Five Talents is something of an “ensemble” story. I’ve been sharing bits about Hell and my devil, Gast, but another side of the story is told around the depressed chef, Sally Degneri, who is the owner of the Via Fresca. Sally received the money for the restaurant from a mafioso named Benny who, not understanding how cover businesses work, refuses to let Sally open the restaurant. This scene shows the conflict between all my characters starting to ripple over one another. Calvin has written what he believes is a “fake” article about the Fresca to try to outsmart the devil Gast, a review of Sally’s restaurant he believe’s is already out of business. This gets published to the LA Weekly website and a customer arrives the very same morning to try the food of the “new genius of Los Feliz cuisine.”
“Ok, I wasn’t sure, the hours online just say ‘whatever’ so I thought that meant you were like an early morning, late night kind of deal.” The man swung his shock of blonde hair from out of his eye which wasn’t entirely successful.
“Hours online?” Sally asked in confusion.
The hipster flipped his phone for Sally to see the screen, he was on the Fresca’s yelp page and the hours did indeed say “Whenever.”
Sally recalled creating the page drunkenly when he’d been told by Benny that the restaurant was a front that would never open for a single customer that wasn’t there to do business with Benny. He’d started typing “whenever my big bad mafia boss realizes a cover business needs to do business to be a cover.” It had saved only the first word of it.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” the blonde man explained.
“Me either,” Sally admitted sickly.
“So you’re not open for breakfast?”
Sally looked at the sign in the window to his right and shook his head, “No, we’re an Italian restaurant.”
“Italians don’t eat breakfast?”
Sally blinked a few times and the hangover’s acrid taste burned in his mouth and soured his belly. He admitted that being around and preparing food over a hot stove when he was discombobulated, dehydrated and mentally deflated sounded like terror.
He shook his head, “no they don’t but,” the hipster looked up from typing out a message on his phone with a moment of disappointment, and Sally realized that he’d regret not serving even one customer more than he’d regret the agony of cooking hungover. “Come on in, I’ve got a breakfast menu I could try out on you.”
The hipster’s eyes beamed excitement, “oh-em-gee, can I hit up a couple of my blogger friends?”
“You’re a blogger?” Sally asked as he led the man into the Fresca and motioned for him to sit wherever he pleased.
“Yeah,” the man said proudly tapping away a new message on his phone, “I follow the LA Weekly and I’m on Twitter at LocoRoccocoBanger,” he slid into the same booth Sally had been sleeping in, regarding the ladle Sally had left behind with confusion but then just setting it on the table before turning back to his phone.
“You work for the LA Weekly?” Sally asked, his throat choking nervously on the last two words.
The hipster looked up in confusion and adjusted his thick framed glasses, “me? No, I’m a bartender, I follow the Weekly and share and comment on a lot of their stuff.”