Bad Day at Jack-in-the-Box
Wendy had the following prompts to choose from:
Erika- Jack-in-the-Box gone bad
Cameron- Navy seals, firemen and beer
Jennifer- Black Diamonds
Amy- Biggest Mom Blunder
While I considered writing about what Navy Seals and Firemen really do when they aren’t in uniform I had to remind myself that this is PG-13 site. So I opted for Erika’s prompt this week.
A menacing growl broke the silence of the still morning as it called from the hollows of her empty stomach. Faith rubbed at her belly as if that would tame the ravenous beast within her. She had skipped dinner last night in exchange for a few extra hours of practice with the church prayer and praise band. After all, it was Sunday morning and she would be expected to lead her congregation for a half hour into a musical connection with God.
Faith typically was an early morning riser and enjoyed running on along the ocean near her Sunset Beach condo in Huntington Beach, California. The sounds of the waves, the salty sea breeze, the sand beneath her bare feet all tingled her senses contributing to an endorphin rush that no caffeinated drink could compare to. Today, however, she opted to sleep since she stumbled through the door the night before, exhausted from hours of singing.
Faith’s stomach moaned again.
“Okay, okay, I get it. Food is a must this morning.”
She pulled her long, blonde hair into a tight ponytail, brushed a little mascara on her lashes, and slipped on her sandals before walking out the door. The sun warmed her tan, freckled face and she blinked against its brightness. She pulled her Coach sunglasses from her purse and put them on before walking down the street to local Jack-in-the-Box.
The street was quiet, more than quiet than usual. In fact, other than the crashing of waves, the world seemed to have gone still. No cars, no people, not even a bird broke the silence.
Strange, Faith thought to herself. Most Sunday mornings the street was bustling with beach-goers, surfers, and enthusiastic fitness buffs either running, biking or skating along the boardwalk. Today though, everyone seemed to have disappeared.
A melodic boom thrummed just ahead of her. She followed the sound to the Jack-in-the-Box on the corner. The windows of the building were boarded up with wood and dark sheet hung inside the glass door. Music reverberated the entire building causing the window pane to vibrate in its frame. Faith looked around to see if anyone else seemed to find the condition of the fast food restaurant strange, but again realized that no one was around. Hesitantly, she knocked at the door.
The door swung open. A man well over six foot tall and 250 pounds stepped through the entryway. He wore dark sunglasses, a black leather vest and matching pants, and military boots. Oily, ebony hair framed his scarred and pocked face. Behind his food caked beard, yellow and broken teeth smiled ominously at her. The man took a pull from his cigarette and blew it into Faith’s face as he looked her up and down.
Faith had the urge to turn and run, but her feet felt like cement.
“What’s the password?” the man grumbled.
“Excuse me?” Faith asked.
The man inhaled from his cigarette again, blew the smoke toward the sky. “Lucky guess. Come on in.”
Faith considered declining, but her stomach pressed her forward. She decided she’d get her Breakfast Jack and coffee and leave.
Inside, the music boomed loudly in the smoky room. Neon lights flashed in sync with the beat. The room was filled with people, most of which Faith would never cross paths with. They looked like bikers, thugs, and scantily dressed women; nothing like her traditional Sunday crowd.
“Name’s Sloth,” the man yelled over the noise. “Who might you be, young lady?”
“Faith,” she said.
The man grimaced and shook his head. “Ain’t you suppos’d to be elsewhere? Pretty girls like you don’t hang in places like this.”
“I was hungry. I just wanted something to eat.”
“Oh!” the man nodded in understanding. “Well, then you needs to go see Gluttony. He’s the man at counter.” Sloth pointed over to the register where a short, portly man was handing out food.
“Thank you,” Faith said eager to get her food and go.
She made her way to the counter trying not to bump into the group of dancers. Just as she was within earshot, a man stepped in front of her. His perfect white teeth, charcoal eyes, and blemishless brown skin gave him the appearance of someone important. He was the most handsome man she had seen and felt drawn to him.
“You are the most beautiful little thing my eyes have come across all day,” the man said.
Faith blushed. “Thank you.”
The man stepped toward her, placed one hand on her waist and with the other brushed her bangs from her eyes. Faith’s skin tingled and her heart raced. She had the sensation of wanting to kiss him, needing to kiss him.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?”
The man shivered slightly, before regaining his composure. “How about you and I find ourselves some place a bit more…quieter?”
He took her hand and she felt herself following him.
“Damn it, Lust, leave the lady alone,” the man behind the counter said. “Don’t you have a harem of girls back there anyway?”
Gluttony said which shook Faith from her trance. She pulled her hand away from the man called Lust and took a step back. Lust’s dark eyes grew wide and began to glow a crimson red. His muscles in his face grew tight.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I ruined your romantic evening. Wrath’s out back restocking the booze. Why don’t you take your little pity party to him,” Gluttony said.
As Lust stormed off, Faith thought she could see steam rising off his skin.
“What can I get you, miss?”
“I just want a Breakfast Jack and a small coffee, and quick please. I want to go home!”
“Absolutely, my darling. Seeing as you’re all shook up, I’m going to throw a few more things in for you,” said Gluttony. “Here, let’s start you off with a large chocolate milkshake and some fries.”
As he said the words, a cup and fries appeared out of thin air in Faith’s hands.
“Hmm, you’re a skinny little bit, too. You’re going to need a couple of burgers to go with that, a few chicken wraps, and with all that food you’re going to need to wash it all down with something more than a shake. A couple of large sodas will do.” As he said each menu item, they appeared on the counter.
Faith was shocked and couldn’t move.
“Eat up while it’s hot,” said Gluttony. Suddenly, Faith found herself eating large bites of food. Ketchup dripped from her chin and soda spilled down the front of her tank top. She willed herself to stop, but couldn’t. Her stomach began to protest as it filled with the greasy food.
“Gluttony, why do you always do that to the skinny ones,” a brunette woman said. “Knock it off or I’m going to let Lust know you think he’s good looking. He’ll make you part of his harem, won’t that be sweet?”
Gluttony scowled at the woman, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and walked into the kitchen. With his departure the food also disappeared.
“Are you alright, sugar?” the woman said.
Faith, resisting the urge to vomit, nodded her head.
“You poor thing. Let’s find somewhere to sit and rest your weary little self.”
The woman led Faith to a booth and sat across from her. Faith’s hands shook uncontrollably. The woman placed her own hand on Faith’s. “It’s alright, sugar, you’re gonna be alright. We just need to get your mind off of thinking about bad things. Let’s see here.” The woman looked around the room until she seemed to find what she was looking for.
“Well, just look at her,” the woman said, pointing to gorgeous, curly blonde woman wearing nothing but a mini-skirt, tube top, and three inch heels. “She’s pretty, ain’t she? Beautiful and skinny. Much skinnier than you.”
It was true. The woman was perfect, as perfect as any woman could be.
“And look those gorgeous locks. So shiny I’ll be the sun reflects right off of them like a mirror. Unlike your drab, straight hair.”
Faith felt a sickening feeling in her gut as she watched the woman surrounded by men, laughing with them.
“And those legs, they just go on forever. Long, tan, and shapely,” the woman said. She peered under the table at Faith’s legs. “Girl, you got man legs. Look at those muscles bulging out and that five o’clock shadow belongs on a man’s chin, not those stubby things you stand on.”
Faith watched the shapely woman across the room. What was it she was feeling? Not anger?
“Hiya, Envy. What’s happening?” said a teenage kid that looked more like a thug.
“Aww, nothin’,” Envy said. “She and I, are…hey, wait, what’d you say your name is?”
“Faith,” she whispered.
Both Envy and the boy scowled.
“Anyway, we’re just checkin’ out how pretty Pride is looking today.”
“Yeah, Pride’s always looking hot,” the boy said. He turned to Faith. “You know, I’ll bet you like some of that bling she’s sportin’. Think of what you could do for just that ring alone.”
For the first time, Faith noticed the large diamond ring glittering in neon glow of the lights. Pride’s wrists were adorned with jeweled bracelets. Long diamond earrings swung from her ears as she threw her head back and laughed.
“And look at the piece around her neck,” Envy said. “What’d you think, Greed? What’s that worth, a couple of a hundred K’s?”
“At least,” the boy name Greed said. “I’ll bet her jewelry alone is worth a mil.”
“Must be nice,” Envy said.
“So, Faith,” the boy said. “What would do with a million bucks?”
Faith thought hard. “I could pay off my school loans. Get myself a new car. My current one is on its last wheels. I haven’t bought myself a new outfit in months. And shoes, I love shoes.”
Faith found herself thinking of the possibilities.
“I’ll be right back,” Greed said. The boy ran over to Pride and whispered in her ear. Pride looked at Faith with brilliant blue eyes. Her eyes are much prettier than mine, Faith thought to herself. Greed and Pride made their way to the table and sat down.
“I hear you’re new to our establishment,” Pride said. “What brings you here?”
Before Faith had time to think of what to say the words flew from her mouth. “I want your necklace.” Greed snapped his fingers and the diamond and gold choker was on Faith’s neck.
“Oh, so pretty! You have to see!” Envy said holding up a compact mirror.
Faith looked at her reflection. It was true. Suddenly, she did feel prettier. Pride, on the other hand, stared at Faith with shock.
“That isn’t all you want, is it?” Greed whispered into Faith’s ear.
“And the earrings. I want the earrings, too.”
Again, Greed snapped his fingers and Faith felt the pull of her earlobes as the jewelry dangled from her ears.
“Simply stunning,” Greed whispered. Faith agreed. “Anything else you’d like?”
Faith could not help herself. “The bracelets, the rings, the barrette.”
One-by-one, Faith felt the jewelry appear on her skin and with each item, her refection grew prettier. She was gorgeous.
Faith looked at Pride who had now somehow become a withered, old woman.
“I’m prettier than you, I’m richer than you, and are an old hag,” Faith heard herself say.
“Yes!” Greed shouted
Envy snickered. Pride’s eyes teared with what look like hurt and for a split second Faith felt guilt cling to her chest. This was not the person she was. She was about to apologize when a ruckus arose from the kitchen. The door swung open and a man, no not a man, a creature strode into the room. His eyes glowed like lasers. His hair shimmered in wave of red, orange and yellow fire along with the rest of his body.
“What’s going on here?” he said, his voice booming even louder than the music.
Greed, Pride and Envy began to shake so much the table jiggled on his legs. Gluttony hid beneath the kitchen counter. Sloth was napping in a seat at the front door, unfazed by the new guest. Behind the man of fire, Lust followed with a chagrin look on his face.
“Who is upsetting my guests and ruining my party?” the man said.
Lust pointed at Faith. Every pair of eyes stared at her. The man walked to Faith, slow and methodical, never taking his glowing eyes off of her. With each step, the earth shook beneath his feet. He stopped at the table, glaring at Faith with hatred.
“Who are you!” he screamed. Beside her, she feel Envy and Greed cowering.
Enough was enough, Faith thought to herself. A fury grew within her not unlike the fire the flicked off the flesh of the man who stood before her. She wanted to rip him apart, tear him to shreds so that there was nothing left. She stood on the bench, climbed onto the table, and stood as tall as she could so that she could tower over the man on fire. Faith ripped off the necklace and threw to the floor.
“I’m Faith!” She screamed back.
The man growled. “Faith? There is no Faith allowed in here. Who let this miniscule little human in?”
The crowd pointed to Sloth whose slumber remained uninterrupted by the commotion. The fiery man strode over to Sloth and kicked the chair sending Sloth to the floor.
“Are you the idiot that let Faith in?”
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he sat up. “Of course I did. She knew the password,” he said through a yawn.
“Excuse me?” the man growled.
“Yeah, that’s right. That’s the password. She said ‘excuse me’ and I let her in.”
“You moron! I told you to let no one else in except Number Eight!”
“Number Eight?” Sloth said. “You said only let ‘excuse me’ in. Well, I assumed it was Faith we were recruiting.”
Greed stood on the table next to me and whispered in my ear. “He was born in a barn, or at least that’s the rumor.”
The fire man growled again and it echoed in the room sounding like the growl of a lion.
Sloth waved a hand at the enraged man. “Wrath, go take a chill pill. You oughta get some meds for that anger issue of yours. Maybe you should join a yoga class or somethin’.”
The flames from Wrath’s body dwindled and became nothing but small blue flickering flames as he dropped his head in a pout.
There was a sudden knock at the door. Sloth got up from the floor and opened to the door. “What’s the password? And before you tell me, you might want to reconsider coming in. Wrath’s got his panties all in a wad.”
A gangly, geeky looking man with wire rimmed glasses stepped into the doorway. He looked around nervously before he squeaked out an answer. “Uh, um, the password?”
“Yeah, the password,” Sloth said scratching his head.
“It’s, uh, Excuses,” the man said. “I’m Excuses. I was invited to be the Eighth of the Deadly Sins Gang.”
“Nope, sorry. That ain’t it. Password is ‘excuse me’.” Sloth was about to shut the door.
Lust shook his head and opened the door. “You’re an idiot, Sloth. Maybe if you stayed awake during the twelve step meetings you wouldn’t be such a numbskull.”
As Lust, Wrath, Pride, Envy, Greed and Gluttony welcomed their new guest, Faith decided it was a good time to slink away. She removed the rest of the jewelry from her hands, ears and the barrette from her hair and snuck to the door. Just as she was about to step out, a firm hand grabbed her by shoulder.
“Where are you going?” Sloth asked.
“I think I’ve overstayed my welcome,” Faith said.
“Wanna take a nap with me? I’m a good cuddler,” he said.
Fatigue began to set in and although Faith felt the pull of sleep, the scruffy man’s onion breathe was enough for her decline.
“Maybe next time,” Faith said, patting the man on the face.
“Suit yourself.” Sloth picked up the chair from the floor and sat it upright again before settling into it and falling fast asleep.
Faith stepped out the door. Outside the beach was buzzing with the Sunday regulars. Surfers dotted the ocean waves and sand was filled with visitors. Faith turned back around to the door of the Jack-in-the-Box. The store was just as it was any other day and filled with customers. A worker stepped out with a broom and dust pan and started sweeping up the front of the store. He stretched and yawned. The long black hair and scruffy chin were the same she had seen just moments before she walked through the door.
“Sloth?” Faith asked.
The worker looked at her with confused expression. “Excuse me?”
“Nevermind,” Faith said, hurrying home to her condo to get ready for church. “No more late night church band sessions for me,” she said aloud.
Wendy Spinale resides in the Bay Area in California. She is a writer, columnist, journalist, mother of three boys, and wife to her incredibly sweet and loving husband Stu. She is actively seeking representation for her young adult novel INDIGO which about a teenage girl who sees color in speech and is charged to divide a community based on the hue of their words. Be sure to stop by her blog to see her latest post and get a sneak peak of INDIGO.