I am ashamed to admit that today I went to Long John Silver's and got a Sampler Platter. I'm proud to say I didn't get the new "Fish Taco" but what the hell is that anyway? Sounds like you could catch a venereal disease from something like that.
I know the food is horrible — deep fried-fat-fried-fish — but it is so delicious I allow myself the occasional visit. The thing that is weird about the Long John Silver's near my house: The employees are all morbidly obese. The girl who takes my order has a head that is perfectly spherical. She is soulless piggy eyes and pudgy arms and sausage fingers. Does she eat at this place? Does the first aid kit in the back room include a defibrillator?
This place is like Day of The Living Dead. There are elderly people everywhere. In the tiny booth next to the exit sits an old man, probably close to a hundred years old, alone, carefully scooping coleslaw into his toothless face, willing each spoonful to slowly, slowly rise to his drooping jowls, precariously held by a shaking hand. Slowly it rises. So slow.
The 1985 number one hit "Out of Touch" by Hall and Oats plays softly on the speakers.
A washed-out red-headed mother and child, both wearing different shades of sickly orange, sit silently eating their corporate mash. What familial madness goes on in their domicile? Trailer or McMansion? It is hard to tell. Who would bring a child to this place? If this isn't child abuse, what is?
Suddenly Elton John's 1975 smash hit "Philadelphia Freedom" plays as I pour Malt Vinegar Sauce on my hush puppies and try to keep the desperation of this place from creeping into my soul. I wonder how this particular Circle of Corporate Hell fits into the fat, bloated American Landscape.
A few more customers have arrived. Watching these overweight people shovel crap into their heads makes me sick, and sicker still when I realize I am doing the same thing.
I go to fill the tiny cups they provide with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. They've renamed the cocktail sauce "shrimp" sauce; who knows what Stupidity was behind that. I am about to get some ketchup for my fries, but a pale, six-five moon-faced Neanderthal in a NASCAR tee shirt is suddenly standing two feet away from me, hands on his hips, like I'm keeping him from some important appointment. He's wearing black exercise pants, although the prominent gut hanging over his beltline tells me he is not using those pants for their intended purpose. Mark Martin's convex face, stretched over this man's massive gut, looks pained. I go back to my seat without my ketchup. This is what prison would be like for me, if there are condiment bars in prison. I do not make eye contact.
I can feel the batter, the magnificent batter that makes the fish and the chicken indistinguishable by sight, coagulating in my arteries. The grease on my fingers moistens the paper on which I am trying to write. The ink pen is fouled in the stuff. With each bite I am killing myself, ever so slowly.
The old man hobbles to the trash can and puts his leavings into the little door, which swings back and forth as he disgorges himself into the parking lot. My God, he's going to operate a motor vehicle. The children! Oh the humanity! Will he get home to fall asleep in front of his television, watching the Price is Right? Let us hope so.
I can't finish my plate. The FDA should raid this place SWAT style, Taser everyone and shut the place down for public safety. I walk back into the sunlight, bloated and ashamed, holding my greasy fingers before me. "Out, damned spot! out, I say!" I get back into my car which is pre-heated like a fish under a heat lamp. I swear to myself to never to set foot in that place again.
But the Malt Vinegar! It calls me. It calls.