Nightmare Seafood Dinner

Last night’s meal was unforgettable. It was simple: shrimp scampi, stuffed flounder and fries. I had iced tea to drink. My ticket was delivered, and as I stood to walk to the counter my nose told me something was wrong, terribly wrong…

A fountain normally spit water from a mermaid in the main dining room of this little seafood joint, but it was unplugged and drained empty of water. Nothing but pennies remained. Dimly lit, decorated in a fusion of art deco and plumbing supply store, the staff probably averaged 17 years old.

Giggling and prone to making mistakes like bringing me sweet tea when I asked for unsweet, these girls were doing the best they could and service was otherwise fine. It was hard to be mad at these bubbly young women running the restaurant, and the food was good.

As I squeezed out of my booth to pay my ticket at the counter, I couldn’t help but notice the look of disgust on the face of a woman trying to sip a margarita while her date seemed to be having a choking fit. I checked my zipper.

Then it hit me. First I was confused.  I recognized the smell, but just couldn’t quite place it.  Wrong, didn’t belong.  Bad.

To my left, a boisterous five top of oil field workers grew quiet and I heard someone mutter, “Aw man,  oh man…”

I ambled to the counter still in a daze when an enormous black hand grabbed me by the bicep and jerked me to his table.  Pointing with his forehead he says,

“Watch your step, son.”

I looked down seeing, but at the same time not seeing. The man who grabbed me was seated in a booth, but was as tall as I was. He must have been seven feet tall, and 400 pounds. He  saved me from the amorphous congealed substance on the floor.

“Thank you sir,” I responded shakily.  By now the pungent smell overwhelmed me, and my eyes watered.

He let go of me slowly, as if he wasn’t sure he should. I thanked him a second time, and proceeded to the counter at the front door to pay my ticket, passing one of the innocent Barbie Doll teenage waitresses.  She carried a mop and openly wept.

Looking back, I think I knew what I smelled.  The trail of the dark pudding like substance dotted the floor like a macabre map to the exit.  I tip toed while following the increasingly larger and larger puddles.  The aroma bombarded my senses and I felt dizzy.

All doubt about the nature of the foreign odor evaporated as I approached the cash register.  There it was.  In front of the kiosk was a pile, not unlike what you’d find in a feedlot, of fecal matter. Formed into the prototypical stink pickle, surrounded by a pool of Montezuma’s revenge.  I was aghast.

I’ve never seen someone with the “thousand yard stare” mentioned in PTSD literature, but I’d wager the look on the blonde hostess in her letter jacket  was a close approximation.

I stood awkwardly to the side as I pulled cash from my wallet. Sadly, a twenty went floating downward to the floor….I started for it, reached, then pulled back abruptly. Too late.

“I’ll just leave that.”

Her face staying completely frozen, she mumbled something. Without looking at the cash register, she opened it and handed me money. It was way too much change and I left the extra on the counter. From the dining room I could hear some loud exclamations and a baby cried as a plate or glass, I don’t know which, fell to the floor broken.

I started to the door, hurrying to escape.  The hostess almost whispered,

“Don’t touch the handle.”

Again, too late.

I whimpered, “Oh maaaaaan!” and retraced my steps back through the dining room. Around the puddles of poo I jogged,  holding my hand as if t weren’t mine.  Normally, I’d feel bad drawing attention to myself, disrupting dinner; but I figured that train had left the station.

I get into the bathroom and thankfully soap was in the dispenser. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed with really hot water.

I carefully navigated the now empty dining room except the two young women who were mopping, and a third retching in a bucket. The pile in the front was gone and the hostess said she had my twenty, but I was focused on just getting to my truck.

I in no way blame the establishment, its proprietors, or any of the wait staff. I’ve forgiven the poor soul whose bowels failed him/her in such an inopportune time. I’ve purposely left out the name of the restaurant to protect the innocent. However, I’m not going to be returning to any restaurant for a while…

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