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The 23rd Fire: A Tale of Loss

TheGarbageManJun 8, 2018, 8:59:42 PM

We return to check in on Pierre and friends from the 3rd and 13th fires, to find things not going so well. Sometimes we have to do a hard reset on life and goals. That doesn't mean you should quit, but it does mean that you should try something different, try it from another angle. If you want something bad enough, you'll figure out how to get it. I wanted to see what Pierre and company had to say about that. They, as always, had plenty to say.

The Fall of the Potan Del La De Magnus

“Order number 52, two duck pâté burritos and an order of veal nachos!” Pierre called out from the tiny window used to hand the food out to customers.

He was very good at remembering who ordered what, something that his cashier, and former assistant, Claudia, was not so good at. Of course her petite frame and pretty French-accent kept most of the male customers returning.

Pierre had gotten good at gauging what the average American wanted, mostly the single male who needed a quick meal to make it through the day, or to enjoy upon a return trip home.

He also knew they needed to start drawing families if they were going to go anywhere. But, as he repeatedly to Le Mon, you have to start somewhere.

That somewhere was right smack-dab in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. 

After the Potan Del La De Magnus in Florence burned to the ground, the insurance company said that it did not cover contractor mistakes, of which the flames were.

When Pierre asked Michael, who he had contracted to clean the Potan, where his insurance references were so as to start rebuilding the Potan, all he got was a click on the line and nary a trace of Michael was to be found in all Florence. Probably the whole of Europe at that point.

So, with his savings, pooled together with Le Mon's, though that was about a 10th of what Pierre had saved, they set out on another adventure. This time, it was to be a new frontier, an idea that him and Le Mon concocted on about day four of the last party of the Potan.

“You know what I’ve alwaysh wanted to do, Pierrrrre?” Le Mon asked through boozed breath and slurred speech.

Pierre put his arm around his inebriated friend. Pierre was quite buzzed as well, but he always had his one water to one drink ratio at all times.

:”What is that my dearest friend?” Pierre heartedly asked.

“I alwaysh wanted to run a roash coash.”

Pierre looked quizzically at Le Mon’s confession. “I am sorry my friend, I do not understand what a ‘roash coash’ is.”

“A roash coash, a roash coash!” Le Mon sprayed Cool’s Light everywhere as he used his arms to flap out the words. “Ya know, like a mobile reshaurant!”

“Ah, yes! A roach coach, the colloquial term for a food truck in the US.” Pierre eyes suddenly widened and then narrowed, as if he was wowed by Le Mon’s idea, then had to stop and focus on that very idea.

“A mobile restaurant food truck…” Pierre began to mutter off.

Le Mon wasn’t paying attention anymore anyway, he was more interested in getting another can of beer at the moment. Little did he realize that he had made the biggest drunken mistake of his cooking career.

At least that is what he would yell at Pierre during their recent hard times. The storage unit they had rented on the south side had recently been robbed and so they were back to a certain square. It wasn’t square one, but it was close.

They had put about a year’s worth of work and extra for their planned permanent location and within a matter of 15 minutes, according to the security footage, it was stolen and half-way across Wisconsin before Le Mon discovered the broken lock.

Things had been bad already. Pierre wanted to bring a “taste of Florence”, just as it was proudly stenciled on both sides of their food truck, but all that they soon discovered that most people don’t want a taste of Florence.

They just wanted good, cheap food.

So they began the slow slide down into customer pacification, where people who have no idea on ingredients, the time required to make their requests, or whether or not Le Mon wanted to even make their requests.

While all the other employees of the Potan Del La De Magnus had easily found jobs with a simple business card of Pierre’s, Le Mon and him wanted to experience America, to experience the land of food, the bread-belt of the world. So many fresh ingredients, so many opportunities. They could not resist the idea by the fifth day of the last Potan party.

They flew out to the US the next week, put up by Claudia’s uncle, who relished the idea of getting some culture in his Jersey residence. From there it was weeks and months of solid work. Getting up to prep, going to purchase the goods, setting up the truck, going to the location, serving for 12 to 16 hours, and then rolling it all up to do it again the next day.

It was not an easy schedule.

Pierre wrapped the last four food items with the speed and love of an old Guatemalan grandma. He then placed them in a simple bag, the words “Have a nice day” imprinted under an ever-smiling face.

“Order number 53, two pheasant lengua tacos and two feta truffle quesadillas!”, Pierre called out from the small pick-up window. 

That was the last order so far on this, a slow Friday.

I’m going out for a meenut, Pierre!”, Claudia called out through her thick accent from the back of the truck, where she usually hid out of the way until a customer could be seen stepping up in the angled mirror.

“Of course, Claudia, take as much time as you need my dear.” Pierre was contemplating other things. His mind was usually busy, only now it had some heavier weight since the setback.

Claudia gave Pierre the usual wistful smile of hers. She loved Pierre. But she could never tell him. He would fire her, he could not have emotions upset a perfectly balanced working relationship. 

So while they would make love every night, whisper their desires into each others ears, she could not, would not utter that word of devotion to Pierre.

He loved her, too.

Le Mon finished cleaning his station, getting it ready for the next rush, usually in another hour or two, depending on traffic, mostly depending on the weather. No one goes to a food truck in the rain, and it was in the forecast.

Pierre had noticed his customers really enjoyed talking about the weather. He had given it to the fact that they have nothing in common, too many options, too many TV channels, and the weather was the only thing that everyone shared in America.

They had gone through some bad times lately and the loss of the Potan was still fresh in their minds. As Pierre started drifting back into fret and worry, Le Mon cleared his throat, causing Pierre to look up at him.

In Le Mon’s hands were two frosty Cool’s lights, which he popped as soon as Pierre looked up.

“It would not be a party without your buds!” Le Mon exclaimed. “You do remember what today is, don’t you my old friend?”

Pierre gave his friend a smirk, a grabbed the Cool’s light, lightly tapped it against Le Mon’s and then shotgunned it down, both of the men giving hearty belches as Le Mon grabbed another pair of brews from the small freezer.

“The anniversary…” Pierre trailed off. Life had changed without him wanting it to. So much had happened within that short measurement of time, a year. A single year should not have so much loss.

Pierre grabbed the next beer and took a long sip.

“It has been an adventure, my friend.” Le Mon had not been as warm to the idea after a few months, but where Pierre would go, he would as well. He loved Pierre as a brother, and, like Claudia, he would never admit to Pierre. He also did not want to get fired.

“You know, Le Mon, I used to get excited for this date. It was always special to me, to see the joy and happiness on my employee’s faces after a long year of suffering the wants and needs of rich kings and spoiled queens. To see that they were rewarded and taken care of, just as they had for others the rest of the 364 days, that was why I kept at the Potan.”

Pierre took another long sip.

“Now I have nothing. I have nothing to thank even you, my friend. I couldn’t afford these very beers you’ve provided.” Pierre then drank the rest of his beer, smashed the can, and took another from Le Mon’s waiting hands.

“You have more than any man I have met, Pierre.” Le Mon grabbed his friend on his shoulder. “You have something to offer, that the world will never find anywhere else.”

Pierre’s smirk got a little bigger.

“What’s that, my friend?”

“You have…”

He was interrupted by a hard tapping on the order window.

Pierre turned around to greet the impatient customer.

Instead he was faced with a badge of a Health & Safety inspector.

“Heard you got robbed recently.” The booming voice of the large, stocky inspector.

“Said on the report that you operated a food truck, called…” The inspector looked at his notes, and then up at the sign, a large banner, written in the most fancy cursive the stenciller knew how to do.

It read, “...The Potan Del La De Magnus, correct?”

Pierre cleared his throat. “You are correct! What can I get for you, maybe one of our famous ceviche tacos? Or perhaps an order of calamari nachos?”

The inspector gave a slow negative shake of his head.

“Actually, we need to have a talk about licenses, permits, and tax regulations in the state of New Jersey.”

* * *

By the time Claudia had returned, which was only about thirty minutes, both Pierre and Le Mon had finished the rest of the 12 pack, sitting on the curb.

“Where is ze Potan?” Claudia asked with her sweet, French-accented voice.

Pierre got up and held her in his arms, brushed her hair aside, and whispered into her ear.

After he was done telling her what she needed to know, he pulled back from her ear and gave a big smile.

“What do you have in that bag, Claudia?” He asked, pointing to the black plastic bag in her left hand.

She wiped a fresh tear falling from her eye.

“Zis a bottle of champagne, to celebrate our anniversar-ry…” She began to full-on sob, tears falling freely from her face, ruining her mascara, as Pierre pulled her back in and held her close.

“It’ll be okay, Claudia.” Pierre’s reassuring tone calming her crying.

Le Mon came up and grabbed both of them in a big hug, Claudia giving a little giggle at his jovialness in this distressing time.

Pierre gently took the bag from Claudia, grabbed the bottle, and began to untwist the muselet.

“For now, let’s keep the Potan’s tradition of partying a day out of the year, celebrating not with serving, but having someone serve us.” Pierre popped the cork, causing it to fly into the air and land down across the parking lot.

“The Potan Del La De Magnus will rise again.”