Eating Out | by Dan Nielsen

     Sluggo straw-slurped the last drop from his 64oz beverage cup. “Mommy, Daddy, is it true that some people cook their own food?” Sluggo wore an empty fries box for a hat.

     “Daddy, why does Sluggo only eat fries?” Mommy bled from her nose. Daddy thought nothing of this.

     Daddy caught a fly with his hand. “Our son is a humanitarian, Mommy.”

     Mommy tilted her head back. “What, if I may ask, is a humanitarian?”

     Daddy looked around. “A humanitarian is someone who doesn’t eat burgers, or nuggets, or sausage patties.” Daddy liked the feel of a fly in his hand. “Just fries, Mommy.”

     “Mommy, Daddy, I’m still hungry.” Sluggo made a face. Mommy closed her eyes. Daddy smiled. The fly felt great in Daddy’s hand. Sluggo had an idea. He squeezed a ketchup packet into the empty cup. “May I be excused?”

     “Okay,” Mommy said, “but be careful in the Men’s. You know what happened last time.”

     “Don’t worry,” Sluggo said, “I’m just going to the employee breakroom to visit with Paul.”

     “Good idea,” Daddy said. “Maybe Paul will share his pancake batter.”

     “As if,” Sluggo said and made his way through the scattered garbage and overturned tables to the employee breakroom.

     “Hey, Sluggo.” Paul ate pancake batter from a pail.

     “Hey, Paul, I’m making soup.” Sluggo liked the employee breakroom. It was his favorite room in the whole world.

     “What’s soup?” Paul lit a cigarette.

     “Soup is ketchup and water heated in a microwave.” A mousetrap slammed. A smoke alarm sounded. Someone fired a gun in the parking lot. Paul stubbed out the cigarette. The smoke alarm stopped. “I invented soup, Paul.” Sluggo added bubbler water to the cup, stirred, placed it in the employee microwave, and pressed START. Paul relit the cigarette. A smoke alarm sounded. Paul stubbed out the cigarette. The smoke alarm stopped. The microwave dinged. Sluggo removed the cup from the microwave, stirred it with a plastic fork, blew on it, and sipped some. “Paul, I invented soup.” Sluggo sipped some more. “You can look it up.”

     “What does that even mean?” Paul never looked anything up.

     “I don’t know.” Sluggo never looked anything up either. “It’s just an expression.”

     “Have you noticed how hard it is to find popsicle sticks?” Paul licked the inside of the pail.

     “Not really.” Sluggo had a red moustache now.

     “It’s because artists use them for art.” Paul’s head got stuck in the pail. He’d have died were Sluggo not there. “Thanks, Sluggo. You saved my life.” Paul owned the restaurant. He handed Sluggo a job application. Sluggo handed it back.

     “You’re hired.” Paul had a hard time getting good help.

     Paul opened a fresh pail of pancake batter. Sluggo finished the soup. Daddy let the fly go. It was dead. Someone else fired a gun in the parking lot. The bullet came through the window and hit Mommy in the back of her head. Mommy slumped forward. Daddy thought nothing of this. Paul relit the cigarette. A smoke alarm sounded. Mommy stopped breathing. Paul stubbed out the cigarette. The smoke alarm stopped.

     “I’m nine, Paul.”

     The fly came back to life. It flew away.

 

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Dan Nielsen is a fulltime open mic standup comic. His flash manuscript Flavored Water was a semi-finalist in the Rose Metal Press 2017 SHORT SHORT CHAPBOOK CONTEST. Flash in: Bird’s Thumb, Minor Literature[s], Cheap Pop, and The Collapsar. Dan has a website: Preponderous, you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES. He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art-folk band Sugar Whiskey.

 

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