Before you progress any further, gentle reader, I must warn you. If you have a small attention span, as I do, then disregard this post. This is merely an exercise I conducted while out of the house. Its the best way for me to get any work of any kind finished at all. If you have a much larger attention and do enjoy reading, then continue on. (Also bear in mind, imagine me impersonating Garrison Keillor narrating this passage.)
Its Thursday night. I'm on my way to a co-worker's house, though she's more a manager in confidence. Tonight we were supposed to dine together with other members of the training program at a family style Italian restaurant. Plans were canceled. People couldn't afford it, they said. These plans were agreed upon months ago in advance. In lieu of this, Savannah invited some of us into her home with promises of cake and carbonated soft drinks, and the company of small, manageable animals. Regardless of the plans for the night, I needed to get out of the house.
On my way to her home, I dodged the iron and concrete tentacles of the perpetual wasteland of construction happening along the path of danger, Highway 50. Hunger hits me half way through. In my mind, my stomach seemed to crave the purple, pink and bits of yellow neon that called out from the Taco Bell stand just up the road. As my vehicle slows to crawl and I flick on my right turn signal, I happen to notice the state of desolation in this establishment from the outside. There was just one car there. Something just didn't seem right to me about a fast food restaurant with just one car in its parking lot. Despondent, I turned away from the fairy glamor of soft tacos.
It was strange, the little shops nearby the taco stand. All of the shops were blacked out in the dim evening light. Someone had gone and taken an over sized marker and just blacked them out from me being able to see them, so I pressed on. Suddenly, she hits me. That beautiful, alluring, warming smile of hers invites me closer. Her father's home, the one she sits so contentedly on, becomes the lighthouse of Alexandria to me. Wendy's, a fast food chain I seldom visited due to its rarity, manifested itself.
I stepped inside and remarked on the establishment's cleanliness, at least until I left the lobby area. Two employees, a twenty something white male with short dusty blond hair, and an older black gentleman with large, large glasses, started to haul garbage from the front counter of the store to the dumpster outside. I pretended to scan over the store's menu, giving the impression I've never been to a Wendy's before, but I knew what I wanted. I wanted a spicy chicken sandwich. No other restaurant in town could make it like Wendy's. Dave Thomas seemed to employ wizards when he came up with recipe for this sandwich. It tainted me. Something about the combination of spices and the plushy texture of the bun, and the mayonnaise just could not satisfy my lust for a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. No other sandwich would do. I simply had to have it.
While I stood there, the manager on duty howled to some of her employees in Spanish from the back. I never formally studied Spanish, but I got the gist of what she was saying as a young male Latino sauntered defiantly up to the drive-thru side of the restaurant with his puff ball ponytail sticking out from the back of his visor. Another male Latino greeted me at the register and took my order, matching my same quiet, dulcet tone.
The two employees returned, the young man coming to the aid of his manager to assemble sandwiches for the customers waiting outside, and more importantly, my Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. I couldn't help but cringe when he showed up to help her assemble food with those hands of his. Something felt odd, as if he didn't change his gloves after handling the garbage from earlier. To my fortune, he plucked a sizzling hot chicken breast patty from their pressure cooker with a pair of steel tongs, gently placing it onto the bun slathered with mayonnaise, dressed with a single sheet of iceberg lettuce, completing my Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. The manager wraps the sandwich and slides it down to me, offering me the assurance, "Careful. It's hot."
With my meal on my tray in hand, the dinning opened up to me. I saw vacancies as far as the restaurant allowed. I sat down and silence sat across from me, along with its friends humming neon sign and country music radio station. Memories of home and late evening high school meals started to flood my head. The layout reminded me a lot of the Wendy's near where I grew up, near where the Full Sail University sits to this day.
I wrapped hand around the soft drink I ordered, sipping casually at it, and sat it down. I reached for the silver package, wrapped so neatly and with such delicate care, unraveling it to expose the main attraction, the star of the show, my Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. I brought the sandwich closer to my lips and bit down, resuming where my taste buds left off some time ago. I savored the taste of burning. This wasn't the kind of burning from the spices or the heat of the chicken. This was the taste of a freezer burnt chicken breast patty that had been deep fried in oil that hadn't been filtered or changed, or maybe the patty sat there too long. It was heaven for me, for a while at least.
(to be continued...)