The Joint
Submitted into Contest #141

The Joint had ratings so abysmal that Jack and his friends had no choice but to see for themselves. And indeed, The Joint had lived up to its promise, or lack thereof

Jack sighed as he opened the doors to The Joint. The humid air hit him almost immediately but Jack was unfazed. Over the months, he had grown accustomed to the lack of ventilation, among other missing facilities one would expect at a restaurant. Though to call The Joint a restaurant, was…questionable.

 

The Joint had ratings so abysmal that Jack and his friends had no choice but to see for themselves. And indeed, The Joint had lived up to its promise, or lack thereof. From ridiculous wait times, to disgusting food, to dirty utensils, The Joint had it all. Its only redeeming quality was that it served alcohol 24/7, and it was piss-poor alcohol at that. Or maybe it was just piss. Jack doubted he could tell the difference.

 

Sadly for Jack, that wasn’t the last time he would visit the Joint. It was the first of many, unfortunate visits and it had been over a month since his first visit now.

 

He scanned the room and settled for a small table near the center of the room. On his first visit, his friends and him stood at the entrance for ten minutes, waiting for someone to come and seat him. Eventually, they learned that The Joint followed no such protocols. You simply came in and grabbed an available seat.

 

Jack gingerly pawed at the menu, testing for any residue. Deciding that it was relatively clean, he opened it and made a show of picking what to eat. Of course, he knew exactly what he was going to order. Fries and a cup water. They were simply the safest items on the menu, and even then there was the risk of food poisoning. On his first visit, he had made the amateur mistake of ordering a steak cooked medium-rare. The choice had left him all but on the toilet for the better part of a week. It was one thing to order the steak from The Joint, but having it cooked any other way than extremely well-done was a death-wish.

 

Jack’s palms began to sweat as he waited one of the staff to take his order. Finally, one came. In fact, she came. The reason for his sudden interest in this otherwise downtrodden excuse of a restaurant.

 

Maya. Maya something. He didn’t know her last name because her name-tag only had her first name (though that didn’t stop him from stalking her on social media).

 

She had a narrow face with sharp features and shoulder-length, jet-black hair. She reminded him of a raven. A very pretty raven.

 

“Hi there, may I take your order?” she asked. He kept his eyes on the menu, pretending to deeply consider his order. 

 

“Hello, er…yes, could I get an order of fries and a cup of water please?” She raised an eyebrow and gave him a knowing smile. “Of course. Will that be all?” No I’d like to have you too, to go perhaps? Jack thought. He cleared his throat “No that’s everything, thank you” and gave her a small smile of his own.

 

After she left, he leaned back in his chair. He wanted to speak with her, have a conversation with her that didn’t involve placing an order. The mere thought of speaking with her made his stomach dance. But that’s why I’m here aren’t I? He couldn’t just keep coming to this shit-hole and ordering stale fries. He had to put an end to this, one way or another. Either he spoke to her today or he would give up and never come back here again.

 

After an unreasonable amount of time, given the simplicity of Jack’s order, Maya came back with his fries and water.

 

“Enjoy your…meal?” She said with a little mirth. At this, Jack perked up. ”I’ll have you know that this is a nutritious meal. A relatively nutritious meal.”

 

“Relative to what, exactly?” she asked now, in interest. “Relative to the other items on this menu. Have you tried the steak? You lose nutrients because you’re emptying your guts from the diarrhea.” At this, Maya burst out in laughter. Then, she looked around. Satisfied that everyone more or less had their food, she took a seat across from Jack. His heart skipped a beat.

 

“I’ll admit that the food is a little suspicious. That’s why I bring my own meals.” Maya said.

 

“Seems like a wise choice.” Jack said, grinning now.

 

Maya leaned in and spoke with a conspiratorial tone. “You know, I’ve noticed you here the past few weeks, because you always get fries and nothing else.” Jack gave her a look of surprise. Maya continued, “Clearly, you understand that the food here is dubious, so why do you keep coming back here? If you wanted fries, you could just go to McDonald’s or Burger King or literally any other fast food place ever.”

 

Jack swallowed. “That, is a very good question. You are very smart, do you know that? Have you considered a career in law? You would make a great lawyer.” He gave Maya a small, nervous laugh. She rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling.

 

“Would you believe me if I told you that I think the fries are delicious?” Maya reached over, picked up a fry, and ate it. “It’s cold. The fry is cold, hard and unsalted. So you tell me,” she said.

 

“I would love to tell you, I really would. But it’s a bit of a long story and you seem to be very busy. I wouldn’t want to take up your time.” At this, Maya was grinning in full amusement. “No worries at all, I got all day.”

 

Half an hour of banter passed when another customer walked in.

 

“Don’t you have to take go their order?” Jack said, pointing to the new customer.

 

Maya looked over and stood up. “I will. But you still haven’t answered my question yet.” Jack gave her a look of mock confusion. “What was the question? I seem to have forgotten.” This time Maya stood silent and looked straight at Jack.

 

Jack took a deep breath. “Okay look, the reason for why I keep coming back here…”. He said as he held her gaze. “…requires too long of an explanation.” He grinned at her and she threw her hands up.

 

“How about this? Let’s discuss this at another time, when you’re not working. Maybe…this weekend? We can go somewhere to eat. Somewhere that’s not here.” Maya looked surprised for maybe the first time since they spoke, but surprise quickly turned into a smile.

 

“Agreed, somewhere that’s not here.” she paused. “Then you’ll finally answer my question?”

 

Jack smiled back, “I think you already know the answer.”


IZERE Yvonne Vivens

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