Friday, October 17, 2008
VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT (Edit from "INSOMNIUM")
Cagey looks up from his soup to see two figures seated across from him. Cagey lowers his spoon, the soup in it uneaten. The girl, a blonde, appears to be mentally retarded, or at the very least brain damaged. However, unlike most mentally retarded individuals Cagey has observed, the girl is very beautiful, and her hygiene is impeccable: waves of long hair shine in the restaurant light, her makeup is restrained but effective, and her teeth are perfect. The overall effect is ruined by the small string of drool that collects at the corner of her mouth as she laughs her idiot laugh. Her eyes are glassy and deadened as she stares across the table at Cagey.
The dark-haired man seated next to her, on the other hand, radiates intelligence shot through with malice. His hair is slicked back from his high, proud forehead in a widow’s peak, and his arched eyebrows accentuate the eyes. A thick, flaky crust obscures those eyes, however, and its grayish color reflects the light in silvery glints. Although the face around the eyes is very animated, the crusts never crack, and the man never blinks. He just sits across from Cagey, next to the blonde moron, grinning a sickening, toothy grin. Neither speaks; they only regard Cagey silently for several minutes until he finally speaks.
“Um, is there something I can help you with?”
The dark-haired man giggles, mocks him: “Uh, uh, is there something I can help you with?” The idiot girl laughs her idiot laugh. They sit and continue to watch him.
“Why did you sit down here with me?”
The dark-haired man shrugs. “Didn’t. We were already here.” The blonde looks confused, nods, her jaw slack.
Cagey’s irritation begins to supplant his feelings of unease. “Sooo, I sat down here, at your table. Where you were the whole time. That’s what happened.”
The dark-haired man shrugs again. “You should come with us. We have some things to show you. Some things you’ll want to see.” The blonde imbecile nods emphatically, grunts, spittle flecking her chin.
“Wow. Wow, I don’t think so.”
The dark-haired man grins again, and Cagey’s stomach tightens up with apprehension. “You’ll end up going, one way or the other. It can be now, or there’s a bus that’ll take you later.”
The man’s grin grows even broader. “Yeah, a bus. You don’t want to meet the bus driver.” The idiot girl laughs gutturally. The dark-haired man turns to her, grinning, looks back at Cagey. “Yeah. The bus driver. He’s, like…binary, man.”
“Yeah, you know: if we’re all Ones, then he’s a…”
The idiot girl shouts it: “Zero!” She laughs and laughs, clapping her hands awkwardly together. The man laughs as well, continues staring at Cagey through the flaky gray crusts.
“Mm-hm. That’s right.” The dark-haired man jerks his thumb over at the blonde. “He touched her once, and part of her came off in his hand.” The blonde continues her nodding and giggling. The dark-haired man gets up, motions the blonde out of the booth. She pushes herself up and nearly tumbles out, steadying herself on the table. “My name is Charles. My sister’s name…is Suzie. We’ll see you again. You won’t forget us any time soon.”
Cagey chuckles mirthlessly. “No, no I won’t.”
The pair moves towards the door of the restaurant, the girl leaning into her brother for support. Cagey watches them walk out into the parking lot to a long, boxy black car of indeterminate make and vintage. A man gets out of the driver’s seat, at least it looks like a man, all dressed in black. It is hard to see across the dimly lit parking lot but he appears to open the rear driver’s side door to let Suzie into the car. He assists her as Charles gets in on the passenger side. The man in black appears to turn back to the restaurant, and it is then that the music coming through the speakers begins to warp, sounding as if a child were playing with an AM dial, voices and snatches of music coming in and out through the strange echoes of the sine waves. The man in black turns, gets back into the driver’s seat, and pulls out into the night without his lights on. The restaurant’s radio returns to its regular program of frothy j-pop. Cagey turns back to his soup bowl and exhales, palms down before him on the tabletop. He then gets up suddenly, almost runs over to the waiter tabulating bills at the register by the door. The waiter looks up, smiles as Cagey approaches.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Yeah, did you see those two people just leave? What was wrong with that guy’s eyes?”
The waiter looks confused. “Eyes…?”
It takes Cagey about ten seconds to realize that the waiter’s English extends to menu items and “Can I help you, sir?” Cagey smiles uncomfortably, waves him off and returns to his table. His soup is cold. His dinner is ruined. Cagey throws down a twenty, not feeling able to wait for the bill this evening, and stalks out to his car.
Posted by Jason Gusmann