The Acid Bath Diner

Fries deserve ketchup. Ketchup deserves fries. Yin. Yang.

Carla Whistlestrup knew it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a liver for a liver, lung for a lung, a lawn for a lawn, a tax return for a tax return, a slutty interpretation of a Bach violin piece for a slutty interpretation of a Bach violin piece, and a crumb for a crumb. It was just the way of the world.

It was with the same disconnected disinterest that she wiped up ghostly, circular coffee stains from unnaturally smooth tables at the tiny, tiny diner she worked at and lived in.

The diner was open for 22 hours a day, but from 2:20 to 4:20 am, the diner closed and transformed into some sort of disco-cave type-thing that the local stoners, intellectuals, and candy kids would flock to. Carla would have none of that, so at that point she would head towards the jukebox perched just above the third table and transform really, really tiny. The jukebox was her home, and to her, it was a friggin’ mansion. She entered through the coin return, which was a fine porch to her once she was minuscule.

Inside it was lavishly decorated indeed, just like a mansion, but weirder and cooler. You’d never know from the lush, detailed, battle tapestries; huge, plush, gold-embroidered floor cushions; and rich, vibrant art adorning the walls, that Carla made minimum wage plus tips slinging chewy pancakes to grisly guys and much, much grislier girls who didn’t care. It was the epitome of luxury. The home smelled of flowers, and the greasy nonsense-smell of the diner did not penetrate Carla’s jukebox-home. Perhaps its interior was in another dimension?

The only food Carla really liked at the diner was the strawberry pie. Most of the food and pies at the Acid Bath Diner were flown in from some Chinese bakery every morning. They tasted strongly of heavy metals, and although the flavor was balanced between the metals, nobody really cared.

But the strawberry pie was brought in by some crazy old lady every morning. Her name, so the rumor trickles down, was that her name was Brittania Focalfuss, and she lived really, really close by. Like, on the roof I’m pretty sure; and every morning would bring a huge stack of precariously balanced, piping hot strawberry pies down the fire escape that barely clung onto the side of the diner, like a dying vine slowly pulling away from a building from no more than the gentle forces of zephyrs, raindrops, gravity, and sunlight. But this sojourn was made daily without incident for years.

Carla stretched her legs and popped open a bottle o’ champagne. It fizzed and fizzed, and the fizz filled the floor and foamed up over the pink-golden cushions. She slid around the room in a luxurious state of near-gravitylessness. The foam was everywhere, but it wasn’t sticky, and didn’t make a mess.

These two hours of the day were her favorite pair of hours. Sometimes, if The Price is Right was on TV she would watch it, but usually it aired while she was at work — 22 hours a day was most of the day, after all.

The sparkly tang of the strawberries mixed with the sweet, warm, creaminess of the crust on her tongue. The taste made her think of her old lover — no, more than think, feel. She looked heart-wrenchingly beautiful as she laid back and closed her eyes. Anyone man or woman who was capable of falling in love would’ve right then. A devious smile came across her face. She fell asleep, and rather than dream of good sex, which would’ve been her ideal, she once again dreamed of pancakes. She didn’t care.

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