“These fries just make me mad,” she said through a mouthful of visually-seasoned potato. “They’re supposed to be Cajun fries. Look at this. They’re the right color. Look at this angry red one! That fry should be spicy as shit. That thing should burn my mouth.”
She picked it up and ate it.
“But no! Not even close to burn. It’s like they painted some bay leaves red and then ground them up and called it Cajun.” She frowned down at the fries that were slowing spreading their grease throughout the brown paper bag on which they lay.
She expressed her frustrations to her husband. He agreed that the fries were not impressive.
He disagreed, however, with her summation of the seasoning. “It’s not bay leaves, though,” he mused.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she admitted.
“It’s something else too, I just can’t put my finger on it,” he continued.
“I don’t know. That gross stick seasoning. I don’t remember what it’s called. But it’s not spicy either.” She shrugged, willing to concede. “Maybe when I try them again in a few years they’ll be better. Or maybe I’ll have forgotten how made those fries make me.”
“Just make me mad,” she muttered under her breath, crumpling the bag around the remainder of the fries. She stood and threw the whole wad into the trash can.
They weren’t even salty enough. But they did give her horrendous gas later that day.
Ross Anselm looked in the mirror as he gripped the sides of the sink so tightly his knuckles turned white. This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, he repeated to himself, over and over.
It may have been better for him to give in and believe it.
A fellow customer pushed the door open and entered the diner’s small public restroom. He glanced at Ross, noted the cold sweat and panicked eyes, and quietly locked himself into the lone stall to mind his own business. Ross didn’t even notice the man.
After a few more seconds of hyperventilation, Ross gathered his wits enough for a deep breath, a prelude to calm. He washed his hands and dried them, once he figured out how to work the automatic paper towel dispenser.
The stranger remained in his stall for this, possibly more out of concern for his own well-being than out of respect for Ross’s existential crisis.
Ross sighed and pulled the door open to return to his table. The plate was still there, waiting for him. Mocking him.The neon peas, the tumbled fries, the sloppy meatballs, and the gravy.
Sneaking under the food, snaking its way throughout the plate. Tainting the peas and dampening the fries. One wilted sprig of parsley wasn’t nearly enough to save this meal from oblivion. Ross forced the bile in his mouth back down his throat and held a hand up to flag down the waitress.
He paused, leaning against the side of his car and taking deep breaths to center himself before the ordeal that lay ahead.He spent just a moment tipping his head back and enjoying the sun shining on his face before pulling himself upright and heading toward the front door.
A tingle went through his body as he put his hand on the door handle–a tingle of anticipation? Possibly. He was confident that today would be the day that he made this decision. A hugely false smile plastered across his face, he pushed.
His face fell when he read the four letters spelling out PULL. Maybe today was not going to be the day after all. He covered his shame with a coughing fit, and pulled the door open.
The smells mingled in his nasal passages, grease and coffee and industrial cleaning solution. He assumed that the cleaning solution was a good thing to smell, unless the employees simply dumped it in the trash cans to give the illusion of sanitation. That was a distinct possibility in this economy. No one had passion for the job they managed to snag because it was the only job they could get. Not that he blamed them; he felt the same way about pushing papers behind the scenes at the bank. But at least it paid better than flipping burgers.
He shook his head to clear the distracting thoughts . Pay had no bearing on the mission at hand. He put his shoulders back and strode semi-confidently toward the counter to place his order.
The cashier in the dingy ballcap stared vacantly at him, loudly popping her gum.
“Well, whaddaya want?” she demanded, annoyed that he had interrupted prime counter-leaning time.
He froze, the words caught in his throat. He managed a small cough, and choked out, “D-double burger, please.”
“Fries with that?” she rolled her eyes at his hesitation.
He was not prepared for this question, and it wounded him to the core. Fries are such a commitment; so many of them in that little box. Maybe–no, he had no one with whom to split an order. The panic rose in his chest, threatening to engulf him completely as he watched the girl grow more and more impatient with his indecision.
In the end, it proved too much for him today. Without a word, whimpering in mental agony, he turned and bolted for the door, not slowing until he ran straight into the side of his car, fumbling for his keys to unlock to door to make his escape.
The cashier watched him through the glass storefront, popping her gum in time to the sound of his feet slapping the concrete. The manager would be pissed, she thought, smiling. He’d put all his money on today.
Her bet was that the man would never place a full order. The pool was edging up on two hundred bucks, and that amount of money buys a lot of gum.