An elderly man you recognize as someone who moves slowly and pays for everything with change scrounged from his pockets surprises you when he pulls out a wad of bills and orders 100 cheeseburgers. You get him to repeat himself a couple of times, 100 cheeseburgers, 100 cheeseburgers he says, tells you he intends to freeze them, they’ll get him through the winter, no need for pesky walks on cold days, no danger of slipping and breaking a hip. 100 cheeseburgers will keep me going for a little while longer, at least, I don’t need much.
It starts off with the woman
who you predict—correctly—
will order a garden salad and diet coke
though you also know she’ll ask
for two packets of the super fattening dressing.
All that day you know who’ll order
fish burgers, chicken nuggets, hamburgers
with or without the cheese.
A co-worker begs you to concentrate
on that week’s lottery numbers,
asks you to do it for his newborn daughter,
but no matter how hard you focus,
you can only tell that in a few moments
he’ll want a strawberry shake.
When the tour group of non-English speakers arrives
you find yourself acting out the orders,
flapping your arms for chicken,
mooing for every burger, re-enacting an epic struggle
with a fishing pole whenever someone orders a filet.
For those few minutes you are the centre of the universe,
more important than French fries, more important
than mascots, extra napkins, multiple dipping sauces.
For the first time in your life you understand
what it’s like to be a celebrity, a local attraction,
the most photographed thing in the room.
Same guy at 7 a.m. for breakfast,
a little before noon for lunch,
once again while you work overtime
and he orders dinner.
Some days he drives through
a fourth time for dessert,
pretends he doesn’t know you,
you don’t know him.
A drunk clown demands free French fries
tells you to hurry the hell up
and don’t forget the ketchup.
Superman complains his burger is cold,
Luke Skywalker asks for more salt.
After her third hot fudge sundae
you realize Wonder Woman’s
can’t protect her from everything.