The Burger King Robot Car Salesman

Chapter 1

Carl was spending most of his time at home watching too much television and too many commercials since losing his job. Every eleven minutes his attention was overtaken by images of juicy meat patties sizzling over open flames and bouncing on beds of crisp, green lettuce, slices of ripe tomatoes, onions, and whips of mayo, always with the smiling face of the red-bearded king waving his hand over the finished product. This gave rise to a ravenous craving for a flame-broiled Whopper, fries, and a milkshake.

Unfortunately, the city had banished the Burger King after years of war with the Golden Arches, leaving behind a few holdouts, hidden away in back alleys and beneath the city streets, serving their contraband flame-broiled flavors to the few still loyal to the crown. This is the reason why it took this long, weeks of exposure to the same commercial, for Carl to finally make the trip to the location beneath Macy’s in Herald Square, with a long-burning desire to purchase not just one but two Whoppers, large fries, and a vanilla milkshake, completely surrendering to the special deal, as advertised.

Chapter 2

He entered through the glass door marked by a small Burger King logo on Broadway between the Sunglasses Hut and the first of many Macy’s windows and followed the blue arrows pointing downward, toward stairs that led to the Burger King counter shared by a Cinnabon cashier in a blue Cinnabon uniform.

Carl expected a dark, forgotten franchise, empty tables, faded signage, worn out trays, possibly, even cobwebs. But it was bright and alive, walls colored in bold red and gold. He joined the Macy’s employees in suits and plastic nametags, FedEx and UPS drivers, office workers in wrinkled shirts, traffic cops, meter readers, construction workers, dads in Mets hats, kids shouldering Spiderman knapsacks, standing not in a line but in a crowd awaiting the attention of the cashier in the orange and red uniform. The Cinnabon counterpart, a few feet away, alone and gazing at her phone.

Carl ordered quickly and confidently having memorized his lines and after a short wait for the white paper sack which was suitably warm to the touch, he took his seat at one of the high tables along the wall, near another glass door through which he could see the MetroCard machines and turnstiles to the F train. Once settled, coat and bag hanging from the back of his chair, he unfolded the top of the bag, releasing a meaty steam and then started on his first Whopper, carefully unwrapping it and taking a good-sized cold flame broiled bite that burst with tomato, onion, and mayo. He added a few fries into the chew and pulled on the straw for a cheek full of cold, sweet vanilla shake and was overcome with that rare feeling when the reality of something imagined exceeds the imagination itself.

Chapter 3

“Excuse me, can you tell me where the bathroom is,” said a man entering through the glass door, addressing a wiry, dreadlocked employee who was sweeping the floor with a broom. The man had a large gut protruding from the front of a shiny metallic windbreaker and wore impenetrable shades covering his eyes. He had a curly beard and an Oakland A’s cap. “Hey, excuse me, young man, young man, can you point in the direction of the bathroom, please?” The kid kept sweeping. And then, much louder, he said “WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE? A ROBOT? I’M A CUSTOMER AND I NEED SERVICE.” The kid finally stood straight, turned around slowly and pointed a rubbery finger at the door beyond the high tables where there was a line. “Well fine then. That’s all I needed to know. If you don’t want to work, go home.”

The big man got online for the bathroom, facing Carl who was biting, chewing, looking off in the distance but seeing him in his peripheral vision having no idea what he was looking at through those dark shades. There were people going in and out of the bathroom and the line became shorter until finally the man got close enough to Carl, leaned over, and whispered, “Hey, you wanna buy a car?”

Carl swallowed and said, “How do I know you’re not a robot?”
“Haha, you heard that did you?”
“In fact, how do you know, I’m not a robot?” said Carl.
“You’re a funny dude but I’m serious about the car.”
“What kind of car is it?”
“Cadillac, barely used. Got a debt I have to take care of. Won’t cost you more than a thousand.”
“If I had a drivers license and knew how to drive, we’d be making a deal.”
“Oh man, another New Yorker denied the experience of the freedom only the road can provide.”
“I’ve read Kerouac.”
“Not the same as a Cadillac but okay young man you enjoy that Whopper. Those are the best.”
“Agreed.”

It was the big man’s turn for the bathroom. He went in, closed the door behind him and within seconds the door opened again and he walked out. Just enough time, Carl thought, to pick up whatever was left for him in there.

Chapter 4

Carl took the last bite of his last Whopper, finished off the last of his fries, sucked nothing but air through the straw of his shake. Too much time on his hands, he thought. Need to get a job. Watch less television. Read more. Maybe buy that Cadillac and go on a road trip.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

Super Job

It was to be the most violent mega-storm ever to churn through the biggest metropolis of whiners on the planet. Wah-wah-wah what are we going to do? He could hear every single one of them which made him look forward to the storm even less. He hovered just below the ceiling of gray, furrowed clouds watching the storm approach, thinking about the drinks he’ll be having afterward during, what he called, his Super Power Happy Hour, and then cursed all the clouds above the surfaces of all the planets he had ever been. Then, finally, the first spark flashed. He started to move. The drops of rain froze mid-air, those in his way popping and evaporating on contact with his blue top, as he passed. Down below, two small kids gripping the metal gate of their tenth-floor terrace, dancing and laughing in the rain, with the Christmas lights on the railing lit, no less. Didn’t they know it was the middle of summer? A bolt of lightning forming, stretching, becoming a yellow vine ripping toward them. He turned over to let the bolt crash against his chest. It hurt. Always did. He wondered if Lois was still mad at him. He could no longer stomach another dish of hearty greens. He had to say something. It was an outburst. Admittedly. But he was craving the carbs upon which she had put a strict dietary restriction. He said he would make dinner. Pasta. Was there any olive oil? Dammit. A pigeon caught in a whip of wind, somersaulted past him. This was a soaker. A true destroyer. Sparks and bolts everywhere. Cars beginning to slide across streets. Busses tumbling. Bicycles spinning through the air like flying guillotines. And still, people trying to get to where they thought they needed to go. Work? The post office? Now hiding under trees and awnings. No sense at all. Time to go to work. Back and forth. Side to side. Stopping bolts of lightning from hitting those below. Keeping people safe from their own bad decisions. He just wanted the day to be over with. When was the last time they cooked with olive oil?

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

Thinking About It

Saturday afternoon. Blue skies and golden sun pouring through the windows. They stayed in the weekend before last. He was sick. Then it rained during the week. She got what he had. They stayed in the weekend after that. The weather was perfect now. To go out. To take a long walk through the city. Window shop. Pick up items on their eternal list of items to pick up. They thought about it. Talked about it. Gazing at the sky and the clouds floating by.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

Mothership

A crowd of familiar faces came into view. They were friends, family, business associates, and, of course, the scientists. They made their way passed his bedside, smiled and spoke kind words and assurances in a chorus of soft, whispering voices. They declared their love and respect and expressed their deep sorrow. But they offered him no comfort. He had never felt more alone. A nurse held his wrist with a cold hand when he drew his last breath and the world disappeared into blackness for what seemed to be a moment, as well as an eternity. Then he saw the white light, a thin horizon, slowly grow wider. He was being pushed toward it until it became too bright. He squeezed his eyes shut as he was pulled out of the darkness, wiped off, wrapped in soft cloth and placed into the arms of a giant. It would take years until he would be able to venture out on his own and send word back to the scientists that he had made it, that the journey had been a success. And only then could he begin to search for his one and only love. She was out there somewhere. Until then, he needed to wait and to survive.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

Tuesday Night at Desmond’s Tavern

Doris showed up early, the sun still setting over her shoulder when she walked into Desmond’s. She had her guitar strapped to her back and was careful not to hit any of the happy hour business crowd enjoying their pints in the last dive bar in Midtown. Someone tried to pet the white fur on her jacket as she made her way through. She didn’t care. Doris smiled at the bartender whose arm was in a sling. He smiled back but after she turned away, his expression quickly changed to loss. Doris took a seat on a ripped leather stool along the wall and listened to the band on stage. They were playing Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. She shook her blonde locks away from her face for a better view. Yes. She remembered those guys from the old days and in doing so, rose a few inches higher than everyone else in the room. After twenty, maybe twenty-five years, they still rocked. She removed her fur vest, revealing thin arms and shades of ink that were once fierce tattoos. Specks of silver polish clung to her nails but the red on her lips was as bright as ever. She asked the bartender for a white wine. The band on stage played two more and then started packing up. Someone fed the jukebox a dollar and a Guns N’ Roses song came on. The happy hour office workers hugged each other and walked out the door one small group after another. Others followed. By the time Doris was ready it was just the bartender and the band who were at the bar having a pitcher. She didn’t care. She stood on stage, struck her guitar and proceeded to rip the room to shreds.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

The Incredible Mug

A few inches beneath the final layer of the dig they found a green coffee mug. At this level, they were in the age of stone. When humankind lived in small tribes, still without clothes and using simple tools of sticks and stones. The volunteer who discovered the mug brushed the surface while it was still embedded in dirt and rock. He called the lead researcher over, Bill, who instructed the team to break the stone and release the mug. Once released and cleaned, Bill took a closer look, his eyebrows raised. An illustration of the face of the Incredible Hulk looked back at him. Is this some kind of joke? The radioactive test showed it wasn’t. Apache helicopters appeared as they reviewed the results. What’s this? And a team of SEALs crept fast toward the team of diggers and covered their mouths with cloth rendering them all unconscious. The mug was immediately placed in a black leather briefcase and locked. “The ticket has been purchased” the SEAL said into his collar mic and they disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction

Bus And Driver Found

Two weeks ago, the New York City bus driver drove off of her usual route along Eighth Avenue, unloaded the angry and confused passengers around the corner, and then drove the bus into the Lincoln Tunnel and out of the city. Four weeks later, the bus and the driver were found in Los Angeles. When the detective asked her why she did it, she looked away and put a finger to her chin. She had a white outline of a heart tattooed on her cheek just beneath her eye. Her dark red lips opened to a bright white smile and she laughed. “I don’t know,” she said. She could see the blue skies and the white fluffy clouds through the windows of the police station. She had never been to California before. She had never been outside of New York before. Over the last four weeks she drove her bus down quiet country roads, colorful main streets and dry, red deserts. She had picked up and dropped off people waiting at random bus stops along the way. For many, it was their first time on a New York City bus. She smiled at them through the rearview mirror and they smiled back. She thought about every moment while gazing into the Californian sky.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flash Fiction