Fries sizzled on the grill. A menu board lit up with the words DOLLAR MENU caught Andre's eye, and amongst a line of hungry diners, Maria, Shakespeare, Andre, Henry, Diego and Winifred, waited and waited and waited.
"Ah, Henry," Andre said, turning around and smiling at Henry, who was standing behind Andre with Diego and Winifred, "We haven't all gone out to dinner together in such a long time."
"That is because you always wind up fighting with the chef," Henry said, "so it was a really great idea Shakespeare had to come to McDonalds."
Andre's nose scrunched, "Henry, I do not fight with the chefs, I merely suggest improvements in their work, after all, I am a fellow chef, Henry. Haven't I the right?"
"No," Diego breathed, "it is rude and boorish." Then she returned to staring at the picture of the cup of coffee on the menu board, and holding Winifred's hand.
"Ouch, Mother, not so tight."
Andre cleared his throat. "Anyway, that Dollar Menu looks mighty interesting."
Shakespeare snapped, "Aw, c'mon, cheapskate, splurge a little! How often do we all go out and have dinner with Henry?"
Andre grinned, "You were just dying to say that, weren't you, you leetle toad."
"Never mind," Andre sighed and then he cried out, "What are you getting, Henry?"
Henry scowled and said, "A headache."
"Now, Henry, don't you start too." Diego sighed and then she reached into her bag for a stick of gum. "God, where is my gum? Winifred, did you see my gum?"
"Nope," Winifred bowed her little head and said, when the husky man standing behind them pointed to the floor by Diego's white sneakers and said, "Isn't that a stick of gum lying on the floor by your shoe, ma'am?"
Then Diego turned around and said, "That is a sneaker not a shoe, mister."
"Whatever, isn't that a stick of gum?"
Diego and Winifred leaned over and scanned the floor, and then Winifred said, "But that is Juicy Fruit -- my mother uses Dentyne."
"Thank you, Winifred," Diego said, and then she and Winifrid stood, and Diego looked at the man and said, "My daughter is correct. That is Juicy Fruit."
"Eh, so what," the man said, slapping his thighs, "a stick of gum is a stick of gum."
"Are you suggesting I take a stick of gum from the filthy floor at McDonalds that isn't mine and put it in my mouth?"
"Well, why not, lady, it's wrapped, ain't it?"
That's when Andre tugged on Shakespeare's hand and whispered, "I just knew this was a lousy idea," before he turned toward the man and said, "Really sir, you can't be serious. We don't know where this gum has come from; where it has been. It could be spoiled, it could be poisoned!"
The man's eyes crossed. "Are you people nuts! It's a wrapped piece of Juicy Fruit."
Henry interjected and said to the man, "Please don't call my wife nuts, mister."
The man scratched his rather large belly and said, "Well if the screw fits," causing Diego to grab Winifred's hand tighter and say, "Let's just all turn around and ignore him, please, before we have a scene."
Henry patted Diego on the shoulder and said, "I'm afraid it's too late for that, Honey. Everyone is already staring at us."
Diego looked beyond Shakespeare and Andre and saw it was true: everyone ahead of them on the line had turned around and was staring at them, so Diego began staring back.
Then the husky man said, "What on earth is she doing?"
And Henry said, "She is staring back."
"Like I said, she's nuts!"
Henry's scowl turned into to a sneer. "LIKE I SAID, don't call my wife nuts."
A grin appeared on the man's lips and his eyes lit up. "What's the matter, bug-breath, did I touch a raw nerve?"
Andre turned around and grabbed Henry by the shoulder. The crowd began to gasp. A small child cried, "Fistfight! There's gonna be a fistfight right here in McDonalds!"
Quickly, Andre turned to the child and said, "Please, young man, there will be no fistfight in McDonalds!" Then he turned to Henry and continued, "Isn't that right, Henry?"
Shakespeare snapped, tugging on Andre's leg, "Why don't you butt out, big mouth, if Henry wants to protect his wife, let him."
Andre sighed, "Yes, Shakespeare, we can always count on you to keep the peace."
"And we can always count on you to open your big mouth!"
At that moment Diego turned to the crowd and said, "See, if I was still smoking cigarettes this never would have happened. I don't even like gum. I hate gum!" Then she spat on the floor.
A few members of the crowd began to chuckle while most just stared at Diego with puzzled faces.
The man reached into his pocket and said, "Well if that's all it takes! I understand, you're not crazy, you are just having nicotine fits. Here, have a Marlboro."
"Wow, a Marlboro?" Diego said while her eyes beamed.
She was reaching for the cigarette dangling from the man's hand, when Winifred scrunched her face and said, "No, you're wrong she is crazy. Please, mister, don't give my mother a cigarette."
That's when Henry shouted, waving his hands. "DON'T YOU DARE GIVE MY WIFE A CIGARETTE!"
The man stepped back and said, his hands shaking, "Gheez, bug-man, okay, relax," and he took the cigarette and put it back in his pocket.
Diego crossed her arms and hushed, "Well, thanks a lot, Henry."
Suddenly an eighteen-year-old boy wearing a McDonalds cap came barreling down past the line.
The boy looked at Henry and said, "Sir, as manager of this here McDonald's, I'm going to have to ask you and your associates to leave."
Andre, outraged, his nose, eyes and lips quivered. "Listen, young man! You may not know this but I am a great chef. How dare you ask me to leave this establishment?"
The boy turned to Andre and said, "Would you like me to call the cops?"
"You would do that?" Andre sheepishly asked.
"Yes," the boy said.
Andre turned to Henry and cried, "Henry, let's go -- the food sucks here anyway."
And the crowd stared as Henry, Diego, Winifred, Andre, Shakespeare, and some unknown large man walked out the door of the McDonalds on Delancey Street, and they sighed.
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