My Dinner with Shrub

Alan P. Scott - Fictions - Dream Logs

same as it ever was

George Bush Junior and I were riding along with a restaurant inspector in his big old cream-yellow Cadillac, heading north along a depressed semi-rural four-lane commercial strip to see if we could find a restaurant at which to have lunch. I can't decide if we were in Texas or in North Portland - I recognized a bar, or thought I did, from North Portland, but I definitely got the impression that Shrub thought of this as his home turf.

We drove past junkyards and broken-down bars and then turned left into the parking lot of a nondescript gray box of a building. We walked up the wooden steps to go inside.

The restaurant was dark and crowded, with high ceilings. Going up a few more steps into the main body of the restaurant, George and I had a conversation about the decline of this neighborhood... I said something not very clear about the people here, expressing my admiration for what they had been - these people had started out with farther to fall (so even in decline they were stronger than I), or some such.

We came up to a tall set of shelves on which were plates, napkins and silverware... it was serve yourself, buffet style. The plates were sturdy institutional ones, the same sort that we have... white with brown rims. Some people were carrying large plates but all I could see was a small stack of what looked like saucers. I took one anyway, and immediately got into an altercation with a small, pale blonde girl who had been reaching for the same plate. She tried to take the one I had out of my hands, but I insisted she get her own plate. The girl's companions, probably her parents, backed me up - I had, after all, had the plate first - but I got the feeling that I'd still committed a breach of etiquette.

The line was moving and I had to get moving with it. I used the tongs to put salad and some other unidentified things on my plate, passing over the bins of freshly-baked rolls and bread for some reason not at all clear to me (they looked really good; perhaps I was afraid of getting too full) and hurried on to catch up with George.

The rest of the line was made up of lower trays resting on frames of wood, with a rail in front to slide your plates along, and water underneath to keep the food cold or warm as needed. I marveled aloud, for the inspector's benefit, about the lack of insects. "There aren't even any crickets."

I'd spoken too soon, though; the next section of food had crickets galore, singing loudly beneath the trays. The crickets were traditional in these country restaurants, but they'd come to be considered unhygienic and were against the law. I knew the inspector was going to cite the restaurant owner for the "problem" despite the fact that no one in the restaurant minded.

George knew it, too, and he wasn't about to let that happen. Apparently, years before, he'd had a relationship with the Latina proprietor, a now-dumpy black-haired woman. I overheard him telling her that he remembered his promise to help her someday if he could, and that today was the day.

Unfortunately, though, I realized too late and all at once that the inspector probably wasn't going to be as bad for this place as George was. He tried some sort of inept bribe on the inspector, and was promptly caught and arrested. The restaurant, which would most likely have received only a slap on the wrist, was shut down altogether, and George was thrown in jail.

The final scene of the dream had George (and I, I guess, as his accomplice) wake up from the nightmare into the reality of it, on adjacent top bunks of red-painted metal in the blue-lit night of some crowded penitentiary. He kept making noise until the rows of other inmates who had been sleeping sat up and started banging things angrily, maybe even angrily enough to riot.

George had done it again.

January 2000

©2000, 2001 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.

Last updated May 20, 2001.

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