The Food.Com Bistro

“Hello. Welcome to Food.com. May I take your order?”

The tourist spent far too long hemming and hawing over the menu, which comprised only four sandwiches and the option of chips or no chips. When it became awkward, rather than excessive, she started tapping her fingers together in an a desperate attempt to get some neural synapses firing in sympathy with them. Finally, she licked her teeth, loudly but at least fully behind her lips. Having exhausted every delay tactic she knew, she began. “The turkey sandwich,” she said, dripping in suspicion. “Does it have any other meat on it?”

“Nope,” Heather replied, as bright and cheery as the employee manual would have demanded, had there been an employee manual. “Just lettuce and tomato. And mayo, if you like.”

The customer was not convinced. “I’ve heard,” she whispered, “that some of the restaurants in places…” She trailed off, until Heather prompted her with an appropriate hand gesture, at which point she looked around to make sure no one was listening before starting again. “In places… like this… I’ve heard some of them try to sneak in other different kinds of meat.”

Heather matched the woman’s whisper, and leaned in flawlessly. “I’ve heard that too,” she said. “But I can assure you that our turkey is nothing but one hundred percent pure shredded and chopped turkey bits pressed into a single easily sliceable juicy and perfectly roast loaf.”

She brightened, exactly as Jonas said she would. “That’s okay, then.” The woman contemplated the menu once more, although quicker this time. “I think I’ll have the ham sandwich.”

“I knew the moment I saw you that you were a ham woman. That’ll be $12.25. You’ll love it—it’s a perfect choice for you.”

“That’s a bit steep for a sandwich, you know.”

Heather  smiled fully and said nothing. When her silence had discomfitted the woman just enough to work to Heather’s advantage, she took a gentle breath and said, “Yes… it is” in tones that were equal parts cheerful and hypnotic and damn intimidating.

“Oh. Well then.” The next thing the tourist knew, she was heaving her mighty purse off of her shoulder. She wasn’t sure how the conversation had gotten to this point, but as she had spent the day being gouged anyhow, she felt strangely comfortable handing over a twenty dollar bill, as if Heather, somehow, genuinely cared about her money.

“And your change,” Heather said, returning a five, two ones, and three quarters in a low, swooping parabola that just happened to linger near the tip jar, which today was adorned with cardboard flowers, a plea to contribute to Heather’s college fund, and a very minor double entendre rhyme that involved the word “locket.”

“Oh, all right,” said the tourist, as she dropped the quarters, and then the five, into the jar.

*****

Wrote this today, longhand, on a very crowded plane. There’s actually more, although I’m not sure if it will ultimately be part of the same scene or separated. It’s from The Clean Hippie Murders, and it comes sometime after Heather has become Jonas’s protege and learned some of his lessons. She’s applying them in the crappy job that she’s taken in hopes of starting to build a college fund, knowing that funding isn’t reliable from any other source.

At Midway airport today, there was a restaurant that had “.com” on the end of its name. I didn’t eat there because it was too crowded, but I was curious if it had free wi-fi. I didn’t see anyone who had a computer. This will be relevant in the second part.

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