Short Story: “Food Court ’95 ” By C. A. Brown

It’s, like, totally not true.‘ Roy said as he sat back in the metal chair and sipped his coffee. Although it was a bleak Wednesday morning, the food court of the Westview Street Mall somehow seemed to be at least half full. He checked his watch. It was ten in the morning and the shops surrounding the rectangular court were already a riot of neon and strip lights. He wondered what it looked like at night.

Beside him, Lucy picked up a French fry and sighed. ‘I’m telling you, they make these chairs uncomfortable on purpose. It’s all part of a cunning plan to get as many people to buy as much food as possible. They could put proper chairs in here, but of course, they want you to just eat and leave so that the next people can eat and leave. It’s like we’re robots or something.

An impish smile crossed Roy’s face and he leant sideways. With one fist, he tapped his behind, whilst secretly tapping the chair leg with the other at the same time. As a quiet clang echoed across the table, he said: ‘Buns of steel. It’s probably why I don’t notice it.

Lucy wasn’t sure whether to laugh or roll her eyes. So, she did both. Finally, Roy said: ‘Seriously, did someone at one of your punk concerts tell you that thing about the chairs?’

No, there’s a couple of books about it in the campus library. You know, the building you’re supposed to go to every week.‘ Lucy gave Roy a sarcastic smile, before eating another French fry. Above the babble of conversation, the tannoy pinged and a muffled voice babbled for a few seconds. Neither Lucy nor Roy could tell what it was trying to say. Obviously, no-one else could because, ten seconds later, the same garbled mumbling filled the air again.

Roy sipped his coffee and said: ‘We’ve got a guy in our frat who takes notes for all of us. We each give him five bucks a week. The time savings are incredible.

Lucy didn’t dignify that with a response. Instead, she ate a couple of French fries and slurped her milkshake. On the table next to her, two blond guys in leather jackets hastily exchanged dollar bills with each other. A smile crossed her face and she got up and walked over to them. Roy raised an eyebrow. When she returned, she slipped something into her bag and said: ‘We’re all set for Friday night. You owe me ten bucks.

Roy lowered his voice to an indignant whisper as he fumbled for his wallet ‘Ten bucks? You talk about the evils of capitalism and then let – he isn’t even a hippie – rip you off like that. I mean, there’s probably thirty cents of oregano in there.

He handed her the note and stared at his coffee cup. There was an advertisement on the side of it. It was an advert for coffee. As Roy wondered why on earth these supposed evil geniuses would try to advertise coffee to someone who had already bought it, Lucy stood up and stretched her legs: ‘Anyway, I’m going numb. We should probably get out of here. I hear they’re still showing Pulp Fiction at the cinema.

Waste of two hours. It doesn’t even make sense.‘ Roy sighed. ‘Seriously, a guy dies and then he just appears a while later like nothing happened.

It’s meant to be art house, I think. Don’t tell me that you want to see the intellectual masterpiece that is Die Hard With A Vengeance instead.

Roy shrugged: ‘At least it probably makes sense. I mean, it’s the last film in the trilogy, so they’re probably going to go out with a bang. Hopefully lots of them.

Lucy rolled her eyes and said: ‘Whatever. Hey, do you want another coffee?

Roy shrugged again: ‘Sure, why not? More to the point, aren’t we supposed to be leaving here like robots? I mean, you said that whole thing about the chairs earlier. How this place was designed to get people to stay for as little time as possible…

I’m rebelling. Proving them wrong.‘ Lucy grinned. If Roy had bothered to read his frat brother’s notes about dramatic irony in 20th century literature, he’d have probably creased over with laughter. Instead, he just stared at the empty coffee cup that remained on the table. As his eyes fixed on the advert on the side of the cup, they widened and he muttered ‘Holy sheet! THAT’S why it’s there! Well played, evil geniuses…

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