“Way to go, Tommy. You’ve offended the rube.” Nathan threw a disdainful look at her as he reached for a menu. Cassandra offered a slight smile.

“Sorry, Mister. Don’t mind Tommy. She’s not as crass as she seems.” Tommy interrupted.

“Um, yes I am, Cassie. What I am not, however,” she pulled the menu Nathan held away from him, forcing eye contact. “..is rude. You need to apologize, Nathan. Just because someone has made the decision to live in the country is no reason to call them a rube or any other slurs. If anyone lacks sophistication or manners here, it’s you, for being foolish enough to insult the person who is going to make your dinner.” She turned her high watt smile on Herb. “Mister, you have my permission to spit in Nathan’s dinner.”

Herb took a step back, both physically and mentally, surprised by their banter. He hastened to set the record straight.

“Oh please, apologies aren’t necessary. And my name is Herb, Mister suited my father more than it ever has me. It was more the notion that you might be a cliche. I can’t think that’s any sort of compliment.” Casey spoke up.

“Nice to meet you Herb, I’m Casey. And it’s not so much that Tommy herself is a cliche, even if some of the stuff she says lacks the maturity of a well aged cheddar. She’s actually an interesting juxtaposition of a physics major trapped in the body of an 80s fitness instructor who yearns to be Brigitte Nielsen’s stunt double. But times being what they are, there is nothing we can do or aspire to which isn’t the result of an imprint from all the culture which came before us. I mean, look at us. We’re pretty much the Scooby gang as stereotypes, driving around in our van looking for monsters. We’ve got our Daphne and Fred in Tommy and Kirk there.” He gestured and the two beamed like twin suns. “Cassie is obviously Velma with her inquisitive mind and sapphic tendencies, while I am definitely Shaggy with my constant desire for munchies. And Nathan is our Scooby, leading the charge while simultaneously being afraid to engage with anything resembling reality. Because everyone knows that the monsters always turn out to be merely weak minded people trying to make themselves more impressive and failing.” He laughed while Nathan scowled and Herb paled.

“Monsters? What do you mean, looking for monsters?”

Cassandra put down the menu, a look of concern on her face.
“I know I keep asking, but are you actually alright, Mist..Herb? You’ve gone awfully pale. Ignore my brother. He smokes a lot of weed and thinks what he considers are deep thoughts but it’s mostly just him rehashing pop culture references he’s seen on the internet. We’re not the Scooby gang, and we’re not looking for monsters.” She leveled a glare at Casey. “The world has enough darkness in plain sight without seeking it out.”

Kirk interjected. “I don’t know anything about monsters or much else, but I have a pretty fierce hunger, and that barbecue smells amazing.” Tommy leaned in and kissed his cheek, then handed her menu back to Herb.

“Mmm, I have a hunger too, but yeah, I’ll settle for food for the moment.” Kirk met her eyes with a smile and returned the kiss. Casey put in his order and Herb turned to Nathan. Nathan handed over the menu but kept his grip on it momentarily, forcing Herb’s attention.
“Sometimes what people think are monsters are just the result of a misunderstanding, and perhaps their reaction to something might seem monstrous but is justifiable with context. I’ll have the pulled pork sandwich with minimal spit, please.”

Nathan let go of the menu as Herb’s lips pulled into a tight line.
“Demons to some, angels to others, hey? I’d be careful about aligning with ideologies which insist on validating cruelty as a way to achieve balance or justice.”

He turned abruptly to Cassandra, making his expression blank in response to the question in her eyes. This one was far more observant than he was comfortable with. But all she said was, “I’ll have the ribs with a side of greens.”
She handed the menu back and a smile. He returned it with a nod and moved toward the kitchen. He passed through the saloon style doors separating the kitchen from the rest of the cafe and they swung hard to either side behind him. Cassandra couldn’t help but notice the curved design of the doors almost gave Herb the brief appearance of having wings.

“Did anyone see…” but Kirk and Tommy were entranced with each other to the same extent that Nathan and Casey were enthralled by something on Casey’s phone. Tommy responded without looking away from the focus of her desire. “See what, Cass?”
“Nothing. Just my imagination, as usual.”

Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash