NPCs: Jimmy, Mike, Antonio, and some thugs in a Chevy
Date: February 11, 2011
Dr. (McWare)House and the queen of the Egyptian Tri-Delta trade verbal barbs. It takes extreme measures to drown them out.
"Not a Doctor"
As the day shades from 'thank God it's almost the weekend' into 'thank God it's the weekend', there's a healthy and growing bunch of people at Noodle Heaven. (The number of people, not the people's waistlines. Well, that too.) For every newcomer who goes 'what the hell' and takes off, there are more who decide to just go with it, and that's before counting in the regulars: lots of college students, judging from the ages and outfits and the backpacks here and there.
Near the front entrance, Stefano is sitting on a backward-turned chair, gesturing with his hands as he talks to the sallow-faced guy opposite. "So I go in for the drop-off, and he's all 'you're the greatest', right? Not two weeks ago, he was bustin' my balls just 'cause I got held up in traffic, but I still play nice. Guy wants to think I can't see through his bullshit, let him."
Meanwhile, at the counter…
Most of the crowd has been covered. The people who go 'what the hell' and take off; the people who stick around. And then there's Jude.
There are uncountable restaurants in New York: apparently, Jude's missed this one and the fact that Noodle Heaven does not, in fact, serve noodles. The young woman doesn't stand out college-aged, backpack-wearing crowd save for her shock of red hair and hot pink tights, her outfit otherwise a baggy assortment of black coat, skirt and sweater … at least she didn't; but now she's talking, and her voice isn't the mousiest.
"Can you say let down?" Her voice's origins hail back to a birthplace somewhere in Scotland. It's her turn to order, and the round-faced redheaded university student is exuberantly addressing the young man behind the counter. She doesn't sound angry so much as flabbergasted and very, very passionate: "Why do you call a place Noodle Heaven when it's a sandwich shop? A sandwich shop! Life is full of enough follies as it is— " She fumbles with a pair of thick-framed glasses hanging on a chain around her neck, shoves them on, squints, " — Antonio!" The glasses are flung off. "Noodle Heaven is really Noodle Hell for the poor souls who actually, actually want some noodles, did you know that? I'm going to boycott you — oh not you," her ranting and raving simmers to assure the deer-in-the-headlights employee. "I'm sure you're just— a lovely person Antonio, it's nothing personal — but 'Noodle' Heaven. Yeah. For false advertising! Yeah. 'Noooodle' Heaven."
Stiffening self-righteously, she points at poor Antonio to get her point across, seeming to feel pretty good about her cause, and whips around to march away. Instead, she walks straight into the rope divider marking where people ought to line up, trips, sprawls, springs back up with long limbs tangled in the entire thing, gets distracted by a passerby carrying a sandwich— "Is that a baguette." Jude clears her throat as she hops over the rope. By this point, her friends have wandered away pretending not to know her. "…Ehm… I'll have the— the cheesesteak…"
As the rant picks up steam, others start to leave off with their own conversations so they can gawk, which only makes it that much easier for others to notice and listen in, and so forth. Even the normally sallow-faced Jimmy perks up a little as he turns to get a look - "Sorry, boss, but she bitches better 'n you do." - before getting a phone call and stepping outside to take it.
The departure leaves Stefano with a clear view of the redhead for the first time— and then boom, she's going down like a heap of bricks. If Jimmy had shoved his chair just a few more inches back on his way out, she might have whacked right into it. Acting on instinct, he gets up and pulls it back in. "Hey, you all right there?" he asks, gesturing toward her temple. "That bump looks pretty nasty."
Jude twirls to acknowledge the voice that may or not be addressing her person; she just stares, blinking, for a few seconds at the source. "Ahuhhh," she gapes before transition to: "Bump, what bump!" She holds her arms, in their puffy jacket sleeves, out to the side; tada, she's fine! Smiling, her eyes shine slightly manically in her dismissal of her terrible clumsiness a moment ago — only to then squint, suspicious. "Are you saying I have a bump and that it's nasty…?" Jude presses both hands to her head, mussing her hair — only to be distracted by an exaggerated ahem from the counter, alerting her to the sandwich she ordered. Another twirl; a few crumpled bills are exchanged for the food not at all resembling noodles.
"That's alright!" Jude calls out in a rather patronizing tone to the other students through the exchange, bouncing on the flat soles of her ankle boots. As she spins back about toward Stefano, she adds, looking off in their direction, "I like eating by myself…" And talking to herself, it would seem, though her enthusiasm has rather waned.
As soon as Jude's back is turned, Stefano turns to face the beleaguered cashier, offering a sympathetic shrug. What're you gonna do about it, right? Then she flounces past him, over to a table for two— and he follows just as quickly, dropping a step from his pace only when he reaches the downed divider, lest he wind up giving an encore performance of her recent tumble.
Uninvited, he swings into the empty seat across from hers. "Up here," he says, taking hold of her wrist and guiding it up toward a spot lower down, toward her ear. There is a bit of a bump there, actually, though she'd need to check the discoloration in a mirror to decide if it counted as 'nasty' or not.
Barely having tumbled into her seat when she's grabbed by the fellow, Jude's eyes widen, animated. "Whoa, well you're a little handsy, aren'tcha." There's a silly undercurrent of laughter under her voice, though, and she pats at her head. "I don't knooooow…" she wavers honestly, scrunching her face into natural puckers of skepticism, "I have a thick skull." Pause. "Not that I'm stupid, it's just that I've hit my head a lot." Pause. "Not that I'm … " Putting an end to this cycle, she settles on raising her eyebrows cheerfully at Stefano. "So are you a doctor or something or d'you make a habit of checking strange girls' heads and inviting yourself to their tables?"
The charge goes undenied - how could he, really? - and otherwise left without further comment. Since she isn't telling him to GTFO, however, Stefano goes right ahead and settles in, leaning elbows on the table as she flat-out invites him to get a better look. "Yeah, not that you look—" he tries to cut in, only to leave off again at the same time she does.
Until that last comment of hers, which just leaves him staring open-mouthed for a second. "Me, a doctor. Are you kidding? Look at me. Nah, I just got a beef with your so-called friends for ditching you back there— you gotta have somebody where you look out for each other, you know?" Just ask Jimmy, if he ever makes it back inside; thus far, he's still occupied with the phone call, brow furrowed as he paces back and forth outside, just off to the side of the doors.
"Oh, I'll be fiiine. They do that…" Jude waves off the notion of her friends with a literal sweep of her hand, having abandoned her head-check. "I suppose you don't look like a doctor," she says, assessing Stefano with a crinkle between her brows, "but what does a doctor look like under his coat? Unsettling is what — when you meet your doctor outside of the doctor's office, you know, no one's where they should be and in the grocery store they still make you feel like you should be in a little gown. Not that you make me want to wear a little gown…" She's doing it again, isn't she. There's no stopping it this time. "…or look unsettling, though if I'm being honest," the talkative woman gestures again at Stefano before grabbing up her sandwich, "you do have a sort of hooligan vibe going on."
Well, if Jude can't stop herself from running off at the mouth, then Stefano can't stop his mental images from doing much the same. There is, in the end, a sort of balance to it. "I know what you mean. Like the first time you saw your grade school teacher out at the supermarket, and you were all 'what, you actually have a life?'."
Hooligan. Funny she should mention that. In fact, it's so funny that he decides to deflect. "Me? Nah. What about you? Cheerleader? Sorority sister?" Whether it's accurate or not, the little ball of opinions ought to have something to say about it, and that's the whole point.
In the midst of nodding along to Stefano's grade school teacher assessment and taking a rather large bite of her sandwich, it's Jude's turn to be triggered with a set of mental images, all of which prompt her to touch a few fingers — and bright orange painted nails — to her mouth. "Cheerleader," she repeats, muffled around food and incredulously amused — or horrified; in this case, the two are intertwined. "Nooo, no." Chew, swallow… she wags her fingers. "Plain university student with no extracurriculars thank you very much. Should I be flattered, or insulted? No but I'd rather be crushed at the bottom of a pyramid than be a sorority sister. Hey, didn't you have a friend here?" she asks buoyantly, though a vaguely concerned glance does go the way of wayward Jimmy— or at least the table Stefano left. The opinionated redhead isn't totally oblivious. "I remember you were having a very hoodlum-y conversation when I walked in."
The corners of Stefano's mouth go up at that mental image. "Pyramid, huh? You spend a summer in Egypt? No, wait, foreign accent— you're from Egypt, right?" Probably not, but he's not sure what exactly it is.
Okay, so the deflecting thing worked… for all of a minute. Jude's right, she isn't figuratively thick. "Jimmy and I work at a warehouse— we make sure all the eighteen-wheelers get loaded right and on time." Speaking of, the guy hangs up and walks back in at around that point, only to be handed a set of keys. "Lemme guess, Zarin biting his nails again? Take the truck and get the crew started, I'll catch up before you're done." He obviously has more important things to do first. Like chatting up a stranger in hot pink tights.
"Sure I'm from Egypt," Jude says both cheerfully and cynically — making nothing she says seem serious at all. "And you're a doctor. So warehouses…" The stranger in hot pink tights pays little attention to Jimmy, regardless of her bit of perception earlier; she's more concerned with shoving the sandwich in her face. Its melty contents promptly make an uncouth mess of the table. "Warehouses, that's…." she searches futilely, making some effort to look up and truly find something interesting to dredge up, "…trucks with a lot of wheels, must be a blast… who doesn't like a lot of wheels, yeah…"
Jimmy's only comment on the matter is to give Stefano a quick pat on the shoulder - a little harder than necessary - before taking off for the parking lot once again.
"Yeah," Stefano continues, "it's about as exciting as sitting around and watching paint dry. But it pays the bills, you know? What about you, what're you studying at--" Huh. She didn't mention where at. Is it printed on her top or—
But before he can get any further with that thought, there's the sound of another car driving up outside. Too loudly, engine still seriously revving. Stefano turns to get a look— wait, no. Not up. Past. The window rolls down— "Get down!" he yells, and promptly takes his own advice, lunging for Jude's arm again for good measure.
Half a second later, the car engine is drowned out by the sound of glass shattering.
"Oh sweet baby Jesus!" Jude needs no encouragement to get down, but she certainly needs the help — Stefano's good measure doesn't go amiss, given the way in which the young flings herself off her chair in a flailing of uncoordinated, gangly limbs. She flops onto her stomach with her hands, and her sandwich, on her head. "What was that! Did we just get shot at!! Was that what they call a drive-by! Hoodlum!!"
The staccato noise is over as quickly as it started. It wasn't a very good drive-by, all things considered; with the gunman slow on the draw, the others who would've been in the line of fire had time to duck and cover as well. One of the bullets must have gone through the wall and hit the wiring or something, because the lights flare up for a couple seconds at around the same time.
The silence is punctuated by the diminished roar of the engine as it peels away, and the hubbub of customers and staff alike as they pick themselves up and assess their bumps and bruises, and where they need to avoid stepping on broken glass. Stefano reaches a hand down to help Jude back up again, casually pushing the half-a-sandwich out of the way first. "Yeah, it was. Wonder who they were going after?" Another convenient lie. She might see through it— but then she could have left earlier and she didn't, so who knows what she'll do now?
"Oooof, thanks, Hoodlum Not-a-Doctor McWarehouse— " Jude swipes at her red hair with one hand as she hauls up on Stefano with the other. Her eyeliner-rimmed eyes are wide as they taken in the slightly shattered and shaken sight of the restaurant and its patrons. She seems a bit shaken herself, but since no one obviously got hurt, she's rolling with the punches. "I don't know," she answers, giving Stefano a narrowed eye for a second— before the ranting strikes: "Oooooh that's the last time I come here! I already felt like a hypocrite eating that sandwich, now there's gunfire!" Blame easily moving from Stefano to Noodle Heaven, she goes on, "Gunfire! Gunfire! Will they reimburse us our sandwiches, do you think. No, that's silly, who would care about that…" She coughs and side-eyes Antonio at the counter.
Antonio is not even having this conversation. "Insurance! Call the manager!" He picks up a business card holder and slams it down to call attention to it, then takes off into the kitchen, dialing 911 as he goes.
And Stefano is already picking his way through the obstacle course to the front. If they do come around for another pass, then he doesn't want to be here; if they don't, then he still doesn't want to be here when the uniforms show up and start asking nosy questions. Everyone else looks too shocked or self-absorbed to notice. A quick glance back: having declared the place anathema, is Jude following suit? "Hey, don't worry about it. You still hungry? I know a place down the street." With room to sit further away from the entrance, this time.
"Are you mad?" Jude skitters over to the table she abandoned and crouches down, peeking over the top like a child who is very bad at hide-and-seek. "No I think I've lost my appetite for at least twenty minutes. Maybe fifteen. Okay, ten. Okay, five. But I'm still not goin' anywhere to get shot at!" Her hand appears above the tabletop to twirl around, twirling blame straight off Stefano: "Incase that car is still on the street! Besides, I don't even know your real actual name!"
"Well, you gotta go somewhere. What're you gonna do, catch a cab back to Whatever U? Cab drivers get shot at all the time." Okay, sometimes. Okay, occasionally. "And this place is big, all we gotta do is sit in the back— Oh, Stefano," he adds, taking another step and reaching for what's left of the door. "You comin', Cleopatra? They could come back here any second."
"Well yeah that's what I was thinking! Catch a cab, I catch a cab everywhere, it's what people do in New York, catch a cab. I've never once been shot at in a cab, only IN RESTAURANTS!" Jude shouts. As though surprised by her own loudness, she ducks down and disappears under the table's edge for a second. "We can sit in the back, that's how you play up the restaurant's features— " Up pops the red-haired head again. "'Oh it's big, we can sit in the back so we don't get shot'. It sounds a right lovely establishment this spot of yours, Stefano! Total hoodlum name, Stefano, not to be judgmental, I'm sure your mother had the best of intentions but as I well know the best of intentions can go horribly wrong when it comes to names…" Where was she— "Anyway, it's uh, I've just been shot at and I should get back to campus…"
Oh, fine, then, this one's going nowhere soon. At least not today. "All right, all right," says Stefano, waving her off, "go have fun with your women's studies or whatever it is you do there." That ought to get one last rise out of her.
Hopefully he'll cross paths with her again some time— eye candy and loud distractions are both near and dear to him. Once he's safely away, though, his thoughts are all business as he places a phone call of his own. "Mike? Yeah, the Kings just whipped their dicks out. Get everybody together while I go find out where the fuck Jimmy's gotten off to."
As Jude is waved off by Stefano, she slowly unfurls to her feet and the friends who abandoned her start to trickle back, some shaken, some annoyed by the interruption the drive-by crime inconvenienced them with. Are you okays and what the hell was thats and was that guy hitting on yous buzz in the air around her. "Wait how did— !" He's gone, leaving Jude to bounce on her toes and peer at the exit. "How did he know I take Women's Studies…"