The Growler

Here’s my rough draft for today, Saturday 01.22.22.

I eat fast food maybe four times a year.  When I do, Burger King is my go-to place.  Yesterday I dropped in to pick up something for lunch on my way home.  The place was empty considering it was lunchtime.  I noticed that all of the tables were cordoned off except for one table closer to the front counter.  A boy sat there reading a magazine.

I ordered up my usual Whopper and fries, and took my socially-distanced place six feet from the seated boy, and six feet from a woman and her maybe three-year-old daughter who were waiting for their order.

As I stood there, I became aware of some kind of noise.  At first it sounded like a nearby periodic gas leak, very measured, regular, like a metronome, or a heart beating.  After the first few times I heard it, I scanned the area around and above me.  The sound kept coming, now seeming much more of a guttural utterance.

I noticed the woman looking back at me.  No, not me.  She was looking back at the seated boy behind me. The woman, apparently sensing my curiosity about where the sound might be coming from, nodded her head toward the boy.  Not quite knowing what to make of this, I again looked back at him just as the sound came once more.

The boy rolled his head slowly.  Then he made the sound again.  Wow, I thought, that is one severe case of gas.

After rolling his head almost rhythmically, he made the sound again, rolled his head again, the sound again.  All in a kind of slow motion, but consistent, with a beat to it.  This was some extraordinary case of gas.

The longer it went on, however, the more I came to surmise that no one has that much gas in him.

I saw that the woman’s daughter was growing restless.  She gripped her child’s hand, attempting to keep herself positioned between the boy and her daughter, shielding her.

Even masked, her mouth and nose not being able to play their part in her expression, I could tell by her eyes that she was frightened by the boy.

He too wore a mask, but it did nothing to dampen his methodical belch-like growling.  And each time he growled, he rolled his head, his glasses reflecting the overhead neon lights in odd fashion, a strange little light show to accompany this beating heart of the jungle, this lion boy waiting for what turned out to be a Whopper, large fries, and a drink.

He left his magazine and his bag on the table when his order number was called.

“I’m sitting there,” he announced to us, suspiciously eyeing me and the woman.

The woman nodded, actually said, “Okay,” as if the growling boy could hear her, already sashaying his way to the counter as though he were about to participate in a dance competition.

How oddly he walked.  With all the growling you’d think he might slink, or move in purposeful steps, the predator about to pounce upon his prey.

Again he waltzed back to his table, slid into his seat, then lowered his mask.  He appeared normal.  As he lifted a fry to his lips, he started up again, letting out another growl before biting into it, small sections torn off as he slowly fed the fry into his maw.

The woman gave me an alarmed look, the panic in her eyes making me feel a little uncomfy myself.

They called the woman’s number, and she practically ran her daughter to the counter.  Glancing back at me with pitying eyes, she raced through the doorway, and I was left alone with the growling boy.

I observed him unwrapping his Whopper, lifting it to his lips, and before he bit in, of course, he gave out his signature low growl and the head roll.

They called my number.  I went up to the counter, nodded backwards toward the growling boy.

“Do you hear that guy?” I asked the woman at the counter.

She looked over at him.  “What?” she said.

“Do you hear him growling?”

“Oh, that,” she said, as if all the customers are growlers.  “Yeah, you get used to it.”

“You mean he comes here a lot?”

“He’s our afternoon shift supervisor.”

I turned to observe him again.  Now I could see that he was clearly not a boy, although he was clearly growling between bites.  He appeared maybe mid- to late-twenties.

“Oh,” I said, “I see.  Is it Tourette Syndrome?”

She gave me a blank stare.  “What?”

I gave her a quick description.

“Ah, yeah, I don’t know.”

I nodded, picked up my package and headed for the door.

The growling shift supervisor stopped eating, stopped growling, and watched me carefully as I made my way to the exit.  I nodded a goodbye to him going out the door.  He growled, rolled his head, and went back to eating his Whopper.

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