Saturday, March 27, 2010

Flash Fiction - "Heart Stopper"

It was dark outside and drizzling. I was on my way home from work, messenger bag draped over my shoulder – the modern man’s briefcase. It didn’t protect its contents very well, and considering there were some important reports inside and I’d left my umbrella at Jenny’s, I decided to pop into the nearest restaurant, one I always passed but never actually regarded until now.
The place was unassuming from the outside. Inside, it was a throwback burger joint with pink vinyl booths and a jukebox. A large grizzly bear of a man stood behind the counter tending to a sizzling grill. The lone patron was a brunette in a business suit sitting on a stool up at the counter reading Gulliver's Travels. She turned to look at me as I entered. Her face was pretty and mean-looking – just my type. I took a seat up on a stool near her but left an empty one between, far enough away to not seem needy.
The grizzly bear tossed me a menu, which was no more than a single page with three options: fries, regular burger, and The Heart Stopper Challenge, underneath which read “If you finish this burger it’s free.”
“What it’ll be, friend?” the grizzly bear asked.
I inquired about the last option.
“It’s four pounds of pure beef.”
“Ah,” I responded stupidly. My stomach was rumbling, but even if I hadn’t eaten for 40 days, I still don’t think The
Heart Stopper would be fathomable.
“I guess I’ll take the regular with fries, please.” Beat. “Does anybody ever go for The
Heart Stopper?”
“You’d be surprised,” he grunted.
And that’s when he plated the most brobdingnagian burger I’d ever seen and set it down in front of the brunette.
I gasped. She looked at me and all I could do was point at her meal. She flipped her hair, placed one napkin on her lap, one next to her place, then proceeded to neatly cut the cow in half…and then into quarters…and then into eighths.
I stared in awe. There were no feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, just unbridled, utter amazement. And she was proper about the whole matter, politely dabbing at her mouth with a napkin in between manageable bites.
I’m not sure how much time passed before my burger arrived, but its delivery was marked by the entrance of an older man with owl-eyed glasses. He took a seat up next to me at the counter and ordered a coffee, which wasn’t on the menu but grizzly bear served up anyway.
We finished our burgers simultaneously. Well, to be fair, I had one bite remaining and was still picking at fries. Her plate was clean – four pounds of beef down the hatch of a girl who didn’t weigh a hair over 110. She collected her Coach handbag and stood up to leave.
“Thanks, George.”
The grizzly bear nodded. “Pleasure as always, Suzy. You’re single-handedly going to put us out of business.”
She laughed. “See you tomorrow night.”
After she was gone, as I was paying my bill, I couldn’t help but ask George, “What the hell just happened there? With that girl and the burger?”
“What do you wanna know? She just ate a pound and a half burger. That’s all.”
“That’s all? What did she mean ‘See you tomorrow night’?”
“Just what she said – she comes in here every night and does what you saw her do tonight.”
“But how? How does a girl that small eat a burger that big and still look the way she does?”
“How the hell should I know?” George was getting annoyed, so I took the hint. I nodded at him, then owl-eyes, and proceeded on my way, mystified.

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