For Kevin, a man of deep conversations. I hope you like this story that went way off the rails.
Jerald’s eyes darted left, and then right, and then back to his dinner date. “Did you hear that?”
Destiny looked up from her desecrated lobster and wiped off her hands with a small moist towelette. She pursed her lips and looked also in the same directions as Jerald.
“What do you mean? It’s loud in here. Which sound?”
“It was um…”
Jerald became aware, more aware anyway, of the group of people sitting near him. The restaurant was packed with patrons for the day. Each of the circular tables held two people, and each table was only given enough space so that moving back a chair would not result in a collision.
Jerald leaned forward, and Destiny dutifully followed along, leaning over her lobster, and her dark hair touched the butter sauce and clung to a bit of it.
“It was a hissing,” Jerald whispered.
Destiny also whispered back. Though not in nearly as stealthy of a way. “Like what? Like a snake?”
“Yeah…” Jerald said, worrying about fangs biting into his foot at any moment. “I think it might be one.”
“That’s silly,” Destiny said, leaning back and addressing her loaded mashed potatoes with the gusto of a prostitute hired to have a dinner date with an awkward rich guy.
“You’re being silly,” she added.
Jerald briefly wondered who used the word “silly” anymore—before shaking his head to clear the thought. “No, I’m serious. It sounded just like a snake was here. Right around us. Don’t move your feet.”
“How would it get in here?” Destiny said and gave a cursory glance at her high-heeled limbs. Nothing there, of course. She did not expect there to be.
“I don’t know…someone’s pet?”
“Look, sir. I don’t know why you want there to be a snake. But if that’s what you want, I can play along. But don’t introduce roleplay without some warning.”
“That’s not…I am not going to deal with that right now. I really do think there is a snake. Should I… I don’t know, tell the waiter or something?”
“Well, don’t scream ‘snake’. That’s for sure.”
“Duh,” Jerald said and glanced around again. “But I need to do something about it. It is imperative.”
“Impera—what now? Look: let me eat, and then I can come with you out of the snaky restaurant, and you can do what you want to me for a night. That’s what you paid for, and what I came for.”
Jerald lost his paranoia for a moment as the promise of that very purchase’s outcome flashed to his head—but he was sure of the serpent. And when he opened his mouth to say something: the universe deemed him worthy enough to give confirmation to his concern.
The person eating next to them—a woman with a purse full of dog and earrings threatening to rip off the cartilage—screamed and shuddered before falling flat on her face into her soup. Cream of mushroom to be precise.
The liquid dripped around the porcelain rim and a loud hiss thrummed the air.
Several people screamed, and Jerald pulled up his feet.
“I told you! Oh God, that poor woman!”
“Poor woman?! What the shit is a snake doing in this place?” Destiny said, drawing up her feet and grasping for the lobster cracking tool with intent to defend herself if necessary.
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” Jerald shouted as everyone shouted. The waiters were calling on their cell phones, people were moving onto tables. One daring son-of-a-bitch went fully rogue and leaped from top to top in some vain hope of making it to the door—when there was at least a six-foot gap of open space there right at the end before the mahogany portal.
Jerald composed himself again, more frayed this time. “Okay, here’s what I think. We can wait it out, right? It’s not like it can go up a table. We just sit up in our chairs.”
Two tables away, an elderly man with a half-finished roast in front of him shuddered and uttered a sound before dropping into his meal. The woman across from him screamed before tipping out of her chair with a spasm.
Destiny screamed and someone pulled the fire alarm.
Water, buckets of the stuff, descended from on high to soak everyone. A million dollars plus in clothing all became what all clothes really are: lumps of fabric to cover nudity.
Destiny looked at her lobster in dismay, and her hair flopped down on her as the chemicals holding them up broke under the torrent. Her eyes covered, she shoved the locks aside with a look of pure annoyance.
“I am never going with you again. Get a different whore.”
“If we live,” Jerald said, “I will.”
Ten tables off, another dropped from a bite, and no one knew what to do about it anymore—if they ever did. Something about a snake and death made everyone lose their collective common sense.
But Jerald, Jerald did what any brave man should, he looked around and spotted the incoming black slithering monster, and hurled his steak knife with a shriek two octaves higher than any postpubescent man should be able to achieve.
The snake was apparently rather tender as the knife severed it cleanly. A few drops of blood dripped from the dead serpent, and the water continued to pour—washing the liquid away.
“It is dead!” Jerald proclaimed, and in the rain, the others cheered. Except for Destiny, who booked it out of there, clutching her purse containing her payment, even if she’d planned to weasel some more free stuff out of her date. But not dying was good enough—and the dude was probably awful in bed, anyway.
“The snake is dead!” Jerald said and repeated it a few times. Until he heard a scream in a familiar voice.
Destiny had the door open and was now stepping backward from it, into the restaurant, with her hands on her chest and yet another scream stuck in her throat.
Streaming in, in waves and sheets, were more snakes than anyone could conceive of existing in the world. Each one with coal eyes, and flitting red tongues, and seeking a bite of the people who liked fancy food.
“Oh…” Jerald said. “Oh…the snakes are not dead.”
Off in the distance, came the sound of a firetruck running off the road, and then exploding, followed by a hiss so loud it may as well have been the only sound in the entire world.