Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write, and post a new short story everyday.
After a night out having a few drinks with friends, there’s often the urge to get some food on the way home. We call it food, but the nutritional content of kebabs, pizza and chips from the fast food shops or street venders is often lacking something. Something like nutrition.
If you’ve ever been to these outlets sober, which is unlikely, then you may notice something about the staff, they’re not normal. Normal people don’t think that a good job is passing time serving a small trickle of customers while waiting for the pubs and bars to close, and then trying to serve an entire night’s custom as fast as possible.
As the bars and pubs of the city centres close each weekend night, thousands of inebriated revellers head to the closest burger bar, kebab house, chip shop or street food vendor who is pushing a cart along trying to make a living selling something that isn’t quiet entirely unlike food. And even though these people may be worse the wear for drink, there is something in the subconscious that allows them the following morning, to remember how good, or bad, the food was. And if the food was exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad, then word gets passed around. The good vendors find themselves with even larger queues than the standard pub spill out, and the bad vendors find themselves with the standard pub spill out of drunks with the munchies.
Most of the time, the atmosphere in these places is a continuation of that in the pubs that the people have come from, convivial, jolly and sometimes amorous. Like the pubs that provide the customers though, one way to annoy the staff, as well as everyone else that’s waiting to be served, is to hold up the queue.
“Are you the manager?” The man in the sober black suit asked.
“I am the manager, and the owner, and the server, cook, accountant and washer-upper. That’s one of the joys of being a street food vender, small operation, lower overheads but much more control over the fine quality of the food that I sell,” the small, scraggy looking man replied.
“In that case it’s my job to present you with this cease and desist order, I’m empowered by the trading standards institute to inform you that if you do not stop trading you will be taken to court for fraud,” the official reeled off while getting an envelope out of his jacket pocket and handing it to the vendor.
“You what? Why?”
“You’ve been misleading consumers as to the content of the foodstuffs that you’re selling.”
“How? You’re advertising dodo kebabs,” the official replied pointing to the sign on the front of the vendor’s’ cart. “That’s a clear case of misleading the consumer, and therefore fraud. If you continue to trade these without renaming them, then we shall have to recourse but to take you to court.”
The scraggy little man looked over the shoulder at the queue of potential business on the street that he would lose, and then back at the man in the suit.
“Okay, you’re right, I definitely don’t want to insult my customer’s intelligence by calling these ‘dodo’ kebabs. I’ll happily stop trading if you can explain something to me though.”
“It’s not my job to explain things, only to deliver notices.”
“Well, it’s my job to sell kebabs and try and make a living, which you’re stopping me from doing. So, I’ll change the name of these if you can explain to me where they get the fairies from?” The vendor asked.
“The fairies, where do they get the fairies from?”
“What fairies?” The official asked.
“The fairies in fairy cakes. I mean, most of the large cake and biscuit manufacturers have a fairy cake in their range, and, well, I wondered where they got them from.”
“They don’t contain angels you idiot, they’re merely called fairy cakes. It’s a style of cake,” the official explained.
“Ah, gotcha. So what about the dragons?”
“Well, that customer stood behind you there, the one waiting to be served, he’s got a bottle of dragon stout that he’s patiently finishing off.”
“Yeah, hurry up, I’m hungry,” the man suggested when the official turned around to look.
“That doesn’t contain dragons, that’s a brand name,” the official explained as he quickly turned back to the vendor.
“Right, I see. So, what you’re saying then is that fairy cakes don’t contain fairies, and dragon stout doesn’t contain dragons?”
“Of course they don’t, any idiot could see that.”
“Right yes, of course. I mean, the customers aren’t stupid are they, after all fairies and dragons don’t exist do they. Silly me,” the vender said with a smile. “I mean, I’d imagine that dragons would be quite tough and stringy anyway, if they existed. And fairies, well, I’m assuming that those poisonous little creatures would be really bitter. Not something you’d want to put into a cake. If they existed that is. So it’d be the same for angels’ food cake and devil’s eggs too then?”
“Absolutely,” the official replied, feeling that he’d made his point.
“I mean only an idiot would thing that angel food cake, devil’s eggs, fairy cakes, dragon stout and dodo kebabs actually contain creatures that don’t exist.”
A hand clamped on the official’s shoulder and turned him around. The large man had finished his drink and was getting impatient for his kebab.
“Are you calling me an idiot?”
“Not at all,” the official replied looking at the customer.
“D’you think I don’t know that dodos don’t exist? I may be drunk, but I’m not stupid.”
“I’m not saying that, we’re merely here to enforce rules that protect the consumers,” the official tried to explain.
“Oh don’t be so petty and stupid, you lot have stopped a company in Wales selling dragon sausages because you believe it would mislead customer, which means you actually believe that the general public believes dragons exist. You’re the ones that think these mythical creatures are real, not us. We don’t need protecting, except possibly from you idiots.” The customer turned around to face the rest of the queue that was getting longer all the time. “Does anyone here actually believe that these kebabs really contain dodos? Because this bloke here is trying to shut this guy down, stopping us getting our food.”
From those that spoke up there were mutters of “of course not” and “get a move on” along with a couple of much more expletive shouts.
“There, even the nightly drunken rabble of London doesn’t believe that this bloke’s selling an extinct species in his kebabs. Now piss off and let us get our food.”
The official snatched his envelope back from the vendor’s hand, turned and hurried away without saying anything else.
“Cheers Connor,” the vendor said as he made up a kebab for the Keeper at London Zoo’s Endangered Creatures Programme.
“No worries, the guy was an idiot. I have to say though, I though Jerry had a word with you lot to keep it a bit quieter. Keeping the dodo numbers down by turning them into kebabs is one thing, but if we suddenly have to start bailing you out for illegal street trading, we could be in trouble. Look, I’ve got an idea. Can you and the rest of the goblins doing this pop by tomorrow, I think we could turn this into a legitimate business.”
“Will do Connor, did you want chilli sauce on that?” The goblin selling dodo kebabs asked.
“Nah, dodo meat’s way too nice to mask with chilli sauce.”