DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S HOUSE OF PANCAKES
“Welcome to Dr. Frankenstein’s House of Pancakes. Can I get you something to drink?”
“I’ll have the bottomless pot of coffee.”
“Decaf or regular?”
“What do you think?” came the sarcastic reply.
Stephanie tried to brush off the comment, but it stung. There hadn’t been anything insipid in her question. Why the smart-ass remark? The pained look on her face must have registered with the customer, who put her hands up in supplication.
“Look, I’m sorry. I’m having a rough day. It’s my time of the month, and I can be a real bitch,” she added in an undertone.
Three weeks ago, that comment would have meant something very different to Stephanie (and been far too much information.) Now, it only took her a fraction of a second to note the woman’s swarthy side-burns and bushy brows. Ah, werewolf.
Stephanie wrote the coffee on the werewolf’s tab and walked to the kitchen. On the way, she passed a clean fork to the shoggoth who kept dropping his, brought another batch of creamer to the family of villagers (their pitchforks propped up against their chairs), and took back an order of blood sausage which was too cooked for a customer’s liking. The vampire scowled at her as he complained about his breakfast.
“And by too cooked, I mean it’s been cooked. Next time I tell you I want something raw, I’m not using an artful metaphor,” he sniffed. He pulled out a package of Lucky’s and started to light up, when a theatrical throat-clearing made him pause.
Mr. Prometheus, the assistant manager, had materialized from the shadows and was now looming over the vampire’s table. Mr. P raised a gigantic scar-mottled hand to a bright red sign on the wall. It read, “This is a non-smoking establishment. FIRE BAD.” He growled under his throat for emphasis. The vampire turned three shades whiter (until he was nearly translucent) and quietly put the unlit cigarette next to his coffee mug.
“Thanks,” whispered Stephanie, and Mr. P gave her a friendly, if slightly lopsided wink. He was quite well spoken, and very intelligent, but he never revealed it to the customers. They were more inclined to respect him and the staff if he didn’t try to coax them into conversations about Proust. Stephanie had been nervous around Mr. P until the day he had helped her with a difficult crossword puzzle during her lunch break.
She passed Patrick on her way to the kitchen. An anxious gypsy mother was asking what the Igor Special was.
“It’s a tall stack of pancakes: one classic buttermilk, one blueberry, one buckwheat, and one pecan. Comes with an egg and your choice of bacon or scrapple.”
“Oh, I see. A stack made out of different pancakes,” sighed the mother in relief.
Just don’t ask what’s in the scrapple, Stephanie thought, stifling a giggle. Her grin slipped off her face as she walked hip-first through the shiny metal kitchen doors and dropped off the blood sausage.
“I screwed up another one,” she sighed.
“It’th only your firtht one thith week, and it’th Thurthday at that,” said Igor kindly, agitating the hash-browns on the griddle. “You’re getting better, Thtephanie. Don’t worry. You’ll thoon be an exthpert.”
“Thanks,” said Stephanie, making an effort to pronounce her ‘esses.’ After listening to Igor for a while, she had a tendency to pick up his lisp. She picked up a pot of coffee from the line of thermal pitchers, and waited for Igor to hand her a new raw sausage.
Of course, all fry cooks were required by law to wear hair-nets, to prevent unwanted additions to the food. Igor was probably the only fry cook who wore hand and face nets as well. The result looked a bit like an Olympic fencer, wearing dainty crocheted gloves and a greasy apron. The face net had the added advantage of catching run off from the little man’s precipitous small-talk.
She was on her way to drop off the food when a figure ran through the double doors and smashed into her. The blood sausage sailed through the air as the plate dropped and smashed. Hot coffee poured copiously over her work clothes and scalded her and the person in her lap. Stephanie screamed as her assailant scrambled to his knees and blinked at her through his specs.
It was the boss.
She had barely seen Dr. Victor Frankenstein (or ‘Doc’ as the others called him) since she was hired, but she liked him. It was impossible not to like Doc. He was middle-aged and handsome, if a bit on the lanky side. The doc was driven, you could tell by the way he ran the place, but he also cared about his employees. On Stephanie’s first day, when she’d first dressed in her green uniform, in the pocket of her apron was a handwritten note saying, “Welcome to the family!” It had also included some “free meal” coupons that she could use whenever she wanted (which admittedly she had never used since she already got free meals during her shift). Now, with his glasses askew, and his graying hair in his eyes, she couldn't help but think Doc was kind of cute. Then she remembered her ruined uniform and various coffee burns.
“Owwww!” she moaned.
“Uh! I’m s-so sorry, Stephanie,” Doc stammered, as he helped her to her feet. “Oh! You’re…you’re a mess! I’m sorry! Oh dear! This really couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he moaned. He sounded so distraught that Stephanie’s heart went out to him.
“What’th all thith thillineth?” asked Igor indignantly. He was apparently ignorant that the airborne sausage had landed on his head. He stopped short as he eyed Stephanie’s ruined uniform, and the disheveled Doc. “Mathter Victor? Whath going on?”
“There’s thomething—er, sorry,-- something coming to the restaurant. Something horrible that threatens to undo all we’ve fought to achieve here,” said Doc soberly.
“Villagerth with pitchforkth?” asked Igor, trembling.
“No, they’re at table eight. Incidentally, Stephanie, they could use a refill of water.”
“I’ll get right on that.”
“No, you need to change into a fresh uniform first. I’ll see to them.”
“I don’t underthtand, Mathter. What’th tho horrible? What’th coming to the rethtaurant that can dethtroy uth all? It’th not that Van Helthing chap that shot up the plathe with his crothbowth, ith it?”
“No….it’s….” Doc trailed off before he steeled himself.
“He’s here, Doc,” said Mr. Prometheus, standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Who ith?” demanded Igor, now literally hopping mad.
“It’s a food critic,” said Doc in a low quaver.
The others froze. Stephanie gasped in alarm, and the Doc pulled her to him, comforting her in his embrace, but also seeking comfort in it.
“What shall we do, mathter?” asked Igor.
“We’re gonna give ‘em the best damn pecan pancakes they’ve ever eaten, that’s what,” said Stephanie boldy. The Doctor gave her an admiring smile.
“MMMMM…” said Mr. Prometheus, from the doorway.