All You Can Eat (A Short Story from the Madhouse)

      I’ve been a waitress here at Mickey’s Diner for the last twenty years, and I’ve seen them all come and go. The place is usually crawling with an assortment of unsavory flavors after 3 am, but not tonight. The winter storm is keeping them all indoors or below their rocks or on their far-away home worlds; wherever they come from. At one time I was convinced that I worked at the only place on the planet build above a colossal creep magnet that attracted them from all over. But not tonight.
      Aside from the locals, even the freeway traffic was at a minimum. No drifter delights for this girl this evening. What a shame that would be. Guess I might have to simply enjoy my shift for once, then go home to my family without any stories about obnoxious patrons or strung out truck drivers sucking down the coffee faster than I could brew it.
      Must have been my karma. Just as I was nearing the home stretch to a one-of-a-kind quiet evenings on third shift, in comes perhaps the strangest customer I have ever had the misfortune to serve.
      He startled me real good. I was just wiping down table six, which had just hosted four teenagers who used the tabletop condiments for their own amusements (gross little fuckers), and turned around just in time to see a man standing just inside the front doorway. He was bundled up in foul weather clothes, looking tattered and torn with use, and a dirty hood pulled half way down his face. He was apparently fascinated with a piece of Mickey’s Diner food artifact left by the lazy day crew or the lights were hurting his eyes. Either way, his mere presence standing silently in the darkest side of the diner had me thinking he was up to no good.
      Just great, we hadn’t had a robbery in months. Why now, and on my shift? I’d like to find that fellow who invented karma and punch him in the face!
      “Howdy, stranger,” I began, “Where’d you come from? I don’t want to sound rude but if you’re looking to make a score you’ve come to the wrong place. You probably have more money in your wallet than we got in the register.” I was trying to sound part funny and part serious. Whatever it took to make light of what could quickly be a bad scene. I also spoke just loud enough to let Hal, the cook, know to go grab the shotgun from Mickey’s office. It was never loaded, but it sure looked intimidating when you pulled it out. Hopefully, that would be enough.
      “Now that we’ve taken care of that, can I get you a table?” I asked hopefully.
      The stranger lifted his head and gave me the chills when I saw his glazed eyes. He looked like he was on something, and that wasn’t good.
      Where the hell was Hal? He should’ve come out by now.
      “Table, please,” the stranger almost whispered.
      “Well alright then,” I said and grabbed a menu, motioning him to follow me toward the table I’d just cleaned off.
      The man only increased my suspicions as he limped in my direction. He was either high on something, or very drunk. I backed off a good five feet to let him sit down. If he tried anything, I had my hand close enough to the half full coffee pot to give him a good spray, before running into the kitchen.
      As it turned out, Hal never heard me and the stranger wasn’t interested in foul play of any kind. I started to feel a little foolish as he scooted in to the booth and merely stared at the menu I placed before him.
      What can I say, I’ve been on this shift long enough to know that “a little foolish” was okay in my line of work. The stranger obviously took no offense to my initial comments.
      “What can I get you?” I asked.
      The stranger wouldn’t look at me. I was a little bothered when he showed me his filthy hands and began wiping something resembling dried up blood off his face. But that was probably me being foolish again.
      “Something raw,” was what he said.
      I couldn’t help myself. That made me laugh uncontrollably. Maybe it was just the way he said it in that whisper-like voice, or perhaps my nerves were just shot from this whole bizarre experience.
      When I regained control, my sarcasm took over, “Let me guess, you’re a zombie that just wandered in out of the cold and now you want me to serve you up live manwich on a bun, does that about cover it?”
      “Exactly,” the stranger said. I thought I caught a hint of a smile beneath that hood.
      Sensing his amusement and the fact that it had been a boring night up until now, I played along, “I see, let me write that down. One live human… All-you-can-eat then? Would you like a to-go box for what you don’t finish?”
      The stranger laughed. He then pretended to examine the menu and said, “That sounds great. How about some fingers- chicken fingers to go along with that as well. And a cup of coffee stripped from the hand of a dead man.”
      Oh, this was getting fun now.
      I pretended to write this all down. “Fingers we can do, but I’m afraid the manwich will take a bit. I can get you the coffee for starters.”
      “That would be gor-ious,” the man chided.
      I got the stranger a cup of coffee and reminded myself to smack Hal later and command him to buy a hearing aid.
 “Seriously, fellow,” I asked, “What can I get you to eat?”
      The stranger removed his hood for the first time and I noticed that the back of his head was covered in blood. In fact, a good portion of his skull was missing. He looked up at me with those dead eyes and smiled. “I’ll just have a salad…for now.”
      It should have registered that there was something dreadfully wrong at this point.   Clearly, this stranger was indeed, a zombie,  yet my tired and overworked mind could not grasp this fully, so I continued with the jokes, “So does that make you a vegetarian then? Bit odd don’t you think?”
      Again, the stranger/zombie laughed and responded, “I consider myself a humanitarian.”
      Now that was funny, zombie or not. I was rolling with laughter.
      The stranger was laughing as well. Again, he grabbed some napkins and began wiping the traces of blood from his face.
      “A bit dead tonight?” The stranger asked.
      “Yeah, but I won’t hold it against you,” I said. Man, I was on a roll.
      The stranger laughed again and said, “My, you are a live one. It will almost be a shame to eat you. I’ve enjoyed our company.”
      Not understanding that the stranger was no longer joking, I continued, “Eat me, pal, and you’ll be doing this girl a favor. You’ll save me the trouble of finishing this lousy shift.”
      “Anything for you, sweetheart,” the stranger said.
      We were having so much fun I never made the connection between all that blood and Hal never showing up with the shotgun.


“ATM” Copyright © 2010 Scott Scherr.  All rights reserved. From the new book “Madhouse Theater” by Scott Scherr and John Ecko.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this twisted tale with a slice of humor from Madhouse Theater.  



From the collaborative madness of story teller and poet, Scott Scherr, and visual poet, John Ecko, comes this twisted collection of short stories, poetry, and visual nightmares from the darkest corners of their unbalanced minds. The stage is set, our props have been sharpened and our cast of characters are ready to perform their torture on you, fair reader. Within these pages wait a vast assortment of sickos, maniacs, boogeyman, monsters, myths, ghosts and much, much more. Please, take your seats and welcome to the theater. We hope you enjoy the show…although you’ve been here all along.
Madhouse Theater is now available for purchase.  Please go and check out my new blog to see an expanded preview of what’s inside the Madhouse.

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