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Contemporary

“I go to the other.”

“You go to the other and you do what?”

“I ask for the number seven.”

“Why the number seven?”

“It’s the best value.”

“You have so much money.”

“I know.”

“I come to your house and I see envelopes. Little blue envelopes everywhere that look like what you would use to put Easter cards in or Save the Date notices for a spring wedding. But I look in the envelopes and there are hundred dollar bills. All over your house.”

“I know.”

“Why would you go to the other?”

“I sat down one night and nobody came over to say ‘Hello.’”

“That was it?”

“That was enough.”

“They were probably busy. I was probably busy.”

“They’re never too busy to come over and say ‘Hello’ at the other.”

“How could you do this just because one time--”

“It’s not just one time.”

“Not everything is about you.”

“But it should be. That’s the point.”

“The point is loyalty. The point is staying true to the things you believe in.”

“I believe in saying ‘Hello’ when you see somebody. When somebody gives you money, and says ‘Here, this is for you’ then you make an effort.”

“This wasn’t a donation. You weren’t donating. This was a transaction.”

“And the ‘Hello’ is part of--should be part of--the transaction.”

“Nobody agreed to that. You’re the one saying it, but nobody agreed to it.”

“I bet you sat there at that plastic table with that red plastic table top, and you pouted and you sulked, because for you, for you, it’s all about the social aspect.”

“I’m not saying it isn’t.”

“But you can’t demand that of people.”

“But the other was offering it to me. And if I want it, and it’s there, why shouldn’t I take it?”

“You think they’re always going to remember to say ‘Hello’ to you?”

“I don’t know. But if they do--”

“If they do forget, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you right now, you’re not skating back here like all’s forgiven. It doesn’t work that way.”

“Then maybe I’ll find another.”

“Another? Not just us or them, but another?”

“Yes.”

“You take. You open up those blind hands and you grab at beef and you grab at potatoes and you grab at what’s fried and you grab at what’s tasty and when you’re done, you’re full, but if your spirit isn’t, it doesn’t matter how we cooked or how fast we whipped up your order. You want that and you want a smile and you want the appearance of friendship and it doesn’t matter to you if it’s real or not as long as we stop everything to give it to you.”

“I went in the ball pit.”

. . . . .

“They don’t have a ball pit there. They got rid of it.”

“They’re bringing it back.”

“Don’t tell me lies.”

“I’m not lying. They showed it to me. I dove into it. Headfirst. I felt like a kid again. You never make me feel that way anymore. You won’t even let me have an extra toy in the meal when I ask for it unless I pay the fee.”

“That’s the corporate rule. I didn’t make that rule. It’s just the rule. It’s corporate.”

“And you blame everything on corporate.”

“Do you want to see the memos they send me?”

“No, I--”

“No, you don’t. Because you couldn’t handle looking at them. You couldn’t take seeing the language they use on me. You couldn’t take the cold chastisement that I get, because the milkshake machine broke down the other day. Because somebody went to the customer service page on the website and said that I have no business running anything, because I can’t keep my milkshake machines in order.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“I bet you were the one who did it.”

“What? Wrote that you shouldn't--”

“I don’t know what betrayals you’re capable of anymore.”

“Their fries weren’t as good.”

“Don’t tell me that.”

“It wasn’t about the food.”

“It should only be about the food.”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Because you know that yours is better, and so you’d always have control over me. You’d always know that I’d come back, because what other choices would be in front of me? But food is an experience. Eating is communal.”

“Then bring a friend with you next time you come in.”

“How could you say that to me?”

“It’s too much. You--”

“I went into the other and they showed me to a table. They gave me complimentary napkins. They dabbed at the right side of my mouth when I had a spot of ketchup there. Then, they took me to the ball pit, and they let me lay in it, and when I asked for more toys, they filled the ball pit with toys and balls and milkshakes and they never asked me to get out. Nothing was as good as it is with you, but they were trying so hard, and you never try. You never have tried.”

“I won’t be jealous. I know how much you’d like me to be jealous, but I’ll never be jealous of something lesser. And that’s what the other is. It’s lesser.”

“It’s not going to stop with the ball pit. They’re going to bring back the whole play area.”

“Let them. They’ll never have our fries. They’ll never make a decent breakfast sandwich. Their chicken? A joke.”

“But when I walk in--”

“And they can say ‘Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello’ over and over again, as much as they want, as much as they care to, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s all just kissing up and placating to make up for the bland. The blandess. The lack of taste. The lack of effort to even produce taste. To produce something tasty.”

“The beef wasn’t bad.”

“That’s where you’re at now? It wasn’t bad? You have no self-respect.”

“Have you ever visited there?”

“Never.”

“They told me they saw you once.”

“I drove by and I stopped my car and I stared at them inside. I stared at them and I tried to convey to them with my stare what I thought of them. How they could steal a hundred people like you away. A hundred people who used to mean something to me, but I would stick to my guns and keep doing what I do, and I would always be full. I would stay full. Stay satisfied and proud that I would never be them. That I would never walk inside.”

“And you never did?”

“No. I never even drove through. I never wanted to. I’ve never been that hungry. Never in my life.”

November 16, 2020 20:57

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2 comments

Echo Sundar
18:18 Nov 23, 2020

Great story!!

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Mustang Patty
11:53 Nov 22, 2020

Hi, Kevin, This was a very interesting format for the story, and it worked well - once I got past the 'woodness' of the dialogue. I know I probably invented a word there - but the character was stiff - very stiff. Perhaps if your spent more time listening to the conversations people have and allow yourself to 'hear' the cadence and rhythms. I am putting together an Anthology of Short Stories to be published in late Spring 2021. Would you be interested? The details can be found on my website: www.mustangpatty1029.com on page '2021 I...

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