Chicken Soup for the Stomach
By Nathan Key
Sinatra's Moonlight Serenade echoed through the soft-lit restaurant in downtown Chicago. It was a fairly busy Friday, one which made the servers happy for choosing to wait tables rather than spending the evening out on the town. At exactly 8:23 Mr. Luis and Miss Wargo approached the host and announced that they had reservations under the name "Stevens." They were promptly shown to the best seat in the house next to the veranda where a fountain with lights underscoring the statues poured out into a small pond where some enormous goldfish dodged pennies and ate algae and graham crackers.
"Amazing that I haven't heard from the bitch lately," Mr. Luis spoke highly of his former wife. "She's been harassing me all week about the disappearances around my apartment."
"Really?" exclaimed Miss Wargo. "I can't say that I mind much at all. I'd love to have you to myself you know. Did you say earlier on the phone that you had something to ask me?"
"Oh yes, a few things really. One's actually more of a telling than an asking, but I think we should have some wine before any of that."
"Wine would be nice." Miss Wargo straightened her skirt and pulled her brown hair back into a small ponytail. "How was your day?"
"Well, it's been really quite quiet without all the kids around. And not just the kids, I suppose. In fact, I spent much of my day wondering what did happen to everyone."
He flagged the nearest server and asked if he would pass the word on that there were orders to be taken and wine to be drunk. The server scampered off into the back to look for someone. The couple stared lovingly into each other's eyes.
After dinner Mr. Luis wasn't very talkative. He looked down nervously at his knife and ran a finger over the edge of his wine.
"I heard you had a talk with my father the other day," said Miss Wargo. "Did you have a nice chat? Talk about anything important?"
"Michelle, if I asked you to marry- - -"
"YES. Joe! I'd totally say yes... oh god, three years and waiting... I need to call Susan right away." She picked up her cell phone and began scrolling through the names.
"Wait Michelle, for crying out loud. Would you listen for a minute?! I've been doing some thinking lately and I'm not sure you're going to like what I've come up with."
"What in the world are you talking about Joe? I've already said yes, what do we have to talk about?"
"The missing people around my apartment- I think I ate them."
Miss Wargo looked up from her phone and stared at Mr. Luis' face for a moment.
"You ate them?"
"I'm not sure of it completely, but I found something odd in my closet this afternoon- And I'm never hungry, I'm sure that you've noticed that."
"Joe, I think that you've had too much wine."
"I'm being serious. I haven't even drunk much wine tonight. Maybe a glass or two?"
"How could you have eaten the people at your apartment complex? Quit talking nonsense. I'm going to call Susan."
She was soon happily discussing with Susan the big day she'd been planning for a year or two. Mr. Luis stared intently at the fountain and wished he had another glass of wine. He pulled out his ex- wife's collarbone from his pants pocket and began to gnaw nervously on the end.
"What in the world is that!?" asked Miss Wargo.
Mr. Luis removed the stained bone that protruded from his mouth. "I think it's someone's collar bone. I found it in the kitchen this morning. I'm telling you Michelle, I think I ate all my neighbors."
"That's sick Joe. Why did you bring that thing to dinner? And where have you kept it?"
"In my pocket. It's been there all evening."
"I was wondering what the smell in the car was. Throw that thing away, please. It's disgusting."
Mr. Luis tossed the bone under a neighboring table that was between patrons.
"I don't know what to do Michelle. First sleepwalking, now all my neighbors are gone and their bones show up in my closet."
"You're telling me that you're a sleepwalking cannibal?"
"I think so."
"Well in that case the engagement's off you know. I can't sleep in the same room as you without fearing for my life."
"I was afraid you'd say that."
"I mean, no hard feelings or anything, right Joe? I just have to look out for my own well being, you know. Oh Joe, couldn't you be a sleepwalking chiropractor or dentist? They at least get paid for what they do."
Mr. Luis looked up, "Does this mean you never want to see me again?"
"I'll have to talk it out with Susan, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not ready to handle this."
"Just one question though. Do humans really taste like chicken?"
"Oh, I wouldn't know Michelle, I've been asleep every time it happens."
Mr. Luis called for a cab and watched as Miss Wargo took off into the rainy night.
"It's a real shame," He thought, "she had such nice legs."