THE BATHROOM SEEMS STRANGE. Children argue outside in shrieks. The joints throb and ache and blue walls wobble with a mouth tasting of chalk. Water is splashed all over the sink and it feels like morning.
Looking closer in the mirror, a corner of lettuce has been torn and some mayonnaise is smeared over the front of your bread.
A girl’s giggle outside makes you spin those green olive eyes painfully fast on their toothpicks. Olives dilate over pink pimentos as dry celery fingers fuss to straighten the red flags atop your toothpicks.
Itching flares around bread edges and the faint scent of molding mayonnaise is in the air. The fanny-pack is between turkey slices. It unzips to reveal an assortment of pills. You shake Preservative Complex HH angrily and pelt the plastic bottle at the mirror.
Children’s voices rise like hyenas.
Something thin and sharp is jabbing, wedged between tomato and turkey. It’s a hot pink flyer from Starkey’s Tavern. On the back side, scrawled with a blue pen:
I hope this don’t discorage you from going drinkin
with us. You’re pretty drunk last night and blacked
out couple times. The guys thouht it funny to
bring you here and Jenson don’t like you. Not cause
you’re a sandwich, cause when you grabed his wifes ass.
Freddy the Fred
Celery legs stagger and wobble, crossing the freshly mopped tiles. The restroom opens to a large foyer. To the right an entryway leads to a cafeteria and in front a dining area with long tables is seated with what looks like 10-year-olds wolfing sauceless pasta dishes. In the cafeteria, a banner reads: “Welcome to Mary Ryan’s ‘I Can’ Camp,” and “Healthy Habits for a Lifetime!”
Bacon shrinks inside bread as the hand steadies the quivering lettuce.
Heads turn. Forks fall onto plates, clinking.
A boy stands and points, “Look!” He rubs milk over his blue T-shirt, his potbelly strikes a girl’s head as he nears.
His blue shirt shows an old lady’s face stretched over his stomach. It’s Mary Ryan’s screen-printed likeness. All the little monsters wear them.
You grasp over a large chunk of bacon protruding between bread.
He stops, raises his fork with victory in his hungering eyes. “It . . . bacon!”
Your hands squish the tiny orange basketballs of your Reebok Pumps.
Squish, squishy-squish, squish.
The kid’s nearing with white knuckles strangling his fork.
Squish, squish, squishy-squish. Soft insoles snug against the celery.
The other monsters fan in behind, encroaching.
Squish, squish, squish, squish. They feel tight. Perfect.
He charges with fork drawn like a spear, nostrils flared.
The clenched fist crashes into the boy’s face and he reels onto his back. You pounce him, snatching the fork, pulling him up to hold prongs against his neck. Two boys and a girl shrink back with hints of drool and sinister grins.
The boy struggles as he’s pulled into the cafeteria. Glass French doors lead to a busy street. In the distance two yellow cabs roll to a stop.
“I smell you,” the boy says, grimacing. “I smell the bacon inside. I’ll get it. I’ll eat bacon.”
You jab the fork against his neck.
Monsters line-up along the foyer entrance. A zealous boy darts into the restraining arm of a calculating girl with a searing glare.
You jab the fork, drawing a trickle of blood.
His head bobbles like a berserk dashboard doll, “Bacon! PLEASE! GIVE!” He squirms, biting the wrist. The fork drops. ”Miiine!” eyes watering and teeth clenching. “I HATE CELERY!” He spits your flesh back at you between bread and lettuce.
The horde bursts through the entrance. Pink sketchers stomp a dainty back to the floor and sweaty palms slap over white walls. “The olives are mine!” Feet rumble. “Mayonnaise! Smell it. SMELL IT!”
The triangular rye flaps as you sprint toward the glass doors. Footsteps close-in and young voices fill chill air with chaotic negations and cries and the babbling wails of youth. A crack in the sidewalk catches a Reebok, flipping it off. The height difference leads to teetering and humiliating bread flapping and two fingers point in the air.
A departing taxicab rolls back to a stop. You hop in and your fingers fumble, scrambling to lock both doors as the cabbie resets his meter.
The boy smacks up against the window, his small fist smushing against glass with rattling pounds, tears rushing his cherry-red quivering face. He’s mouthing something. Mouthing it repeatedly: Bacon. Bacon. Bacon!
The cabbie turns and inquires, “Hay, aren’t you a–”
A handful of crumpled green bills shake near him.
The cabbie turns forward and mumbles beneath an unkempt graying mustache, “Alright.” He puts on the gas and turns down the radio. “What’s your name, buddy.”
The boy seems to eye you as you drive away.
“Ay. You got a name?”
You sink deeper into the backseat, crossing arms.
He turns the radio back up. “Whatever.”