As I turned the volume knob on the car stereo down to a low buzz, I pulled up to the speaker box displayed in an organized arrangement of stones. The light from the menu hummed as reflections of highly restored and augmented burgers gleamed in my eyes. One image displayed a gourmet sandwich, cheese melted symmetrically over a burger, hand-crafted and cooked to perfection. Crisp lettuce and tomato soaked together, combining freshness. The oven toasted bun sat modestly on a piece of expensive china. Next to the burger sat an arrangement of hand-cut French fries, like a wave of taste painted on the canvas of the plate. A cool glass of Coca-Cola stood like a hero, waiting to save the mouth from the evils of thirst. Sweat dripped out of the glass’s pores, while the ice floated atop the frothy beverage.
My tongue could already taste the victory, all of these combining in an orgy of flavor. “I’ll have a number two please.”
“And to drink?”
“Just a Coke.”
“You’re total is $6.48. Please pull to the first window.”
I inched my car closer and closer, nearly swiping my side mirror on the building and in my excitement almost ramming the vehicle that blocked my path to righteousness. The car in front had two stickers. One said “R.I.P. Jason. 1996-2004 ‘Mommy’s Angel.’” I tried to figure the math in my head of how old Jason must have been, but I realized it was young. On the opposite side of the back windshield there was another sticker, similar to the last. It read, “R.I.P #3 The Intimidator.” I wondered whose death they mourned more. My mind was urgently reminded of what really mattered as that car drove out of sight in a cloud of exhaust. I had a date with my meal.
The girl at the first window was cute. Her eyes were a radiant green and she had just enough make-up on to complement her young face. Her teeth were nice and straight, as if she’d just gotten braces taken off not so long ago, and now revealed herself as an attractive young lady.
“Your total is $6.48.”
I handed her a ten dollar bill. I had exact change lying in my cup holder, but I just couldn’t take the time to count it out. The girl fiddled with the register for a few moments then burst back out the window with my change.
“Here ya go, have a nice day.” She smiled politely, but I didn’t mind if it wasn’t sincere, she was still cute.
I lurched my car to the next window, nearly scraping the rubber off my tires right onto the curb. My food was so close now. As my car window and the hole in the restaurant finally aligned, I could already taste that combination of ketchup, salt, and fresh Coke all swirling in my mouth. I gazed up at the employee about to reward me with my gift. Her hair was pulled back so tight, it nearly straightened out the wrinkles in her face. A thin brown line was painted where her eyebrows should’ve been. A teal green color masked her eyelids, complimenting the purple shadow that hung under the left one. Thick skin lines ran away from the corners of her mouth.
“Here ya go, hun.” The woman handed me my winnings, with see-through stains on the corners of the paper bag. Her voice sounded like gargling shards of glass.
“Thank you.” Her fingernails grazed my skin as she passed off the sack of food. The smell immediately invaded my vehicle, and my excitement peaked. I parked my car in the closest parking spot and yanked the key out of its hole.
I tore open the bag, as if a decorated tree towered above me. The napkins covered my greasy present. I tossed them aside. My French fries lined the bottom of the bag, with a few still in their cardboard carrying case. Grabbing a fistful, I shoved them in my mouth. The brown soggy pile dripped from my gullet. Reflections could be seen on my fingertips.
I could wait no longer. I dipped my hand in for the cheeseburger. The craft was held inside a cardboard box, which I pulled out and sat on my lap. Opening the treasure chest, I peeked inside. The two buns were haphazardly thrown onto each other. A small, shriveled piece of brown material lay atop some shredded lettuce, beginning to brown. Ketchup had been squeezed off the burger and slopped in a pile inside the box.
As I brought the pile of food up to my mouth, I squished all the contents together, to make sure they all fit in the largest bite I could take. More ketchup squirted out and onto my shirt. I decided to worry about it later. I sat back a second to quickly chomp my food, when I noticed a long thin strand of hair peeking out from the top bun. I slowly pulled it out and tossed it to the side, just in time for my next bite to take its place in my mouth. After my first two bites, I set the burger down in order to wash down all the dry mounds of food from my teeth. I brought the plastic straw up to my lips. The taste of refreshing Sprite. A week later the bottom of the paper cup gave out, creating a puddle in my cup holder.
Joey Schuller is a freshman majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Joey’s interest in writing originated from his affection for stories of all kinds, especially movies. After creating independent films of his own, Joey found he had a passion for writing, and hopes to pursue writing of some kind in the future.