•Blackened cod on grilled Squishy w/lettuce & caper mayo — $10.
•TMP– Tomato, melted fresh mozz & basil pesto on toasted Squishy w/balsamic vinaigrette — $9.
“You serve squishies?” I ask.
“Yes,” says Demi.
“What is a squishy?”
“A roll,” she says.
“May I see one?”
“They are in the kitchen.”
She sighs deeply before retreating to the kitchen, eight steps away. I count them. They are noisy steps. She is wearing cowgirl boots. And the streaks on her head are undulating cobras. When Medusa returns, she stands motionless, holding the squishy in her out-stretched hand. I stare at the squishy. The squishy stares at me. Mushrooms are a miracle. Medusa turns into Lady Liberty, and I wonder if my grandparents ate cheese sandwiches onEllis Island. American or provolone? They must have been hungry when they got off the boat and walked into the Great Depression. My grandfather was a tailor who sold the apples he didn’t eat on street corners inPhiladelphia. Not many apples, according to lousy family legend. You’d think they would give a guy a break on account of the times being so hard and him not knowing the language and so few gentlemen in the market for his beautifully hand-made suits. Focus.
Lady Liberty is staring at me, the wretched refuse. A knot of snakes writhe upon her head. Words refuse to exit my mouth. What I do not say to my leading lady is: Alone, on this wintry day in theHamptons, all I ask is the opportunity to purchase a slice of onion — red, white or yellow — for one devalued American dollar. If we cannot barter politely about a slice of onion, what hope is there forDarfur, forPalestine, for world peace? I would return three times a week for a good hand-crafted sandwich if only you could bend a little. It’s winter, Demi. It’s just us. Waiters surfAustralia. Chefs eatSpain. Moths eat bikinis. Farmers hibernate. Roofers hang inMexico. Birds perch at spring training sites. Bankers are under house arrest.
A bell jangles. A door opens. I turn to see Godzilla ducking under the header above the doorjam. Godzilla. He shakes off some snow and removes his red muffler, folds it over one arm. Why am I so happy to see him? I never liked his movies.
“You’re too late for bagels,” I say without irony, and Demi hands him a chicken-scratch menu with red magic marker instructions. He grows irritated when he can’t read the fine print. He forgot his glasses is my bet. I am close enough to smell the radiation on his breath. I back away, causing him to notice me. I smile up at Godzilla. He cannot read the menu, but he can see right through me. He breathes a little fire in my direction.
“We have white people for lunch today,” Demi says firmly. “No substitutions. Not even for you, G.”
Godzilla gives the place a once over and reaches behind the counter with his clawed left front foot and lifts Demi like a croissant and shoves her between his gargantuan jaws and struts around the place for a solid half minute. He tears down the bagel signs. He turns over the coffee machine. He incinerates all the menus. And then he swallows Demi whole. Gulp. Just like that. He looks at me.
“Anything to drink with that?” is the only thing I can think to say.
He walks to the window and removes the yellow curtains with red flowers and uses them as a napkin. I take this opportunity to make my exit, slowly, silently, backwards, avoiding the left foot of the Japanese mutant lizard with the whole woman in his esophagus, moving away from all squishies, forbidden or baked, bowing as I go, shuffling out of the door and down the few steps and into the parking lot and to my car without ever looking up.
“Did you see him?” I ask Margerita breathlessly. “Did you? You didn’t even bark. You’re such a good girl. Did you see him? Did you see what he did?”
I close all the windows tight and drive straight to the woods.
“I forgot your treat, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I was distracted.” When we arrive at the woods, Margerita jumps out of the car and hops and sniffs and chases chipmunks and eats fresh snow and darts from thing to thing that are invisible to me.