"No, You Can't Just Flip a Damn Coin"
by Street Howitzer
"Look, I don't--"
"It's tradition, damn it."
Amal stared. "That's bullshit. You made this up three days ago. You act like I wasn't there."
"It's the beginning of a tradition. It'll never catch on if you don't play along."
"No. No, no. You're not dragging me into this. It's too early in the morning to have to look at--"
"Here she comes." TJ slid down in his seat, contorting into what Amal was beginning to recognize as his preparatory crouch. He seemed to think that it gave him some kind of advantage.
His gaze flickered over to the aisle. Their waitress (an older woman who, judging solely from the shape of her body, was built out of a stack of boulders) was rolling by their table. She had circles under her eyes that made him think of blown-out car-tires on the side of the highway--they were thick, wide, and probably the result of getting really fucking drunk. She did not look at either one of them as she passed. Instead, she reached into her grease-stained apron's front pocket, and with one practiced flip of the wrist, sent the check spinning and drifting towards their table.
Although he'd promised both TJ and himself that he wasn't going to be sucked into this new game, Amal found himself following their check's lazy, twirling path. They shouldn't have made the placing of the check a part of the rules. He had no idea that every single waitress in America had a different way of getting the check on the table. Last night, he'd lost at dinner when their server had snuck up and tucked their check under one of TJ's beers. He hadn't even realized it, until TJ's triumphant cry of "Seventeengetoutyourwallet!"
Fine. I can do this, he thought. He was down by one. Time for that score to be settled.
Both watched intently, as if the fate of every world depended on the next three seconds, as their check finally settled down next to Amal's knife. Then, at precisely the same moment:
"You're gonna eat that number," TJ said. He immediately disappeared.
Amal ducked down, until he was nearly lying across the booth's seat. He cocked his head, and peered at the underside of their table. It was roughly as horrible as he thought it would be--a sticky rainbow of wads of used gum. Some of them had straw-wrappers and mint-wrappers adhered to them (those counted double). And, nestled in the bracers near one of the legs, he swore that he could see a chewed-over chunk of tobacco.
"Does that count?" he asked, gesturing to the plug of tobacco.
"It's not gum," TJ said. He was ticking off each petrified, brightly-colored wad, pointing to each one as he counted. After another moment: "I've got thirty-two. On the nose. You're getting this one."
"No. It's thirty-two. I can count."
"No, you damn well can't. That over there, that isn't gum--it's a piece of napkin."
"Stuck to a piece of--"
"Syrup. It's brown and clear. It's pancake syrup. That doesn't count as one or two. It's thirty, and you're a cheater."
"I'm still the closest." TJ granted him a sunny smile that seemed completely at odds with the fact that, well, it was early morning. It was easy for him to smile, though--he didn't have to pay the goddamn bill. "Pay up."
"It never fails. I always underestimate just how disgusting human beings really are," Amal grumbled as he straightened back up, and went for his wallet.
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This was a really fun read Very gross about the underside of the table. I try not to think about it >.>