French Fries & Ketchup

This is a Richard Brautiganesque short story of mine published in The Green Fuse, ©1976 Department of English, North Texas State University.


My Lady, interjecting, said she wanted French Fries & Ketchup. When one is three months short of a baby, French Fries & Ketchup can be an extremely now sort of affair.

I, interjected upon, was diligently spoon-feeding my soul to the TV and had no time.

TV lives on souls and time.

She was insistent but silent, her eyes growing.

It looked like I would have to go.

We made a quick, clean break to the truck and drove to the Jack-in-the-Box. Minimal tube lag.

Jack greeted us in his pleasantly offensive way by not looking at us and smiling a huge, perplexed-plastic smile. He talked to us in a girl’s voice and said, “May I have your order, please?”

“Yes, French Fries & Ketchup,” I said.

Jack smiled and stared into space, “Anything to drink?”

“No, just French Fries & Ketchup.”

Cut. “And from this day forth, my famous smile will be “L’Enigme Plastique” to the Neo French Fries & Ketchup genre of American Televised Art,” smiled Jack.

“Oh,” was all I said. But with deep respect, we drove to the window.

As we stopped, I looked through the serving window. Momentarily enraptured by the bustling people under the bright lights, I began to feel a sense of double bewilderment: the picture blurred and ghosts danced in symmetrical disharmony. I reeled and gaped my amazement until French Fries & Ketchup initiated reestablishing its element.

Awkwardly, I reached for my wallet that wasn’t there. I looked to My Lady as she delicately searched the glove compartment for some change that wasn’t there, too.

Her eyes drifted elegantly into mine, and the mandatory litany silently stretched out between us.

“No money,” I said like a station break.

But My Lady’s eyes only laughingly mourned the delay of French Fries & Ketchup.

I turned my head as a girl with sandy hair and a cathode stare leaned out the little window.

“Thirty-two cents,” she said.

“TV,” I replied.

Her smile was a lot like Jack’s.