Would You Like Neurotransmitters with That? - Nathan Witkin

April 1, 2014

Craning her neck at the wall-sized menu behind the counter, the elderly woman reaches a decision. “Can I have the ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ flavor, enhanced with the feeling of hugging my grandchildren when they visit me?” 

Glen inhales an apologetic hiss through his teeth while fiddling with his foam “Feel-Meal” visor. “I’m sorry Mrs. Hensel. It appears that your serotonin reuptake rates would not sustain that level of bliss today. May I suggest a more bittersweet emotional additive, like the feeling of putting
your children on the school bus for the first time?” 

“Oh, that’s fine,” she says to the menu over Glen’s head, “But I better get some comfort-food with that. How about your ‘Pizza and Ice Cream’ flavor?”

“Excellent choice,” Glen chimes with more-than-minimum-wage enthusiasm while keying the order into his monitor. “Hello, welcome to Feel-Mea…” he begins, before the sight of his next customer makes him lose the greeting in a tempest of neural firings.

“Yeah, can I have a meal—plain?” she hammers the last word, as if for the millionth time, and then fixes her beautiful grey eyes into a stare that clearly warns him to not ask the next question.

“Would…you like any…targeted emotional stimulation with that?” Glen manages through a trance, like a zombie offering a viscous bowl of brains rather than chemically-enhanced nutrients.

As she mopes her emotionless meal away 3.5 awkward moments later, Glen’s manager gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “I’ve tasted that look before,” he sighs.

“What do you say to a girl like that?” Glen muses, still watching her as she makes her way to the least-populated corner of the dining area.

“If I knew that, I would be out there saying it to her,” his manager scoffs, “rather than working behind this counter and subsiding entirely on pre-divorce nostalgia.”

* * *

“You can’t sit here,” she snaps, dropping icicles in front of his not-so-covert path to her table.

“I’m not here to eat,” Glen stammers. “I work here. And this isn’t for me,” he shrugs his tray toward her. “We are required to offer samples to customers,” he explains and then, less convincingly, adds, “We face termination if the samples are refused.”

“I don’t want any of your flavors,” she insists, still looking down at her gently prodded slop.

He wants to tell her that, without any additives, the food is inedibly-bland mush. But because that might actually get him fired, Glen proceeds with the script. “It doesn’t have any flavor. Just the feelings. Our products are non-addictive and replenish the neurotransmitters they release. It couldn’t hurt,” he concludes timidly, laying the tray on her table.

As if wanting to trudge through this ordeal and quickly as possible, she scoops a lackluster spoonful and bites into it. 

Her face somehow drops further.

When the silence has become unbearable a brief time later, Glen offers, “I made that one myself… It’s what I felt the first time I saw you.”

“Well,” she regains herself, “Why don’t you expand your horizons with this?” pushing the bland meal she originally ordered toward him. “It tastes like I felt the first time I saw you.”

* * *

The next day, Glen thinks to himself, “Of all the lines, why is she waiting in mine?”

She arrives six agonizing orders later.

“Yeah, can I have what I had yesterday?” she asks, looking at the menu. 

“One emotionless void, coming up,” Glen grumbles.

“No,” she interrupts with a different flavor of rudeness, “the other one I had yesterday.”

“Oh,” Glen mutters through a natural release of neurotransmitters, “Would you like…to get a drink?”

 

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Comments

Oh goodness, what an entertaining and though-provoking story.

Liked it even more after the second taste.