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The early-morning conversations at Skinner´s Grill are like a river. Sometimes the talk is smooth and graceful, eddying around a twig of thought that slips from person to person. And sometimes it roars -- with laughter or what sounds like rage but is more like passion, but passion that turns to laughter. At the L-shaped counter, Frankie reads the sports section. He´s not talking to the waitress just now, so she is unable to get his order. ¨What does it take to get some food ´round here?¨ he finally hollers out. ¨Oh, you´re talking to me now?¨ she responds. Bragdon sits in the corner, orders toast, and often brings tomatoes from his garden for Ms. Skinner to slice. ¨How much does an order of toast cost?¨ one of the guys asks one day when he decides it´s time to prove that Bragdon is probably the cheapest man on earth. Another day, Frankie and Bragdon discuss the war in Iraq. Basically, Frankie says if we are going to go in there, we got to go to win. And Bragdon argues that we should throw all our technology at them so a minimum of our soldiers dies. But Iraq is only one subject. There´s also Serena Williams. There´s the weather. There´s Jay-Z. There´s the slave revolt in Haiti. There´s Osama. ¨He´s Cisco,¨ one woman keeps insisting every time the subject returns to bin Laden. She thinks he has had plastic surgery and is now living in the United States. And then there´s the question of whether anyone should bother trying to properly pronounce Bragdon´s name. It´s respectful to do so, Bragdon says. ¨That´s just the point,¨ Frankie answers.


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