The restaurant has 175 normal chairs and 20 chairs for babies. 2 families come in for dinner. 1 family has 3 babies and the other family has 0 babies. The childless family are technically not a family, just 2 people at peace with their infertility. How many chairs does the restaurant have in total?
The restaurant is owned by a 75 year old Vietnam veteran. Vietnam ended 47 years ago. Not a day goes by that the restaurant owner doesn’t think about those 2 dead girls in the mud, at least 7 phoenix flowers scattered nearby. How old was the restaurant owner when his world ended?
The family with 3 babies are exhausted. The babies are exhausted, the mother is exhausted, the father is exhausted. If you times paternal, maternal, and infantal exhaustion with the decibel level of the restaurant (69), how exasperated, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being dangerously high, is the mother?
The family with 0 babies are happy. Everything is perfect for them. Their lives are perfect. Their hair is perfect. They are not technically a family, but their relationship is extremely healthy and the way they treat each other is with love and respect. What is happy²?
The restaurant owner stops by each of the families’ tables. The restaurant owner has killed 27 strangers in a wet forest. He asks how their meals were, the quality of the service, the elegance of the garnish. Both families nod in agreement. They are pleased to oblige. They don’t technically acknowledge it in words. They don’t say, “Yes, we enjoyed the whole show.” What is 27 times everything?
As the 2 families funnel towards the exit at the same time, they nod at each other. Even the babies nod.
Jonathan Cardew’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Cream City Review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, People Holding, and others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and contributing books reviewer for Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. He’s been a finalist in the Best Small Fictions, the Wigleaf Top 50, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and he won a travel toothbrush once at a boules competition in northern Brittany. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.