By D. Paul Fonseca
Chapter four - obviously
Ana sat alone at a small table in front of the coffee house. As usual, Washington and India Street at rush hour filled the roads with cars. A chill in the evening air prompted her to pull her cream knit coat off the back of her chair and pull it over her shoulders. She absently wondered if she should have worn this skirt, but now it was too late and her bare legs shivered against the light wind. She reasoned to herself that her green plaid skirt only worked with this coat and her brick red top. She shrugged her shoulders into the coat and did not bother to put her arms through the sleeves. Early August brought the first chill of San Diego's autumn. She stared at her cup of coffee. A wooden stir stick lay across the rim of the pale ceramic mug where a whirling trail of weak milk foam spun. She inhaled the aroma, feeling the warmth spread through her nose, and down into her chest.
The onset of evening thrilled Ana as she mentally made plans for the night. She’d spent the day working at the thrift store with Vanessa. Although she enjoyed her work, for the most part, her days became repetitive. They felt tiring and somewhat stagnant. She waited for Scott, her old friend from high school, to show up. She hadn’t seen him in weeks. Ever since his buddy Keith and he started working on some secret project, he had become scarce. He said he would fill her in today, but he ran late.
Cars sped by. A young man with dark hair and an easy smile sat at the next table over, across from Ana. He faced her with a mug of hot coffee in his hands. His face was smooth and Ana wondered if he didn’t have the capacity to grow a beard, or if he shaved twice a day. He caught her looking at him and nodded in response.
“Hi,” said Ana. She blushed and picked up her coffee to take a sip, distracting herself.
The young man looked away, realizing he was drinking in her beauty in heaping gulps. His mother had always told him not to stare, but this girl, he thought she was beautiful. Maybe it was the old notion that opposites attract. His Mexican Indian heritage was different from her obvious European descent. Her freckle-dusted cream-colored skin and brilliant red hair mesmerized him.
After a silent moment, a man with long sandy-colored hair walked up to the woman and sat down across from her. When he sat down he cast a hard glance at the coffee-sipping, dark-skinned young man. Scott grinned as he blocked the girl from his view.
“Scott! I thought you’d forgotten about our date.” Ana stood and leaned over to hug him.
“Date? Oh, ha! No, I had some errands to run, last minute stuff for Keith,” Scott said. “How have you been?”
Ana settled into her chair and crossed her legs. “Good.” She stirred her coffee and softened her eyes on him. “So, what are you and Keith up to? Sounds like you guys have been busy. I haven’t seen you in almost a month.”
Scott smirked. “I’m going to get some coffee. You want anything?” Ana looked off towards the gas station across the street and dismissed him with a shake of her head. Her friend headed into the coffee shop. The bells on the door chimed as he went in.
All around Ana, the city had lit up with streetlights and store lighting. The flower shop next to the gas station illuminated its stock with bright lamps. The air had a mixture of warmth. Aromas from the noodle stand next door, and the coffee brewing nearby filled the air. Mild exhaust from the cars emitted fumes through the intersection. Ana sat deep in thought about nothing.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had a boyfriend.” The dark man stood beside her, his hands stuck in his pockets. “Anyway, you are beautiful. I hope I didn’t offend you by staring.”
Ana blushed. “I don’t actually have a boyfriend,” she said. “He’s an old friend of mine.”
The man smiled and pulled a card out of his pocket. “Perfect. I’m Damon. Call me, if you’d like to have coffee with me sometime, or maybe even dinner.” He left the card on the small, round table, and then left.
Ana watched him cross the street. She picked up his card, which read, Damon Swift, Scenic Design. After his name, his phone number, web, and email addresses sat printed in dark italics. She palmed the card and put it into her back pants pocket, and realized she hadn’t introduced herself to him. The chimes on the coffee house door rang out again and Scott came out shaking his head.
“I can’t leave you alone for two minutes without some clown trying to get into your pants.” Scott chuckled. “Who was that guy?”
She didn’t say anything but instead sipped her coffee. “Tell me what you and Keith are up to. I’ve been dying to find out.” Ana waited.
It became obvious to Scott that she wasn’t going to talk about the new guy. So he talked to her about their new business. “Keith and I, okay, Keith inherited something. It’s something big.”
“Money?” Ana grew excited. “How much?”
“It’s not cash... It’s a building.” Scott could feel his cheeks constricting as his smile persisted. “Keith inherited a building, and a small amount of money, at least, enough for the upkeep of the building. So, he and I are renovating it and setting it up as a kick-ass venue for music and a restaurant.” Scott sipped at his hot coffee.
“You’re shitting me!” Ana was incredulous. “No way.”
“Where is it? Is it big,” she asked.
Scott burst out laughing. “Yeah, it’s kind of big.” He shook his head. “Keith said I could bring you by tonight if you wanted to see it. He’s trying to decide on a name for the place. I keep telling him it should be called Slammers! He’s not into that.”
“Slammers?” Ana kept smiling, but inside, her mind wondered what kind of name that would be and why would you call it that. She wondered, is that some kind of Pogs reference? She kicked him under the table. “Well, when are we going to go? I want to see it.”
“As soon as we finish our coffee.” He laughed. “It’s nearby, not too far.”
“Fine.” Ana picked up her cup and sipped. “But it better be fun.” She pouted.
Scott winked at her and smirked.
In the distance, the sound of a large jumbo jet, thrusting its engines to climb, enveloped the city. The nearby airport never seemed to stop its incessant labors. Ana looked up in time to see the plane to the south, headed west, up, and off the runway to somewhere far away. The thought of travel, of getting out of town thrilled Ana’s heart to the point of breaking. She’d always thought she’d travel a lot as an adult. Yet, since she turned twenty-two, the furthest she’d made it out of this place was Los Angeles.
“Scott, we should get out of here before I beat you to death. Show me the new place. I need something new about now.” She looked at him with all the seriousity she could muster.
The look on his face became at once intrigued and afraid. He thought to himself, ‘This is Ana. She is deliberate and sometimes frightening.’ Scott poured more cream into his coffee. Then he set the creamer back on the table. Then, he chugged down the contents of his mug, wiping his mouth on his jacket sleeve. “Let’s go.”
As Scott opened the front doors to the old restaurant, Ana’s mouth lay agape. Her pink tongue stuck out of her mouth a moment and then receded into her mouth. Her eyes grew wide. She took a moment to take in the open room before her. The men had indeed been busy. Plastic sheeting lay over the tables stacked in pairs around the room. Wrought-iron chairs sat in the corner, also stacked, but in greater numbers. The smell of new carpet hung in the air.
A mauve paper runner spanned floor, from the front door to the kitchen. Another runner led into the dining area, and then sideways into another room. An old hostess station, in the corner, looked out of place, covered in dust.
Ana pulled a hair tie out of her pocket and pulled her red locks back behind her and tied it into a ponytail. Scott hovered near, grinning as he watched her expressions change. He watched them morph, from delight, to surprise, and then to joy. She wandered around the large dining room, and then returned to the entry. She picked up an old menu from the hostess station.
Ana read the menu. “So this was an Italian restaurant?” She asked.
Scott replied, “Yeah. Back in the 1980’s, this place was all the rage. I’ve seen pictures on the internet of it. They used to have a big red Venetian gondola here in the dining room. It sat right in the middle, like a kids table, from the looks of the photos. Crazy that it’s been sitting so long.
“How long has it been sitting?”
Scott laughed. “It closed in nineteen-eighty-four. They simply shut it down. Boom!”
“Oh, wow. That’s nuts. It shut down?” Ana couldn’t believe it. “That doesn’t make sense. Did the owner die?”
“Not then. He died about six years ago.” Scott said. “Actually, he disappeared.”
“Yeah. The family finally had him declared dead after two years.” Scott felt uncomfortable talking about the dead, so he changed the subject. “I can’t wait to reopen this place.”
“Do you guys think you’ll make it an Italian restaurant again?”
“Keith wants to do something else with it,” Scott replied with a sneer. “I agree with him.”
The redhead cocked her head at him. “Oh?”
“Okay, it was my idea, but we are going to make this place into a kick-ass music-venue-coffee house.” He laughed and ran towards the back of the dining room. “Look, over here.” He pointed to a wall, which had spray painted markings on it. Arrows indicated where the wall could come down, and have a stage installed.
“What’s that?” Ana’s excitement grew. She could almost tell what was being planned.
“That’s where the stage is going in,” said Scott. It’s a non-supporting wall and we can totally cut out a stage.”
From somewhere behind the walls, a loud banging noise came through. Scott shook his head. “Let’s go see what Keith is breaking,” he snickered.
As they stepped through the swinging door into the kitchen, Scott stood tall. He postured himself as though he owned the place. Keith, and a young man whom Ana did not recognize, sat in the kitchen. The men sat on a couple of new, unopened five-gallon plastic buckets of paint. Next to them, a stack of empty beer cans lay scattered across the tile floor. The door of the walk-in refrigerator had a sign on it which read, “Do not enter.”
“Ana!” Keith stood up, wobbled and ran over to the young woman. “Long time! Hey, I want you to meet a new friend of ours, Jason.” Keith gestured to the man sitting on the bucket. His boyish face and well-muscled arms put a pause in her breath.
“How do you do?” She asked as she put her hand out to Jason. He started to wave at her, then stood, and shook her hand. “What’s all the noise from?” She didn’t see anything broken.
“I didn’t hear a noise.” Jason then dismissed the question. “Hi. Nice to meet you.” He sat back down. He couldn’t help but stare at her. He thought he’d never seen a more beautiful woman.
Keith leaned against a metal countertop. “Beer?” He offered a can of cold Budweiser to Ana.
“Sure. Thanks.” She took it, popped the top open, and then she walked around the kitchen to see what the place was like. She asked Keith, “So, when do you expect to open?”
Keith almost choked. “Fuck, I don’t know. The city is shitting bricks over permits.” He took another swig. “I was hoping to open before September. This place is expensive without money coming in.”
Ana brought the can of beer to her lips and sipped the suds. “I bet,” she said. “You guys are going to build a stage or something?”
“Yeah.” Keith looked at Jason. He patted him on the shoulder, and said, “This fine, young man and his family seem to have no lack of skills in their group.”
Ana detected a slur in his speech. She tilted her head and then punched Keith in the shoulder. “You’re so drunk.” Ana laughed. “How are you supposed to finish this thing if you’re drunk?” She shook her head and looked at her own beer, and then her wristwatch. “Okay, so fine, it is 5:50. I’ll cut you some slack.”
“Yeah, it’s been a long day,” Keith mumbled and took another swig.
Ana asked Keith about the name of the place. “What are you going to call this place? Scott said something about calling it ‘Slammers?”
Keith squinted in Scott’s general direction. “Slammers?” He took a sip from the can. “No. No, that’s all wrong.” He stood near the support beam near the center of the kitchen. “I want to make it something mysterious, but something friendly, too. Ya know?” He slurred his speech. “I was thinking something like, ‘The Coffee Cup.’ Right? Maybe put some music notes on the image of a cup or something. Plus, I want to have a window, something in the back, where any hungry people can always come for a hot meal.”
Scott could see Ana became puzzled over the last bit. He said, “Keith was homeless once, for a few months.”
Keith nodded. “It’s true,” he rambled on. “I had to live on friend’s couches and slept in alleyways, and man did I ever starve.”
“Oh my god. I had no idea,” Ana put an arm on Keith’s shoulder. “Hey, what if you let customers know they can donate a cup of coffee, or soup or something. We could make it easy. Couldn't they donate when they order their own food and drink?”
“A Beggar’s Cup?” Scott asked.
Everyone looked at Scott like he had farted.
Ana said, “Well, that sounds kind of crass, don’t you think?”
But Keith smiled like he’d heard the sound of angels singing. “The Beggar’s Cup.” I like that.” He tossed back a swig of beer, pulled out a small pad of paper and wrote it down. Then, he asked Ana “So did Scott tell you about the secret basement?” He slurred his speech, making 'secret' sound like she-krit.
“Secret basement?” She swung her head towards Scott to see him grinning like a schoolboy. “What secret basement?”
Jason shook his head. He stood up and walked over to the metal counter in the center of the room, and rummaged through a white paper bag. “Hey, do we have any hot sauce left?” He pulled a burrito wrapped in a yellow paper out of the bag and met eyes with Keith. Then he saw that the small plastic bag of hot sauces sat in front of Keith. “Nevermind.”
Scott stared up at the ceiling, wondering if Keith meant to tell her about the basement. “Dude, do you really want to show her?”
“Why not?” He replied. “She’s obviously going to find the elevator.” Keith motioned towards the staircase. A tall, metal, wire-shelved cart with wheels sat parked in front of the wall, opposite the stairs. Someone had draped a white tablecloth across the back of the cart from the top. It concealed the wall behind it. The doorway to the elevator stood hidden from view. Arturo installed it with the new motor and cables during the week. Nobody would have known it was there if he or she weren’t looking for it.
“Obviously.” Scott shrugged. “
The young man, Jason found a drawer with clean utensils in it. He grabbed a chef’s knife and a cutting board. He cut the burrito in half, spilling beans, cheese, and guacamole across the board. He said, “Damn, you guys better make food at least as good as this when you open.”
Scott asked, “Where’d you get that, Jason?”
“Tito’s, down the street, bruh,” Jason responded. He poured half of the hot sauce container into the open end of the burrito. “This is what the kids are calling food these days.” He took a bite and savored the bold flavors. He hummed gleefully as he exhaled.
“So... secret room?” Ana searched around the kitchen with her eyes. She didn’t see any obvious signs of an elevator. “What elevator?”
Keith stood up, wobbled unsteadily, and carefully made his way over to the cart. He pushed it aside in a slow mechanical motion. His level of intoxication made Scott cautious. The long-haired Scott ran over to help Keith out before the whole rack tumbled over onto the floor.
“Easy, buddy.” Scott steadied his friend by taking his shoulder in his hand. “Let’s sit you down over here.” Scott spun his friend around and sat him on the stairs. “I can show her. Why don’t you sit here a minute.”
“Fine. I was feeling tired anyway.” Keith stretched his legs out across the wide stair tread and leaned against the railing ribs. “I’ll be here when you get back.” He closed his eyes and looked like he’d fallen asleep.
The red-haired woman turned to face the door to the elevator, just as Scott rolled the cart aside. The new stainless steel doors and the control panel shined in silvery glory. The elevator had one button, down. Excitedly, Ana reached to push it. When she did, the button lit up with an odd green glow.
“That’s different,” she said. “I don’t remember ever seeing a green elevator button.” By the time she finished speaking, the doors slid open with a bell, dinging in the elevator car. A dim fluorescent lamp illuminated the interior of the elevator. Something about the thing made Ana feel uneasy.
“After you,” said Scott.
She looked inside and then stepped into it. Scott followed her. “Jason, you want to come with us?”
“Nah, maybe next time.” Jason munched away on his food and then took a swig from an A&W Root Beer bottle.
“Ok.” Once the pair were inside, Scott pushed the basement button. The letter “B” lit up and the doors closed.
“Going down,” said Keith.
Ana’s eyes scanned the walls of the elevator. They looked much older than the doors. Rust covered most of the surface of the metal. The paint had long since turned an indiscernible color. Scott grinned at Ana like a practical joker. She became nervous and wondered if she’d made a mistake going into the basement with him. She mentally sized him up, without showing a hint of animosity. She thought to herself, I can take him if I need to.
The motion from the elevator stopped with a jolt. A bell rang, and the doors opened up to a well-lit foyer in the basement. Two newly installed, fluorescent lights illuminated the area from above. Scott stepped out. He moved fast and approached a fountain just a few steps away. “Check this out.” He waved Ana over to the fountain. It looked out of place, alone in a large darkened space beyond the elevator area. “This thing is way cool.” He said, pointing to the fountain.
Ana viewed the cherubs on the fountain with unease. They looked sinister in the dim light. Three statues of creepy little angels circled around the center of a large fountain. She asked Scott, “So, is this all that’s down here?” She felt cheated.
The snarl on her lips was not lost on Scott. He laughed under his breath and shook his head. “Not hardly,” he said. He walked over to the brick wall facing them, near the elevator. “You may want to close your eyes for a second. These are bright lights.”
“What?” Ana, caught off guard, didn’t want to close her eyes.
Scott flicked on the lights with a wall switch. In an instant, four floodlights beamed down from the ceiling. Light flooded the ridiculously large room around them, beyond the cherubic fountain.
“Viola!” Scott said. He smiled so largely, his cheeks hurt. “What do you think?”
All she could utter was an audible gasp, as her eyes drank in the largest oddity she had ever laid eyes on. She stepped toward the inner area of the room to the left-hand side. “Oh my god,” was all she could say.
In the odd building’s kitchen, Jason popped the top on a cold beer. His boss, Keith began snoring loudly from the base of the stairwell. The young man shook his head at the man and sipped the beer. He wasn’t old enough to drink, but he knew Scott didn’t care. He’d given Jason beer before. Keith never commented on it, anyway, he was out cold. It was off hours as well, so he went for it.
Jason looked around the room, admiring the work he and his family had done to the restaurant. Fresh white paint coated the walls. The concrete floor had vinyl installed, was cleaned, and polished. The stainless steel panels around the prep area shined as though they were new. The smell of cleanliness was in the air, and it made Jason feel a sense of pride.
A metallic rattling sound came from the big walk-in refrigerator. Jason shook his head. Arturo had looked at the compressor several times. Jason himself had replaced the fan on it. “What now?” He said out loud. He put the beer down on the metal counter in the center of the room and approached the door to the refrigerator. The noise sounded unusual to him. Normally, the fan clicking sound came from the outside, from the underside in the back of the unit. The noise sounded different like it came from the inside of the unit. The clicking sound changed to that of a muffled shuffling.
Jason stood before the walk-in and listened. The sound continuously thumped inside the refrigerator. The sign on the door said “Do not enter,” written in his cousin’s handwriting. He felt something was off. Something unnerved him. He placed his hand on the large metal door handle and pulled.
Scott stood near the center of the large basement. The lights shined down on the unusual subterranean structure. As though it were his own creation he threw his hands up and said, “Pretty bitchen, huh?” He pointed towards the center floor and the canal made of cut bricks, just like the rest of the room. “There used to be water in there, from what we can tell. This used to be some kind of private dining hall.” He grinned, looking out across the enormous expanse of rock. His gaze went up to the far wall on the left. The shadows from the façade of the city of Venice stared back through darkened windows and locked doors.
“I don’t even know what to say.” Ana stood, stunned as she took it all in. The once inquisitive smirk receded into concern. “This is huge.” She walked towards the dark shape of the Gondola. “Is this authentic? Is it from Venice?”
“Keith thinks so, but we don’t know. There’s no mention of this basement in the plans we got from the city. We accidentally dug out the elevator when the walls were being repaired in the kitchen.” He looked back at the elevator. “Keith doesn’t want to involve anyone publically about this, not even to research it. Well, not yet, anyway.”
“Jesus,” Ana said. Just then, a warm breeze came at them both, pushing Ana’s hair aside. An uncomfortable low rumble surrounded Ana and Scott. Ana grabbed her stomach. She bent over.
“Are you okay?” Scott reached for her.
“I feel sick,” Ana said. “Take me back upstairs.”
“Come on.” He took her arm and helped her to the elevator. It wasn’t long before the doors opened and they got back inside. The warm air followed them, brushing up against Ana and Scott like a pack of frenzied dogs. Scott pushed the button to go up to level one, repeatedly, until the doors closed and the car moved.
Ana stooped over in the back corner of the car. Her wavy copper ponytail covered her face and she cradled her face in her hands. “I think it’s gone now,” she said.
“Whatever made my stomach turn like that? Didn’t you feel it?”
“The feeling like falling?” Scott asked.
“Yeah.” I felt it before, here, but not down there. Last time, Keith and I were in the kitchen.” Keith rubbed his belly with his hand. He had stopped smiling, and the feeling of panic had come and gone with the warm air. “I’m really sorry.”
“What was that?” She demanded.
“I don’t know.” He deflated. “There’s something odd about this place. I mean. I like it, but sometimes...”
“Sometimes, what?” Ana stood tall, hands on her hips. She stared him down.
“It just feels creepy.”
“Yeah? No shit.” She inhaled deeply, calming her nerves. “Does that shit happen a lot here?” Ana hit the red button on the car, the one marked ‘Emergency.’
Jason pulled open the refrigerator door. A fog rolled out over him, and a shuffling sound filled his ears. He could not see through the mist, so he paddled his hands at it, in attempt to disperse the obstructive vapor.
He heard it again, shuffling like feet, moving around in the fridge. He backed up and let the air clear.
“Hey, thanks, kid!” A man with a dark mustache carried a box of lettuce out of the walk-in. He wore a long sleeve, white shirt, and black pants. His belly pushed out in a way that most middle-aged men dreaded to see happen to them.
“How did you get in there?” Jason asked.
The man in the mustache set the lettuce down on the counter, his eyes continued to stare at Jason. “I used my key. Duh. Are you some kind of moron?” He pulled open a drawer under the counter and pulled out a large knife and a cutting board. “How’s this... Hey, how did you get in here?” The man grabbed two heads of lettuce and washed them over the sink.
Jason frowned, He couldn’t recall when the water had been turned on for that sink. His cousin was supposed to replace the entire sink and faucet the next day, but it looked new and worked just fine.
“Hey.” The man snapped his fingers at Jason. “You applying g for the bus boy job, or what?” He was serious. Jason didn’t know what to say. He looked over at Keith to see if he had woken up, but he was still out like a light.
Mustache man looked at Keith asleep on the stairs. “Who’s the stiff? Is he with you?” He looked angry. In a moment, the man sidestepped back across the kitchen. He moved away from the stairs and used the tip of his knife to tap on the window to the office. To Jason’s surprise, the light in the office was on.
Then, Mustache man yelled into the window, “Eh, Angelo, can you come out here? I think we got a busboy applicant...” He looked again at Keith, passed out on the stairs. “And a bum.”
Jason’s eyes grew wide when a man, shorter than he, walked into the room from the office door. He stood in the kitchen, well groomed, in a black suit and tie, and the scent of Ralph Lauren’s Polo. The man stood there, eyeing Jason.
The man in the suit asked, “Can I help you, young man?”
“I...” Jason swallowed hard. His mouth had run dry and he felt nauseated.
“Lou, what’s wrong with him?” Angelo kept his eyes on the young man.
“I don’t know, he opened the door to the big refer for me when I came out. He looks confused to me.”
Angelo asked Jason, “Are you here for the job?” But, Jason stood mute. Beads of sweat began to build upon his forehead.
Lou gestured with the knife at the clock on the wall. The time showed it was nearly 10 o'clock. “I don’t know, boss. But I got to start chopping this lettuce or we’ll be in trouble in the morning.” He placed a head of lettuce on the chopping block and used a heavy knife to slice it into bite-sized pieces.
The man, Angelo, turned and stepped back into the office. He returned holding a newspaper in his hand. He opened it up, showed a page from the classifieds to Jason. “Is this why you’re here?” He pointed to a listing for a busboy at The Buffet, Italian Restaurant in Hillcrest.
Jason just nodded. He didn’t know what to say.
The phone rang in the office and Angelo went back in to answer it. He threw the paper on the metal counter in the center of the room, right beside Jason. He said, “Don’t go away. I've been waiting for this call all day.”
Lou continued to chop lettuce and threw the cut pieces into a large rectangular metal bin on the counter.
While he waited for the boss to come back, Jason picked up the paper to look at the listing. He held it up and felt sick. The San Diego Union, Wednesday, August 12, 1981, was fresh off the press. He flipped the pages back and looked at the headlines. ‘Controversial Fundraiser for AIDS Research in New York City. Christians in Uproar.’
In the office, Angelo spoke loudly on the phone. Jason looked at the beer he’d been drinking, and wondered if maybe there was something wrong with it. He turned away from Lou and headed out the swinging doors to enter the dining room and stopped short. Several of the tables had people seated and half of them had food in front of them. In the middle of the room, a large red gondola sat on a riser. Two kids sat in it, coloring with crayons.
Jason observed a dark-haired twenty-something waitress as she walked over to the door. She cocked her head. “Oh, sweetie, that’s the kitchen. You looking for the bathroom?” She held a small notepad and a pen. Her short hair looked dated, and she wore a jumpsuit with large, silver, hoop earrings. Her red apron matched her lipstick and accentuated her curves. Jason found himself feeling dizzy.
“No, I’m fine.” He backed out of the dining room and decided to wake up Keith. As he neared the stairs, the bell to the elevator rang out. He turned. He expected to see some new twist to his delusion but relieved, he saw Ana and Scott stepped out of the elevator. Ana’s hand held her forehead and she looked out of sorts. Her face had lost what little color it once had and she'd removed her coat.
“Scott, you need to see this,” said Jason. His heart pounded in his chest, but he was thrilled to find witnesses to his personal contretemps.
To his relief, Scott saw the man chopping lettuce. “Who’s he?” Scott asked of Jason.
“That’s Lou.” Jason grabbed Scott by the arm. He said, “But come here, and check this out.”
Lou put his knife down. Angelo remained in the office yammering into the phone on his desk. Jason could hear something about the City Council. He yelled into the receiver about not being able to keep raising his prices to pay them.
Ana stood before the elevator and surveyed the commotion. When Jason grabbed Scott, she followed the men through the doorway into the dining room. Once there, her mouth hung open. They looked on as several people, dressed for an eighties nostalgia party, stepped out of the fully furnished restaurant and into the night. One man, balding, with curly tufts of grey hair covering the sides of his head, wore a black Members Only jacket and very large silver-rimmed eyeglasses. A teenage boy wore a pink sweater over his cream-colored polo shirt, with the collar sticking out, and the girl he was with wore a long ankle length blue skirt and beige colored flats.
Three tables had people supping on spaghetti and green salads. The scent of garlic bread hung heavy in the air, and the old carpet was spread over the floor but looked refreshed. The waitress stood at a table across the room and she spoke with a man while refilling his glass with water. Scott turned around and asked Ana and Jason, “What the hell is going on?”
They all turned, hearing that Lou walked up behind them. As they spun around to talk to the man, the lights dimmed. The sound of the customers in the dining room ceased. The Kitchen sat unassumingly as they had thought it should be with no cook, no lettuce, and the office was dark, and the door closed. Keith’s snoring was all they could hear.
The three friends stood in the doorway to the kitchen. It was silent. They searched all around them, but everyone in the dining room had vanished. The room was empty, except for some tables and chairs. They remained pushed up and stacked against the walls away from the kitchen area. Gone was the aroma of garlic bread. The smell of the new carpet overwhelmed them. It was like smelling salts bringing them all back from the same bad dream.
The fine red hair on Ana’s arms stood straight up. She shivered and put a hand on Scott’s shoulder. Her mouth opened, but she didn’t know what to say. Her heart pounded. Then, she said, “You didn’t tell me this place was haunted.”
© 2019 Mayachrome Press & D. Paul Fonseca
First Published March 6, 2018
Edited last May 14, 2018
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com & D. Paul Fonseca