Meal Time

by Danny Zawacki

A food court filled with freshmen,

The racks of stainless steel pots and pans stand taller than a cold iron mountain.

Mystery abounds: the lines grow and shrink at random. Are the cookies cooked today?

Grabbing a warm, wet tray, I begin my journey.

I glance at the sandwich bar full of white meats and orange cheeses;

Coasties frenzy over the green hummus and the not freshly baked croissants.

Chick peas smashed into a paste, how good could it taste?

Hummus actually does taste pretty good, but not on this brisk day.

Possibly a pile of soggy fries for my mid-day meal;

Sitting beneath heat lamps for hours as employees drip sweat on them as their shift passes?

Disappointment overcomes me: the entire entree section is consumed by ‘Chicken O’s’ for the eighteen Wheeler Dealer.

Except, that is, for the pan of long grain jasmine white rice.

I weigh my options with a sad inevitability,

Lunch, as always, will suck.

I crane my neck, struggling to see the soup signs, my last glimmer of hope to save me from another chicken sandwich.

Pearly white cream of potato and the deep red of Alaskan Chili can be seen in the steaming pots

Mmmm, Alaskan chili.

I grab a bowl from the stack and fill it; it is hot to touch, leaving my hand red as I set it on my tray.

The ancient soda fountain fills my big purple cup with a sad syrupy pseudo-soda, tasting of old sugar in too much water.

I move a few paces for a checkout line, but which should I choose?

The modestly hot girl or strange large kid who might just undercharge?

If I choose one this week, I know the other will be an option next week, same time same place.


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