“Why the hell do you want a fuzzy basketball?” I ask Lanyon as he throws money into the machine.
“It’s calling to me. I must have the fuzzy basketball.”
“You won’t get it, though. Because the goddamn claw machine is a trick. The feeble little grabber, the wobbly controls. It’s a scandal how poorly this game is constructed.”
Unfazed, Lanyon tries yet again. I’m forced to stand in the cold doorway of Denny’s at four in the morning while my idiot friend throws money away on a child’s toy. “You know, you could just buy one for half of what you’re spending to try to get it,” I say.
“Yes, but a fuzzy basketball won is twice as sweet as a fuzzy basketball bought.”
“Well, there’s no arguing with that logic.”
“Excelsior!” he shouts.
“Did you get it?”
“I got this inflatable pencil.” He hands it to me and I stick it under my arm.
“I thought the ball was calling to you?” I ask.
“The pencil was pretty loud as well.”
“Two of you?” The waitress seems about as happy to see us as I am to see a shit puzzle in an action game.
“No, there are twenty of us,” I mumble.
Her expression remains unchanged. “Two then?”
We nod. She drags us over to a booth by the never ending window that runs the length of the restaurant. A small breeze puffs out of it and makes my arm twitch.
“Pancakes,” Lanyon says in a deep, I’m a giant voice.
As I pick up the laminated list of Denny’s treats, my eyes catch sight of my own personal Silent Hill. “By the holy wet nipples of Horus.” I accidentally make eye contact and duck behind the menu. I never was good at camping.
“What is it? No pancake balls?” Lanyon asks in honest terror.
“I’m sure they have them.”
“Well, then all is right with the world. What can the problem be?”
“Katie,” I say.
“Her again? Forget about her. Why do you keep bringing her up?”
“She’s right over there.”
“No way.” Lanyon goes to turn in her direction, but I lunge across the table and yank his head back.
“Do not look. You’ll draw attention to us.”
“Yes. But a man wearing a goblin outfit choking a warg with a human face does not stand out. Relax. It’s no big deal,” he says.
“Are you crazy? It’s a horrible deal. She’s going to think we followed her out of the movie and then snuck around after her and tracked her into Denny’s and are now spying on her because I’m a creepy stalker lunatic who likes the taste of hair and terror.” I let my head fall to the table with a thunk.
“Well, that is basically what happened.”
“It is not. We had no idea she was at Denny’s. And I don’t know how I feel about the taste of hair. I assume I’m not a fan.”
“Listen,” Lanyon says, “lots of people go to Denny’s after a late movie. Look, this place is full of sad bastards with no place to go. Just like us. Just play it like we wanted to come here and talk about that hellacious shit farce of a movie.”
I must admit that’s a bit comforting. “That sounds normal. Not crazy or serial killer like at all. Good. Then let’s get some fucking pancake puppies up in this bitch.”
Of course, the waitress shows up next to me right as I say this. “How many?” she asks.
“How many do you want?” I ask Lanyon.
“Three is the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three.”
“We don’t sell them in three,” she says.
“Five is right out,” Lanyon yells in a ridiculous British accent. The waitress pauses. Her eyes betray a lifetime of dealing with overtired and overstimulated college kids nightly. “How about six?” Lanyon asks. “Is six okay?”
She nods. A series of questions that test the very mettle of my will follow, questions so irrelevant that they wouldn’t even make it into a James Cameron film. Eventually, after Lanyon and I earn our Master’s in Denny’s menu science, she leaves with our order. I steal a look back over to Katie. Hipster Seynar is dog fucking her leg with his hand.
“Maybe we should just leave?” I say.
“No. That will look even stranger. Besides,” Lanyon grabs my wrist with an iron manacle grip, “I’m not going anywhere without those goddamn pancake puppies.”