There was a piece of pancake stuck in my tooth. Wedged between my canine. I was picking it at it and staring out the window at the Calypso. There was no one in the restaurant. Matthew and Roy were playing chess at the counter. Delaney was watching them and asking Matt questions. I frowned: she’d done this before, during one of the other twelve times they split up. She’d suddenly lose all knowledge of chess despite everyone teaching her at least twice. We kept a tally of wins on the bulletin board next to the schedule. She wasn’t even the worst player.
Matt said I tended to drift off into space while playing.
I listened to their murmurs of chess-talk while I watched a man run across the gas station parking lot, his arms windmilling in panic. Something roared in the distance, and a moment later, a long semi-truck squealed into view, turning sharply into the Calypso driveway, its 18 wheels screaming against the pavement, the trailer hitch swinging dangerously close to the gas pumps, but missing barely as it chased after the man.
I wondered why he didn’t change angles instead of running straight.
One of the man’s shoes fell off as he ran, forcing him into a hobbling-skip-run.
The truck recovered from its wild turn and gathered speed, uttering a great, gasping sigh as it changed gears and crossed the lot, the dented front end looking feral and ancient under the lights.
The man was running towards us, trying to reach the diner. As he got closer, I saw that he was wearing a trucker cap and a mechanic’s jumpsuit.
I also saw that he was not going to make it. He had about a half a football field’s length to go and the truck was closing.
He realised it too, because he froze and turned around. I watched him shift his weight back and forth on each foot, ready to try and dive around the truck. Move too soon, the truck adjusts. Move too late, well, semis turn humans into Playdoh.
The truck saw his challenge and roared with glee, closing the gap in seconds. The man coiled his legs and dove to the right, the headlights of the truck flooding the diner windows, making everyone look up. Shadows danced aross the counters and tables, and the noise made the windows rattled in their frames.
For a second, it seemed like he made it. He cleared the truck easily, dropping into a clumsy dive and roll, the truck passing a few feet to his left. The truck whined and hit is brakes, skidding to a halt right by the Calypso entrance.
The man scrambled to his feet and started to run again.
The truck snorted, one of those exhaust releases. A slim, black-purple tentacle, the thickness of a telephone pole, shot out from the engine block. It snaked out and caught his bare ankle; I saw dozens of smaller, extension-cord thick tendrils leaping out and crawling up his calf.
Another tentacle sprang out and wandered over to help. It caught the man by the head, and together the twin arms pulled their victim to the grill of the truck. I waited for a mouth to open, teeth to appear, but nothing did.
It simply began smashing the wiggling man against the jail-like bars of the grill, over and over, until he stopped thrashing and became limp. A red smear like spaghetti-Os that exploded in the microwave dripped from the metal. It liquified him with further bashing, until he was gone.
Then it snorted again. A piercing beep-beep sound echoed as it backed up, and soon it drove away. It seemed cheerful to me.
The employees of the Calypso Gas and Chew watched this with interest. It was like seeing a deer, or an eagle; a communal respect for nature at work.
“What do we do?” I asked.
Matt was already picking up the phone that was near the register. “Oh you haven’t seen one yet? We get trucks that go feral from time to time. We call in pest control, they take care of it.”
He dialled a number and spoke briefly to someone.
I looked back out the window and watched Lee the gas station employee picking up the shoe the man had lost.