Breadzilla Versus A Knot of Snakes
or: I Should Have Changed The Name of the Restaurant Out Of Common Decency or a Healthy Fear of Lawyers
by Bruce Buschel
Margherita juts her head out of the half-opened window and squints into the falling snow. The wind pins back her ears and whiskers. The radio is off so I can hear the snowflakes landing on her face. When my tinnitus is quiet, I have excellent hearing. The magic mushrooms wend their way into my bloodstream as morning merges withnoon. We are alone on a wintry road when a sign appears.
“Breadzilla, handcrafted baked goods.”
The lines of people have always been long and reminiscent of the Great Depression, so I have never tasted anything from this tony take-away bakery with the long-tailed monster logo. The pizza place around the corner was easier. Today, however, this gloriously white February day, the small pebbly parking lot is empty, icy, beckoning. And I can suddenly taste a cheese sandwich with tomato, onion, peppers, and oregano — a greasy madeleine from my salad days inSouth Philadelphia. Margherita too would like a bite before her amble in the woods.
“I’ll be right back. You stay. Good girl. I’ll bring you a treat.” I leave the window half open. Margherita loves the winter.
“What can I do you for?” asks the young woman behind the counter.
“One cheese sandwich, please.”
The woman hands me the top sheet from the thin pile of menus that sits upon the wooden counter. I take off my gloves and, as there are no other customers, lazily peruse the items that fill the white page with the fine, black chicken scratch that leaves no room for margins or negative space. There is one cheese sandwich under the munching monster logo.
•Grilled Cheese Sandwich — vegetarian — $7 — Add tomato $1 more — Add avocado $1 more.
“What kind of cheese on the grilled cheese?” I ask.
“Do you have provolone?”
“No special orders.”
“Provolone is special?”
“Only cheddar on the grilled.”
“Could I have a slice of onion?”
“No special orders,” repeats the young woman.
“I’ll pay the extra dollar.”
“The grilled cheeses were prepared early this morning,” she says.
“What sort of prep goes into a grilled cheese?” I wonder aloud.
She stares at me.
“I know you have onions. It says right here, under meat loaf sub, ‘Crispy mini French baquette with melted American, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, $9.95.’”
She stares testily.
“Ketchup and mustard,” I mutter to myself.
She has dark eyes and maroon streaks in her dark hair. She reminds me of someone, someone I thought I liked.
“Since when is cheese vegetarian?” I ask.
“Do you want a sandwich or don’t you?”
Her maroon streaks start to waver.
“Yes. On a bagel,” I say.
She points to a hand-written sign tacked onto the column adjacent to the counter, and then shifts all her weight to her left hip.
The sign reads: “Our bagels are handcrafted, boiled & baked, not heavy or gummy. Scooping is a service we do not provide. Bagels available only to11:30 AM, when we begin serving from the lunch menu.”
“I’m too late, aren’t I?”
She smiles curtly.
I suddenly remember that Margherita is in the back seat of the car. As I walk to the picture window to check up on Margherita, I notice that the woman with the quivering streaks in her hair is unsheathing a red magic marker behind the counter, and scribbling something across the bottom of the seven menus I am not holding. She then places the slim pile next to the coffee urn. Margherita is fine, all curled up and golden. I return to the counter, and looking past the menu in my hand, surreptitiously read the new red addendum: “do not take this menu away from counter.”
I look around for a hidden camera or Ashton Kutcher. Kutsher. Right. Demi. Right. This woman with the snakes in her hair reminds me of Demi Moore. Husky voice, sultry gaze, an intimidating creature. Demi Moore, mother of three, ex-wife of two, as vivid in my brain as in my iPhoto album, where a flat-chested, teen-aged girl has her blue dress hiked up to her waist, displaying a thick elongated tangle of jet black hair that tickles her ass and any man’s fancy. I am going to concentrate now. Best to concentrate. I am in Breadzilla. I am hungry. I am focussing.