Dr. Zoltan Vs. Drippy The Waitress

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Dr. Zoltan stood in the lobby of the worn-out Florida diner. 

His awkward, stiff arms posed at his sides like a Masters of the Universe action figure. They appeared to be plastic appendages, forced to adhere to a swiveling and mechanical track, their only moveable joints being his shoulders. His gloved hands were clenched into tight fists. He was fond of occasionally opening and slamming them closed to make humans nervous. He had heard from a colleague that insane characters in Stephen King novels do that. 

The length of his black trenchcoat and glued-on beard seemed to blow in the wind, even indoors. It was as if a fantasy video game animator programmed it as a special — yet unnecessary — effect. Dr. Zoltan preferred to look artificial and the extra money spent on his costume was worth it. Alien, android, cartoon character, whatever… he wanted to be anything but human. 

His red and black X-Ray goggles sparkled as he cocked his head at strange angles, like a canine bending its ears to hear the feet of an imaginary spider crossing a wall. He enjoyed seeing his face from different angles, and the anti-social narcissist liked to believe one or more cameras were always pointed at him. One can never be too sure that YouTube isn’t watching. One false move and 12,000 RATM fans would be all over it. 

Do not lick your lips. Breathe through your nose. Prepare the next line. Deep voice. You are not Sir Millard Mulch any longer. No more contractions. Formal. 

The sad truth was that no one actually took notice of his grand and regal entrance to the retirement town’s only 24-hour diner. He marched into the room as if he was none other than Emperor Norton coming to inspect the restaurant and issue a decree to nullify Congress. 

Out of the corner of his eye he could see his reflection in the smudge-covered plastic case on the stuffed animal crane game. He cleared his throat a little too loud and adjusted his long-haired wig slightly. “You can’t have composer without poser,” he had once declared before a crowd of Berklee College of Music graduates. It was the entirety of his commencement speech. He often prided himself on alienating musicians even more than non-musicians. 

As he smirked in memory of his musical elitism, his attention turned to the music blaring from a distorted, monophonic, mid-ranged speaker above his head. It was a bad 80’s funk pop song that sounded like a collaboration between a poorly-intonated Prince and a rhythm section ripped-off from The Police. It was perhaps some Muzak tape that someone forgot to throw away or a subscription-based radio station transmitted from a tower that someone forgot to tear down. Dr. Zoltan cringed at the vocalist’s repetition of the word, “yeah.” He counted 17 consecutive, all sung in pentatonic minor, with no regard for the purely Ionian key signature. There was also unnecessary reverb on the kick drum, the same problem that ruined Pork Soda

The only human in the place was a high school drop-out named Tanya. She was only a 19-year-old waitress, but South Venice had taken its toll. 

Dr. Zoltan had seen her in this time-space before. Her hair was an ugly, de-saturated brownish-yellow, extremely curly near her bulging skull and increasingly thin and stringy towards the ends. It all seemed to grow away from her forehead in every possible direction, torn up and burnt. Her skin was red, covered in acne. Her cheeks were so hairy it almost counted as sideburns. She was vigorously stacking up plates or something… as if the activity was somehow important enough to occupy the entire focus of her consciousness. She was trying HARD, and Dr. Zoltan could hear her breathing heavily — almost grunting along with each motion — across the room. 

Her teeth and gums were too big, so she left her mouth hanging open most of the time. It made some observant customers worry what might fall out onto their plates. An old man had once gotten mad and referred to her as Drippy, due to an unfortunate mishap involving her nose adding an ingredient to his soup. She worked and worked, even if she was sick, which seemed to be every and all day.

The thing that disturbed Dr. Zoltan the most is that Drippy fit comfortably into the small world surrounding her. This worn-out diner was everything she could imagine for herself. She had found her home. She needed nothing more, and saw no reason to change anything whatsoever. No science. No art. No philosophy. No magic. No time-traveling… no ANY traveling. Within the limits of her reality, she was able to feel satisfaction. Dr. Zoltan had observed many post-19th Century humans like her who accept the simple rules right from the beginning. At the end of their lives, they successfully complete their journeys around the board game and collect their points. They are lucky, he thought; their goals are attainable. Dr. Zoltan wondered if such a system or place existed for him, or if he would have to travel through time and space incognito for the rest of his immortal existence. 

“Sit wherever you want, UH” she said, with her back turned, shuffling really boring things around on the counter. “Ima git a cigarette. That table over there already has a water already on the table.” He recognized her accent: it was the non-denominational, international tongue of ignorance. Dr. Zoltan could only imagine how long that water had been sitting there becoming room temperature in that light blue plastic glass — and who had stuck their puffy roofing fingers in it. His attention turned back to that distinct, “UH,” she said at the end of the first sentence, and wondered why it was specifically placed where it was. Even at 2 a.m. he couldn’t stop over-analyzing the mysteries of the lower class. 

As she turned to face him and pointed her dirty, pale, freckled, self-tattooed finger at the table, Dr. Zoltan saw that she was either pregnant or horribly misshaped. Wrapped tightly around her bulging abdomen and skinny arms, she wore some sort of worn-out one-color-ink-silk-screened-on-white Venice Indians Car Wash or Wacky Winter Relay ringer t-shirt. It was covered in generic, default system fonts that had been scaled disproportionately by an amateur. Dr. Zoltan would have none of that. 

Every door was a magical inter-dimensional portal, and this one had mistakenly led Dr. Zoltan to the wrong time-space. 

{ This post was written and approved by Dr. Zoltan! If you have ever been trapped in a small town, please visit http://www.drzoltan.com/blog. There is no escape! }

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