Chapter 5 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

At just about the time that The Four left their apartment, Bill began waiting on a woman named Denise.

Bill, the inventor who lived in the basement of the Asylum, was a strange individual. He had an odd habit of addressing everyone as "Norman." His middle name was Satan, and this at least explained his penchant for exclusively wearing bright red clothes. As an inventor he was something of a failure; though he had many ideas, he had yet to produce any invention that was both functional and marketable.

Denise sat down at one of the booths in "Dollars to Donuts," but she left the curtains open, not realizing that she could close them if she wished.

Bill trotted up to take her order. He immediately noticed that she was writing things down in a large black notebook. She ordered coffee and chocolate angel food cake, which just happened to be available.

A group of military officers came in and took another one of the booths, closing the curtains as they did so. Denise seemed particularly fascinated by this.

When Bill brought out Denise's order, he asked about her inquisitive nature.

"I'm writing a book," she said. "It's called Great Diners of the World . It will be a definitive guide to the City's diners, doughnut shops, coffee houses, and automats."

"That's nice," said Bill. "Everyone should have a hobby. Would you like to know what my hobby is?"

"Sure," said Denise.

"I build stuff. A couple of months ago, I built a nuclear warhead. Now, I'm working on a combination toaster/television set, which will toast bread with the radiation of the picture tube."

Denise forced a smile.

When she finished her cake, she departed. The entry in her book on "Dollars to Donuts" would eventually state: "Excellent food, fine atmosphere, but strange waiters. Four and a half stars."

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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