Zach was scrunched in the tight booth of the restaurant chosen by the group. Their destination of choice was Probably Chicken. It was an all you can eat buffet restaurant that featured delicacies from across the multiverse. Even though there was only so many ways you can rename a chicken, the restaurant was still one of the most popular in the city.
Stuck in the booth with an empty stomach, Zach’s situation only grew more frustrating when Spencer took the seat next to him leaving Miguel with the seat next to Clare. Now, Zach stared directly into the face of the man that stole his work snack. As Zach glared at his rival he could have sworn he still saw some pieces of the crumb cake in between Miguel’s teeth. It only made Zach hungrier.
“I’ve been dying to try the filleted powerhawk,” said Miguel. “I read it is the best in the city.”
“Do you follow food blogs?” Clare asked.
“Guilty, I’m a food junkie,” said Miguel. “I admit it.”
“Anything else you recommend?” Clare asked.
“Their dessert cart is second to none,” said Miguel. “And that comes from me, not the pretentious food reviewers.”
“Oh, I bet desserts are your favorite,” Zach mumbled.
“Yeah,” said Miguel. “I have a blog that covers it. The ABC’s of After Dinner. I’m in the C’s right now. There is a lot of chocolate.”
“Let me guess,” said Zach. “In the Cr’s?”
Miguel smiled back at Zach across the table. “No. Cu’s actually. Cupcake delights.”
“I love cupcakes,” said Clare.
“You should join me for a tasting some time,” said Miguel. “I’d love to have another perspective. I’m sure your taste buds are exquisite.”
Zach watched in horror as Miguel and Clare continued to chat. Miguel nudged closer to Clare from inside the booth.
“Let’s go get some food!” Zach shouted. “I’m starving.”
Clare looked over at Zach. “Yeah! Actually you can go first. I don’t really want to leave my coat here on its own.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Miguel. “You go first, Clare.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yeah,” said Zach.
“Whatever,” said Spencer.
Clare stood up from the booth.
“Yes,” said Miguel, getting to his feet right behind her. “Zach can watch our stuff for us. Thanks Zach.”
Spencer stood up as well, oblivious to Miguel’s move to volunteer Zach.
Zach’s stomach grumbled as Miguel and Clare walked toward the buffet line. Spencer turned to join them but Zach was quick to grab his arm and pull him back into the booth.
“Hey!” Spencer yelled. “What are you doing?”
“Are you seeing what’s happening?” Zach asked.
“We’re getting food?” Spencer checked.
“He’s trying to move in on Clare,” said Zach.
“Why is he even here? Who invited him?” asked Zach. “First he steals my crumb cake. Then he steals Clare.”
“What?” asked Spencer.
“Look at him horning in on Clare,” said Zach. “It’s disgusting.”
“What a jerk,” said Spencer. “Thinks he can have whatever he wants. Just sitting there, alone in a dark place, and boom next thing you know he’s on you, like a piece of meat.”
“Whoah, okay, Clare is a human being,” said Zach.
“I’m talking about the crumb cake,” said Spencer.
“The crumb cake is a piece of meat?” Zach asked, losing track of the conversation.
“No,” said Spencer. “He’s the piece of meat.”
“Miguel is a piece of meat?” Zach asked. He looked over at the buffet line and gazed at Miguel standing next to Clare. Spencer wasn’t wrong.
“He’s a pig,” said Spencer.
“Not arguing that,” said Zach.
“Just won’t stop eating,” said Spencer. “Food blogs, chocolate, cupcakes, crumb cakes. Does this guy ever stop?”
“I think you’re losing focus,” said Zach.
“Am I?” asked Spencer. “Or are you losing focus?”
“I am really hungry,” said Zach, now unsure of what he wanted.
“Are you sure it was him that stole your cake?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” said Zach. “I saw him eat the last piece.”
“That sucks,” said Spencer.
“And I was going to share it with you guys,” said Zach.
“That really sucks.”
“My mom made it just for us,” said Zach.
“That jerk,” said Spencer, getting angrier with every word. “Let’s end him.”
“What can we even do?” Zach asked.
“I’ll distract him,” began Spencer. “I’ll ask him about sprinkles and who exactly deserves them. Then when he’s deep in thought you come by the side and punch him in the gut!”
“No,” said Zach.
“One swift hit in the stomach will make him throw up the crumb cake he stole from you. Bonus, Clare will be disgusted by it and never invite him to lunch again. Flawless.” Spencer finished with his head nodding in a type of hypnotic gaze.
“I’m not doing that,” said Zach, almost in defeat. He looked back at Miguel and Clare. She was laughing at another one of his jokes.
“Then I’ll do it,” said Spencer. Without allowing for a rebuttal he stepped away from the table leaving Zach behind.
“No!” Zach loudly whispered. “Get back here.”
“Watch our stuff,” said Spencer with crazed eyes. “I got this.”
Zach shuffled back and forth, debating in his head whether he should run after Spencer or stay with everybody’s belongings he was chosen to watch.
Zach watched as Spencer shifted through the buffet line, casually glancing at the food underneath plastic barriers. Each step got him closer to his target.
Then Zach’s eyes grew wider. In the line just ahead of Miguel and Clare was another familiar face. It was Zach and Miguel’s boss, Mr. Howell. He was getting his lunch just as the others were.
Zach’s eyes zipped back toward Spencer. His roommate grabbed the biggest Buddha’s Hand fruit he could find on the salad cart. Zach shook his head, already afraid of the impending strike.
Satisfied with his find, Spencer stepped out of line and walked forward toward Miguel.
Desperate to stop what was about to happen, Zach spoke up.
“Line cutter!” he shouted and pointed at Spencer.
The crowd in the buffet line stopped. All eyes looked in the direction Zach pointed. Spencer looked back at his friend in disbelief and annoyance.
“Spencer, what are you doing?” Clare whispered. “You can’t cut in line.”
“I… wasn’t,” said Spencer. The Buddha’s Hand remained in his grip, fingers sticking out long and wide. “I just wanted to show you this fruit. It’s really cool.”
“Sorry, pal, no cutting,” said Miguel with a smile. Several people in the restaurant cheered Miguel’s sentiment. They were not happy with Spencer.
“I wasn’t cutting,” said Spencer.
“No offense, man, but you’re cutting,” said Miguel. He put his hand on Spencer’s chest and gave him a little shove to encourage him to the end of the line.
“No,” said Spencer.
“Is there a problem here, Miguel?” asked Mr. Howell. He adjusted his pristine suit as he approached his employee and Spencer.
“No, sir,” said Miguel. “Buddy here thought he could cut in line. I told him that was unacceptable.”
“That’s not the only thing unacceptable,” said Spencer.
Zach rushed through the buffet line to catch up with Spencer and the others. Spencer was stepping forward to get in Miguel’s face.
“No, no, it’s fine,” said Zach. But his words were drowned out by the angry customers surrounding him, accusing him of being another cutter of the buffet line.
“I’m not cutting,” argued Zach.
“That’s what the other cutter said,” said a woman in the line.
“I just need to talk to them,” said Zach.
“Back of the line!” shouted another person.
“What’s the hold up?! I have to eat!”
Up ahead, Spencer confronted Miguel.
“I hear you ate my boy’s crumb cake,” said Spencer.
Miguel smirked, followed by rolling his eyes. “Why would I do that?”
“Because you’re a thief,” said Spencer. He got in close to Miguel and gave a little sniff. “I can smell it on your breath.”
“What is the meaning of all this?” Mr. Howell asked.
“It’s nothing,” Miguel laughed off. “Guy here is just messing around.”
“Sure!” said Spencer. Then he wound back his arm holding the Buddha’s Hand. But before he could release a slap across the face to Miguel, Zach stopped him.
“I got him!” shouted Zach.
“Hey!” Spencer yelled at his friend.
Zach ripped the Buddha’s Hand out of Spencer’s grip. “Is everybody okay?”
“Fine,” said Mr. Howell. “Do you know this man?”
“Nope,” said Zach.
“Come on, Clare,” said Miguel. “Let’s go find another table. Your friends are embarrassing me.”
Clare looked over at Spencer and Zach. She couldn’t understand what was going on with the both of them. “What is going on?”
“He stole Zach’s crumb cake,” said Spencer.
“No, I didn’t,” said Miguel.
“Yes, you did!” shouted Zach. “Right from the fridge!”
“Whatever,” said Miguel. “I’m not going to listen to this. Come on, Clare. At least you’re normal. You need to ditch these guys.”
“Wait, did you eat his crumb cake?” Clare asked.
“No,” said Miguel.
“Yes, you did,” said Zach.
He thrust his arm out for emphasis forgetting he still had a hold of the Buddha’s Hand fruit.
At least, he did have a hold of it.
The Buddha’s Hand flew out of Zach’s grip and soared across the buffet line toward Miguel. Miguel with quick reflexes leaned back and dodged the drive by fruiting.
Leaving another victim in the fruit’s path.
The Buddha’s Hand hit Mr. Howell square on the cheek. The slap left finger marks across the boss’s face.
Zach froze in fear.
Mr. Howell glared at his employee. Possibly former employee.
But Miguel side-stepped back into Zach’s line of sight. He huffed several breaths of air.
“Food fight!” Spencer yelled.
Then Spencer grabbed the closest piece of food he could find, which happened to be a turkey leg. He was successful this time in his attack. Used as a club, the turkey leg struck Miguel across the face.
This action cascaded down the buffet line. Frustrated customers eager to grab food were overcome with rage and immediately joined in the proposed food fight.
Chickens of all worlds, mashed potatoes, rolls, turkey legs, fruits, vegetables, and more flew through the air hitting any person indiscriminately.
Zach and Spencer kneeled low to the ground. Crumbs covered their backsides as the fight escalated to the dessert table.
“What did you do?” Zach yelled over the commotion.
“Now’s your chance!” Spencer yelled. “Make him return that crumb cake!”
Zach looked up at Miguel. Pieces of lettuce clung to his collar. His eyes were locked on to Zach.
Zach nodded his head. He had to make Miguel pay for stealing his food. Zach balled his hand into a fist.
Miguel stormed forward with a tray of nachos in hand.
Zach got to his feet. He charged forward toward Miguel.
But before he could reach his target a hand grabbed ahold of Zach’s collar.
Zach shot backward, forced to regain his balance from lost momentum.
Miguel did the same. A second hand was holding back Zach’s nemesis as well.
“Both of you,” said Mr. Howell with his two employees firmly in his iron grip, and a red slap mark on his face. “To the HR Office. Immediately.”