The smell being pumped out onto the street by the sub shop makes me nauseous. It’s like a mix between industrial carpet cleaners and food, a wrongness that my mind equates to poison. It’s the reason I don’t eat there. But when I see the sign, “No Ouija Boards or Séances Allowed,” I’m drawn inside.
My mind races. What compelled this restaurant to put up a sign like that? Part of me is expecting cold drafts on my neck, or hazy lights flitting from table to table. All I find is a bored, pimply-faced teenager leaning against a polished counter. I stand just inside the door, our eyes meet for an instant while I try to decide whether I’m actually going to stay. The smell isn’t nearly as bad inside. The kid looks down at his hands, I guess from his posture and bereft expression that he’s in the initial stages of withdrawal from his phone.
Someone knocks on the glass behind me, and when I turn, a girl in full-out Goth apparel is tapping against the pane. I’m blocking the door and she wants in. When I move out of the way she grunts and gives me a righteous sneer. I hear her mumble something under her breath, but don’t catch the words. She rushes by me, her fishnet-clad legs and heavy, black Doc Martens pound out the distance across the yellowing tiled floor. She halts in front of the counter and crosses her arms.
“My lawyer’s going to be here any minute, Derrick. Then you’ll be sorry,” she barks at the kid.
“Your lawyer can kiss my ass, Brittney.”
“My name’s Draconia!”
The kid snorts and makes a face. “Your name’s been Brittney ever since I met you in first grade.”
Well, that resolves my indecision; grocery shopping can wait. This seems like it might prove a lot more interesting, so I make my way to a booth and sit. Neither kid notices.
A bell jingles and we all turn to see an emaciated figure duck through the door. His purple, black-tipped Mohawk is listing to one side. His left eyebrow is puffy and oozing something yellow around a gold ring. Brittney/Draconia gives a satisfied smirk and motions the gangly fellow over to the counter.
“This is Blaze, he’ll be representing me today,” she says.
Blaze tugs the sleeves of his leather jacket down, but they don’t cover his bony wrists. “I’d like to speak to the manager.” It’s obvious he’s trying for a solemn, dignified voice, but it comes out with a falsetto squeak at the end.
I reach into my purse and pull out pen and paper and start scribbling. You can’t make this shit up. I consider trying to video it, but realize that introducing a camera might change the dynamics of the encounter. I assume that even if I tried to slip my phone onto the tabletop, they’d immediately catch on. Kids these days are so attuned to electronics that it’s become part of their DNA.
“Tiffany’s busy right now; ‘sides, she’d just tell you to bugger off.” He points up at the sign. “It says no friggin’ Ouija boards. You guys scared the crap out of the ladies from the congregational church group, and they sure as beans spend more money here than your weirdo ninja cult does.”
“We ain’t ninjas, you tool. We’re children of the night,” Brittney says.
“Well, Brittney Meadows, as I live and breathe,” a plump, red-faced girl says as she walks through the swinging door from the back. “I thought I told you and your idiot friends not to ever show your faces in here again.”
“I got the right to be here, Tiffany.”
For a heavy girl, Tiffany moves with surprising velocity. She thumps her hands on the counter. “You don’t! All you do is chase away business. Get your stupid, fake, festering white face out of my store.”
Brittney crosses her arms over a well-endowed chest and sneers. “Brian, tell her.”
“It’s Blaze,” the tall skeleton hisses. His Mohawk droops a little more, the purple dye snakes down his neck and into his collar. He’d taken three steps back toward the door at Tiffany’s hostility. Now he reaches into his pocket and withdraws a crumpled note and squints at it. “According to law, um, one point four—or maybe that’s two point one—or is it…”
“Just tell her the law, Blaze!” Brittney orders.
“You’re discriminating against our group. We’re kinda like a religion, and it says right here that you can’t do that,” he blurts.
The bell over the door rings again and an elderly lady wearing a red hat pushes into the restaurant. When she looks up, she gasps. “Not the Satan people again!” She fumbles in her purse and brings out a crucifix. “In the name of Jesus, be gone.”
“They were just leaving, Mrs. Garvey,” Tiffany says.
“We were not,” Brittney says. Her makeup seems to be losing its molecular integrity and cracks begin to appear in it. A cluster of red pimples materializes around her nose.
“Derrick, call 911,” Tiffany orders.
“Brittney, I’m not getting arrested for no stupid séance,” Blaze says. He shoves the crumpled paper back into his jacket pocket and heads for the door.
Draconia stands for a moment, indecisive and looking more like first-grader Brittney than Goth princess. Finally, she spins on her heavy boots and makes for the exit as Derrick brings the phone to his ear. “Brian, wait!” she calls to the retreating purple-stained back.
The red-hatted lady with the cross heaves a satisfied sigh. “Jesus chased their evil arses right out of here.”
I sit at the table still writing, afraid I won’t be able to read it later. Derrick and Tiffany both glance at me as the scratching of pen on paper can be heard over the buzz of the fluorescent lights.
Image from Flickr