So, we had get-together at a local brew pub to celebrate the awarding of tenure to some friends and colleagues. They gave us the back room, since about thirty people showed up, and two servers just for us, and plenty of food and drink contributed to the merriment. My wife Coco and I had been among the first to arrive and I placed the first food order, a "Hawaii 5-0" burger (pineapple and teriyaki sauce) with a veggie patty for me and a salad with added tofu for my sweetie.
You might surmise that we have a vegetarian household, the two of us. Coco became a vegetarian when she was a kid, and has been at it for over twenty years now. She just doesn't want to eat any animals, simple as that. I starting cutting all meat out of my diet about fifteen years ago, having already given up beef; that process accelerated when I met Courtney. My motivation is more eco-political, having to do with factory farms and additives and so on, so I'll have some fresh-caught fish a few times a year or some organic, free-range, psychologically-well-adjusted, high-self-esteem chicken when I can get it. It's easier just to go vegetarian most of the time.
So, the tofu and salad came, and so did lots of other people's food, sliders and salads and nachos, and some mini corn dogs for my administrative assistant. But no Hawaii 5-0. I caught the server and by the look in her eye I could tell that she had forgotten to put the order in; she mumbled something about the kitchen and went off, coming back a little while later to tell me they were right on it.
A few minutes later an expediter came and brought me someone else's burger.
I caught the server again and explained and she rolled her eyes and headed back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, she came back with the other server assigned to our room, and they both set a Hawaii 5-0 before me. I thanked them and took a big bite.
Of a hot, juicy, beef patty. For the first time in probably twenty years.
I was french-kissing the Devil. My eyebrows shot up as sense memory kicked in, blasting open synapses that had been long shut. This was a good burger. The flavor, texture, and temperature were all perfect; it was enticing, voluptuous and powerful, the taste cutting through the toppings and bun to deliver pure, distilled essence of hamburger to my tongue and brain. The Tempter had chosen his form well.
I put the sandwich down and stared at it on my plate in silence for a long moment. Then, at a break in the conversation, I said to my tablemates "This is not veggie." A look of horror from Coco and a flurry of concern from everyone else met the announcement, clucks of disapproval and craned necks. The waitress was once again summoned, and with defeated posture she took the plate away to return to the kitchen yet again with this order from Hell. Eventually, the correct meal came, all was well, and we laughed and drank and gave congratulations. The fuss and feathers around my order from start to finish took shape as just one of the minor anecdotes that would come out of the evening.
Except that from the darkest corner of the pub I could hear Old Scratch chuckling.