The Quad

Tales from the Ram’s Horn Diner

Part 4

Daniel S. Farling, Special to the Quad

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PREFACE

Some moments in certain places lend themselves to become a story. The cosmic timing of a situation links itself to become something greater. Some would call this happenstance. Others may label it coincidence. A select few would call this magic. For the next eight weeks, Creative Writing Club proudly presents eight tales from the Ram’s Horn Diner, a venture into the magic of coincidence, a serial of circumstance.

PART 4

A man walked into a diner, looking out of place immediately. He didn’t look like a man wanting a meal or a casual night out with friends; he looked like a man who expected things to not go his way. Perhaps he just got off work with some disagreeable clientele, or perhaps he was about to deal with some in the near future. Perhaps, even, it was the diner itself. His eyes slowly scanned around the room, taking in every detail they could. Nothing escaped his gaze. When he made eye contact with one of the patrons, he simply gave a nod as if to say, “Nothing to see here. Move along.” He carried himself over to a waitress who at least didn’t seem too busy.

Her head cocked to the side as she waited for him to say something, thinking he must be a customer. Instead, he simply pulled a wallet out of his pocket and flashed an ID with the words “Health Inspector” printed on it in plain, black text. The name “Hamilton” was signed beneath that. Holding back an eye roll at his dramatics, she pointed toward the door that led into the kitchen. He nodded his head in thanks, pushing through the double swinging doors into a scene of absolute chaos: a restaurant kitchen during dinner rush.

Servers and cooks swarmed in every direction like nocturnal creatures suddenly exposed to light. People scattered out of the way as a larger, older man angrily stomped up to the inspector. He opened his mouth, about to confront the invader, but his words died on his lips as he spied the ID. He stared for a moment before waving his hand in the air, as if to stop a fly from buzzing around his face.

He stomped away in embarrassment, now ignoring the inspector entirely. Hamilton wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, so he quickly began moving through kitchen. After finding several spots that look like they hadn’t seen so much as a squirt of water since opening day, he came upon a door leading downstairs. He smirked.

After ensuring that no one was looking, he quietly made his way downward. The room Hamilton found himself in seemed more than a little out of place. An unmade bed sat in one corner, a desk in the corner opposite it. A dresser stood against the far wall. Calling it lightly furnished would be an understatement.

He moved along the walls, feeling and looking for something, anything to validate his suspicions. As he walked past a specific spot on the wall, he stopped. Intuition screamed in his head. A painting. A forest landscape. This is exactly the clue he’d been searching for. He braced himself for a moment before lifting up his foot and shooting it forward, slamming his full weight into the wall. A clatter like that of pots and pans resounded as the previously hidden door swung open and fell off its hinges.

He studied the room carefully, praying he would have the opportunity to look cool again and kick down another door. No such luck. The floor was littered with empty bags of chips and soda cans, and a CRT TV buzzed in the corner with the soft glow of the Halo pause screen, a ratty bean bag chair in front of it. Next to it, another hidden door opened, and a small, grey humanoid with large black eyes emerged, a single square of toilet paper stuck to its foot.

“What the hell, man?” the creature shouted, gesturing at the busted down door.

The inspector flicked a small cube out of his sleeve and into his hand. The cube quickly unfolded into a gun which he pointed at the creature. “Don’t move,” he commanded. With his free hand, he retrieved his wallet and flashed his ID. “I am special agent Hamilton of the Heavens-Earth Assimilation, Legality, Technology, and Hazard Inspectors. I’m here to-”

“Oh, come on,” the alien groaned, plopping down into his bean bag. “My dad had trouble with you people when he was young too. You don’t have anything better to do?”

Hamilton considered lowering his gun but thought better of it. “What do you mean, alien?”

“Yeah, see?” he shouted, hopping up just as quickly as he’d sat down. “That’s exactly the kind of thing he would talk about. ‘Alien’. Do you even know what that word means?”

“Well, it means-“

“It was rhetorical!” He took a deep breath. “Look, I’m just as American as you. I was born here and everything.”

Dumbfounded, the inspector stuttered out, “But you’re a Zorblaxian.”

“Oh, for – and that somehow makes me any less American?” He shook his head. “Can I see your ID real quick? I need to call your superior.”

Realizing he’s made a mistake, Hamilton handed over his wallet and put away his weapon. The alien flipped open his Blackberry and dialed the number on the back of his ID. He tapped his foot impatiently as the phone rang. “Ah, hello. Mr. Washington? Yes, in fact you can help me. Cute name theming by the way. One of your inspectors seems to be a bit insensitive. Oh, no need to apologize on his behalf. Mhm. Carl Jones. Zorblaxian. And, uh,” he glanced back at the wallet. “Hamilton. Okay. Yeah. That’s everything? Wow, okay. That was easy. Mhm. Oh, oh, no, he’s got, like, 30 bucks in his wallet. Don’t worry about it. You have a good day too. Thanks a lot. Bye.” He closed the phone and tossed it onto the chair behind him. “Well, you should be getting called back any second now.”

“This is the worst part,” he moaned, closing as he disappeared with a flash of light. As his eyes adjusted, they focused on the words “sensitivity training” on a chalk board at the front of the room.

“Back so soon?” asked the Zorblaxian instructor, making intentionally awkward eye contact.

Hamilton grumbled and sat down. Under his breath, he muttered, “Well, at least I’m out of that weird diner.”

Daniel S. Farling is a West Chester student majoring in English with a minor in creative writing.

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Tales from the Ram’s Horn Diner