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lunch
by robert a. melos
8.15.03
writing

George stood at the counter of the sandwich shop, reading the menu posted on the wall behind the cash register. “What to have?” he mused out loud.

“Can I take your order,” the post-high-school-on-a-fast-track-to-middle-management teenager standing behind the counter asked.

George glanced down at the young man and back up at the menu. “Um, what do you recommend?”

Without missing a beat the young man replied, “I recommend the most expensive item on the menu.”

“And what would that be?” George inquired.

“The Turkey Triple Delight,” the young man answered. He smiled showing perfect pearly white teeth, obviously recently out of braces and read for their debut to the world.

“What is on the Turkey Triple Delight?” George asked. He scratched his chin in a decision-making manner.

The young man almost beamed as he spoke. “The Turkey Triple Delight consists of turkey, bacon, and tomato, covered in our secret sauce and lovingly placed on our dill focaccia bread.”

“What is in the secret sauce?” George asked, wondering why every place had a secret sauce?

“I can’t tell you,” the young man said.

“Why not?” George asked.

“Because it’s a secret,” the young man answered.

“But how will I know if I’m going to like the secret sauce if I don’t know what’s in it?” George asked. He didn’t like surprises, and secret sauces always fell under the heading of surprise.

“I can let you taste it,” the young man said. He grinned as he spoke, giving George just a slightly uneasy feeling. He could sense George’s uneasiness, and relished it.

“That would be very nice,” George said.

The young man turned and walked along the counter to the food preparation area, picked up a small sample container, opened the refrigerator and proceeded to fill the sample container with a pinkish colored sauce. He returned to the register and handed the sample container to George.

George smiled and accepted the small paper cup filled with secret sauce. He looked down at the pinkish colored sauce and up at the young man. The young man smiled again, flashing his ever-so-white teeth and held out a small plastic spoon. George took the spoon and dipped it into the secret sauce. He raised the spoon to his mouth and touched the tip of his tongue to the sauce-covered spoon.

“That tastes like Thousand Island Dressing,” George said, after swallowing the sauce.

“It does not,” the young man said cheerfully.

“Yes it does,” George replied.

“No it doesn’t,” the young man said, still cheerful in his tone.

“Your secret sauce is Thousand Island Dressing,” George said defiantly.

“No it isn’t,” the young man answered firmly.

“I know what Thousand Island Dressing tastes like,” George said, becoming slightly agitated, “and that is Thousand Island Dressing.”

“It is not,” the young man said, a cheerful lilt to his voice.

“Don’t lie to me,” George said, reaching across the counter and grabbing the young man by his black sandwich shop T-shirt collar.

The young man continued to smile. “Sir, we do not put Thousand Island Dressing on our Turkey Triple Delight.”

George noticed a thin layer of perspiration on the young man’s forehead. He smiled to himself. His show of force was getting to the ever-so-chipper lad, he reasoned. He relaxed his grip a bit, but didn’t release the young man. “I’ve tasted Thousand Island Dressing before,” he said.

“I’ll bet you have,” the young man said, a hint of defiance and innuendo in his tone.

“What do you mean by that?” George demanded.

“Nothing,” the young man replied. “I was just agreeing with you.”

“Oh,” George said, not really sure what had angered him so. He released his grip on the young man’s collar. “I don’t think I want the Turkey Triple Delight. What do you have in the way of roast beef?”

The young man straightened his T-shirt and smiled once again. “We have our Roast Beef Fantasy,” he answered.

“And what would that be?” George inquired.

The young man flashed his teeth once again. “The Roast Beef Fantasy is made from the most tender of roast beef, with thin slices of Swiss cheese, a layer of crisp lettuce, a thinly sliced tomato, and a dab of our secret sauce on rye bread.”

“This is the same secret sauce I just tasted?” George asked.

“Yes Sir.”

“The same one I claim is Thousand Island Dressing?”

The young man nodded. “That would be the one, Sir.”

George sighed. “What else do you have?”

“We have a lovely Chicken Salad Surprise,” the young man answered.

“It has the secret sauce on it, doesn’t it?” George asked.

The young man nodded vigorously, smiling all the while. “Yes Sir. We make our chicken salad with the secret sauce mixed right in.”

“Have you got Egg Salad?” George asked.

The young man stopped nodding. “Yes Sir. We have the Egg Salad Surprise.”

“Secret sauce, right?” George asked.

The young man grinned. “You know it, Sir.”

“Is there anything you have here that doesn’t have your secret sauce on it?” George asked.

The young man looked around the shop. “I run a clean sandwich shop Sir.”

George fought back his frustration. “I mean, do you have any sandwiches that do not have your secret sauce on them?”

The young man shook his head. “Oh no, Sir. That’s why our shop is called The Secret Sandwich.”

“I see,” George said. “Could I just get a soda to go?”

“Just a soda?” The young man asked.

George smiled and nodded. “Just a soda,” he said.

“But we have a lovely Ham Salad Delight sandwich,” the young man said.

“No, just a soda,” George replied firmly.

“What about our Eggplant Parm Surprise?” the young man asked.

“Nope, just a soda.” George said, opening his wallet and withdrawing a single dollar.

“Would you like our Surprise Fries with that?” the young man asked hopefully.

“No. Nothing. Just the soda,” George said with a grin.

The young man sighed. “What kind would you like?” he asked.

“A cola,” George said.

“Vanilla, cherry, lemon-lime, or chocolate flavored?” the young man asked.

“Plain,” George said.

The young man looked down the counter to the food preparation area, and back to George. “We don’t have plain cola, Sir.”

“Water. Do you have water?”

“Sparkling.”

“Plain sparkling?”

“Lemon-lime, orange, strawberry, boysenberry, grape, and citrus.”

George took several deep breaths. “Do you have anything plain?”

“My sister, but she’s in school,” the young man replied.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said, ‘No Sir.’” The young man said with a smarmy smile.

“You did not,” George said. “You said something about your sister.”

“I don’t have a sister, Sir.” The young man replied. “And if I did, I wouldn’t be talking about her to a customer.”

“You said she was plain, and in school,” George said, indignantly.

“I did not,” The young man replied. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to order something, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re disturbing the other customers.”

George looked around the empty sandwich shop. “I’m the only one in here.”

“And why did you come in?” the young man asked.

“To get a sandwich,” George replied.

“And what kind would you like?”

“One without your secret sauce,” George said.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so? You want a special order sandwich.” The young man beamed once again with glee. “What’ll it be?”

“The Turkey Triple Delight,” George said.

“I’m afraid we’re out of turkey,” the young man said.



ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS

Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

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