Saltwater Crocodile Jack’s
by Thomas Mundt
My lawyer said that if we hit, we hit big. When I asked how big is big she took me out onto the fire escape outside her office window to look through a telescope. It was daytime but she assured me that, around midnight, the night sky would show me.
I told her I thought I would be in bed at that time but I’d double-check.
There’s no telling what was in my Big Nasty River Basket that day. My landlord said it was a garter snake, probably snuck in the kitchen between some loose baseboards and had itself a real nice shvitz in the deep fryer. The portion I digested could still have viable eggs, Hamp insisted. Once hatched, the litter could eat me inside out in a few hours and I’d end a pile of bones in the crosswalk. Of course, that was all contingent upon involvement with a female, Hamp clarified. You couldn’t bank on it.
The Saltwater Crocodile Jack’s legal team said it was just a charred, unfurled onion ring. While they conceded that this particular foodstuff does not come standard in a Big Nasty River Basket and had no business fraternizing with the mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, and Chump-Chompin’ Adobo Curly Fries™ therein, they insisted my damages were pure fiction. Then they circulated the photos their investigator snapped at various local cosplay events, depicting me in a variety of colorful patent leather getups, in an attempt to shame me into a voluntary dismissal.
My lawyer smashed a thing of spice drops during the mediation and handed opposing counsel a laminated novelty copy of the Bill Of Rights, asked him to read back to her that whole thing about the right of the people peaceably to assemble. Madysyn, her law clerk, said the car was already running.
We left without an offer and went for gelato.
Dr. Roadhouse asked me how long I’d been experiencing night terrors. Were they accompanied by unrelenting violent hellscapes? I asked what night terrors. He said trauma victims often struggle with sleep issues post-event, ranging from mild insomnia to severe apnea. I needed to remain vigilant in the detection of the symptomology.
I told him I only got about six hours of shuteye a few nights ago and attributed the same to the MLB Playoffs. Dr. Roadhouse took off his glasses and tried to set them on a clipboard next to the sink but they fell to the floor, dislodging an arm from the hinge. He was concerned my psychosis was too advanced and Western treatment approaches would just be wheel-spinning. Had I considered relocation to mountainous regions in the Indian subcontinent?
The mock jurors all had questions, mostly concerning pizza; how many toppings they could expect, thin crust versus deep dish, etcetera. Would there be a salad option for the gluten-free? Some heard there was a really-good brick oven place around the corner and would put good money on lunch coming from there.
My lawyer insisted she would address their concerns once the mock trial concluded and requested they keep their eyes on the prize, which was justice for me. A mock juror in a poncho asked how many years I was facing, if I had been on The Inside before. I said I was only seeking just compensation for a bodily injury loosely defined. He sat down and resumed a game on his phone involving very loud cannon fire.
I inquired into the vetting process for today’s participants and my lawyer said Corey found them on the platform at the La Salle Street station, waiting for the Rock Island Metra. We needed Regular Joes and Typical Janes to level with us, count the eggs in our success basket. These were my peers and they would embrace their civic duty as warm-blooded Americans, I was assured.
The poncho man announced he had advanced to Zohanzibar’s Fortress and asked if we could just give him the gist while he reconstituted his Dark Battalion.
My mom wants to know why I’m doing this. Hadn’t they offered to give me a new Big Nasty River Basket and a refund?
At least I think that’s what she was asking me. It can be difficult to make her out through the respirator mask. My mom is in a home, one of the good ones with staff in possession of social work degrees and modern denim styles. This morning they played Apples To Apples and another resident just said cocksmoke every time he was asked to play a card.
I told her we couldn’t let them get away with it, that corporate personhood demands we hold businesses big and small accountable for their misdeeds. There is an infrastructure of inequity that is picking us up by the lapels and shaking us down for our lunch money. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, be a Coffer Chipper-Inner.
The equipment next to the bed bleeped and my mom had to remove her mask to re-plug a tube. She asked who’s we?
The posters were all over the restaurant, my head pressed between the skinny jaws of Jacque The Croc, the new face of the Saltwater Crocodile Jack’s brand, like a panini. A buddy tipped me off to the caricatures. While well-crafted, they foretold a less-than-optimal endgame.
I asked for the Manager On Duty and was introduced to Tra_is, the v missing from his nametag. I had to explain who I was, considering my face was in Jacque’s mouth. Tra_is copped to some basic knowledge of my case but insisted it was Saltwater Crocodile Jack’s policy to refrain from commenting upon pending litigation. If I could crash with someone outside of Jack’s delivery radius until all this blows over, he whispered, it was advisable.
I looked down at my legs. The posters made them look much thinner, dangling from Jacque’s mouth.
Thomas Mundt is the author of the short story collection You Have Until Noon To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe (Lady Lazarus Press). More stories and Twitter tomfoolery can be found at www.jonathantaylorthomasnathanmundtdds.com and @Jheri_Seinfeld, respectively.
Photo: “TGI Friday’s” by Robert Young, used freely under Creative Commons license