Moe's Cafe

September 10, 2008
I wish my car hadn’t broken down. I wish this hick town had more than one restaurant. I wish I was anywhere, anywhere but here.

She was sixteen, just got her driver’s license and was driving through New Jersey when her car broke down. Luckily, she made it to a mechanic’s, and looking around at his messy garage, decided to look around the town. Hearing her stomach rumble, she looked all around for a decent restaurant. Moe’s Café was the only one she could see for miles.

A city girl such as herself was shocked that Moe’s Café was the only restaurant in this blink-of-an-eye town. She was even more shocked when she walked in through the squeaky door to discover what seemed like centuries of grime covering every available surface, even the ceiling.

Layer upon layer of filth. Dust covered sticky soda that covered grease, which in turn covered remnants of old food. The girl shuddered at grime such as she had never seen before. The cheaply framed pictures on the wall were soaked in rotten fruit. The ancient TV showed only dust and snow. Everything, absolutely everything was disgusting.

The girl looked around for a table that wasn’t completely filthy. Spotting a relatively clean one in the corner, she gingerly picked her way over. She sat down, thinking, Maybe this is one of those places that looks awful, but serves great food. I’m sorry to say that she was completely, 100% wrong.

A waitress with greasy hair, a hooked nose, and exceptionally high heels came to take the girl’s order. Looking around for a menu, and seeing none, she ordered a burger with fries and a coffee. Blanche (for this was the name of the waitress) stomped away, leaving small dents in the linoleum. As she left, she slipped on a bit of congealed mashed potatoes, and broke one of her heels on the high-heeled shoe.

Looking around at the rest of the café, the girl noticed what could only be Moe, flipping charred burgers in the back. The first word that popped into the girl’s head was enormous. He had a prodigious potbelly, which protruded from his stained “Kiss the Cook” t-shirt. His black, spiky beard was like a living entity, probing for bits of food, and then sucking them into its depths. Moe was singing (very out of tune) to an old country song blasting from the jukebox. In general, Moe seemed to take up about three times the space of a normal person, sometimes more, depending on his mood.

When Blanche limped over to deliver the girl’s food, she looked down in horror.

“Enjoy,” said Blanche with a wicked grin.

The bun on the burger was flat with the weight of the grease it carried. The burger itself was charred and black, and when the girl managed to rip it apart, completely raw on the inside. The fries were each hard and stale, and the girl couldn’t bite into a single one of them. But the coffee, the coffee was by far the worst. It was gray, with dense foam covering the top. When she scooped away the foam, the liquid was light gray with lumps floating around in it. It had a similar consistency as the Jell-O her brother liked so much, and gave off the rancid odor of old pork fat.

When the girl was sure Blanche and Moe weren’t looking, she dumped her whole meal into the garbage can. But however hard she shook her coffee cup, the coffee kept a vise-like grip on its container. And so she sat, for quite a while, with an empty plate and a full coffee cup, until Blanche came to her table again.

“Are you ready for your bill?” Blanche asked.

“Yes, thank you,” the girl replied. Once she had paid her bill, she gladly walked out of the door and back to the mechanic’s garage. Suddenly the room she had once perceived as messy looked terribly clean. The mechanic gave her her car and she happily drove out of Bantam, New Jersey.

She had left the town, but its memories still haunted her. Every time she went out to eat, she pictured the filth of Moe’s Café, and could never really enjoy her meal. Moe’s Café ruined many a perfect night. Her date with that special guy. The night her husband proposed. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Dinners with kids, and then grandkids were always spoiled.

Once, when she was a very old woman, she drove back to Moe’s Café, just to see if it was as awful as she remembered. Another sixty years of grime had built up, but everyone inside was exactly as she remembered, right down to Blanche’s hooked nose and broken heel, and Moe’s “Kiss the Cook” t-shirt.

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