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The House Special
His name is Russell Mc Intyre, but everyone calls him Fat Mac. Six foot five and you’d need an industrial scale to tell you how much he weighs. Bald as an eyeball and the color of rich, fertile earth, he’s a night cook at The Midway.
He sits on an overturned pickle bucket behind the little window that looks into the dining area from the kitchen, thick arms crossed over the soft boulder of his stomach. He watches the coming and going of people with royal disinterest, getting up occasionally to cook a cheeseburger and fries, or put a slice of cherry pie on a plate.
“Order down.” Eileen says, slapping the paper onto the she shelf between the dining room and kitchen. “House special.” She pauses to make sure he heard her, adds “Sorry.” then goes back into the fray.
Fat Mac gets ponderously to his feet and picks up the paper, first glancing at the scribbled request, then staring hard, the thick line of his mouth tightening. He looks out into the dining area and spots the solitary trucker sitting in booth six, his back to the wall, John Deere cap pulled down to shade his eyes from the fluorescents. The trucker looks up, the red shine of his eyes wink at Fat Mac and there’s a moment of teeth-glint before he lowers his face to stare at the table again.
“Goddammit…” Fat Mac mutters and crumples the order, dropping it to the floor. He stomps to the freezer, yanks the door open and snarls into the cold exhalation that the small room breathes onto him. He reaches without looking and pulls a massive meat cleaver off of the wall, closing the door behind him with a slam a second later. Walking to the back wall, he raises the cleaver in front of his face and says something so guttural it sounds like he’s choking. The wall splits as soundlessly as a blink, exposing a wide tunnel carved into oily black stone. He steps in, the wall shutting itself behind him.
The tunnel develops heavy wooden doors about fifty feet down, all with small iconic paintings in the center and peep-sized windows. He passes several, pauses at the one that shows St. George and the Dragon, looks inside and shakes his head, continuing on. The next door down shows Sigurd slaying the dragon Fafnir. Fat Mac’s hand tightens on the meat cleaver and he opens the door, unaware that he’s growling.
Hot, ashen air and the screams of battle wash out of the room; the smeary light of the corridor is pierced by brilliant sunshine. He steps in, the door closes behind him.
Time passes. A thumb-sized rodent, quite possibly a mouse, hesitates outside the door, wiggles partially under and suddenly changes its mind, reverses course and scampers back down the hall. More time passes.
The door shudders and booms once, twice, then slams open. Fat Mac stumbles out with a crudely hewn lump of meat clutched in his left hand, the battered remains of the cleaver in his right. He kicks the door closed behind him and leans against the wall gasping for breath. The meat drools blood onto the floor.
With a half growl, half grunt, he pushes himself from the wall and down the corridor, back to the freezer. The same coughing words open the wall from this side as they did the other. He drops the broken cleaver into a box of its brothers and walks into the kitchen.
The hunk of meat sizzles when he drops it onto the griddle, the smoke that rises from it is acrid and heavy and leaves a smell like hot metal in the nose. He doesn’t so much cook it, as burn the blood off. The plate that he puts it on is thick and metal and has a pattern of roses engraved in the border. It’s barely finished making a dull thud on the shelf before Eileen comes and takes it.
Fat Mac is washing his hands in the sink when he hears the same dull thud again behind him and turns. Eileen stands at the window, not meeting his gaze, the plate on the shelf. He walks back over, bends and picks up the crumpled order from the floor and reads it again, then reaches over to a basket of French fries under a heat lamp, grabs a fistful and deposits them on the plate.
He returns to his pickle bucket seat and has just sat down and crossed his arms when the new girl, Cherise slaps an order on the shelf. “Blue plate, Fat Mac. I’m not sure what he means, but he said,” She pauses and her smooth forehead wrinkles with the effort of remembering, “’Keep the wings on and don’t bleed it.’ Whatever that means.” She flashes a bubblegum smile and bounces away.
It’s going to be a long night.