Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Epic Conclusion: Jack in the Box Part 3.

I’ve let myself marinate for five days without a salad, and alas, I’m too lazy to cook and the chub seems to be returning as a result.
Plus I need some cheap laughs, so I figure I’ll visit the circus at Jack in the Box one last time.

I’m hoping to see Lazy Eye and Samantha when I walk in, but none of the regulars are working tonight. Instead it’s empty behind the counter.
The dining room is quiet, no music. Only hidden sounds of food being made.

I hear the door open behind me, and the clang of a skateboard.

Holding it is a very slender teenage boy. He’s got a tiny Element t-shirt on, with skinny jeans barely clinging onto his little waist. His skater hat is also strategically askew in its placement on his head. The whole ensemble is a perfectly planned attempt at seeming careless.

A new face approaches from behind the counter- ‘Manny’ his nametag states.

“HeycanIhelpyou,” Manny tells the monitor screen.

I take a moment to drink in Manny. Manny is a mouth breather. His eyes are far away. At best, his mind is asleep while his body moves as a robot in routine.

I could order something Manny has heard of before, but instead I use the secret phrase that unlocks Entertainment Mode.

“Hi, I’d like a grilled chicken salad, please.”

“Grilled chicken sandwich you wanna combo.”

“Oh no fries with my salad, thank you.”

“We don’t make salads with fries.”

“I know.”

Manny stares. The skater kid stares. So I stare too.
Then I try again.

“I’d like a grilled chicken salad. The salad kind of salad, please.”

“Kay grilled er crispy.”

“Grilled for here.”

“Here er to go.”

“For here.”

I have the $6.20 ready for him so he doesn’t say the amount due.
Manny rings up my order, walks behind the metal wall, and reappears with a salad.

“Dang you guys are fast.”

Manny mouth-breathes, and puts a Southwest Crispy Chicken salad on the counter.

“Hey that was pretty close!” I say, happy.

Manny picks the salad back up and stares through it, then puts it under the counter, and goes back behind the metal wall again.

“Fuckin sucks. Hate that shit bro,” Skater offers.

“Oh it’s okay, I mean it only takes two se-“

“Here you go,” Manny cuts us both off with a new salad.

“Whoa! See? That was so fast!” I say to Skater, pointing at the new salad.

Skater stares. Manny mouth-breathes.

“Well done,” I tell them both with a firm nod.

I eat my salad, it’s just as I ordered it. Skater gets his burger and leaves.
I’m sitting at the first table by the entrance, halfway through my meal, when the door opens again.

The smell of very, very fresh marijuana wafts in with two college freshman boys.
They have huge smiles on their faces, one’s smaller, wearing a tank top and a sunburn. The other has curly hair and rosy cheeks.

“Hey guys!” I wave.

Tank Top hears my voice, checks the ceiling first, then the floor.

“I’m over here!” I tell him, three feet away.

“Oh hey man! What’s up? I’ve NEVER seen you before!”

“Whoa me neither!” Curly exclaims.

“I know, huh? The odds are like, one in seven billion that you’d ever meet me! It’s like you just won the lottery a hundred times,” I congratulate them.

Tank Top’s eyes widen, “Dude did you hear that,” he smacks Curly’s arm, “We just won the lottery!”
They both laugh too hard.

“Let’s buy whatever we want then!”

Now they're both trying to make sense of the menu behind Manny, who’s still mouth-breathing.

“Hey you know what you guys should get?” I ask from my table.

“What?” they both respond in unison, turning towards me.


Manny’s mouth closes.

With paranoid eyes, the two stoners whisper to each other too loudly.

“I didn’t know they make salads here.”
“Me either.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“Whoa when did we get here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“I say we try a salad. It could be cool, man.”
“Yeah plus we won the lottery. We should get a salad huh.”
“Yeah let’s get one. Well one for you and one for me.”
“Ok cool.”

Manny’s gaze and mine battle a silent war in the background.

“Whoa wait. This is Taco Bell right?”
“Who’s that guy?”
“I think he works here.”
“Can he make salads? Does he know they make salads here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”

I stand up and join them.

“These gentlemen will have a grilled chicken salad a piece. On me.”

I hear giggles of relief from the boys.

Manny sighs, then robots the order into existence, and gives them both a salad within seconds.

“Whoa, thank you man!” Curly can't believe it.
Tank Top gives me a bro handshake.

“No problem, happy to help,” I tell them, laughing at their permanent grins.

Ah, youth.

I return to my seat and finish my salad, listening to the boys discuss what they’re going to buy with their lottery money.

Clearing my tray in the trashcan, I wave to them on my way out the door. They both grin back, overly satisfied with the food filling their cheeks.

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