Miles walked in to the restaurant and felt the oncoming surge of uncertainty, as had happened every day for the past week of vacation. Pjugsarkjan was such a strange language that only the most dedicated English speaker could really tackle it with ease. The country itself was a mishmash of cultures and people, and the language itself seemed to borrow bits of everything, becoming entirely indistinguishable from anything else. The sole waiter in the restaurant was someone new, someone Miles hadn’t seen before, and he had a moment of hope.
“Umm…uhh…do you speak English?” Miles asked.
“Slocky?” the waiter asked.
“English? You speak? ENNNGLIIISH?”
“Umm…little? Little English?” the waiter laughed with uncertainty. “Uni?”
“Yes, one person,” Miles replied, slightly deflated, but hopeful that the little English the waiter spoke was enough. The waiter led him to a seat near the window in the mostly empty restaurant. There was one other couple, sitting in the far corner, which in the tiny restaurant, was not very far away. There was a strong feeling that this place was rarely used, and with so many posh restaurants throughout the city, it wasn’t hard to imagine why. But he liked the little place, the quiet, the too-salty food it served.
The waiter handed him a menu in silence and disappeared into the kitchen. As usual, he stared at it, unable to decipher the odd names and spellings. There was one word he recognized, that may have meant “goat” or may have meant “bee’s intestines”. Given some of the other fare he had seen, he didn’t feel much like finding out.
The waiter returned, and asked him, “Sijkiarn mich ni alproknic?”
“What? I don’t understand…umm…Eech…non complendtsra?”
“Ehh…food? Eat?” the waiter asked.
“Oh! Yes, eat!” Miles was excited to have made a breakthrough in communication. “Eggs, please, and some toast.”
“Eggsafla?” the waiter asked.
“Yes, eggs. With toast,” Miles replied.
“Jos,” the waiter remarked, taking the menu.
Miles waited patiently and sipped a glass of water while people-watching out the window. The couple in the far corner were whispering quietly, and seemed vaguely uninteresting anyway. Eventually, the waiter returned with a plate of what appeared to be recently-killed goldfish, with a sprig of parsley on the side. With a flourish, he swooped it down to the table.
“Umm…that’s not what I ordered…” Miles said, looking disgusted.
“You like?” the waiter asked.
“No, not at all! I wanted eggs!”
“No? No like? Eggsafla,” the waiter gestured proudly.
“No, no eggsafla. Eggs! Umm…ogstrak! Ogstrak!” Miles said.
“Oh! Ogstrak! Listrakngpe mins defg hiclong,” the waiter said, taking the plate away with what appeared to be disappointment.
Miles continued to stare out the window and watched a few groups of young people pass by, likely on their way to the beach. Eventually, the waiter returned, holding the plate high, with what appeared to be a large green leaf for a base. Bringing it down to eye level, a sudden familiar stench filled the Miles’ nostrils.
“What is that?” he exclaimed.
The waiter looked puzzled, and more hurt than before. “Ogstrak. You want ogstrak.”
“No. That smells disgusting.” Miles grimaced at the 4 tiny white balls sitting on a leaf of lettuce, surrounded by the sliced goldfish from the previous dish.
The waiter, pointing at one of the balls, said, “Ogstrak.”
Miles, suddenly realizing what the smell was, said “Wait..skunk? That’s not a testicle…the gland? The skunk’s gland? Ech! No! No! No!”
The waiter, deflated, pulled the dish away. He handed Miles a Pjugsarkjan-English dictionary and asked in an upset tone, “No ogstrak, no eggsafla…what?”
Miles shoved the dictionary away and said, “Just, bring me something…normal. North American. Real food!”
“Yes, North American. Normal, decent food, please.”
The waiter disappeared with a concerned look in his eyes. The other couple in the restaurant had departed during the last exchange, and Miles was all alone, staring out the window, the vague scent of skunk lingering around his table. After 45 minutes, he was getting annoyed and tired, and wanted to go explore the city. He was just getting ready to rise when the waiter, looking solemn and pale, brought in a small plate with no decoration. Setting it down in front of the man, the waiter looked him in the eye, then turned away, looking afraid and disgusted. “North Americhjan,” he uttered.
It looked like breakfast sausages, five of them, of different lengths. Miles cut a small piece and ate it. He smiled, and said “Thank you! Finally, real food.” The waiter looked disturbed, and scurried back to the kitchen. Miles wolfed down the sausages, finished his water, and left the restaurant, shouting his room number to the waiter, who refused to leave the kitchen.
Outside, a young man clutching a Canadian passport was stumbling around with no digits on his right hand, staring in horror at all the blood.