The Quotable

Not Full

His stomach rumbled as he approached the mall and saw the familiar row of fast food signs lined up like dominos. He cruised the strip slowly and was glad to see that it wasn’t busy. Everything depended on quick service.

Signaling right, he pulled up to the Wendy’s drive thru and ordered a triple bacon cheeseburger, stealing a sniff before rolling the bag up tight. After that he got a milkshake at Steak ‘n Shake then cut across the road for a Taco Bell tostada and a couple pieces of KFC chicken. Then it was McDonald’s for fries, Long John Silver’s for hushpuppies, and a piece of ice cream pie at Burger King. Finally, his passenger’s seat teeming with bags, he parked beside the abandoned Chinese restaurant and began unwrapping.

The set up was tricky. His Stratus had a big dashboard, but it was hard to position all the food within arm’s reach. Soon, with his purchases balanced and a towel from home tied around his neck, he was ready. He wanted everything at once, but he had to be satisfied with an initial taste from each station. He took a big bite of the burger, forced a fistful of fries into his mouth, swallowed a hushpuppy whole. He sucked on a straw until his face started to turn red.

Then he got a little carried away. He dipped a chicken thigh into tartar sauce and tore at it with his teeth. He pressed his face into his burger and as grease dribbled down his chin, sunk some fries in the melting ice cream pie and slurped them up. Spinning the tostada in a circle, he nibbled around the edges, then took a huge chomp from the center, breaking it into a dozen pieces that slipped through his hands and onto his lap. Then he scooped up all that was left and pressed it into a ball. Sour cream, ketchup, and chicken skin oozed from between his fingers. He cradled the ball in his hands, raised it carefully, and brought it to his lips, savoring each remaining taste, closing his eyes and chewing slowly.

When he finished, he took a deep breath before opening his eyes. The car looked like it had been ransacked. He was covered in crumbs, and the towel that had been around his neck was a limp rag in his lap. Foil wrappers and paper bags were everywhere. And napkins, so many napkins. He had not thought he had undone so many.

He wanted to let the moment linger, but he knew he had to clean up. Soon, it would be another four hours behind the wheel, driving a bus route he knew so well he sometimes steered with his eyes closed, followed by television this evening. For now though, he felt satisfied, content, and a little sleepy. But not full. No, he would never be full.

 

Jim O’Loughlin’s flash fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Quick Fiction, North American Review, and Pedestal Magazine.

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