Dining with the Lizard People
Last night Ann and I experienced a bitter end to what had been a lovely evening. Many good friends, old and new, took the time and made the effort to attend the launch of my novel Duke Street Kings at a downtown bookshop. The house wasn’t quite full but it sure was friendly. Once my Warholian 15 minutes had expired, a sizable group of us repaired to a nearby sports bar for celebratory drinks.
It was late when Ann and I drove back across the river headed for home. Ann said, ‘I feel like having a greaseburger. What about you? You must be hungry.’ I was; I hadn’t eaten all day, afraid to drop anything solid into a churning stomach. An A&W whizzed by on the driver’s side. Ann said, ‘I missed the turn for the A&W.’ I agreed she had. ‘What about Wendy’s?’ she suggested. I agreed Wendy’s would do.
The Wendy’s we frequent once a year is in the university district, separated from the teaching hospital’s emergency take-in by a twin set of LRT tracks and four lanes of traffic. We chose a booth in the corner of the restaurant as it appeared to be a clean one. I removed my overcoat. Underneath that I wore a jean jacket over a naturally distressed black tee-shirt promoting my first novel Murder Incorporated.
A lizard boy in a tracksuit slouched in a booth across the aisle, his long legs stretched out, said, ‘Nice shirt.’ I wondered if he thought it referenced the hip-hop record label or just kicks. I thanked him for the compliment although he was already reabsorbed by his smartphone’s screen. His companion was passed out: forearms on table, forehead on forearms, head in hoodie. These guys were just hanging out. There was nobody on the premises with any stature or authority to shoo them away.
Through the window I could see a gaggle of lizard people in track suits passed out at a table on the chained-off outdoor patio. Toward the rear of the restaurant, near the toilets which tonight I knew I would never use in a million years, sat an elderly man sporting a black leather jacket and a grey Mohawk. His face was a mess, perhaps disease, perhaps a beating. Likely both. No one else in the place looked much better.
Ann leaned close to me. ‘Are we in Emergency overflow?’ Or the sixth circle of Hell. We bit into our Wendy’s Hot n’ Juicy burgers. They were nitrogen cold and rubbery. Now, it’s fair to say that most fast food burger chains have inflicted a grave disservice upon the noble American hamburger. But how does a chain store with its systems in place massively, gigantically, heroically botch, nay, sodomize with impunity, its very foundation, its core fare? Ann returned our sad sack sandwiches to the counter.