Archived Story

An introduction to Mort

Published 9:08am Thursday, August 7, 2014

The big, round table, placed prominently in the center of the diner, has a revolving breakfast reservation list. The unspoken reality is that anyone with an appetite and an opinion is welcome to grab a chair, break bread (or biscuits), and trade two cents worth of conviction and misconception for a bottomless cup of coffee. It is the primary terminus of dozens of divergent paths as the table’s population expands and contracts during the course of the morning. “Regulars” and “once-in-awhiles” begin their day at the bacon scented, simulated oaken circle of morning repast.

Harry, Jimmy, and Arnold can be counted on the “regular” side of the guest list. Tommy Jones is the elder statesman of the group. “Big John” Hudson works at the wire plant with Sal Saratore. Their shift starts at seven o’clock, which usually gives them just enough time to inhale an order of whatever is the morning special, suck down a couple cups of coffee, and offer up a couple of comments about what they would do should they ever be handed the reins to the world. Tommy, Big John and Sal are regular members of the “once-in-awhile” list. As usual, Mort Ellingson rounds out the table. Mort is best known for arriving first and mistakenly thinking surfing the internet makes him well read.

“I finished it last night. I stayed up late, almost past ‘Conan,’ but I finished it.” Mort looked tired, but strangely satisfied, as he made his declaration. “When I started, I didn’t know it would be so long.”

Harry continued to shovel down the full order of biscuits and gravy, heavily peppered to taste. Jimmy spread mixed fruit jelly on his nearly burnt toast. Neither was willing to be the first to bite on Mort’s ambiguous pronouncement. Tommy acted as if the battery had died in his hearing aid. Big John and Sal quickly took the cue and headed for work.

“Finished what?” Arnold knew better, but couldn’t fight the urge. The remainder of the table’s occupants let out a nearly inaudible groan. Sal didn’t attempt to stifle his “I-knew-better” smirk as he quickly paid his tab and cleared a quick path to the front door.

“The Internet. I finished it last night.”

Mort was known for staying up late and surfing the internet. Inevitably he would stumble across some website, or blogger, or Troll whose only claim to fame (or reality) is the ability to assemble a pile of words and then click the “submit” button. Mort would read this unsubstantiated pile and issue a full report at breakfast the next morning, much to the chagrin of everyone else.

“I started with the ‘A’s’ three years ago and finished the ‘Z’s’, last night. I had no idea it was so big.”

“Started with the ‘A’s’?” Arnold was being incredulously sucked into Mort’s internet information vortex, a place no self-respecting thinking person wants to be.

“And finished the ‘Z’s’ last night.” Harry tried to jump in and save Arnold from his own misguided curiosity. “Did you hear about the Cubbies trade for a new power hitter? Power hitter my shiny new spittoon. He can’t even pull the plastic wrapper off a cheese stick.”

“He can hit. I saw him put five in a row up in the stands. All foul balls. No control.” Jimmy jumped in to help. “It’s too late for any impact this season, but wait ‘til next year,” words of unshakable faith, spoken like a true Cubs fan.

“I read on the internet that they’re going to tear down Wrigley Field and put up condominiums.”

“Did that internet thing tell you anything about swine aviation capabilities?” Tommy could no longer pretend his hearing aid battery was dead. “Because Wrigley Field will come down when pigs fly!”


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. He can be reached at

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