he black and white tiles were not satisfied with the floor as their home, therefore they climbed the walls unevenly, and a few of the more daring had even reached the ceiling. This phenomenon gave the room a dizzying atmosphere, and I felt as if I might fall over in a long, slow arc to bounce on the restless tiles upon impact. The frosted glass door closed with a sucking thud behind me, and my balance returned so fast that it almost knocked me down. I used this momentum to tiptoe through air that swirled with the smell of every kind of food that could be cooked in less than nine minutes. I went hand-over-hand down a row of red leather booths that bubbled and boiled with age, that demanded oil to sooth their irritation, and I wondered how long it had been since the last time. Against the wall to my left, a copper jukebox throbbed and began to pump a music that had never been heard before, a music made up entirely from exquisitely pleasurable headaches. I averted my eyes, because the sight of a seemingly solid metal machine moving like it was constructed from industrial grade jelly made me uncomfortable. When I arrived at the tin counter, one of the red leather stools (to match the booths) stopped spinning. I assumed this was an invitation to sit, so I did. I propped my elbows on the polished countertop and neglected to wonder where all the other customers were. I did however wonder where the waitress was, but I had plenty of time. So I waited and whistled along to the jukebox's unheard-of tune. It was a pleasurably painful experience.
The waitress walked through the wall, and it was convenient for her that she possessed this ability, because there was no door leading into the back. She came to me, trailing one finger along the business side of the countertop, and she wore a pale blue uniform that hugged her supple form as if afraid of being ripped away by eager hands. I looked straight at her and realized how hungry I was. She looked straight at me, but I don't know what she realized, if anything. Her face was a pretty mask of flawless skin, and I theorized that she would neither smile, nor frown. "Sorry for the wait," she said. "We are very busy today, as you can see." I looked around at the strange, deserted diner and said, "Of course, I can see very clearly, and it is not a problem, for I have plenty of time." She smiled, thus destroying my earlier hypothesis (if that's the same thing as a theory). She said, "Oh good, well I hope you are hungry, for we have far too much to eat." Her face returned to its former impenetrable façade, and I wondered if her smile was on the menu, but there was no menu, at least in physical form. All information pertaining to food resided in the waitress's head, so I asked her to recommend a dish. She said, "First you must tell me where you are going." I said, "I am going south." She asked, "Is this a permanent move?" I replied, "No, I am going to visit my Aunt Lucille for a time. Until she tells me to leave, I've been told." She smiled again, and I was struck by an intense desire to lean over the counter and bite her teeth. She said, "Are not we all." I didn't know what she meant, therefore I ignored the comment and asked, "So what do you recommend?" She replied, "For you, I recommend the Garden Salad of Good and Evil." I said, "I'll take two," and her face snapped back into deadpan. She said, "Good choice, they will be ready when they are done," and she disappeared whence she had come.
The muscles in my back bunched together and flexed, for no reason that I could see. The hairs on my neck stood tall and sent shivers rolling up and down the curves of my spine, but they did not explain why. The nails of my fingers sought purchase in the mirror-smooth finish of the countertop, almost peeling back in the process, and only then did I notice something sinister. The jukebox had fallen silent. Its unheard of music had become simply unheard, and I knew, I just knew that the uncomfortable machine was looming right behind me. I knew that it pulsed, its exquisitely pleasurable headaches held in check by nothing more than its knowledge that anticipation is worse than ordeal. I now fully understood the actions of my muscles, hairs, and nails, and I had to admire their powers of observation, for they had become aware of the looming presence long before I. The waitress reappeared through the wall and asked, "Is something wrong?" I replied, "Yes, it seems that your jukebox has sneaked up upon me, and I wish that it would go away." She gave me a good, long dose of her pretty mask and said, "There is nothing behind you." My muscles, hairs, and nails twitched with potential embarrassment. I pushed off from the counter, twirling slowly around the axis of my stool, and the potential became reality. When I faced her again, I said, "My mistake." She said, "Not at all, and your salads are almost done." As she departed to attend my order, I twirled to face the jukebox, back in its usual place against the partially tiled wall. It exploded into impossible song, and I pretended to enjoy it. I pretended to believe it had never been behind me. I pretended I was a cowboy, and I rode my spinning stool like a wild bull.
The black and white tiles eased into motion, swirling imperceptibly at the outer edge of vision. Their ever-upward journey progressed with leaps and bounds, while simultaneously sagging back down in exhaustion. This renewed activity annulled my equilibrium and shoved me grinning from my seat. I crawled across the solid, shifting floor. I climbed aboard one of the red leather booths (to match the stools), and the bubbles and boils sucked at my legs, tried to drink my body oil through the fabric of my pants, tried to soothe their dry irritation with the moistness of my being. I thrashed and giggled, because this intimate attention tickled. I demanded they stop, and since the customer is always right, they did. I slouched and ignored the mutters of discontent from below, wiggling my toes in satisfaction. The sinister silence returned, and my lower digits froze, my back muscles, neck hairs, and fingernails sprang to apprehensive alert. I didn't want to, but I knew I had to, so I slowly did so, and then it was done. I looked, but the jukebox was gone. In its place stood a small, dark man with a guitar, and he winked at me! I think I then fainted, because the next thing I remember is everything getting weird.
"How were your Garden Salads of Good and Evil?" the waitress asked through her flawless skin façade. "Too much, I hope." She fingered the empty counter before me, and I then realized that I sat again on a stool, the stool I had sat on before, the others spinning contentedly out to either side. Behind me, the booths bubbled and boiled, pretending that at some time in the past they had not been trying to suck me empty. All around, the tiles were still, frozen in their lofty aspirations, waiting for an unknown signal to begin again. To my left, the jukebox pulsed, no longer a winking man, now back to its old uncomfortable, copper self. I looked away, down at the polished tin countertop, and let the exquisitely pleasurable headaches wash over my reeling mind. I replied to the question asked, "The salads were delicious and too much in the worst way," although I had no memory of any food whatsoever. I then said, "It is time for me to go. What do I owe you for what I have received?" She smiled, and I was struck by the intense desire to run screaming out the frosted glass door, or even better, to run through it. She replied to my question, "You owe me nothing, for you have already paid." Her face snapped back into deadpan, and I realized that I was no longer hungry in the least. I was actually quite full.
Eruch Ernst graduated from the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre in 2002. He has since created and performed two different original plays with two different professional theatre companies, and when he is not failing to make a living creating and performing theatre, he focuses on failing to make a living writing fiction.
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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved