The Donut Shop is in one of those strip shopping centers. The kind with a Fred’s, a beauty parlor or barber shop, an insurance agency and a payday loan operation.
I’ve started seeing a lot of them. Donut Palace, Donut Shop, Donut Place Donut King, Donut Queen, they’re all about the same.
Twenty feet wide, a white linoleum-topped counter up front. A a cash register and a stack of white paper bags and a box of paper napkins on the side. Matching tables and chairs lining the wall.
The coffee maker is serve yourself. There’s two pots of coffee, hot and waiting. White Styrofoam cups and black plastic lids are nearby.
The place smells sweet. It’s a mixture of yeast, sugar, dough, lemon and vanilla.
A glass display case, full of glazed donuts, cake donuts, a few maple and chocolate covered donuts. On the side, a tray of bear claws, a half dozen apple fritters and jelly filled donuts.
The sign says Open at 5 AM, Close at 2 PM.
He’s been there since mid-night. You can’t rush the donuts. And, they have to be hot for the early risers, the loggers and construction workers.
Here in Mississippi, there’s a shop like it in almost every town. Plain and simple. Another small business trying to survive.
If you get up early, you’ll see the regulars, sitting with a cup of coffee in hand, watching you stop and buy a dozen or so, or get two for the road.
The man stands behind the counter, His English is broken.
“What you want? What you like?” He smiles.
He had to learn English. He hesitates. Letting the English words make sense to him.
“How long you been in this country?” I ask. I can wait for him to think.
“How did you get in the Donut business?”
“Oh, I work here. I work for the big man. He owns this place. He owns a lot of donut shops.”
I needed a cup of coffee.
He points me to the cups and the coffee urn. I hand him two dollars. I hope I’ll get some change back. I’m in a hurry.
Then again, I want to hear his story. I want to sit down, drink my coffee and ask a hundred more questions.
“Where are you from?”
“Cambodia. We work very hard. We like to work. This good work.” Short, choppy sentences.
“What are your plans?” I ask.
“Oh, I work hard, make good money, then go home. Cambodia. Maybe bring my family back to the USA.”
“When will you go home?” I ask.
“Two, maybe three years. Long time. But, not too long.” He never stopped moving. He had a cloth in his hand, wiping the counter, then he adjusted the coffee urn’s handle so it pointed towards the door. Then rearranged the donuts, moving more down towards the front of the display.
I got back to my car, remembering what he said “We work hard. We like to work. This good work.”
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