|Gandalf & Kili have entered our world,|
despite the machinations of an ungrateful manager.
When one possesses a functional kitchen, and adequate cooking ability, one visits a restaurant either for convenience, or for an experience that could not easily be replicated at home. As mentioned in The Power of Pancakes, it was for their exquisite pancakes that my wife and I began to frequent a particular Denny’s restaurant in the last few months. When the restaurant chain introduced The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Menu, the unique meals and collectible cards from the upcoming movie served as another incentive to dine there. Unfortunately, nothing in this life lasts forever. And so it was that, visit after visit, the notion that we had discovered the perfect restaurant began to fade from our minds.
The disease crept in gradually, and at first we did not recognize its presence. After awhile, we began to overhear whispered conversations from the kitchen concerning our order. One night, the waiter returned, and explained that extra charges would apply for substitutions. As we loved their pancakes, we didn’t mind. But then the pancakes began to arrive overcooked and undersized. Or a regular sized one hid a much smaller one underneath. The last time we visited, the manager insisted on placing us between two tables with fussing children who refused to remain in their highchairs, even though most of the restaurant lay empty. While we dined, an employee banged on a chair for several minutes with a hammer, apparently trying to correct some problem. Worse, the pancakes had a tangy flavor that we did not notice at first, but increased gradually as we ate. When we left, the manager refused to give us two packs of cards, even though we had both ordered from The Hobbit menu. So, despite all the good times we had enjoyed there, it seemed that if we wished to enjoy Denny’s pancakes in future, we must search for another restaurant. Still, it angered me that this new quest had been imposed on us. We had become regular customers, and in return they had treated us poorly!
A few days later, I was revising my first dragon novel at another restaurant during lunch. An image crept into my peripheral vision, and my heart raced as I looked out the window. Then I realized it was not a man in a cloak I had seen, but one clad in shorts and a T-shirt. He was not barefoot; flip flop sandals clapped the asphalt as he crossed the parking lot. The wide-brimmed hat he wore was not pointed, but rounded. Unlike Gandalf, the long curved wooden walking staff he used was not adorned with a gem of wizardly power. The man opened the door to the concrete brick enclosure surrounding the restaurant’s trash cans, and disappeared inside.
I watched the top of his black hat as he moved around in the enclosure. Then he emerged, his hands empty, and after glancing around, disappeared from view. I gazed down at my plate, still half-full of a chicken enchilada, rice and beans. I wondered for a moment what circumstances and choices had led the man to scrounging for scraps of discarded food. I wondered what it was he sought in life.
My throat grew dry while I thought of him, and so I took a drink of my soda. Then I returned to my revising, and my plate of delicious food.
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