Episode 8: If You See The Burger On The Road, Eat It

[SCENE I. NICHOLAS’s house. He is reading the latest copy of the Portland Examiner in growing dread. Eventually he tosses the paper on the table and leans back on the couch, staring blankly at the wall. At about this point, KELLY comes in from outside, holding a copy of the newspaper.]

KELLY: How’s my favorite brother?

NICHOLAS: Not good.

KELLY: That’s a shame. Hey, did you see this article Melissa wrote about you? (She hands him the same paper he just threw down.)

NICHOLAS: That’s why I’m not good, Kelly.

KELLY: I thought there’s no such thing as bad press?

NICHOLAS: My career is over. (He tosses the newspaper on top of the other newspaper.) I just wanted to do some good.

KELLY: Aw, cheer up! You’ve still got the girlfriend who helped ruin your career by sending the Devil packing and bringing down his puppet regime over Portland.

NICHOLAS: Pretty sure I can legally have you arrested for trespassing, since you don’t actually live here anymore.

KELLY: Fine. I was going to invite you to the Zenburger grand opening today, but I guess you aren’t feeling in the mood for a delicious greasy Buddhist Burger.

NICHOLAS: Just go away.

(KELLY departs. NICHOLAS goes back to staring blankly at the wall.)

[SCENE II. Outside the new Zenburger. It’s a fairly typical-looking burger shack, featuring an enormously fat statue of the Buddha. A decent-sized crowd has gathered outside, including KELLY and CELESTE (now sporting blue hair, but still just as gothy as ever). A cheer goes up as a man who looks just like the Buddha statue arrives in a car and waves.]

BUDDHA: People of Portland! I know you aren’t here to listen to a fat man talk, so I’ll be brief. I have found the Buddha on the road, and he told me the secret to happiness. That secret, my friends, is Zenburger. You are about to enjoy a food so fantastic you’ll never need anything else in your life. (He wields some giant ceremonial scissors and cuts the ribbon keeping people out. They begin to file inside.) Half off today if you order fries!

KELLY: This is going to be so fucking good.

CELESTE: Where did you even hear about this?

KELLY: Well, the chain originated in San Francisco, Oregon. I have an internet friend there. He told me their burgers are life-changing.

CELESTE: I’ve yet to taste any food that was actually life-changing.

KELLY: We’ll see.

(They reach the front of the line. A very zen-looking cashier takes their order.)

CASHIER: What can I do for you?

KELLY: A Buddha Burger with fries, please! And whatever she’s having.

CELESTE: I’ll just have a small Coke.

CASHIER: Okay. That’ll be six fifty.

(KELLY pays, and they stand aside to wait for the burger to arrive.)

KELLY: You aren’t eating?

CELESTE: I just ate. I know, I know, I’m a disgrace to America.

KELLY: You’re a disgrace to the Buddha nature!

CELESTE: Look, I’m pretty sure if you see the Buddha on the road, you’re supposed to kill him. Not ask him his recipe for a delicious burger.

KELLY: But look at these employees! They’re at peace with everything. Have you ever seen a more zen-looking staff at a restaurant when it’s slammed like this?

CELESTE: No. (She looks around.) That’s kind of weird, actually.

KELLY: They could just be really stoned.

(An employee gives KELLY her food. CELESTE fills up her drink at the soda fountain, and they find a seat in the corner. KELLY begins eating her burger as they talk.)

CELESTE: Okay, I’ll grant you they could be stoned. But all of them?

KELLY: Maybe they’re really tight-knit?

CELESTE: This feels wrong.

KELLY: Wrong, like, “I used to be the queen of the faeries and I know what wrong looks like” or wrong like “I’m a goth who is uncomfortable seeing people happy?”

CELESTE: The former, I think.

KELLY: (Frowning.) Did being the queen of the faeries even give you special powers like that? (She begins eating some fries.)

CELESTE: No. Mostly it involved drinking a lot of faerie wine and partying a lot. Like, a really absurd amount. It was a little tedious after a while, though I imagine it was a lot more fun than, say, Burning Man.

(KELLY nods absently and continues eating fries.)

CELESTE: But I’m just saying, I saw a lot of people on drugs and a lot of people who were the victim of some magical curse, and these don’t look like people who are on drugs. It just kind of feels off, you know?

KELLY: (Distantly.) You worry too much, Celeste.

CELESTE: I’m talking about mind control, Kelly. Doesn’t that bother you?

KELLY: Man, so long as they’re happy, does it matter?

CELESTE: Don’t the Brave New World implications worry you a little bit?

KELLY: You really need to chill out. Life is pretty cool. Why waste it being upset all the time?

(CELESTE looks around the restaurant. Everyone seems to have the same strangely peaceful demeanor as the staff.)

CELESTE: (Under her breath.) Okay, that is seriously fucked up.

KELLY: Exactly! Just let it happen.

CELESTE: Who can I call about this that isn’t useless? (She gets out her cell phone.) Let’s see. Melissa’s insane. Your brother’s useless. Sophie is . . . just no. Not Gavin . . . fuck. Quick, Kelly. Should I call Gavin’s friend Jeremy, or that Charlotte chick your brother is seeing?

KELLY: Oh, Charlotte’s so pretty.

CELESTE: . . . good enough. (She makes the call.) Charlotte Corday? Hi, this is, uh, Celeste Jones. (Beat.) We, uh, met at Kelly Hayes’s graduation party. (Beat.) I might have been introduced to you as Claire. (Beat.) I’m okay. Listen, I think Kelly Hayes is in trouble. (Beat.) And also the entire town of Portland. Look, you’re the only person I know who isn’t completely insane. Are you free? (Beat.) Great. I’ll be over as soon as I can. Oh, and tell people to stay away from Zenburger, all right? (Beat.) You too, Charlotte. See you. (She hangs up.) You’re coming with me, Kelly.

KELLY: Are we going to see Charlotte? That sounds fun.

CELESTE: Yes. She’s going to help us push a boulder up a hill like Sisyphus.

KELLY: It must be nice to have something to do all the time.

CELESTE: And we’re going to play a game where you don’t say anything until we get there, okay?

(KELLY mutely nods her head. CELESTE sighs and leads her out to the car, gets in, and drives off.)

(TBC.)

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