Somewhere in the southwest area of the US is a small restaurant that goes by the name Spurt Bagnati's . A rather cryptic name that peaked my interest, so I took a moment to research it on the net. Turned out the name was apparently derived from the Corsican language and meant 'wet armpits'. A rather strange way to describe a steak house, one would think!
I had been on my way to the mecca that is also known the locals as Branson Missouri, and was making good time when I made the 'mistake' of driving thorough a town that had featured such a strange sounding eatery. As I was hungry and it was close to the noon hour, I decided to pull in to dine, (even as a sense of danger tingled my nerves). Where were the customers? I wondered as I surveyed the parking lot. The establishment had a blood red sign that blinked OPEN off and on in a random fashion, so that was encouraging. Somewhat strangely, it acted as though it was shorting out. Squinting through the glare of the noon day sun, I found it hard to get a really good visual fix as the whole building seems to shimmer a bit in and out of focus. Heat waves, I thought before noticing it was actually a rather cool day, but proceeded to enter the lot anyway.
I swiftly pulled into a parking spot that was close to the front door. I turned off the ignition, exited my car and approached to double doors that were the only point of entry. As I tugged on the handle, the door frame made a sort of groaning and rasping sound. With more effort, I was just able to pry it open enough to enter. CLANG! Like a rusty trap snapping shut, that door closed behind me in a way that made me wonder if it would ever open again. Shrugging, I boldly then stepped into a waking nightmare....
I'm not sure if it was the weird visuals or the strange smells that garnered my attention first. It was a dead heat, as I viewed a small tweedy looking bar, surrounded on either side by tables that also seemed a bit dingy with age and neglect. Then there was that smell! I could only describe it as something I had experienced as a youth walking into the gym locker room for the very first time. A heavy astringent chlorine type smell assailed my nose, that tried to mask body odor rather unsuccessfully. Almost at once, my sense of danger had ratcheted itself up a few notches, yet I found I couldn't turn around and leave. That was mostly due to the dead eye stares I was getting from the bartender and what I took to be a cook who hovered just behind her. She had on a drab sort of green outfit that seemed to compliment the rest of the moldy establishment a strangely complimentary manner. The cook was a man of very tall stature who wore a soiled apron that loudly advertised every thing he might have made for the past week. Across the front was large bold and black words that said 'I'LL COOK IT IF YOU'LL EAT IT! OK, I thought rapidly to myself, if I turned around now, I'd look like a wimp! Sighing inwardly, I walked over to a nearby table and sat myself down.
Footsteps from behind me announced the arrival of the bartender (or server or whatever she was). 'Hi! My name's Barbara', she announced and she laid down a menu that had peeling edges. 'I'll be your server. You just take your time and I'll be right back. Oh, and we have a special today on all you can eat ribs.' As she said the word ribs, there was a loud whacking sound that came from the kitchen. And was that laughter, I heard? I wasn't quite sure.
'Thanks.' I offered lamely, 'but I think I'll just check out the menu first.' Barbara frowned a little and then abruptly turned and marched off towards the kitchen.
I opened the menu and noticed with some distress that the pages stuck a bit and, after I spread it out I couldn't help but smile. There was only one item offered, ribs for $7.99. Oh, and it was on special, every day! Everything else had been crossed out with a black marker with the exception of coffee and Pepsi. Hmm. I thought to myself. Should I bolt out the door now or actually give their ribs a try?
'Oh miss', I yelled loudly. 'I think I'll have have those ribs and a Pepsi.' 'Good choice', someone yelled from behind the bar. Then, more muffled laughter. The whacking sound intensified noticeably....
Ten minutes later, here came Barbara holding a large try. She placed a plate down in front of me followed quickly by a glass of soda. 'Thanks!' I offered meekly as I accepted a rolled knife and fork. As I watched her leave, there was a slight movement that just caught my eye. It came from the plate...
[end chapter one]