A story influenced by Annie Proloux

Leeland Lee continues working at the Unique Eats café after his wife, Lori, dies. During breakfast and lunch Leeland is always busy with his hands, breading chicken to be deep-fried and wiping the mayonnaise off the counter for the next burger. The customers compliment Leeland’s timely and delicious meals, but his boss, a middle-aged woman from Ohio, begins acting vaguely sour towards him. At first she just mumbles as the day progresses into the afternoon, but eventually she tells Leeland he spends too much time listening to the radio during evenings. Agreeing to focus more on his work, Leeland remembers hearing a news story about how dentists have the highest suicide rate out of any professional occupation.
Besides stealing individual ketchup packets from the supply room, Leeland spends his lunch breaks hoping that his oldest son will find a way to bring in a decent sum of money. At home, Leeland’s son sleeps on a thin foam mattress in the garage. Occasionally Leeland believes that his son is high on marijuana when he comes in late, eyebrows clenched nervously as he steps off his motorcycle. Leeland never questions him directly and his son never explains how he found his girlfriend in a sleeping bag with another girl who was their mutual friend. While his son lives in the garage he feels his sexual confidence diminishing. He offsets his insecurities by losing himself in motorcycle repair jobs that bring in enough money to pay for Leeland’s electricity bills.
Eventually Leeland and the middle-aged woman start arguing loudly with each other at work until some customers start to complain. Leeland is fired one Saturday afternoon without ceremony. Later that day, as he drives his truck home, he hears on the news that a fire destroyed the roof of a llama ranch in Thermopolis.
Leeland’s oldest son saves up enough money from his repair jobs to open up his own motorcycle shop and steakhouse. After initially shying away from the idea—for unknown reasons—Leeland’s son asks his Dad to be the head chef of the steak house. Leeland accepts the offer and begins working on a menu. All of the entrees he chooses are different cuts of steak, except for his signature “Leeland burger”: a regular hamburger with bacon on top of everything else.
Word came from Billings, Montana that Leeland’s oldest daughter was pregnant with another child and his other son was recovering from the loss of his mother. Although he is quiet and hard to classify, he excels in math and reassures his sister that he is not depressed. Leeland wonders if his boys will all have houses in Unique someday.
Some of the customers who were locals at the café where Leeland first worked as a cook migrate to the steakhouse and repair shop. When people order by just saying “I’ll have a burger” Leeland corrects them calmly by repeating: “one Leeland burger, coming right up.”


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