February 22, 2011

  • Things Aren’t What They Seem



    02/21/2011 09:47pm

    News of Archibald’s death brought both sorrow and hunger pangs. I had a particular craving for donuts. Specifically I was hankering for a jelly, which is kind of funny because usually chocolate glazed is my preference. I pulled the car into Sparky’s High Boy Restaurant and Bakery at the corner of Broad and Essex, out by the old dump they turned into a recycling center. I didn’t care too much for that recycling center. They had rejected my refuse on two separate occasions. Apparently they have a problem with polyvinyl chlorides and cathode ray tubes. Just where the hell is a boy supposed to bring his waste in this town? I sure do miss having a full service dump. Oh well, at least we still have the High Boy.

    I liked Sparky’s. I liked it a lot, even if they didn’t have a drive thru. They made things simple, confining their menu to a limited choice of soups, sandwiches, and pastries, complimented with a few assorted hot and cold beverages. I’m told they once had a reputation for the tastiest fries in all the Upstate. That was many years ago though, back in the fifties. Apparently French fried spuds were removed from the menu after a clumsy staff member tripped over a sack of potatoes in the kitchen and was injured quite severely. The ensuing lawsuit almost cost the High Boy its solvency. To add insult to injury, the court ordered that the injured worker be guaranteed his position back, should he ever be well enough to return.

    At the bakery counter I ordered one jelly donut and a coffee with nondairy creamer and no sugar.  The cashier expeditiously retrieved my donut and handed it to me. She then went to get my coffee. While she was gone I bit into the donut and immediately recognized an irregular flavor. There was something more than jelly in this donut. It was salty and kind of metallic. When the cashier returned with my coffee, I looked her straight in the eye and spat into her face. A wad of blood, saliva, and pastry jelly pelted her cheek then slithered down her chin and neck to her blouse, leaving a slimy red trail in its wake.

    “I’d like to speak with a manager,” I said

    “What seems to be the problem sir?”

    “There’s blood in my donut. That seems to be the problem.”

    “Wait here,” she said and momentarily disappeared.  She returned a few minutes later and said, “Follow me.”

    She led me down a long dark corridor to a room illuminated by single dim light bulb. A dark shadow stood behind a desk with its back to me.  I heard the door close behind me.  The shadow turned and spoke in a soft, feminine voice.

    “Allow me to introduce myself,” she said, “they call me the Enigmatic Miss M. And you, you must be Charles.”  The spot where she stood suddenly illuminated to reveal a tall, exotic, dark-haired woman. She looked almost Asian but not quite and wore a black lace peignoir and matching gown. It was hardly the kind of attire one would expect for the manager of Sparky’s High Boy Restaurant and Bakery.

    “How do you know my name?” I asked her.

    “You’d be surprised what I know about you Charles.”

    “Oh? And yet I know nothing of you.”

    She smiled and said “I’d be happy to answer any of your questions.”

    “Okay then Enigmatic Miss M.,” I said, “What is it that the ‘M’ stands for?”

    “It’s an initial Charles. It stands for my name.”

    “Which is?”

    “What is it that you would like it to be?”

    “Guadeloupe Hidalgo,” I said stressing the Spanish pronunciation.

    “Guadeloupe Hidalgo?” she asked, also stressing the Spanish pronunciation.

    “Yes, as in the Treaty of.”

    “I’m familiar with it Charles,” she said, seemingly annoyed at the insinuation that she was not. “Ended the Mexican-American War and, among other things, made the Rio Grande the official border between Texas and Mexico.”

    “Yes,” I said, “but I guess that doesn’t begin with M now does it.”

    “No Charles, it doesn’t. Now what can I do for you?”

    “I took a bite of one of your donuts and it had blood in it, human blood. From the taste of it I’d say it came from one of the nostrils, bled from either the inferior concha or the septum.”

    “You don’t say,” she said and pushed a button on her telephone console.  Shortly thereafter a man in a baker’s hat entered through a door to the left which I had not noticed existed. He held a baking sheet. On it were what looked like capsules of smelling salts. The enigmatic Miss M. took one.

    “Amyl?” she offered, “they’re straight from the oven.”

    “No thank you,” I said.

    “Very well,” she said then crushed the capsule between her fingers and inhaled its contents.  She closed her eyes, taking a long pause. She opened them and looked towards her baker. “This is Franz, Charles,” she said then looked back at me, “He’s prone to nose bleeds.”

    “Then perhaps Franz should see a doctor. An ears, nose, and throat specialist, or maybe an allergist.”

    “Oh, and just who the fuck’s gonna pay for that, you?” Franz said angrily.

    “You’ll have to forgive Franz,” said the Enigmatic Miss M., “You see, he is only a part-time employee and thus ineligible to participate in our health and dental plan or our very generous 401(k) which matches one hundred percent of all contributions up to four percent.  He is, however, still entitled to our employee discount. We offer that to all employees, without restriction.”

    “Glad to hear it,” I said smugly.

    “Oh you should be very glad Charles,” she said.

    “Why’s that?”

    “Because as an employee you will receive fifteen percent off your recent order.”

    I was perplexed. “What are you talking about?” I asked, “I don’t work here.”

    “Of course you do,” she said, “you’ve been working here since 1957.”

    “That’s Impossible. I wasn’t even born in 1957.”

    “Come on now, you know well that the High Boy existed for you long before you ever existed for it.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “I know Archie was quite forgetful but I know he didn’t forget this one.”

    “How did you know Archibald?”

    “Same way you knew him.”

    “I need to go,” I said nervously and turned towards the door.”

    “Not so fast Charles,” the Enigmatic Miss M. said.

    As I looked back at her, Franz took off his baker’s hat and put it on me. “Time to make donuts motherfucker,” he said.


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