The Acara Burger...
"Chia McChia Joyful Meal, with a large Neocola
and cheese. And Fluffy here will have the onion rings."
The blue Acara working at the front counter
punched a few buttons into his register until it spat open with a ding and a
clink. The register was filled to the brim with stacks of tens, twenties, and
even one hundreds, not to mention barrels upon barrels of change. He smacked
flies away from his slightly zitty face and wiped his nose off with a sickening
slurping noise before handing Al's change back to him.
Whatever the Acara immensely disliked cleaning
up the ominous puddles of grease that spat from the fry maker and ringing up
orders for the droning, identical customers almost more than he hated putting
on his headgear at night. But hey, it was a living. It wasn't like he had to
eat any of the 'food' that he prepared. Al's burger, sitting on the griddle
and being manned by a crusty purple techo, was older and smellier than his braces
and much colder than the soda, but Whatever knew that, like all the customers,
he wouldn't be able to tell the difference under the thirteen layers of mind-controlling
mayo, ketchup, and mustard.
Al thanked the Acara before drumming his paw
against the counter and looking around at all the customers. A meerca cheerfully
nibbled on an unhealthy-looking cheeseburger nearby while two Zafara parents
desperately tried to keep their kids in their seats.
He sighed, leaning against the counter and
watching as all the kids burst out crying at once. His white lab coat dipped
into a puddle of unrecognizable grease on the counter, but he didn't seem to
notice as he watched in wonder.
"Families...sometimes I think I should start
one. But I have no time to court lady chias!! I'm already married to lupology,
and my researches are the children we've had! Isn't that right Fluffy?"
Fluffy, Al's blue cobrall, rolled his eyes and slithered a little bit farther
away as he turned up the volume on his headphones. Better to listen to his new
Sticks and Stones album than to the ramblings of his eccentric owner.
Suddenly, Al's cellphone began to ring from
his lab coat pocket.
He jerked alert, his paws immediately searching
through his baggy white lab coat to find and respond to the ringing menace.
"Eh!! Where's that lousy cellphone..."
Pens, papers, notepads, tapes, spoons, knives,
darts, dice, and even a Snowbunny were pulled from his pockets as he searched
for the source of the musical ringing (the Snowbunny bit Al quite a few times
before hopping out the door). After sorting through his spare glasses in the
inner lining of his collar, he finally produced a small blue cellphone, popping
it open and putting it up to his ear.
"Is this being the Alexander Timothy Chia?"
"Stenchpaw? Is that you?"
"Ah! Bonjour, Alexis! I know of this Stenchpaw,
but I am in no way related to him! My name is Soupaw Poulain, and I own zee
'Shack of Soups' down the road a ways. Perhaps you have been being heard of
Al frowned, pulling his elbow out of the puddle
of grease and leaning against the cheerily painted vomit-yellow walls with the
"Sorry, but I haven't. I do all my eating
at the Acara Burger."
Al jerked the cellphone from his ear, his
other arm jerking and slipping. With a yell, he stumbled onto the sticky floor.
Al moaned in disgust as he peeled the sleeves of his lab coat off the floor,
watching the sticky goo cling to his arms. Fluffy nodded in sympathy, gesturing
as he tried yanking his tail off the floor with unsuccessful results. After
a little effort, Al finally peeled himself off the floor, taking off his grease-covered
lab coat to reveal a red sweater underneath. He dropped it on a nearby chair,
raising the cellphone back to his ear as he owlishly looked around the now blurry
"Beg your pardon, sir?"
"Oh, eh, sorry Alexander, I am just being
getting a little upset at the mention of that particular eating establosh, er,
establee, eh, esta-bleesh-ment. Please excuse my poor English as well."
"I don't want to be rude, but can I ask exactly
who you are and why you're calling me? My cobrall and me are trying to get a
meal here...Fluffy? Is that you? Gah, I need some tape..."
"Hiss?" Fluffy looked up to see his owner
talking to the cash register. That was the final straw. He yanked his body off
the sticky floor and slithered away, unable to turn up the volume any more.
"Ah! Cobrall, you say? That is being the perfect!
Magnificent! Now I can be being fin...Uh...I am being liking the cobralls, yes!
Soupaw chuckled nervously from the other end
of the phone line, his chubby paw sorting through his massive cookbook until
falling upon the C section and finally open onto Chia Dumplings. His eyes scanned
the pages, putting the little details into his head as he held the phone to
his ear. Even he couldn't help cringing slightly upon coming across the graphic
pages showing how to dice the chia in the most taste-effective manner.
"Listen, you have been being...er...just won
the first prize in our marvelous sweepstakes! A free meal, courtesy being of
me, Master Chef here at the Shack of Soup! In order to claim your prize, simply
be being coming down to my shack! It cannot be too far from the restaurant you
are at now! Just a short walk! Please be being coming and claiming your free
Al's teeth shone in a brilliant chia smile.
"Ooooh! Thanks much, Mr. Poulain! I'll be
over right away!"
With all the excitement, Al couldn't help
but sit down. And he did. An unpleasant squelch announced that he had just sat
in the grease-immersed coat. Al sighed, standing up with his lab gear still
sticking to his bottom.
"Just let me get home and change for the occasion.
Al turned off the cellphone and stuck it to
the back of his greasy shirt, where it stayed like a magnet superglued onto
another and then banded with extra thick duct tape (Kiddies, avoid fast food).
He squelched over to the counter, where Whatever had his meal waiting for him.
"Hey, Whatever! You'll never guess what I
won! A free meal from the Soup Shack down the road! Isn't that nifty?! I guess
you can just give that order to the next needy person who hops on in! Well,
I guess I'll see you later then!"
Whatever looked thoroughly unenthusiastic
as the cheerful chia skipped out the door, the cobrall sticky-slithering behind
him. As it slammed shut with a light bang, he shoved Al's order aside, staring
sullenly at the floor. A customer lost.
Al walked through the glass door of Soupaw's
Shack, his eyes lighting up immediately. Although the restaurant looked slightly
bedraggled, it was obvious the owner took good care of it, and it was obvious
that it was as far from a shack as a raven was to a writing desk. Beautiful
checkered tablecloths covered each tidy table, and slightly aged and worn but
marvelous polished bamboo chairs sat next to each one, along with a scented
candle and a vase with a wilting flower in the center. The walls, while slightly
stained, were covered with marvelously designed pale golden wallpaper, and the
most delicious aromas wafted from behind what must have been the kitchen doors.
He wiped off his polished, special-occasion
glasses and a fresh lab coat (he had eighteen in his closet), taking a seat
as Fluffy slithered up into the opposite chair. The cobrall had abandoned his
headphones and MP3 player for the joys of a small handheld game version of Neoquest
that he received on Christmas. Al sighed as Fluffy slapped it onto the table,
punching the large buttons with his face for lack of limbs.
"Gee, Fluffy, I should really get you something
to do that doesn't kill brain cells."
Fluffy shrugged absentmindedly, slamming a
large red button down so hard that his nose went flat for a moment, until popping
back out like an inflating balloon. Al made a mental note to get Fluffy a nice
Stephen Kyrii novel before looking up at the lupe coming towards them from the
other side of the room.
The obese purple lupe was wearing a clean
white apron and chef's hat, as well as a toothy grin. His moustache-like whiskers
were curled up and neatly trimmed, and his sleek purple fur was combed to perfection.
Although he was large, he swaggered through the room and around the tables with
all indications of grace and class a waiter should have as he carried a small
basket full of bread in one paw and menus in the other.
"Bonjour, my friend! You have been being arriving
just in time, no?"
He set the small wicker basket onto the table,
pulling back the cloth to reveal delicious looking slices of bread, covered
with melted butter and cheese and steaming with an irresistible flavor that
tickled both Al and Fluffy's trembling taste buds.
Al was impressed, and his expression showed
it. He nearly drooled as he carefully picked up a piece, nibbling it carefully.
"Wow, that's good toast!"
Fluffy's rapidly bruising nose finally turned
from his game to look at the bread, his own eyes suddenly getting a glazed expression
as he stretched to the middle of the table and got a piece of his own.
Soupaw grinned, wiping his hands off on his
apron and setting down two menus as they ate through the bread basket. "I'm
certain that you will be being wanting to order now, yes?"
The lupologist fixed his slightly askew glasses,
pausing from the nectarous bread to peer at the huge menu from over the tip
of his glasses. It was filled with delicious-looking photos of all kinds of
foods, and listings of surprisingly cheap prices. Professional photos showed
lobsters, fish, spaghetti, steak, salads, sausages, eggs, asparagus, apricots,
oranges, apples, bananas, pineapples (to Al's disgust), parogi, and in probably
the biggest amount of all, soups.
He scanned through the photos, his mind visualizing
each exotic food sitting on the table before him. He saw the lobster salad,
with the crepes on a separate plate along with the sausage and the huge variety
of breads, not to mention dozens of shrimp lined up to be dipped into tartar
sauce and crammed into the mouth like popcorn. Mountains of potatoes with gravy
poured all over them, pizza dripping hot, melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella cheese
and fresh vegetable toppings from its flaky, tender crust. Sushi, made with
the finest imported fish and rice, uncooked to perfection and smelling like
a seafood wonderland.
But one image came into Al's mind that topped
all of those wonderful things, something that could make any decent Neopet quiver
in anticipation and ecstasy. He could have ordered the entire menu if he wanted,
but he was a light, unpicky eater who would just be happy with the one dish
on his mind.
"Hm...do you have any haggis?"
Soupaw looked startled, nearly dropping the
glass of water he was holding in his free paw. "Pardon?"
"Haggis...I have a slight penchant for it
after the exotic Lupe Tribe of Munkawee Aloha prepared it for me. Those Mystery
Island lupes sure know how to cook a meal! I think it was called Hunkalunka
Haggis Stew, a very spicy dish with loads of mouthwatering haggis boiled to
perfection. It's kind of like intestines and marinara sauce, but MUCH better.
Could you make it?"
The waiter cringed. No pet was overtly found
of the idea of preparing intestines and marinara sauce, much less ANY form of
intestine dish, but he lived to serve, and serve he must. "Erhm...I'll see what
I can be being preparing, sir...And what is being for the cobrall?"
"Hiss!" Fluffy gestured to the lobster salad
photo in his menu, switching his neoquest game back on and diving back in with
"Thank you so much!" Al beamed, handing back
the menus. "I can't wait to taste it!"
"You're welcome!" Soupaw sighed, waddling
into the kitchen and tossing the menus aside as he started loading pots and
pans onto his stove. Fire spurted from underneath his largest pot as he began
to pour cups of water into it.
"And he's such a nice customer, too...Ah,
He snatched a bundle of bottles off his huge
spice rack and emptied them into the rapidly boiling water, making sure not
to add too much garlic or too little salt. The water fizzled and boiled until
turning a monstrous red, the perfect color to match the forbidden haggis about
to be tossed in.
Soupaw cringed as he tossed bits of the unpleasant
meat into the simmering pot, where they landed with little splashes and glooping
noises. No food-maker was overly fond of creating Hunkalunka Haggis, and fewer
had even heard of it before. While being quite experienced in that area, he
still had to figure most of the stuff to add and change from his cookbook, which
didn't seem to go into the dish in much detail and was said to have left a lot
of things out.
He peered around the kitchen nervously, as
if searching for spies.
"Hm...Monsieur Chia wants his Haggis spicy,
Monsieur Chia shall have his haggis spicy!"
Soupaw sang to himself softly, adding more
and more ingredients to the Haggis stew. Carrots, tomatoes, onions, several
kinds of broth, and finally, a few chopped-up chives to add a finishing touch.
As he continued making the dish, a very strong odor began to emanate around
his kitchen. He held his handkerchief to his nose, stepping back from the stove
to open his window a crack.
"SACRE BLEAU!! I am seriously being needing
air! This stuff doesn't need to be being having poison in it to kill him...but
what the heck!"
With another paranoid glance, he reached under
his counter to produce a freshly bought bottle of Kiko-Brand Toxic Toilet Scrubber.
Meanwhile, Fluffy sniffed lazily, his nose
itching horribly. The batteries on his neoquest were dying, and as he turned
it off he couldn't help but release a loud, angry sneeze. Al looked up from
the book he had brought along (Ludwig Von Lupe), scowling.
"Fluffy, what did I warn you about? Too many
video games. I supposed you'll have to go into the kitchen and ask for some
napkins to wipe your nose with."
Fluffy nodded, cursing to himself in a hissed
voice as he descended the legs of his chair and slithered across the carpet.
He couldn't help but notice it was much nicer than the floor of the Acara Burger,
not to mention cleaner. A cobrall could get used to this environment.
As he reached the swinging kitchen doors and
shoved them open, he saw Soupaw emptying a bottle of toilet cleaning fluid into
the pot, still singing softly to himself. His face was drained as he tapped
it twice to make sure every drop was out before hastily hurling it into the
trash and washing his hands in the nearby sink.
"Oh, what am I doing, what am I doing..."
he wailed, his left paw nervously scratching his stomach while his right stirred
the cleanser into the already disgusting soup.
Fluffy held back a scream as he whirled around,
sidewinding across the room until pouncing onto the top of the table, bowling
over the vase of flowers and snuffing the candle. Al looked up from his book
again, his bewildered eyes blinking behind the rims of his spectacles and giving
him a curious kind of look.
"Eh? What is it, Fluffy? You shouldn't be
up on the table! And where's that tissue? You're nose is starting to run."
Fluffy gestured to the kitchen, hissing in
such a confused manner that Al couldn't understand him. He raised an eyebrow,
dog-earing the book to mark his place and setting it aside before lightly picking
up Fluffy and setting him into the seat on the other side of the table.
"Stop it, Fluffy! Try to calm down a little
bit and then tell me-"
Al paused, looking up. The concerned face
immediately lit up as the kitchen doors swung to reveal what he had been waiting
To be continued...