By Benji Elkins:
The Violet State Café is home to many of the local residents of the Northwest Berkeley area. Since its inception in 1978, the restaurant has been synonymous with good food and comfortable dining. Open 8 o’clock to 11, the restaurant has been honored to host many “food alumni”, ranging from former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second cousin’s niece, to the Alten Township’s Cabbage Eating Champion of the 2011 Alten Cabbage Eating Competition, only 49.2 miles away. Serving only the best locally grown and organic food and ingredients, one of the most popular dishes is the “DIY Beef Kabab,” where patrons are invited to humanely slaughter, butcher, and cook a Red Spotted Simmental Cow themselves. As the most popular restaurant and social hub in the Northwest Berkeley area, it truly was a community treasure.
Francis Gleehall mindlessly sat at a table overlooking the San Francisco Bay, slowly raising a glass of water to his mouth every few minutes while playing a game on his phone, sneaking in second long glances at the beautiful bay and scenery before him when he died and had to wait five seconds to respawn and continue playing. He was waiting for his friends, who had scheduled a brunch date with him, and continuing to play on his phone, he thought about the invitation exchange that had happened only a few days before. Yet, it was only briefly because before he knew it, the five second respawn time was up and he returned to swiping, and taping, and spitting, and wiping, and dabbing, and looking around all embarrassed like, but then being relieved on knowing that no one saw him spit on his phone, but then feeling a sense of fear on knowing that there is no true way of knowing whether someone saw him spit or not and that it would be impossible to truly know the truth, but then alas the five seconds were up once more and the cycle continued.
The invitation exchange, however, was shorter than Francis remembered, and though he couldn’t help but remember it as a witty back and forth between him and his friends in their “Foodies United” group chat, in reality it was no more than a short question posed by one friend, and then responded to by a few short and ridiculously unfunny replies. Francis’ reply itself was one of the former; a simple “maybe”, then followed by an “actually yes” three minutes later, and those three minutes had been agony. Not knowing whether to say yes or no (hence the maybe) Francis deliberated for what seemed like hours, (remember it was actually only three minutes) weighing pros and cons, fors and againsts, the goods and the bads, himself on a scale, himself again, (he was very self-conscious about his weight) all trying to come to a firm conclusion as to what he should do. In the end, he finally decided he indeed would use a ride sharing app to go to the Violet State Café, he would indeed take a table for five by the window overlooking the bay, he would indeed forgo the complimetary preliminary bread stage offered to him, and he would indeed wait for his friends patiently, sipping his glass of water while playing on his phone, all of which but the third being successfully accomplished.
He had been waiting for almost four minutes when his friends finally arrived at the Violet State. Formalities were exchanged: Glen hugging Francis, Francis hugging Rachel, Rachel hugging Fabian, and Fabian kissing Daisy (Fabian was European and insisted that was how it should be done), and the five sat down and chatted while perusing the menu that had just been handed to them from the waitress, introduced as Cheyenne.
When Cheyenne had left the table the five friends stared at their menus, pointing at which foods sounded good to them or which pictures caught their eye. “I might just have to go for the Bison Burger.” Glen heartily said. “The DIY Kebab is to die for,” Rachel enthusiastically said. Yet Francis said nothing; he couldn’t make up his mind! There were too many options! In fact there were so many options, Francis felt slightly overwhelmed. (he was never good with words, and pictures simply frightened him) His eyes trembled as his gaze darted from appetizer to entree to dessert to beverage, and then, just like that, a voice: “Alright sir, what can I get ya?” Slowly, Francis raised his head, his eyes panning up from the words before him, only to meet the gaze of the waitress Cheyenne.
“You’ll just have to come back to me.” he said. She smiled, nodded, and moved onto Daisy. 'Absolutely amazing,' Francis thought, 'it worked!' Yet, he knew he would have to act quick before the waitress returned. His eyes quickly shot back down to the cryptic ledger of food before him, speed reading the titles of meals before him. He estimated he had at most 180 seconds, no, now 175 before she came back to him - he had to act FAST! He scanned the appetizers page - nothing interesting. Then he moved down to the soups and salads section. “The pesto pasta with clams” Daisy said, announcing her order. Francis watched as Cheyenne moved onto Fabian. He had to pick up the pace. Caesar salad, wedge salad, house salad, now onto sandwiches. Hamburger on a brioche bun, hamburger on a kaiser roll, cheeseburger on a brioche bun, cheeseburger on a kaiser roll, cheeseburger with bacon for an extra 75¢, cheeseburger without bacon that wasn’t for an extra 75¢.
“I’ll have the wedge salad signora,” Fabian replied. Francis looked up in shock. Damnit! Only two more to go. Francis moved onto the pastas: penne, pesto, spaghetti, linguine, red sauce, white sauce, wine sauce, pine sauce (a Canadian special?). He estimated he now had only 70 seconds left, he had to work faster. Then Cheyenne was at Rachel.
“And you miss?”
“The DIY Kebab.”
Crap! That was quick. Now just one more and then he would be up. Crap! Rachel was always a drag to order out with, always so snippy with her orders. Alas! Only one section was left. This was surely it: the entrees! He glanced up and down the list, and as he heard Glen ordering his meal through the corner of his ear he kicked his eye glancing speed into overdrive (which is really not as fast as you would think for you have to remember that Francis was never good with words [and pictures simply frightened him]). And then with a picture of the chicken marsala he was finished with his reading.
“And you sir, have you decided yet?” Francis looked up at Cheyenne and smiled, for he knew he had her beat; he had read the whole menu! He opened his mouth to speak, and then quickly paused with realization. Though he had viewed every item on the menu, he had forgotten to choose which one to order! His heart pumped, his head throbbed, and then quickly he looked down and said the first thing he saw. “I’ll have the meatloaf.” he said quickly, plopping his menu into her hands. “Sorry sir, but we only offer the meatloaf for dinner, would you like something else?” Francis looked at Cheyenne in disbelief, sirens went off inside his head, his eyes rolled back, he almost died if it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t. Colors flashed, cannons boomed, empires rose and fell, and then just like that he was back in the Violet State Café, still unsure of what to order.
“I don’t know.” He finally managed to mutter out.
“What was that sir?”
“I said, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“That is correct.” His friends were starting to get nervous.
“You don’t know?”
“That is what I said.” Now his friends were really jumpy.
“How can you not know?” Cheyenne asked in disbelief.
“I just don’t,” Francis smiled, “and you’ll just have to live with that.”
And with that the world ended.
Cheyenne morphed into a demonic being eight foot high, fire and hail rained down from the heavens, and Daisy screamed, Glen yelled, and Rachel cried (mostly over the DIY Kebab; she had not yet tried it and had been looking forward to it all week). And Francis smiled.
One by one, he watched as the demonic Cheyenne devoured his friends, then moving on to the patrons at the other tables around him, wolfing them down in one bite apiece. And as he slowly got bored with the sight of half eaten bodies littering the café, the bay burning red with fire, and the black hellish sky, he slowly pulled out his phone from his pocket, sipped from his glass of water, entered in his passcode, and began to play his favorite game on his phone, only observing the sight around him when he died and had to wait five seconds to respawn. It was safe to say he would not be invited out to brunch anytime soon.