Friday, October 11, 2013

"The truth was, no one could really tell..."

The truth was, no one could really tell you which city it was. It didn't matter to the inhabitants, and it barely mattered to Jack and the Voices, as he was coming to think of them. A sort of doo-wop band straight out of a psychology textbook. The aristocrat didn't like this analogy, and the angry voice outright said he'd only agree to it if he got to be lead guitar. The other two were much more amenable.

"We might as well be called something," came the crisp sangfroid Jack. "And if it makes you happy, well, as you will."

"We should try singing a round," said the chipper voice. "I'll start. Row, row, row --"

"Shut up."

"We've already got creative differences, I see."

Jack shook his head around; he did that whenever they started to get distracted (or distract him.) It helped focus them, or maybe it just threw them for a loop and let him re-establish control. Either way, after the vigorous shaking he pointed towards a diner. When none of the voices objected, he started toward the door.

To call it a diner was generous. It was one of those all-night greasy spoons that everyone in the city pretends to hate ("Who eats that slop," they ask their friends and neighbors.) But, they also have a detached pride in it ("It's a mom and pop joint, a real engine of the economy.") Then, when no one is looking, and they've been drinking late into the night, they sidle on in and order a mess of hash browns and eggs. Then, to themselves, they insist that they know better and should never have done that. They will even start saying it to themselves as they're sipping on their coffee waiting for the check, and wonder again: "Who eats this slop?"

Jack, however knew that he'd eat it. Even though the little number cruncher in his head was trying to dissuade him ("Think of your heart! Your cholesterol.") Jack was curious if he even had bad cholesterol. ("You will if you keep eating in places like this!") Then he shook his head and reached the door. He tried to remember if he had ever been here before; he tried to remember what the city was like. He failed, so he pushed the door open.

"Hey, no shoes, no shirt, no service," came the shout from behind the counter. Inside there were empty tables as far as the eye could see, and a short, pudgy man behind the counter in a stained white chef's apron pointed at him with a spatula.

The woman, also middle-aged, also short, also pudgy, took a step away from Jack.

"Look, I just woke up in the rain. I think I was robbed," Jack said. The other voices conferred with themselves and decided that seemed like a true enough statement not to object.

"Call the police from somewhere else," The chef said, if he could rightly be called a chef. Jack decided to call him a greasemonger.

"I just want to get warm and dry," Jack said. "I don't need the police." It was an odd sentiment, and it just spilled out of him. There was a deadly confidence: Badges? We don't need no stinking badges, nor the attendant legitimate force that comes with them, he thought (glad to differentiate his thoughts and the Voices.)

"You'll scare off the other customers."

"There aren't any other customers, dear," the woman said. Jack assumed she was the mom to his pop.

"There would be if the likes o' him didn't creep in," Pop Greasemonger said. He and the woman locked eyes in a staring contest, and Jack watched. His eyebrow raised; hers narrowed. He pursed his lips; she crossed his arms. "Fine. Just put'im in a corner where no one can see him."
She tapped her foot.

"And give him a spare uniform," Pop Greasemonger said. The woman nodded to him curtly, having won the battle of wills.

"I know you probably haven't got any money," the woman said after settling Jack into a corner booth. "But whatever you want is on the house."

"What's the most expensive thing on the menu? I want a breakfast steak," The angry voice said immediately.

"Is there anything here that isn't a grease covered affront to real food?"

"Smiley pancakes. You can't go wrong with smiling flap jacks."

"Just coffee, please," Jack said out loud.

"Now," said the most reasonable of the voices after she left to get him his coffee, "maybe we could try and figure out why he was lying half naked in an alley under a dead cat?"

"See what I did with that? Flap Jacks."

"Yes, yes, very droll. Now, about the dead cat."

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