'Ten Minutes Late for Reality' by Lou Morris (c) 1988, 1989, 1991, 2002, 2015. Twenty:


   "Now with our special buyer's option plan, you can lease
a new wedding ring with an option to buy..."

                                 - Some jewelry shop in the
local Bucks County Mall.

   "That'll be twenty bucks, buddy," the cab lady growled to
Your Name Here as he stepped from the backseat of the station
wagon turned cab.
   "Twenty bucks?  But you just drove me down the road a few
miles?" Your Name Here complained.
   "That freak was gonna blow yer head clear off if I didn't
scoot yer ass outa there."  She held out her hand.
   "Yeah, yeah," Your Name Here reluctantly agreed.  He
pulled out his glossy checkbook with his gold-tone initials
on it and wrote out a check for twenty dollars.  He gave it
to the cabby.
   "Hey, I don't take checks!"
   "That's all I have; take it or leave it."
   The cabby took it and screeched away, leaving Your Name
Here at the Sear's entrance of the Bucks County Mall.  He
walked in, realized he was dreadfully hungry, and sauntered
over to the nearest fast food place.
   The young girl behind the counter slept soundly, her head
resting lightly on the counter-top cash register.  She
dribbled a bit as Your Name Here approached but remained
   "Ahem," said Your Name Here.
   The girl remained asleep.  It seemed that no one else was
around, as far as Your Name Here could tell.
   "Ahem," he said again.  When that gained no response, he
tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
   She stirred.  She blinked.  She realized Your Name Here
was standing there and she quickly wiped her mouth.  
"Can--can I help you?" she asked unbelievably.
   "Are you open for business?" he asked.
   She nodded spastically; "Yes, yes."  She turned and
yelled behind her, "Hey--we've got a customer!"
   "Wha?" replied the newly risen.
   "We have a customer!"
   "Nah, stop fooling with me.  Why would anyone want to eat
   "How should I know?" the attendant said.  "But we have
   "Jeez--a first time for everything...  Uh, take the guy's
order and I'll wake the chef."
   "Okay."  She turned back to Your Name Here.  "Welcome to
the Ptomaine Experience.  May I take your order, sir?"
   Your Name Here almost had second thoughts about leaving,
but since he was hungry past the point of logic, he shook his
head and looked at the menu anyway.  Too bad the menu board
was ill lit and completely covered with a layer of dust.  "Do
you have any burgers?" he asked instead.
   She shrugged then yelled, "Is the grill on?"
   "Nope--cold as a fish on Friday."
   She gave the assistant chef a face; "Huh?"
   "I don't know--I was never good at metaphors."
   "I thought it was a simile."  She turned to Your Name
Here.  "What do you think?"
   "I think I should go someplace else," Your Name Here
   "No, wait!  Please stay.  Please?" she pleaded.
   "Oh, all right," he sighed.  "How about some chicken
   "One order of chicken fingers!  Anything else, sir?"
   "A strawberry milk shake.  And a--"
   "Damn!" yelled the guy in the back.
   "What?" asked both Your Name Here and the girl.
   "Oh, it's the freezer--it shut off again.  But I guess
the food is still okay.  It couldn't have been that long... a
week at the most.  I bet the milk is still white."
   "Uh," said Your Name Here.
   "Well, hurry up with the milk--I need it for this
gentleman's milkshake.  You get his chicken parts--I mean
   "Sure, but how long do you think I should nuke the
chicken?" the guy asked.
   "Five minutes?  I don't know--ask the chef, he would
know.  Were is he, anyway?"
   "Don't know--do we have any white food coloring?"
   "Hmn..." said Your Name Here.  He thought, I wonder if I
could sue them for food poisoning--if I live, that is.
   "I got it; don't worry," remarked the anti-chef as he
pulled something from within a cupboard.  He started to stir
loudly, splashing himself in the process.
   "How's it coming?" the counter girl asked.
   "Fine--chicken's cooking, milk's here."  He handed her a
glass of pure white milk.  He proceeded to thoroughly wash
his hands and face.
   The girl took the glass of lumpy white milk and poured it
into a metal shaker.  She then brought out a box of
strawberry ice cream and scooped a few scoops of the greenish
stuff into the shaker.  She turned and smiled awkwardly.  
"Must be mislabeled," she remarked as she turned the mixer
   "Yeah," Your Name Here replied, unbelieving.  "Sure."
   Your Name Here jumped.  "What was that?"
   "Your chicken?  Can't be your milkshake," she reasoned.
   "That was your milkshake...  Don't worry; I'll just spoon
it back in."
   "No problem," said Your Name Here.  He shook his head;
"No problem."
   "Here's your chicken... well, stuff," said the guy,
placing a basket of breaded and exploded chicken on the
virgin counter.
   "Fingers," Your Name Here said.
   "No, not fingers.  More like splatters," he said.
   "Oh.  Nice.  What about my milkshake?"
   "Here it is!"  She put the large styrofoam cup on the
counter.  As she placed the plastic lid on the top, Your Name
Here noticed that the shake was terrible shade of orange.
   "Isn't it supposed to be strawberry?" he asked.
   "Well, I couldn't find any red dye."  She smiled; "Orange
is a nice color, though."
   Your Name Here nodded.
   "Anything else, sir?"
   "No, no.  That'll be it."
   "Would you like a slice of cherry pie?"
   "No, not really--"
   "I'm sure you'll like it, sir.  It's very fresh--just as
fresh as everything else we have... oh.  I guess you wouldn't
like, then."
   "I guess not."
   "Well, all together, that will come to twenty five,
thirty two, sir."
   "Twenty five, thirty two?" remarked both Your Name Here
and the chef's helper.  "It should be at least thirty
something..." the guy added.
   "Doesn't matter...  Here--I'll write out a check for
fifty bucks--"
   "I don't know..." she said as she bagged his order in a
silvery bag.
   "Let me guess--your cash register is broken?"
   "Broken?  It might be--I never learned how to use it,
yet.  Never had the chance."  She poked a button.  The
machine beeped back incomprehensibly and the drawer popped
   "Well, anyway, here's fifty bucks and give me--"
   "We don't have any change, yet."
   "--and keep the change," Your Name Here finished.  And
keep the food, too, he thought.  He grabbed the bag and
walked out.  "Bye."
   "So long.  Please come again.  Have a nice day, sir,"
they replied.
   Once out of sight, Your Name Here dumped the food in the
nearest trash can.  As he walked away, he caught a glimpse of
old Matilda, Cassville's only homeless person, reaching in
and withdrawing the sack of food.  Serves her right if she
eats that crap, he thought.
   Your Name Here then ran to the bank at the other end of
the Bucks Mall.  As he ran, he completely failed to notice
that the person who just ran in the opposite direction past
him, followed in hot pursuit by a policeman, was the same
person who tried to mug him earlier today.
   Once in the bank and at an available teller window, Your
Name Here said, "I'd like to cancel a check, please."