I ate out today

Here is your Moist Towelette – a strong napkin-size towelette, moistened with a lemon-scented cleansing lotion.

Cleans and refreshes when soap and water are not available.

Directions: Tear open packet and use. Dries in seconds, leaving skin soft and smooth.

These were comforting words to my bleary eyes this Tuesday night. I found them printed on the back of a small square tab I found in a plastic sleeve, along with the spork and napkin that came with my three-piece leg-and-thigh meal at a popular fried chicken establishment.

I remember this food being such a godsend. My father would come home with it in that bucket, and I knew the sweet, crunchy coleslaw, and the perfectly rendered mashed potatoes and gravy were not far off. And the crunchy, greasy chicken? Delicious!

The people at the restaurant were exceedingly friendly and prompt. I’m used to eating fast food at Subway, where I’m pretty sure employees suffer the same instruments normally reserved for cattle (whip, electric prodding device) in the break room, so as not to alarm the customers. Subway’s food might be healthier, but the service is slow and so morose that I’ve actually started to avoid eating there.

I went around a corner to the dining area of this popular fried chicken eatery, and sat at one of the booths. I got about three bites into my coleslaw (just as awesome as I remember it) when I noticed that hard-to-describe odor that you get when people don’t wash themselves properly for more than a day or two, and they sit in one place for a while, leaving behind what I assume to be some kind of puddle, slurry, amalgamate, solution, or sedimentary deposit. That metallic, almost-urine butt-sweat smell. Did you ever go head first on your belly down a slide as a kid? At the playground? I moved to a different table, and the smell wasn’t as bad.

The chicken was just as greasy and crunchy as I remember it being, but I have no taste for it anymore. It’s too salty and it’s alarmingly tender, sloughing off the bones with almost no effort at all. An elderly person could gum this chicken from its bones, were it not for the frialated exoskeleton, easily the most firm part of the entire entree.

There was also a tube of “buttery spread,” probably meant for the biscuit, but the biscuit, unadorned, contained probably an entire stick of butter already. I wondered at the kind of person who would want to add more lard to this already sodden confection. At some point, you might as well just put it into a cup and spoon it out, like a milkshake.

On his way out to a smoke break, an employee asked me “how is everything?” I’m telling you, the service at this place was great. I told him good, and sporked mashed potatoes into my waiting maw. These had appeared on my plastic serving tray, plopped neatly in their divider, still spherical, the way ice cream scoops are in cartoons, with a surfeit of gravy cascading down the sides of it. These, also, were as delicious as I remember them.

After I finished, I tried to read a book for a while, but the girl who’d sold me my dinner was busy pushing chairs around on the tiled floor as she cleaned, producing an uneven clatter at intervals just long enough where I’d relax and settle in before she started with the next chair. I got up and made for the door. She beamed at me.

“You can stay and read if you want, it’s no problem!” she said. I told her it’s okay, and she thanked me and told me to have a good night.


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