Tag Archives: restaurant

I Came for the Sugar

I Came for the Sugar

“What the…?” The waitress was staring at Nise’s sleeve. Panic exploded in my mind.

Nise’s laugh sounded natural as he pulled the worm out. “This is my pet, Mirai.” Nise sprinkled sugar on the table. “He loves this stuff.”

The waitress looked ready to vomit.

I rushed home and let Nise collapse on the couch. I crawled out of his pocket, exhausted from controlling the huge body.

That was too close. I had to get out of this Neanderthal era and back to my own civilized time.

I manned the chrono-communicator. Again. “Mirai to anyone. Get me out of here.”

Hot Pepper Vacation

FF217 Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


“I’ll have the ghost pepper pie,” I said.

The waitress’s expression was that of a cop approaching a rooftop jumper. The words Are you sure? crouched unsaid on her lips.

I glanced out at the bleak Alberta winterscape. The meteorologists were rejoicing at the mid-February heatwave as the mercury rocketed up to -20.

“I just need a little heat in my life,” I whispered.

Twenty minutes later, my mouth was ablaze and sweat poured off me like a monsoon. I closed my eyes and imagined Cancun.

The manager noticed. The next week, they were advertising Mexican vacations, $4.99 a slice.

Quantum Parking: the conclusion (where things get even worse)

This is the second part of a story about time travel, valet parking, and an inexorable personality known as Bruno Brax. Part 1 is here.

Cosmic Orb Weaver

Terrible, horrible life experience

“At least I’ve never killed anyone,” I said to myself as Bruno’s phone number rang. I wanted to say it now while it was still true. I had just sent a man ahead into the far future, asleep in the back of a Hummer.

Bruno picked up at last. “Hello?”

“Hello, Bruno? Hello?”


“Bruno, it’s Jimmy!” I shouted. “I’ve got a problem. Where are you anyway?” I had to repeat the question.

“Have you heard of a cock fight? Well, that’s not what this is.” In the background, I heard seals barking.

“You’re fighting seals?”

“They’re not fighting each other. What’s up?”

I explained the situation. “Yeah, that happened once before to a Chihuahua. It was fine. Pretty incontinent afterwards, but otherwise fine.”

“What do I do?”

“Bring the car back, of course.” Click. Bruno had a real gift for brevity.

I selected the Hummer in the computer and pushed the red button. It appeared as smoothly as it had disappeared and I opened the back door, afraid of what I might find.

The car was empty. I even checked under the seats. Nothing.

Just as I was starting to feel a hurricane of panic sweat start to build, Bruno strode in.

“The fight’s over?” I asked, as sarcastically as I could.

He nodded. “The robot won. Nothing?”


He went to the control booth and started typing things in. “You know, this is what I’m paying you for.”

“You’re not actually paying me anything,” I said.

Bruno pushed a button decisively, then nodded. “Okay, it’s set. The computer will scan for life in the area and automatically bring it back. Should get him back soon.” He typed in some numbers and hit the green button. The Hummer disappeared again.

“Where did you send that?”

“The future, of course. You can’t have the car here if something else comes back. Very messy. Very messy, indeed. Well, I’m off.”

“Wait! So this will bring back any life that comes into that area? What if it’s not him? What if it’s a dinosaur?”

“There aren’t any dinosaurs in the future,” Bruno called back, already on the street. “Probably. If there is though, catch it alive. I’ll pay good money.”

Another car honked its horn outside. My sociology dissertation, which had looked like a hopeless quicksand pit a few hours ago, was now looking like a quicksand pit with a silver lining and a great place to drown myself.

At that moment, there was a pop and a large rat appeared on the receiving pad, standing on its hind legs and waving a pistol. I ducked behind the control panel just as a shot rang out and the control panel exploded in sparks. By the time I gathered up the shattered pieces of my courage and crammed them back into my psyche, the rat was gone.

I called Bruno.

“You know, I don’t even know why I hired you,” he said, his voice almost drowned out by what sounded like metallic whale songs.

“You didn’t! You press-ganged me.”

He sighed. “I thought you’d be more grateful, considering. Look, I’m busy now but just push the black button, call in a gas leak, and go home.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

He chuckled. “Ah, you’re cute.” There was an explosion in the background of the phone and a loud roar. “Oops, things just got interesting here. Gotta go.”

I tried to push the black button, but it had melted in the explosion from the gunshot. The other buttons didn’t work either.

Suddenly, what looked like a cross between a python, a millipede, and a Tickle-me-Elmo appeared on the receiving pad. At this point, calling in a gas leak was like turning down your thermostat in a forest fire. However, before I could react, a car also popped into existence on the pad, combining most interestingly with the abomination that had just appeared before it. The results looked like Jackson Pollock trying to cook a whale liver with a pile driver.

This last nightmare-inducing episode was enough to throw me out of the gravity well that was Bruno Brax’s hypnotic personality. I went home, threw the sociology dissertation in the garbage, then thought better of it and put it in the fridge instead. Then I started to drink and write fiction. None of it made sense, so I assumed I was on the right track, art imitating life and all.

By the end of the day, the restaurant district was cordoned off and sealed. The official story was a gas leak, but I knew better. There were also reports of a gun-wielding rat riding a small dinosaur.

Two weeks after my short-lived valet job, the phone rang and I answered it without thinking.

It was Bruno.

“Hey Jimmy. I found you a job. You’ll need your own harpoon though.”


It was me this time.

Ether Generator - Inverted

Quantum Parking

I always thought it was impossible to destroy the fabric of the universe while working at a parking garage. It was one of those comforting truths that I clung to when times got hard, one of those sentences you stick ‘at least’ on the front of, like: “at least rats can’t wield guns” or “at least I’ll never be eaten by a dinosaur.” Finding out these things are wrong is what I think is called life experience.

Cosmic Orb Weaver

Terrible, horrible life experience

Bruno Brax was a friend of mine, in the same way a black hole and a passing star are friends. He had a sly, Tom Sawyer-esque way of making you think he was doing you a favor when it was really the other way around. I’m still not sure what he did for a living, but if I had to guess, it was to be friends with people like me.

“Hey Jimmy,” Bruno said, calling me up one day while I was puzzling over my doctoral dissertation. “I found you a job.”

“I’m not looking for a job.”

“Not anymore. Cuz I found you one. It’s a valet job at La Fesse D’or. It’s a swanky place. The guy who worked there before made like, eight bills a night.”

“8000 dollars a night?” I asked, skeptical.

“Not eight grand, idiot, 800. What, that’s not enough?”

“How do you make that much parking cars?”

“Tips, of course. It’s high class. Anyway, I’m always happy to help. I’ll text you the address. See you in an hour.” He hung up.

I went to meet him. I was stuck on my dissertation anyway.

La Fesse D’or stuck up like a crystal needle in the middle of the restaurant district, poised to lance the boil of the heavens. It was so narrow that there was only one table per floor but the restaurant went up thirty stories into the air, like a space-age middle finger to anyone who couldn’t afford to eat there, which was pretty much everyone. I drove but had to park four blocks away. Bruno was waiting outside, looking impatient.

“You’re late. I wanted to train you but your shift starts in fifteen minutes, so there’s not much time.”


“Come on, I even got your size uniform. Hurry up and change.”

There is a certain point, just like with black holes, when you pass the event horizon and struggling becomes pointless. Bruno had this weird gravity about him that sucked you in and compelled you see his point of view. And his point of view was invariably that you should do what he said.

“Okay, so this is all there is to it,” he said once I had changed into a uniform two sizes too small and was standing out front with him. “The customer drives up and gives you the keys. Then you drive it around the corner and onto the receiving pad. Then you go into the control booth and push the green button and the car disappears. Simple as that.”

“Where does it go?”

“It goes forward in time,” Bruno said, as if this was obvious. “A guy I know set it up since the owner’s a friend of mine.”

“You send them forward in time,” I repeated. I thought the collar might be cutting off my oxygen.

“To the year 5400, I think. Trust me, it was cheaper to do it this way than rent parking space in this neighborhood. Now, it’s important to send the cars at least four hours apart, or they might appear on top of one another. That’s bad. The world is a blasted wasteland at that time, so there’s no problem with future people messing with the cars. To get them back, select them on the list in the computer and hit the red button. Got it?”

I don’t absorb new information well so for the next quarter hour, my brain was curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my skull. Bruno took my frozen expression as a good sign and left me with a hearty “Good Luck!” and a slap on the back. “Oh, by the way,” he said, poking his head back in the door. “Never let the customers know about this, okay? For all they know it’s a normal parking garage. Got it?”

I got it eventually and after the shock wore off, I started to get excited. An hour before, I had been mired in an ill-conceived sociology dissertation and now I was sending cars forward in time. I went into the control booth.

There was dried blood on the floor. I called Bruno.

“Oh, that’s from the last guy, Charley. He fell asleep and spun the dial to send the car back into the distant past. A small dinosaur came back with the car and bit his leg off. He died.”

“The dinosaur or Charley?”

“Charley. I don’t know what happened to the dinosaur. Listen, you’re not allowed to bring a gun to work, but it might be a good idea to bring a large knife when you come tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Bruno had already hung up.

Someone honked outside and from just the tone and duration, I could tell he was a jerk. It turned out to be a she, a very well-dressed she in a Hummer. She dropped the keys into my hand and walked off without a word. A moment later, the Hummer was on the receiving pad. I wiped the sweat off my palm and pressed the green button.

Bruno wasn’t kidding. The Hummer just popped out of existence, no flaming tire tracks or anything.

Just then, the phone rang and I picked it up. “Hey, buddy, there’s a woman here who says you just parked her Hummer. She said her brother is asleep in the back seat, so just tell him to come in when he wakes up.”



Crap crap crap.


I had to call Bruno.

Ether Generator - InvertedTo be continued tomorrow…

포크 주세요 (Fork Please) – Friday Fictioneers

Today I must beg your indulgence. I wrote today’s Friday Fictioneers story in Korean. Yes, it is pertinent, and yes, there is a translation. However, only the Korean version is 100 words long.

I wrote it with non-Korean speakers in mind, but still I’d like you to read the Korean first (there’s English in it). Try to make guesses about what’s going on before you read the translation. Consider it a metaphor for living abroad, when you can catch part of what is going on, but not the whole thing, and many times, not the most important nuances.


포크 주세요

외국사람 커플 들어갈때 식당이 조용했다. 다른 손님이 없었다. 3시: 점심과 저녁의 바쁜 시간 딱 사이 있었다.

직원이 와서 남자가 메뉴판을 얼른 보고 손가락으로 가리켰다. “Also, fork please. Fork?” 포크로 먹는 손짓했다.

“You should try using chopsticks, Mark.” 여자친구가 말했다.

그때 한국인 할아버지 들어왔다. 외국사람 커플 밖에 손님이 없는지 확인한 후에 자리에 앉아서 떡볶이를 주문했다. “그리고 포크주세요” 라고 말했다.

마크가 들어서 웃었다. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”

할아버지가 코트를 벗었다. 왼손이 없고 오른손에 엄지 손가락만 남았다. 떡볶이를 받아서 포크를 느리고 아프게 들고 먹기 시작했다.

이제 마크가 웃지 않았다. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”



And now, the translation:


 Fork, Please.

The restaurant was quiet and empty when the non-Korean couple entered. It was 3:00: right between the lunch and dinner rush.

The waitress came over and the man scanned the menu and pointed to something. “Also, fork please. Fork?” He mimed using a fork.

“You should try using chopsticks, Mark,” his girlfriend said.

Just then, an old Korean man came in. After making sure there was no one in the restaurant besides the foreign couple, he sat down and ordered. “Fork, please,” he said.

Mark heard him and laughed. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”

The old man took off his coat. His left hand was gone and on the right, only the thumb remained. He got his food and slowly, painfully picked up the fork and began to eat.

Mark wasn’t laughing anymore. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”


Back Alley Charm – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Kent Bonham

copyright Kent Bonham

Back Alley Charm

“Exclusivity builds value,” my father always said. That’s why he opened his restaurant on an alley with no name and no address. “Word of mouth is the best advertising. We don’t even need a sign if people like what they eat and tell their friends.”

So, no sign. For the first month, no one but friends of my father visited the restaurant. Until one night when the president’s personal secretary took a wrong turn and knocked to ask directions.

He liked what he ate and the rest is history.

“You also need a lot of luck,” my father finally admitted.

Raise a Glass for the Phoenix

This story is based on a real place. There is a restaurant in my city called the Phoenix that is shaped like a huge sailing ship. It caught fire about 12 years ago and now just stands there, abandoned and left as it was on the day of the fire.

dim bar

“Raise a glass for the Phoenix.” I heard glasses clink.

The bar was dim but I could see a small group of older men hunched together around a table. The empty glasses on the table showed they had already been drinking heavily for some time.

I should have left it alone, should have gone back to my drink and cell phone game and continued waiting for my friend to arrive. Still, I have a need to know, like a compulsion. When people say “curiosity killed the cat,” I reply, “Yeah, but at least he died satisfied.” That’s my motto.

“Excuse me, I said, sidling up. “I know this is impossibly rude, but I’ve heard the name Phoenix several times before. I was wondering what it meant.”

The men looked up at me, giving me a stony glare that showed I was interrupting and not welcome. Then one of them spoke. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“I moved here six months ago.”

The men looked around at each other. A few had doubtful expressions. “I’ll tell you,” one of them said finally.

“You really going to do this, Ryan?” one of the other men asked.

“Sure, why not? We need more for the party, right?” The other man shrugged, drained his glass, and then he and another left.

“Don’t mind them,” Ryan said. “So, a drink?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. He signaled the bartender, who brought me a beer in a tall glass.

“For the Phoenix,” Ryan said and we dutifully clinked glasses all around the table. He waited until I had taken a drink before beginning.

“It’s a restaurant,” Ryan said. “The Phoenix. It was, at least. It was way out in the middle of the forest, all by its lonesome. It looked like a big old sailing ship, always in full sail, never moving. The owner, Brett Narrock, was that weird mix of hermit and exhibitionist. The restaurant was just like him: a kind of Vegas built out in the mountains.”

I still didn’t see what was so special about it that it required constant toasts.

“Did you go there a lot?” I asked.

“Go there?” Ryan said, looking surprised. “No, the guest list was very exclusive and by reservation only. I hear that they booked months ahead. No, I was a chef there, the sous-chef under a man named Balodis. The slogan of the Phoenix was: ‘Be Reborn’ but Balodis would always say, ‘When pleasure is old, when the perverse is banal, when the shocking makes you yawn, come to the Phoenix.’”

Ryan brought his face closer to mine and I smelled the sour alcohol on his breath and saw the white-stubbled wrinkles of his cheeks. It was the face of experience. “We made things in that kitchen that defied reason, even sanity,” he said. “It wasn’t about nourishment or any sort of satisfaction of the stomach, it was about experience, titillation, and novelty. Culinary miracles, or nightmares came out it into the dining room. There were bowls of live meal worms that burst in a puff of glowing narcotic when you bit them; potatoes grown on blood; and strange, chemical cocktails tailored to produce specific emotions. One of the appetizers we made was a bowl of chocolates where every fifth one was poisoned. Balodis said a lethal dose was five.”

“And the customers knew you were doing this?” I asked.

Ryan nodded. “Oh, they knew. They paid a lot of money for it. Every night you would see them drive up in their black cars to the underground reception area, or be shuttled in by limo from the helipad.”

“It must have been huge,” I said.

Ryan shook his head. “Not really. It could probably hold a hundred people, may a few more. The clientele was ultra elite. It was nice enough, but it wasn’t covered with gold and jewels, or anything. The customers had all those things already. That’s not why they came.”

“So why did they come?” I asked.

“Unpredictability, loss of control,” Ryan said. “Nothing was the same from one night to another. One night the meals were free, the tables were naked women and the aperitifs were shots of squid ink; the next night, each meal cost five thousand dollars, there was a live tiger roaming the room and the hostess slapped them in the face when they walked in. They lived for that kind of unpredictability.

“Narrock, the owner, gave them everything they wanted and more. He and Balodis were of the same mind about things: both obsessed with pushing things further, trying to find the last untasted experience.”

He paused and took a drink. The story seemed to be over, so I pressed him. “So, what happened to it? They couldn’t have just closed it down after all that?”

Ryan shook his head. “No, there was a fire one night in the kitchen. Balodis was experimenting with some sort of combustible chemical. The whole place went up quickly and spread out into the dining area. Fitting end for a place called the Phoenix.”

Ryan stopped and on an impulse, I raised my glass again. “Well, here’s to the Phoenix. It must have been a hell of a place.”

The others just stared at me and I saw open hostility in more than a few of their faces. “What do you mean by that, exactly?” Ryan asked.

“I—just that it sounds like quite a place.” I felt as if I’d misjudged the situation somehow.

“Weren’t you listening?” one of the other men asked. “The place really was hell. Ryan left out most of the terrible stuff, but I was a waiter there: I know. They tortured animals; they even killed people. They had this place in the middle called the Pit. Once it was glassed in and filled with water for a shark fight. A girl fell in and got torn apart. No one tried to help her. They said it was an accident, but I don’t think so. They once set a live cow on fire and just sat and watched as it crashed around, burning. When it was dead, they cut it up and served the raw, smoking flesh to the diners. There was worse, but I’m not about to speak the words. The nightmares are bad enough.”

“But, then why did you toast it?” I asked. “I thought you liked it.”

“I’ve never hated a place worse in my life,” Ryan said. “After the fire, Narrock tried to rebuild but by then the area had had enough of him and they refused. Before he left, he said, ‘When the party starts to die down, the Phoenix will rise again.’ I don’t know what he meant by that, but it was the sort of cryptic thing he would say. We just started toasting it, hoping that would be enough to keep the Phoenix down. It might seem like superstition but you didn’t know Brett Narrock.

“Where was the Phoenix, anyway?” I asked.

Ryan just shook his head, as if to say, young people these days. “You want to go there, after all I’ve told you?” I nodded. “If you want to go bad enough, you’ll find it. But I won’t tell you. And if you go, if you wake up the spirit of that place, then don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Moonlit Phoenix

The Phoenix

(I should have listened to him, of course, but I was younger and cockier then. The story continues, soon.)


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