There were a thousand reasons for Steve not to head back to that dreadful, dreadful wasteland of a place that they called Madison, Wisconsin. The lack of decent restaurants could have headed the list, in his opinion, but there were not a lot of people who agreed with him on that. Madison's restaurants were fine if you liked the same thing packaged differently in each venue, he thought, but you can call a pierogi a ravioli or you can call it a wonton or a lousy stinking enchilada. So much for multiculturalism.
Steve thought about hollering “garcon” for the waiter, just like from the scene in “Pulp Fiction,” (he had always wanted to do that in a diner), but thought better of it and just flagged down the skinny, pimply kid with a wave of his hand – his damp, pale hand that seemed a lot older than when he had last looked at it – the last time, in fact, being in that dreadful, dreadful wasteland called Madison. He had been in a bookstore, skimming the yellowed, dog-eared pages of a volume on Freemasonry, and as he reached his hand over to turn a page or swat a fly or scratch an itch he looked at a pale, damp hand that seemed to belong to someone else – it seemed to no longer be part of Steve Custis – Steve Custis, that thirty-two year-old pharmaceuticals salesman who drank too much, ate too much fat in his diet and probably took in far too much high-fructose corn syrup. At least he took care of his bodily functions in a large, clean bathroom – a bathroom that would be the envy of much of the rest of the world...a bathroom with clean white porcelain and gleaming stainless steel. A bathroom with a large tub enclosure and a shower head that looked to be the size of a manhole cover. A bathroom sporting a toilet with all comfort features added – a regal place where the journey could be completed for that fatty diet and high-fructose corn syrup washed down with too much alcohol.
And Steve looked hard at that hand...he looked real hard at it, as though he were looking through it. He fantasized about becoming very small, very small indeed, shrinking down to the size of the little people on his “N” scale railroad. He would walk around on the surface of that damp, cold hand like a miniature astronaut, complete with a helmet and miniature air supply. He would traverse its surface, prodding the skin with his miniature scientific instruments and that little pokey prodding stick that he imagined a miniature astronaut might carry when exploring the skin of a gigantic, damp, pale hand.
“The Monte Cristo basket and a Coke, please,” he said to the skinny, pimply waiter who stared at him out of watery, glassy eyes. The hell if he was ever going to return to Madison. The hell if he was.