by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
The Handbook at Tempe's Vegan Raw Food restaurant here in Sedona requires only that we wear black bottoms and white tops. This leaves room for the broadest possible range of clothing to fit the wait staff, from the wide polyester slacks that Rosalie, our bassoon-nosed manager, wears, to my modest Amish pencil-skirts, to the wedge of electrical tape that Nadia passes off as clothing.
Across the dining room, nubile Nadia giggles and jiggles over a silver-haired type with a ponytail and lots of turquoise on his neck and wrists. I swear to God, Arizona is the only state in the U.S. where men can wear jewelry and get away with it. I've got his number just by looking at him: he believes in UFOs because he's seen those weird lights that everyone eventually sees in the desert. Or his second cousin thinks she was abducted by aliens as a kid and has the scars to prove it. Or he's here to contact the mothership in the hopes that its powers will make him a swinger with the chicks, or more powerful in his business, or bolster his Karma.
And Nadia, who is like a deadly fruit, gorgeous in a way that's painful to look at, is over there shaking tips out of him with her fancy parts. Why do women with large breasts get away with everything? What is so damn fantastic about a pair of jiggling mounds of fat dressed in skin?
I slap a plate of stuffed mushrooms with water chestnut soufflé down at table forty-two. Seated there is a thin redhead, pale in that ethereal, near sickly way, like she's been recuperating from scarlet fever in a dark room. Across from her is a chubby yet handsome Native American man, I'll guess Navajo. They look mismatched.
Redhead looks up at me, then down at her plate, then across at her stone-faced beau. He's wearing a bolo tie with a gorgeous piece of jasper cut into the shape of...well, it looks like California to me. Maybe that's just because I'm homesick. She sticks her finger into the soufflé and I can tell she's seeing the dubious beige pudding not from the point of view of customer-beguiled-by-presentation, what with the fancy red cabbage and kale garnish, but as suspicious-meat-eater-being-coerced-into-eating-here. I feel for her.
"It's good," says Bolo-Beau, then digs into his buckwheat-noodle jicama-papaya bowl with an exaggerated enthusiasm, opalescent noodles disappearing wetly between his fat lips.
Redhead unwinds a soft green pashmina scarf from around her neck. "What's inside these mushrooms?" she asks Bolo-Beau. He must have bribed her to get her to eat here.
I glance at Nadia across the floor; her massive bun slowly unraveling, giving her the look of a Slavic warrior-princess. She is leaning down over a table in section four, which is where all the good tips come from—even if you don't have enormous breasts—because of the panoramic windows; the dramatic southwestern light works its magic on the desert and the patrons. Right now, a rosy sunset dusts the mesas. Gradient shades of pink and peach halo Nadia's head, which is just her luck, as these are her colors and, in their glow, she could be the next Miss America, reaching out for her crown. Her mascara is a tiny bit smudged below her eyelids, an effect that only accentuates her green eyes, even from across the room. I can see the very bottom half-moons of her ass where it peeks out from under the Band-Aid skirt.
Rosalie doesn't reprimand Nadia for slutty dress habits. Her flesh revealed keeps the customers happy, and she was raised on a hippie commune in Siberia, so not only does she have an exotic accent, she "gets" the food concept and can encourage people—like Miss Sneering Redhead here—into eating food they might otherwise be too afraid—or too wise—to consume.
What is it about Nadia that makes me want to break something?
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"Aliens" is roughly 5750 words.
Jordan E. Rosenfeld is author of "Make a Scene" (Writer's Digest Books, Nov, 2007) and with Rebecca Lawton, "Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life," (Kulupi Press, Summer, 2007.) She is a book reviewer for The California Report on NPR-Affiliate KQED Radio and for the San Francisco Chronicle. She is a contributing editor/columnist for Writer's Digest Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in The Pedastal, Void, Juked, Pindeldyboz, SmokeLong Quarterly and more. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. She edited the anthology "Zebulon Nights" (Word Riot Press).
Visit her at www.jordansmuse.blogspot.com
Learn more about Write Free at: www.writefree.us