“Reality’s A Bit Off At Olive Garden”
On the night of his eighteenth birthday, he went to Olive Garden with his parents and brother. He was a loser, so he really did not have anything much better to do. What is a child supposed to do when adulthood is suddenly dropped on him, buy cigarettes? Reject the fundamentalist religiosity he was raised in? Contemplate mortality? Get laid? He didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. At least, this way, he got breadsticks.
After they all ordered their drinks and appetizers, his father excused himself to the restroom, taking off his green jacket and tying it around his neck as he walked away. His mother was playing a trivia game on her cell phone, and his brother was watching online videos on his. He drank his tea and looked blankly at the beige wall. Occasionally, he would help his mother in her game, but it did not matter. The internet connection was weak and she was eliminated from the game. She continued to spectate when she got back online.
His father returned to the table with his blue jacket tied around his neck by the sleeves. His father scolded his brother for paying attention to his phone over his family. Before long, the old man began sending text messages to someone. It did not matter when father did it; it was different.
By this point, he had drunk too much tea and excused himself. The toilet flushed before he was finished. Damn automatic toilets. He washed his hands, and left the restroom. On his way to the table, he stopped. His family was gone, and the only person at the table was a stranger. The stranger was cute, but only vaguely familiar, the way unremembered passers-by look in dreams sometimes.
“What’s wrong, dear?” asked the stranger. "Are you sick?"
Dear. He shook his head.
“No, I’m fine,” he said, and hesitantly added “dear.” He returned to his seat.
“Okay, good. I’d hate for something to be wrong tonight,” said the stranger. Then, the stranger reached across the table and placed a finger in his hair. The stranger twirled the finger around for a moment and then kissed him. He no longer questioned what was happening. It did not matter. He was happier then with the stranger than he had been in a long time.
The two had a pleasant dinner. He had ziti, while the stranger who was apparently his date ate lasagna, and they both ate more breadsticks than either cared to count.
After they ate, the couple left the restaurant and entered his car. Before leaving the parking lot, they started kissing again, and did not stop for several minutes. When they finally did, he began to pull out of his parking space. Looking back to see if any cars were pulling out behind him, he saw a blue jacket in the back seat. He hastily rammed his foot into the brake pedal.
“That’s my father’s jacket.”
“Okay, so what?”
“That wasn’t there earlier. He was wearing it.”
“The color. Something’s wrong.”
He ran back into the restaurant. As he turned a corner, he nearly fell, but caught himself on the mauve wall. He looked at the clock, but the numbers were unreadable and the hands moved counter-clockwise. He spun around, but knocked a waitress down, spilling a bottle of white wine on himself. He sat on the floor, laughing hysterically and soaked in red wine.
“What the hell is going on? Where the hell am I?”
The annoyed waitress replied in a language he did not understand. He had a feeling that it did not matter what she said anyway. He got to his feet. Leaping toward a window, he hit a wall. Everyone in the room was watching in stunned silence, but he heard clamoring so loud it hurt his head. He began to cry when he was approached by a man who resembled the stranger he left outside. The man stabbed him with a knife, but the knife broke in half. Then the man picked up a fork, but it bent when he tried to stab with it. Finally, he used a spoon. It penetrated his chest and went clean through him. He began bleeding. Someone used the blood for pasta sauce.
His head hurt.
The lights began to flicker.
Then, they went out.
Then, there was nothing.
It did not matter.
When he died, he stood with one foot on each side of the border of heaven and hell. The ground split, and the void beneath consumed him. As he fell, he heard the voice of God.
“You ate too many breadsticks,” He said.