2010-08-14: Saturday Slacker Special



Date: August 14th, 2010


Because… The Food Court is where to be on a Saturday night.

"Saturday Slacker Special"

The Food Court

New York City

The Food Court: the go-to destination for getting your fast food "served". The restaurant — not a food court at all but a food court in the stylings of tennis — is experiencing a serious lull tonight, less than a go-to destination and more of a last resort for the few hungry customers, populated otherwise by straggling employees… and someone who falls under none of those categories.

"Pshhhhhkkkkkhhhoooowwww!!" A tiny plastic robot fires an equally tiny and plastic rocket launcher at a green toy T-Rex — much to its chagrin, evidenced by a "rrrrooooaarrrrrr!" of theatrical anguish — on the landscape of a Food Court table, surrounded by an environment of crumpled napkins and a super-sized pretzel.

The lives of these inanimate objects wobbling around on the table are in the incapable hands of one Russ Nielson. Out of his Creamsicle orange Fro-Yo uniform (permanently), he's more at home in a very lived-in green plaid shirt and brighter t-shirt, which, it should be noted, is T-Rex green. As the T-Rex suffers a grievous injury and topples to the side — "Oh no god it hurts what about my horde of dinosaur babies you heartless intergalactic bastard!" — Russ's face is more animated than the plastic dinosaur's row of unmoving, painted teeth. The robot goes in for the kill but, this time, Russ's aim is off, and the little plastic rocket goes flying off the table and skittering along the floor.

Having stopped by Fro Yo Yo first, and finding it minus one employee, Bert has detoured by the Food Court. Hungry, and not wanting to venture home on an empty stomach, she enters the place. Huh. What an… original theme for fast food. Not in a bad way either. A non-committal noise that could be approval escapes as Bert walks fully into the place. The escapee toy rocket skitters to a stop by her feet.

At first, thinking it belongs to a kid, Bert stoops down to pick it up. "So here's where you're hiding," she says with a quirky smile as she spots Russ playing with toys. Why is she not surprised? "Did you get these out of the happy meal?"

Rocket launcher. Shoes. Legs. Up, up— "No," Russ replies with an offended scoff immediately, showing no signs of surprise over recognizing Bert as he shakes his head and grimaces. He sputters again before correcting in a pouty mumble, "…I got them out a cereal box." He puts down the toys, but not without leaning down to tell the robot — clearly the more evil of the two — quietly: "This isn't over."

Bert seats herself across from Russ and hands over the toy. "Nothing wrong with that. I still like the toys in my boxes of Lucky Charms." She eyes the toys over, then looks seriously at Russ, "What kind of nefarious plans did I interrupt?" Bert's a little more together today. She's had sleep, she's reached a deadline at work. All is well with the world. Mostly. She's less jumpy than at that meeting last week, that's for sure.

"Only the grand scheme of an evil — " Russ holds up a finger and wags it toward Bert, nodding sagely and deferring to her wisdom, " — nay, nefarious robot from … Food … Court… I-tron," he says; all this very matter-of-fact, though spoken with a sort of bored nonchalance. If he's bored by his own story, it must be dire. On and on it goes anyway. "…to go back in time and kill this poor, unsuspecting and completely harmless T-Rex and destroy life as we know it." He looks off to the side, narrowing his eyes over a distant though. "Hm. I think that's the first time I've ever said nay…"

Bert grins across at Russ. "Don't force it if it's not coming out," she says encouragingly. "Some days the stories come, some days they don't. I'm in the business of working with an imagination. Don't force it." She reaches over and nudges one of the robots with a forefinger, "Are you off work today?"

"Pffffffff." Bert is subjected to another scoff, and a bit of good luck, too; were she any closer, she probably would have felt Russ's scoff. "Please," he says lazily, "two things I always try not do are force things and work." He picks up his pretzel, half-wrapped in paper, and takes a giant-sized bite. The pretzel looks like it's from a street vendor, not the Food Court, which means he's essentially been sitting here playing with toys for no apparent reason on a Saturday night. Mouth half-full, he says, "What bringsh you buy this lovely esablishent? Are you shtalking me?" He swallows and smirks. "I bet you are. Aren't you. Yu can admit it. Don't worry, you're not the first. My charms can't be resisted."

"HA!" escapes as Bert is accused of stalking. "I was hungry, I was in the area. Frozen yogurt sounded good, you weren't there, so I saw this place and thought why not?" The redhead's shoulders shrug as she leans back in her seat. "Then as I came in here, I saw a guy sitting around with nothing better to do on a Saturday night than play with toys. Not that there's much wrong with that, some of us get paid to play video games all day. It's a sweet gig. So what do you recommend to eat around here?"

Russ makes a mumbled noncommittal sound — "mnnh" — and doesn't pause to consider. "Nothing," he answers with a shrug. "Or everything, depending on whether you're not a glass half empty or half full person." All this talk of the Food Court brings his attention (such as it is) over toward the desolately dull counter. "Wheeler works here… they make him wear the uniform and everything. I hope, for your appetite, that he doesn't serve you, because the tennis skirt doesn't flatter his figure."

Bert laughs, "Not too many can pull off the tennis skirt. But I'll reserve judgment because I have yet to meet this Wheeler." She looks around the place, as if checking it for a man in a skirt. "Maybe I'm not the stalker, maybe you are," she says in a teasing tone as she looks back at Russ. What else is she gonna think? The man's sitting around, playing with toys, where his friend is supposed to be working.

No men in skirts are in sight, and Russ, casually waving his pretzel, smiles easily, completely and totally unconcerned by Bert's teasing accusation. "Don't be silly, Wheeler isn't working today." He stares past Bert into space for a span of several seconds, open-mouthed in momentary personal bewilderment. "Did you say it was Saturday… maybe he is… he sneaks around sometimes like a scrawny ninja. All these Food Court minions look the same."

"Yup. It's Saturday. All day. My excuse to be here is I'm hungry, what's yours?" Bert's envious. The only times she forgets the days of the week is when she's working crazy hours. "Must be nice to do nothing all day but play with toys in public and forget what day it is," her thoughts kind of slip out with a wistful tone.

"My only excuse is being awesome." And in triumph of just how awesome he is — or thinks he is — Russ lifts his pretzel in a toast, of sorts. To himself. "Can I get a hell— " his voice lowers deeply, "yee-aaah!" That done, the pretzel lowers and he flops back in his chair, slinking down in an optimally lazy slouch. "There's a problem with your excuse, though, because see, it doesn't look like you're eating."

Bert kicks at Russ under the table, "Because I got attacked by a toy rocket and now I'm talking to you, Schmuck." Giving the man a grin, she gets up to remedy the grumbling in her stomach. Here's to hoping the food here is kosher. (HA HA.)

Russ is easy to kick. Not because of that statement being true in general — lots of people would be more than willing to kick him — but because his legs are stretched out under the table. "All part of my awesome plan!" he calls out as Bert makes moves toward the food, then gives the tiny plastic robot a conspiratorially victorious fist-bump. It falls over.

At the counter, the scrawny kid who is not Wheeler half-heartedly scrambles to pay attention.

"Hey, sorry to interrupt your daydreams, I know how working fast food scrambles the brain pan," Bert says to the kid at the counter, then places her order. Chicken sammich, can't go wrong with that, right? RIGHT? Order placed, paid for, she then returns to sit and harass Russ. "So seriously, you have nothing better to do? Last weekend, even I, a workaholic, managed to get out and do something. Sure it was some whacked out anonymous r'us type of meeting, but it was something. Then I had to go and see a man about donating a kidney. Long story."

"My house is being fumigated," comes the real excuse — or at least a different excuse — as Russ crumples up the paper his pretzel came in between his hands, a pretzel which has entirely vanished since Bert left and returned. "Even the Food Court is better than the cold, cold street. I'm going to hit up Captain Morgan's later, though, he just loves surprise visits." He leans over the table on his elbows, peering at Bert. "Please tell me the meeting wasn't for Evil Puppets Anonymous — and — I hope you didn't commit to this donating a kidney thing, 'cause dude, I hear there's money in the organ trade."

"Nah, it was an excuse to flee. Things got a bit too freaky. It was scarier than Evil Puppets Anonymous. It was for people who claimed to have powers." Now Bert's been around people with powers and if every person there had powers? She'll eat a pound of bacon. "It was one of the more bizarre things I've seen in my life, and that's just after college. Ah well, it's New York City, it takes all kinds." Bert settles back into her seat, getting comfy as she waits on her food. "So back to the puppet things, I bet you'd absolutely freak if you got dragged to see 'Avenue Q'. I got to see it once, flipping hilarious. Getting tickets is a bitch."

"A bitch I'm willing to slap. I won't be dragged. Never trust a puppet," Russ states nonchalantly, seeming not quite serious — though in contrast, he narrows his eyes and points at Bert. After a few seconds, his attention snaps back a few paces in the conversation. "Are you talking about the Superpowers Support Group? Manhattan Youth Center? Run by a girl who kind of looks like a cartoon squirrel? Carries around a unicorn book with enough rainbows to give a leprechaun an aneurysm?"

"That's the one!" Bert says, then is promptly distracted by the arrival of her meal. Eh. Not too bad, looks better than McDonald's at least. "It was so weird. I figured, y'know, why not go check it out? It looked interesting." Just a little stretching of the truth there. "So many creepy people were there and a couple of normal types. I think I could peg them as normal."

"I'm interested in your definition of normal," Russ notes with a real sparkle of curiosity in his eyes. "If your definition includes having hair that looks like sparrows could nest in it, we have to have a talk," he deadpans. "I went to one of those meetings," he admits freely, squinting at the memory. "If anyone asks, I can see dead people."

"Don't mention that woman," Bert gives a shudder that's not faked. "She was so freaky, she made Professor Trelawney look sane." A snort is made around a mouthful of chicken sandwich, and thankfully, she finishes with that bite before responding. "I don't think that's a power, but I could be wrong. As to my definition of normal? I don't know what normal is anymore, to be perfectly honest."

"What! Are you telling me that kid from the Sixth Sense and Jennifer Love-Hewitt are both wrong?!" Russ exclaims in apparent horror. Don't toy with my emotions, Roberta!" His mouth pulls into a thin line of distress and he spends some time shaking his head over this trauma — but he gets over it to say in a manner that is actually more serious — at least in contrast, "Normal is overrated. Or something. I dunno, it sounded like the thing to say. I think you've trumped normal though, you have a crazy sci-fi job that's totally sweet, so what does it matter."

"Ha, they could be, and I could be wrong too. How the hell do I know what's up and down anymore. But you are so right, normal is overrated," Bert says before cramming a few fries into her mouth. "It is a totally sweet job, I won't deny that." Probably sweeter than she deserves after the past year. About to say something else, Bert is derailed by her phone going off to the tune of the Imperial March. "Ach!," she shrieks then yanks the phone from her pocket, "Hey Daniela, what's… No! I didn't forget I'm supposed to be over there helping plan Ariel's Bat Mitzvah. Noooo… I'm just uh, on my way now! See you soon sis!" The phone is hung up and stowed away even as she rises. "Sorry, gotta go, family plans. It was great running into you again, Russ. We still need to have that gaming party, so nudge Captain about it when you see him, 'kay?" Her food is grabbed up, and then she's rushing off.


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