Atlanta, he’d felt useful again. As he’d reached the kitchen door, he’d caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Despite the hard work and grueling heat of the kitchen, he’d seen that he wore a pleased smile, a smile he wasn’t sure he had worn since the days after his mother and before Robert. He’d straightened his back and nodded at himself in the mirror. Hello, stranger. Where’ve you been? With the smile lingering on his lips, he had glanced through the porthole window in the swinging door and seen Hank Hudson standing at the counter.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Killian Brewer author of Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette.
Hi Killian, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Hey, y’all! I’m Killian Brewer, though most people just call me Brew. I’m a Southern boy, raised in the land of peaches and peanuts. I grew up in a tiny little town in a house where we would entertain each other by telling stories. My father can spin a yarn with the best of them and taught me early to enjoy the fellowship of storytelling. I went to college and earned my degree in English Literature, mostly because of my love of a good story. Of course, like most English majors, I don’t use that degree at all in my day job, but it does come in handy for my writing.
My current novel, Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette, was inspired by the people I grew up around in South Georgia. I wanted to explore what life could be like for a young gay man who is suddenly transplanted in a small town with little understanding of the way of life there. In particular, I wanted to follow his search for love and a sense of family in a world where he feels like a fish out of water. I also wanted to write about older southern women, because I think they are awesome.
What genres do you enjoy writing in?
My favorite genre to write in is romantic comedy, but specifically I enjoy writing stories for the LGBTQ community that have a happy ending. When I was a kid, being gay and having a happy ending weren’t really options that I thought were possible. But when I grew up, I discovered that there is a whole world of happiness waiting for LGBTQ people. I want to write stories that show we should deserve, pursue and expect the same happiness that straight people do.
My stories tend to have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor as well. My family always tells the same stories over and over and the tales we come back to the most are humorous ones. A pun or a joke is a thing of pride in my family, so I tend to write in a more humorous style. I especially enjoy the “meet-cute” tropes of romantic comedy and the humor that evolves from the awkward early moments of a relationship when people are learning about each other. Romantic comedy and the humor it provides tend to allow you to write situations that just nudge the edges of ridiculous and allow flights of fancy.
I also tend to write about “found families” (the family we create not the family we are born into) because I find this a common but fascinating aspect of the LGBTQ community. Even my friends who had accepting parents seem to find a new family that becomes the main source of support, understanding and comfort in daily life. Usually these “found-families” tend to be other queer people but more and more I see they are a spectrum of folks.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
“Do-Nothings” is set in a small town in rural South Georgia. This is the world I grew up in and there are parts of it that are very familiar and make perfect sense to me but would seem odd to someone from another part of the world. Writing something I knew well but in a way that would make sense to people who did not grow up in that world was often difficult. I wanted to make sure I captured the way the older women in this area talk and the funny idioms they use, but the words have to make some sense outside of the narrative. I couldn’t assume a reader would instantly know what a thing was. Balancing between over-explaining and confusing the reader was challenging.
Also, I fell in love with my supporting characters in the book. I had to take great care that they did not overtake the story and shove my main character out of the way. I had to constantly ask myself, “does this serve the plot of Marcus and his search for self or is it running off the rails?”
What did you enjoy most about writing your book?
I had so much fun creating the members of the Do-Nothing Club. These old, Southern women are the type of women I grew up surrounded by. Their speech, motivations, beliefs and humor are very much a part of my life. While all four of the main women are loosely based on women I knew in my youth, I enjoyed being able to blend characteristics from different people together to create “types.” I took great care to make sure that my adoration of these women showed and it never appeared that I was mocking the women or their way of life. The women these characters represent are some of the greatest sources of love I have known and I wanted to make sure I honored that love.
What cultural value do you see in writing?
Writing allows us to show people a view of the world they may never know or encounter. When I write, I hope to entertain my LGBTQ audience and show them a happy-ever-after to seek, but also to show a straight audience that though our worlds seem very different there are many things we have in common.
What is your favorite positive saying?
You can’t stop this big old world, so why let it stop you? I love the encouragement that this saying gives and the sense of fighting on in the face of adversity.
Killian B. Brewer lives in his life-long home of Georgia with his partner and their dog. He has written poetry and short fiction since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Brewer earned a BA in English and does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He has a love of greasy diner food that borders on obsessive. Lunch with the Do Nothings at the Tammy Dinette is his second novel. His first novel, The Rules of Ever After, is available from Duet Books, an imprint of Interlude Press.
Connect with Killian at killianbbrewer.com, on Twitter @KillianBBrewer, on Facebook at Facebook.com/KillianBBewer, on Pinterest at Pinterest.com/KillianBBrewer, and on Goodreads at Goodreads.com/KillianBBrewer.