[In keeping with food week, this is a story from 1999 that has food in it.]
So it was Friday night and Madison was on time, but she spent twenty minutes in the bathroom after she arrived trying to get all the clay out from under her nails. There had been complaints.
She was almost looking forward to having the band there later, specifically she was looking forward to being leered at by that guitarist with the big hands.
She knew that she was expected to try to find something other than dead-end, beer bottle romance. Unconcerned, she always said, “I just have this thing for drug addicts.”
The customers at the Silver Zombie Diner were pretty patient as a rule. They didn’t want prompt food or drink, or if they did, they came to expect something less in the way of service and something more in the way of atmosphere. They might ask for a beer and then have ample time to revel in the sticky decor and filmy companionship before it arrived, if it ever did.
Madison was possibly a perfect fit. She rarely moved in a straight line, and generally would not employ the Egyptian posture to fit through a dense crowd when other waitresses would. Faced with a crush of flesh, Madison would simply stand and slowly blink at them until they were disconcerted enough to part and let her pass.
Relatively certain that tip size was a random distribution, like height, she didn’t make any effort to pretend not to eavesdrop on her customers, and was often further slowed in her progress by arguments that she started.
One night, a bespectacled and overly serious young man was pouring out some borrowed philosophy to his artificially enraptured date and unwisely mentioned “nukes.”
“Nukes!” shouted Madison. “No Nukes!” Her fist saluted to the ceiling and sent his Zombie Burger ‘n’ Cole Slaw on the same trajectory. The flying food did not fall, but rather disappeared into an overhead dungeon of wires and pipes and things that were better not noticed.
“I was just saying that I think Nuclear Power could be a better-”
“Never Nukes!” rejoined Madison stepping closer to the table. “No more atypical atomic babies!”
“I don’t see what business it is of-” he eyed his date, uncertain whether he should prolong this frothy server encounter or not. “This is America,” he finished meekly.
“BABY KILLER!” she argued.
Madison didn’t get a tip from him, but the date left her a five dollar bill and a phone number under the ashtray. Hence, her random tip theory remained and her semi-lesbian dawn began.
Tonight was lesbian low tide, however, and even the band’s bongo drummer-who was wholly responsible for their name being the Fluted Rips-even he looked somehow appealing to her. She watched him smoking at the bar long enough for him to catch her at it, then she really stared.
The drummer leaned over to the bartender, “That’s the vegetable girl, right? The one that wants to make a salad out of them afterward?”
The bartender may have nodded before he resigned from the subject. It wasn’t clear. The drummer didn’t notice anyway. He was lost in something similar to thought.
Madison stopped staring, having achieved her intended effect. Worthy of it or not, the drummer would have her on his mind and possibly in his rhythms.
None of her obvious talents kept her employed at the Silver Zombie Diner, however. She was still there not because of her occasional verbal brawling or her telephrenetic stare, but because the silver zombies liked her looks and liked the feel of her wake.
Besides, they didn’t have any other waitresses that could be paid in eggplant.