Adventures in Babysitting (5-9-18)

[WP] You’re babysitting. [Link to post.]

“You know where everything is, make yourself at home. And keep a card on you, just in case.” Robin, Threnody’s red-headed mother related instructions to the short man with a blue mohawk that held her daughter. Her husband, an imposing man named Posie, stood at the open door ready to leave. Vegas, the short man, nodded while bouncing the six year old dark haired child in his arms. 

“Awww don’t worry. We done this plenty of times, ain’t we Threnny?” Vegas said squeezing the child’s puffy baby cheek. Her orange eyes sparkled in the sunlight while she giggled. Vegas babysat Threnody Ingram three or four times a year, to give her parents a break. She was a special child and they needed it. 

“Bye daddy, bye mommy!” Threnody waved at her parents, almost rushing them out the door. Robin stepped forward and kissed her daughter on the forehead.

“Bye honey, we’ll see you in a week.” Posie stepped out of the house with a wave after Robin passed by him on her way out. 

“Bye guys, have fun.” Posie closed the door behind him. The second they were gone Vegas dropped the child to the hardwood floor of the livingroom. She was ready for it and landed on her feet.

“What’s it gonna be, Shortcake?” Vegas asked. He knelt down in front of the six year old. She met Vegas’ eyes and stroked her chin with her thumb and forefinger while she thought about it.

“First,” Threnody held up a single, tiny finger between her and Vegas. “I’m hungry. Can we go to Chang’s?” Vegas bounced his mohawk in agreement then stood to grab the child’s hand. 

“Donna Chang’s it is,” Vegas said. Threnody gestured at the air next to them with her free hand causing a vertical pitch black portal to open. Without hesitation Vegas stepped through, Threnody followed while they held hands. On the other side of the portal the two found themselves inside a walk-in freezer. 

“They musta remodeled,” Vegas said. He opened the door to a hot and busy kitchen. Three line cooks worked the woks while several other workers appeared to be doing prep work. Wait stuff walked in and out of the kitchen at regular intervals, but no one seemed to pay any attention to the short man and little girl that walked out of the freezer. They made their way to the front of the house where an elderly Asian woman, the owner Donna Chang, noticed them and greeted the pair with enthusiasm. 

“Vegas! So good to see you again,” Mrs. Chang said, then she turned her attention downward toward the young girl. “And Miss Threnody too!” The elder woman reached into the front pocket of her apron, slightly yellow with age and oil and withdrew her hand to offer Threnody a piece of dragon shaped chocolate candy wrapped in a red and gold foil wrapper. The little girl accepted the sweet with a smile.

“Sit! Order anything, free for you guys.” Mrs. Chang said. She guided them over to a booth, then wandered into the kitchen. Vegas slid into his side, Threnody sat on her knees and haunches across from him. 

“Can I get the Dragon Heart?” Threnody asked as she looked over the menu. The Dragon Heart was a secret item not listed. Vegas shook his head. 

“Nope, I didn’t sign on for that much trouble. Your usual’s good enough.” Vegas teased the young girl while he browsed the menu. She gave a slight pout and browsed the menu. After some time the waitress came and took their orders. The two enjoyed their meal and spent the rest of the time talking about what Threnody wanted to do after dinner. 

“Can we find an ending?” Threnody asked between bites of crispy sweet & sour chicken. Vegas shrugged.

“I don’t know about that, we only got a week,” Vegas said. As he spoke Mrs. Chang approached the table. 

“Everything okay?” She asked. Vegas nodded.

“Delicious as always, Mrs. Chang,” he said. 

“Do you know where we can find an ending?” Threnody asked the older woman. The woman smiled and nodded. 

“I do know of one right now. It’s only good for another week or so, I think.” Mrs. Chang said. Threnody jumped to her feet standing on the red booth seat. She bounced to the edge near the old woman and stuck her hand out. The grey haired woman grabbed the little girl’s hand and sent a pulse of golden energy up the girl’s arm. 

“Thanks!” Threnody said, giving the old woman a thumbs up gesture. Then she turned to face Vegas. “Let’s GO!” She bounced jumped in place on the seat. Vegas smiled at her then scooted himself out of the booth. He stood in front of Mrs. Chang and bowed his head slightly. 

“Thanks for the meal, Mrs. Chang. You’re the best.” The woman smiled and nodded. 

“Come back any time,” she said. Then, deciding the conversation was over she walked back toward the kitchen. Vegas grabbed Threnody’s hand. 

“Waitin’ on you,” he said. Threnody smiled and waved a gesture at the air with her hand to open another black portal, using the frequency Mrs. Chang gave her. The two stepped through the portal.  

They found a dark and cold Earth. Vegas could feel the cold dirt even through his white snakeskin boots. He still held Threnody’s hand and felt the little girl shiver. The cold air around him felt still, as if no one had so much as breathed on the planet. Threnody walked around the dark Earth, her orange eyes glowed with golden light. 

“It’s so pretty!” she said. Vegas nodded as he stared at the darkness. He did not have Threnody’s ability to see in the dark, it left him somewhat unsettled. He chuckled to himself that he felt safe with Threnody nearby even though he was the babysitter. 

“Can we stay the week? I don’t wanna miss it,” Threnody said. She continued to walk circles around Vegas staring out at the darkness, seeing things that she would be the only one to ever see. 

“I don’t see a problem with it, but let’s go get some supplies first.” Vegas wrapped his arms around himself and rubbed his arms up and down for extra warmth. “It’s cold.”

“Well duh,” Threnody said. She opened a portal in the air next to them, close enough where Vegas could see it. “The sun’s gone out. This universe is about to die, and we get to watch! It’s gonna be so awesome!” She ran into her portal eager to fetch supplies. 

Flight Coupon (5-1-18)

[WP] “You dropped this.” A stranger hands you a folded piece of paper, and vanishes into the crowd before you can say that it isn’t yours. [Link to post.]

“It’s not…” I yelled after the person, but I lost track of them in the crowd. “mine.” I shrugged, looked down, then unfolded the paper. It turned out to be a flyer for a local Chinese restaurant. I flipped the sheet to check both sides, but there were no other marks. “Musta been trash,” I thought to myself, then I took a step toward a nearby trash can. A coupon on the flyer caught my eye and my stomach growled. “Chinese sounds good,” I said as I checked the address on the ad. The restaurant, Donna Chang’s, was a couple of blocks around the corner. 

The sun hung loose
  in the sky and day was beautiful. Slight breeze, not too hot, not a dark cloud in sight. I decided to stroll the long way to the restaurant. I was in the heart of downtown on a Saturday late afternoon. The streets and shops overflowed with patrons, but everyone focused on their own business. As I passed an alleyway I heard commotion and warning shouts of “Hey! Whoa!” followed by a louder “TOMMY MOVE!!” 

A small boy sat atop a tricycle staring up at a piano trying to fit into the side of a building coming loose from its straps. I didn’t realize I was running until after I had the blonde boy in my arms. After I grabbed him I tripped and stumbled, but managed to keep him safe. The piano flattened the tricycle seconds after we were clear. The boy’s father, a well dressed man, appeared at the exit from the building, and continued to run toward us. 

“TOMMY! Are you okay?” The boy nodded and stood up, brushing dust from his pant knees. 

“Yeah!  This guy saved me! It was great!” Tommy pointed at me, still on the floor. I chuckled and accepted a hand up from his father. He introduced himself once I stood up, dusting myself off as well.

“Thank you so much,” he wrapped his arm around Tommy’s shoulder. “I don’t know what we would’ve done if you weren’t there.” He looked up at the side of the building at a woman wearing an elegant black and purple dress, then waved. “My wife fainted the instant the piano came loose.” I reached out and mussed Tommy’s hair.

“I’m glad I could help.”

“Please let us do something to thank you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold and silver pocket watch to check the time. “I have an appointment shortly, but maybe dinner after?”  I waved him off. 

“Nah, Im just glad he’s fine.” I looked at Tommy. “Probably not a good habit to be playing under piano movers, eh Tommy?” I asked with a chuckle, he nodded enthusiastically. “Besides, I’m already headed to eat.” I pulled the flyer from my pocket, surprised that it was in there. I thought I lost track of it, but I must have shove it into my jeans during the commotion. It came out all wrinkled and crushed together. “I got a coupon.” I laughed, then cringed to myself when he pulled the trashed flyer from my hand. He looked it over, then handed it back. I hoped he didn’t think I was hinting at a monetary reward by mentioning the coupon. “Well, good luck!” I waved at them to end the awkwardness, but he stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.

“I won’t forget that I owe you.” His grip on my shoulder firmed, extended his arm at the elbow in a formal handshake and locked his light brown eyes with mine. “The Flight stands with you,” he added with a stiff nod.

“Well, good luck!” I said again, and waved my way out of the alley. I tried to figure out what he meant, but no matter how much I tossed it over in my mind, I didn’t get it. I did end up walking two blocks past the restaurant though, and had to turn back. By the time I turned around and reached the restaurant an elderly Asian woman stood at the window pulling the lead on the ‘Open’ sign to shut it off. She saw me approach.

“Closed. Special reservation,” she waved me away.

“But I have a coupon!” I pressed the crumpled flyer against the glass window. It was silly, but my mind had yet to recover from the falling piano. It felt like I really needed the normalcy of using a coupon to ground me after the weirdly weird day I’d had. She must have taken pity on me, because she moved toward the door, unlocked it, then waved me in. The first thing I saw was a big table full of men, I guessed they were the special reservation. I took a step toward the other end of the restaurant, away from them, but the woman stopped me. 

“I don’t want to bother your special guests,” I said, trying to free myself of her guiding grip. 

“You special guest too!” she said. We reached the table and I was surprised to see Tommy’s father sitting in one seat at the far right. He nodded at me. The woman spoke, pushing me forward slightly as an introduction. 

“Today we have an emissary from the Western Dragons,” she said. Then she pointed at Tommy’s father and introduced them going clockwise. 

“The Royal Flight.” After Tommy’s father she pointed to a man wearing a black leather jacket.

“The Blackwings.” Then she continued through the rest.

“The IceWyrms.” An older Asian man that I initially assumed was her husband.

“The Forest.” A young woman wearing a silky green scarf.

“And, The Red.” A poised woman wearing a blood red business suit. 

“Whoa, I think I’m in the wrong place guys. I just wanted to get some Sweet & Sour chicken, I didn’t plan on joining any clubs.” I put my hands up in the air with a shrug and a step back. “No problem though, I’ll just go somewhere else.”

“But your invitation?” the woman that made the introductions asked.

“What invitation?” I asked

“The coupon,” Tommy’s father said. I pulled it out of my pocket, surprised it was still in one piece. 

“Yeah, it’s just a coupon,” I said and handed it to the woman. She held it up to me and pointed to a spot on the paper.

“Can you read this?” She asked. I nodded.

“Yeah, $4.99. Dinner entree with steamed or fried rice.” She pulled the paper from my face then walked a circle around me eyeing me up and down. 

“Where did you get this?” she asked me. I shrugged.

“Someone gave it to me on the street thinking I’d dropped it, but it wasn’t mine.” She smiled at me.

“Okay, you can go.” She walked me out, but grabbed a card as we walked by the register. “Sorry for confusion, please come back when we are open to the public.” She put a full punch card in my hand. “On the house.” Then she shoved me out the door and locked it again. 

Heart of Adventure

[WP] You fail to realize that your favorite restaurant is actually a front. One day you decide to try that one weird entree that you keep overhearing others order. [Link to post.]

“Adventure awaits the adventurous,” the hag told me. I nodded at the disguised young woman, paid my five dollars, then walked out of the fortune teller’s tent. I let loose the chuckle I’d been holding in since the woman’s nose began to slip revealing her real nose underneath, and surveyed the crowd flowing through the carnival grounds. My stomach growled, but a turkey leg and some kettle corn wouldn’t be enough. I walked towards my car and figured I’d decide on the way.

When I slammed the door shut a single menu fell from the small stack I kept in the passenger side visor. I saw the menu, but didn’t bother to put it back. I started my car and headed towards the Chinese restaurant, my favorite restaurant, pictured on the menu. Donna Chang’s. Their sweet and sour chicken tasted perfect every time. The crispy coating of the chicken crunched like a cracker, the bright red sauce somehow alternated between sugary sweet and puckering sour every single bite. It was disconcerting at first, but I loved it by the time I finished the first plate. It was all I ever ordered in the three years since, and it never left me disappointed. Drool threatened to overflow out of my mouth by the time I reached the small red and gold building. I walked in, the small silver bell over the door informed the workers they had a customer.

“Mr. Ruiz! Sit down. We will start your plate now,” the owner, Mrs. Chang said. Every time I visited she seemed genuinely happy to see me, and often referred to me as her favorite customer. 90% of the time I visited, it seemed I was her only dine-in customer, but I chalked it up to the modern age of convenience. Before she walked to the back the voice of the carnival fortune teller echoed through my mind.

“Mrs. Chang, wait! Can I look at the menu?” I asked. She turned toward me with a smile.

“You’re so funny! You always get sweet and sour. I’ll get you sweet and sour,” she turned to face the kitchen, but I spoke up again.

“No, really. I’m feeling *adventurous* today,” I said. Changing my usual order didn’t seem all that adventurous, but I paid five bucks for that particular platitude. I decided to get some use out of it. I’d never seen anything other than a smile on Mrs. Chang’s face, but she definitely wasn’t smiling now. She stared at me through slitted eyes, then smiled again.

“Okay Mr. Ruiz. Let me get you a menu.” She disappeared into the back, and I sat down in my favorite booth. The bell over the door sounded again, and two young men walked in. Both wearing black ski caps, white muscle shirts, and low sagging jeans.

“Picking up two Dragonhearts,” one of them said to the cashier. She walked through the kitchen door and came back out before it swung shut. Dragonheart. I’d heard that phrase a lot over the years. It sounded exotic, and spicy. I wasn’t much for spicy food, but tonight was all about adventure. Mrs. Chang returned with a menu after the two men left with their food. I felt bad that she looked so hard for it, and I wasn’t even going to glance at it. She handed it to me with a smile, but I held my hand up.

“Sorry Mrs. Chang. I changed my mind, I don’t need the menu.” Her smile grew larger. The bell over the door rang again, but she kept her eyes on me.

“I tell you. Sweet and sour chicken coming up, ten minutes.” She turned, but I stopped her.

“No, I know what I want. I’ll try the Dragonheart.” Her head whipped around, her eyes slitted again. She studied me for what felt like minutes, then her eyes softened.

“We’re out. I’ll bring you sweet and sour. On the house.” Before she took two steps, the young woman that walked in gave her order to the cashier.

“Dragonheart.” The cashier fluttered in and out of the kitchen in an instant.

“Are you sure you’re out?” I asked. I heard angry Chinese words pour from her mouth directed at cashier, who blushed furiously. Then she turned to me with a pleasant smile. She surprised me by sitting down in the booth across from me. I noticed the cashier followed the young woman to the door, then locked it after the customer left. She ran to the back.

“Mr. Ruiz, my favorite customer! You don’t want Dragonheart. You love the chicken. I’ll give you free chicken from now on, huh?” She wrangled her hands nervously on the table.

“I wanted to try something new,” I said, debating how much use I’d get out of free sweet and sour chicken any time I wanted. What if I didn’t like the Dragonheart? Is it worth an unknown quantity of free food?

“New? Okay, sweet and sour pork. Besides, you can’t afford Dragonheart.” My hands clenched under the table. I almost went for the deal, but telling me I couldn’t afford something was a big mistake. I’d worked hard to make my money. She probably didn’t know I was one of the richest people in the world. In general I didn’t flaunt it, but I hated being judged by my appearance just because I liked to dress comfortably.

“Dragonheart. Price is not a factor,” I said.

“1 million dollars,” She said flatly. The price surprised me, but I did not flinch. She was testing me, or she wasn’t. Either way it was pocket change. I pulled out my black bank card and placed it on the table.

“Dragonheart,” I repeated. She sighed and took the card from the table.

“You take it to go, can’t eat here,” she said then disappeared into the kitchen. She was back in a flash with a giant white bag and my card. I stood from the booth and took my order. “Leave. Please come again if you survive,” she said. I began to ask what she meant but she shooed me towards the door.

The big bag felt heavier than I expected, but I hoped that meant it was a lot of food. It was probably better that I didn’t eat there if it was spicy. I got into my car and stared at the white plastic bag on my lap. I opened it to reveal a single large white and red box. The top was sealed with a golden sticker. Chinese writing circled the outer part of the sticker, and something resembling a flame decorated the center of the sticker.

“Great, it’s spicy,” I complained. I opened the box. A cloud of steam rolled out of the container, blocking my view. The first thing I noticed was the sound, like a rhythmic thumping. Once the billow of steam cleared I saw a large red heart, almost as big as my head. It beat rhythmically in the box while steam continued to rise from its surface.