216: Growing Appetites

on May 14, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie Is Indecent In Public

“Hey,” I said, pointing at the bookstore again. One end of the building had big windows, with tables and chairs visible inside. “Look, they’ve got a cafe. We could go browse a bit and eat there.”

“I… I thought we were going to the buffet,” Two said. Her hand was already on the door. She had to step aside as a group of businessmen in suits came out.

“Baby, I think Two would maybe really like to eat here,” Amaranth said.

“But you said I could pick where we ate,” I said. “I didn’t think the bookstore was a choice.”

“Well, if you hadn’t had such a wild night last night we could have got going earlier and had breakfast there. Anyway, you have the whole semester in front of you, and seven more after that,” Amaranth said. “Is it really going to matter in the long run if we don’t make it to the bookstore today?”

I looked at Two for support. Bad idea. She had such a pathetically hopeful look on her face, but there was a pre-emptive disappointment in her eyes. She was bracing herself to be overruled.

“Okay,” I said. “I hope the food here is good.”

“It is,” Two said.

“Don’t think I won’t take you into the restroom and spank you, little missy,” Amaranth said.

“What?” I said. “I said we could go here, didn’t I?”

Amaranth gave Two an incredibly sweet smile and said, “Go on inside and wait for us, okay, honey?”

“Okay,” Two said. She went inside.

Amaranth kept the smile in place until the heavy glass door had swung shut behind Two, then rounded on me, her eyes flashing behind her thick glasses.

“What?” I said, throwing up my hands and recoiling from her anger.

“Don’t you think Two wouldn’t have mentioned this place if she didn’t think you’d like it?” she asked.

“I think she mentioned it because she wanted to come here,” I said. “Anyway, what’s the big deal? I said…”

Amaranth put her finger on my mouth to shush me. Considering the amount of both foot and carriage traffic on the street, I turned pink immediately.

“Baby, I cut you a lot of slack because I know you don’t have a lot of experience dealing with people on a friendly basis,” Amaranth said. “But you’re not going to get a lot of points for eventually, grudgingly doing what you should be doing in the first place while complaining about it.”

I hadn’t been complaining, but I couldn’t tell her that at the moment.

“This could be a real treat for you, if you let it,” she continued. “I saw your face light up when Two was describing it. But if you go in there all petulant and pouty and thinking it’s a distant second, you’ll just pick at your food without even tasting it, in which case you can sit in the entryway while Two and I have lunch. After all, there’s not much point in paying for food if you’re not even going to get any enjoyment from it.” She lowered her hand. “So what’s it going to be?”

She had a point about enjoying eating, but I didn’t want to answer hastily, without all the information.

“If I don’t have lunch, can I go to the bookstore instead?”

Amaranth sighed and grabbed my hand.

“Oh, come on inside,” she said. “I am not rewarding you for being a brat.”

“Now I don’t even get a choice?” I said, giving the bookstore one last longing look over my shoulder.

Two was waiting patiently inside, just before the hostess’s podium. The restaurant’s interior was a bit dark and it smelled like tobacco.

“Three today?” the hostess asked as we stepped forward. Her eyes, which had been fixed uneasily on the symbols on Two’s forehead, were now latched onto Amaranth’s chest.

“Yes,” Amaranth said. “And could we please be seated away from the smoking section?”

“Certainly,” the hostess said. “Follow me.”

She marked something down, then grabbed three napkin-wrapped bundles of silverware and led us to a table in a back corner. It was about as far away from the smokers as we could have been, but I wasn’t sure that was the only reason we were put there.

“Go ahead and help yourselves,” she said. “Plates and glasses are on the buffet. Enjoy!”

“Well, she seemed pleasant enough,” Amaranth said. “And really interested in my rack, which is always nice. So many people think they have to look away, or something.” She hefted her breasts in her hands. “It’s like, ‘they’re not here for my own private enjoyment, people!'”

Amaranth made a beeline for the salad bar while I ambled my way among the buffet islands. It was a marked contrast to the dining hall, where cold fare and mixed rice and vegetable fare made up the majority of the selections. There were multiple stations with a wide variety of hot meat, including not just the grilled chicken breasts Two had mentioned but also breaded fried chicken and hot wings in sauce.

Something smelled really good, but it was hard to tell exactly what it was. Everything, probably.

On my first trip, I got two of the breasts, a breaded drumstick, and one of the wings to try. I wasn’t sure I trusted the look of the sauce. After a second’s hesitation, I took two more. They were small, after all. There were also some ribs that looked like they were in the same sauce. I avoided them completely. They were kind of gross-looking.

The pizza was on a slightly shorter island, with chicken nuggets and other things that were obviously meant to be kiddy fare. I had a moment of hesitation where I wondered if it was meant for children only, but Two had mentioned pizza and I doubted she would have if it wasn’t allowed. Anyway, there was no sign or anything saying so. The slices were pretty small, but that meant I had room for it on my plate. I stopped to get some lemonade and I was set, at least for a beginning.

“No fruit or vegetables?” Amaranth asked when we met back at the table.

“I’ll make another trip,” I said. I wasn’t crazy about vegetables, but Amaranth had some big strawberries with the tops already sliced off on the edge of her plate.

“You didn’t get any dessert,” Two noted. She had a slice of banana cream pie with a scoop of pudding beside it along with her neatly arranged plate with ribs, corn, mashed potatoes, and a bread roll.

“I’ll make another trip,” I said again. I’d been so excited by the entree choices that I’d missed the dessert area.

“Remember that it’s only one dessert per trip, but gelatin counts as a fruit and pudding is dairy,” she said.

“Did your friend Hazel tell you that?” I asked, smiling.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I figured that out for myself.”

“Good for you, Two,” Amaranth said. “Just don’t make yourself sick, okay?”

“Okay.”

The sauce on the chicken wings was hotter than I expected, but with a nice tang to it. There was also an annoyingly small ratio of meat-to-bone. I didn’t think I’d get any more, but I finished what I’d taken with relish.

Amaranth snagged the arm of a passing busboy.

“Could we please have some more napkins?” she asked. “A nice big stack?”

The corner of her eye flashed my way. He followed the gaze and his eyes widened.

“Sure,” he said, hiding his mouth behind his sleeve as walked away, snickering.

“What?” I asked Amaranth.

“Nothing,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll get better, with practice.”

“What?” I repeated.

The busboy returned with a stack of paper napkins. Amaranth handed one to me.

“Wipe your face off, baby,” she said.

I wiped around my mouth. There was a good deal of sauce, but then, I’d just eaten the chicken wing. I looked up, and Amaranth mimed wiping in a circular motion around her entire lower face. I followed suit.

“And higher up your cheeks,” she said.

“Sorry,” I said, when I’d cleaned my face to her satisfaction.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You haven’t done this regularly since you were, what… nine? It’s normally not quite so bad, but some foods are just messier than others.”

The chicken breasts were boneless and skinless, nothing but meat and only lightly seasoned. They were tender and came apart really satisfyingly between my teeth.

“Mouth closed, baby,” Amaranth said.

“Sorry,” I said. It was so good, and since I wasn’t filling up, eating only made me want more. The tantalizing smell of… well, just plain food was overwhelming.

“Baby, don’t eat the bones,” Amaranth said when, without thinking, I picked up the drumstick and bit off the big round end completely. I hastily swallowed the mouthful of meat and bone without chewing it.

“Sorry,” I said, sheepishly. The appetizing aroma which lurked behind everything else seemed to have intensified. Two had just returned from her second trip to the buffet, with an even larger portion of the ribs.

“What are those, exactly?” I asked. “I mean, I know they’re ribs, but… what kind?”

“Pig’s ribs,” Two said. “They’re good.”

I pushed my plate, empty except for the wing bones and the end of the drumstick, to the edge of the table and got up to make my second run. This time I went straight to the ribs and loaded up my plate.

“Oh, Mother,” Amaranth said when I got back. “I hope you left some for everybody else.”

“They’ll put more out,” I said, realizing that I wasn’t sure if I had or not.

“Are you really going to eat just meat?” she asked.

“I can still make another trip,” I said. “Anyway, you said if I’m not going to enjoy it there’s no point in eating.”

“I did,” Amaranth agreed. She pushed the napkins closer to me.

I looked at Two to see how she handled the messy, unwieldy-looking ribs. She picked them up carefully with the tips of her fingers and nibbled daintily. I tried to scrape a bunch of the sauce off with the side of my fork, and then followed her suit. The daintiness lasted until I got the first taste of the flavorful meat beneath the tangy sauce.

“Mack, you aren’t supposed to eat the bones,” Two mewled. I ignored her. The bones might have been the best part. Crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and dripping with flavor.

“Mack, baby, maybe take it a little easier,” Amaranth said nervously as I moved on to the second rack, but she didn’t push it. A short while later… it seemed like moments, she said, “Can we help you?” and something in her tone made me look up from my half-finished plate.

“Excuse me, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave the restaurant,” the hostess said. She held out a sheaf of napkins, which Amaranth quietly took. “There’s no need to pay. It’s on us.”

“What?” I asked. “We’re just eating. That’s what a restaurant’s for, isn’t it?”

“That’s right!” Two said.

“I’m very sorry, but you’re disturbing our other guests, and well, we do reserve the right to decline service to anybody,” the hostess said.

“That’s right!” Two said.

“It’s fine, really,” Amaranth said. “We’ve all had a good meal anyway.”

“I haven’t!” I said. “I just started.” I gestured at my plate. “What are you going to do, put these back in the bucket?”

“You can take them with you,” the hostess said. “We’ll get you a box on the way to the door.”

“I’m not…”

“Come on, baby,” Amaranth said quietly. “This isn’t the dining hall.”

“But…”

“Come on,” she said.

When I didn’t move, Amaranth pushed me towards the end of the bench. I grabbed my plate. Two was staring forlornly at her uneaten slice of cake, and Amaranth grabbed that. We walked in front of the hostess, who moved us briskly in the direction of the exit, slowing only briefly to grab two to-go boxes, which she emptied the plates we’d snagged into without stopping. Amaranth took the boxes from her, and then they were gone.

“Thank you for choosing the Ancient Empire Buffet,” the hostess said, once she’d shown us out. “But, please, don’t come…”

“Oh, don’t worry, we won’t be coming back,” Amaranth said. The usual sunny, cheery note in her voice was gone, and I had to admit that to my ear at least, the contrast this presented seemed more devastatingly effective than actual rudeness would have been. It seemed to leave the hostess speechless, anyway. She disappeared back inside without another word.

“I can’t believe you just let that go without a fight,” I said as Amaranth cleaned my face and shirt.

“Baby, you can’t go around chomping on bones in public like that,” Amaranth said. “You weren’t even discreet. People were giving us some ugly looks. Anyway, I think you have something to say to Two.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. I looked at Two, who was looking longingly at the now-forbidden eatery. “Oh, shit… I’m sorry, Two.”

“I like that restaurant,” Two said. “I do not like being kicked out from it and told to not come back.”

“It’s a chain,” Amaranth said. “Maybe there’s another one in town? If not, well, it’s an excuse to shop around and try new places, right?” She sighed. “Well, we might as well go to the bookstore… I was going to say skip it after the way you acted before, but I can hardly punish you now.”

“I-I-I think you should!” Two said. “I don’t think Mack should get to go to a bookstore after getting us kicked out of the buffet!”

“Two, Mack didn’t mean to,” Amaranth said.

“If you had eaten like a person I could have had another piece of pie,” Two said, pointing her finger at me in a wild exaggeration of accusation. It would have been funny if she hadn’t been so honestly angry.

“I bet they’ll have some kind of pie in the bookstore cafe,” Amaranth said. She looked frightened. Her smile was showing way too much of her teeth. “Or maybe cheesecake. How would you like that, Twoey? A nice, big slice of cheesecake.”

“I’m sorry, Two,” I said, near tears.

“Well, I’m angry!” Two shouted so loud her voice squeaked and cracked, stomping her foot in a completely unnecessary act of emphasis. As usual, having decided to show an emotion, she showed no restraint. “And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it!” she cried.

“When your friends tell you they’re sorry, you’re supposed to forgive them,” Amaranth said. “That’s what friends are for.”

I think she was just repeating the platitude, but of course, that was probably exactly what Two needed to hear, under the circumstances. She stood there, breath puffing in and out hard through her nose, for several seconds, before she said, “Okay.” She added, a little confused, “I’m still angry.”

“That’s fine, too,” Amaranth said. “You can’t turn your feelings on and off like the lights… but honey, you won’t be angry forever. That’s why it’s a good idea to forgive people, instead of doing something hasty. Come on,” she said, reaching for my hand, which I gave her. To my surprise, she put in Two’s. “Mack will buy you a piece of cheesecake, or whatever they have.”

“Okay,” Two said. She smelled like the sauce that had been on the ribs, and to an extent like the ribs themselves. I stood as far away from her as I could without seeming like I was pulling away. “But she doesn’t get any.”

“Don’t push things, Two,” Amaranth said. “She can get a slice, too, if she wants.”

“That’s okay,” I said. My stomach was starting to contract, twisting itself in a knot around all the food I’d shoveled into it. “I’ve kind of lost my appetite.”


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15 Responses to “216: Growing Appetites”

  1. pedestrian says:

    So who wants to be reminded that they are not always at the top of the food chain?

    Current score: 4
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I love Two, but she acts spoiled sometimes. I actually took great pleasure when Ian told her to shut up–and I hate Ian.

    Current score: 2
  3. MackSffrs says:

    I think… she needs to be put on a no-red-meat diet… now.

    Current score: 0
    • tordirycgoyust says:

      Mack’s right though– the bones are the best part. In fact I’m working on a pork rib right now.

      Note: I have pica, and something delicious, nutritious, and long lasting to gnaw on is a godsend. That the best source is from other delicious, nutritious food is sheer awesome.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        My feeling was always that since eating food at all is unnecessary for Mackenzie, she should only eat what she wants too. And since she suffers no ill effect from eating whatever she wants, she should go ahead and eat whatever she wants.

        Okay sure, eating the bones in public is probably a bad idea. But it general there isn’t any reason why she can’t eat bones privately (or try some sound dampening magic), and lots of meat. She doesn’t need to have a balanced diet, so if she eats meat and candy for every meal… so what?

        Also, people keep commenting on the amount of desert Two eats. However, as a golem, I doubt it actually matters much more for her than it does Mackenzie. I don’t think she can gain wait, so eating “unhealthy” foods shouldn’t really be an issue.

        Current score: 3
    • Athena says:

      A no red meat diet wouldn’t do a damned thing… I think you mean a no *white* meat diet. After all, pig and human are both white meat, not red.

      Current score: 2
  4. Maesenko says:

    Oh, the joys of possessing an otherworldly hunger/appetite…

    Current score: 0
  5. Arkeus says:

    Spoiled Mack is spoiled. Definitely need to be put on no-meat diet. Too bad she can’t take Two seriously, and Amy is such an enabler.

    Current score: 1
    • Arakano says:

      What? Which series have you been reading? Mack is one of the few persons who DOES take Two seriously! I am not sure about Amy all the time, but Mack is seriously concerned about Two, and has been since they met. Mack is dense about the effects of her actions and has little self-control, but did you fail to notice how Mack is close to tears here when she realised she really made Two sad and angry?

      Also, calling a person who has spent the first years of her childhood in what seems to be rather poor financial circumstances, followed by about a decade of living with an abusive, austere religious fanatic that treated her like a monster and taught her to hate herself SPOILED is… I don’t know what it is, but it’s neither accurate nor nice. I know I should not take stories and comments on stories so serious, but I cannot always help it. Mack is seriously lacking in social behaviour, but she is not spoiled. Seriously.

      Current score: 24
      • Pamela says:

        I wish I could like your reply about fifty times.

        Current score: 2
      • raylu says:

        Mack takes Two’s emotions seriously, but not her suggestions. On numerous occasions Two has been completely right about something objective and Mack has dismissed it out-of-hand. If Two told Mack to restrain herself it would go nowhere.

        Spoiled is spoiled. Nobody is born inherently spoiled – it’s a result of their upbringing. Saying that someone can’t help acting spoiled because of their history makes them not spoiled is extremely contradictory. Everyone that is spoiled ended up that way for a reason but pointing out the reason doesn’t make them not spoiled. And no, it’s not nice, but it is very accurate.

        Current score: 2
        • sam says:

          Raylu,

          I would, perchance, rephrase your earlier statement and declare Mackenzie to be un-trained. Despite the claims of Messr. Rousseau, humans are NOT inherently good, and all that is bad does not come from outside influences.

          We are all influenced by our surroundings, both good and evil, but it is significantly easier to pick up bad habits than good ones. Bad ones come naturally, the good ones we usually have to fight for. Mackenzie lacks restraint, wisdom, and social graces. None of these are inherent to any of us. They come from training, experience, and pain – both physical and emotional. It can be the random pain of learning not to put one’s hand on a hot stove, or guided pain such as that invoked by a governing authority in restraint of actions violating law. EG ‘better to be taught not to play in the road by training, rather than from the experience of getting hit by a truck.’ Education and intent are significant contributing factors in the variation between the two.

          In this sense, Mackenzie is not spoiled, per se, but very seriously and dangerously untrained.

          Sam

          Current score: 6
  6. cadnawes says:

    Raylu, I think you are confusing the term spoiled with the term bratty. To be spoiled is to be given everything you wan. You will likely, if you are not made to ever work for or want for anything, be unable to relate to people properly. Mack doesn’t relate to people properly, but its not due to having been spoiled. Its due to having been abused and emotionally neglected.

    Sooni is spoiled. Mack isn’t, but neither one of them would win any awards for charm at this point. Good thing they’re not bardic students- their CH stat is awful. 😉

    Current score: 3
  7. Jechtael says:

    Mmmmm, pork bones… Better than beef bones, and the ribs are soft enough to bite through when they’ve been roasted.

    I’m wondering how Mackenzie could get wing sauce from a single wing all the way up to the tops of her cheeks when she doesn’t have to pick the meat from the chicken bones. Aren’t they bite-sized?

    Poor Two. She’s being a brat, but hey, she’s finally being a brat about something other than people not following rules. I think Amaranth should have asked if Two could return on future days without them, but to my memory I don’t have any experience being kicked out of restaurants (the only person who’s ever told me off for biting the marrow from bones is my mum, and she’s NOT a reliable source on what is and is not socially unacceptable).

    Edit:
    Oh, right, and Amaranth shouldn’t have let the group into the bookstore. As much as I LOVE bookstores, that’s training Mackenzie that she can get away with things, and there should be plenty of places where they can get apology pie for Two.

    Current score: 1
  8. Anon says:

    It’s okay, Two, your little sister is supposed to be a horrible embarrassment whenever you’re in public together and sometimes get you in trouble. That’s one of the things they’re for.

    Current score: 2