Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: The Diner
Author: Puca Dentata
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None - future fic
Summary: Oz's meetings at the Diner.
Disclaimer: In Oxford, Ohio, it's illegal for a woman to strip off her clothing while standing in front of a man's picture. Damn. And this is kinda naughty, too. Please don't sue.
Author's Note: I have recently had a bunch of ideas for stories. All of them darker than anything I have written up to this point. So this is...my final purging of all nice warm things before writing these upcoming fics. And...yeah, this is a mush fic. One of *those*. My most sincere apologies.


Oz was in a pet store and there was this chinchilla and it was all pissed off.  All these people were tapping on the glass and it was sitting on its hind legs with its arms crossed, staring.

Oz was about to say "Oh how cute, it's all angry" but then he looked into its eyes and knew the only thing it wished for him was death. And probably some other things too.

***

He was lost.

He was trying to find an address for a business appointment. Confused and angry--reverse up the wrong street--stuck at the traffic lights. Frustrated.

A guy, middle 20's, disheveled, walked down the road with a carrier bag. He didn't see Oz or know he was there.

Just an ordinary guy in a snorkel parka.

Suddenly Oz was glad he wasn't him. The whole thing happened in less than 15 seconds--but he never forgot it.

The Ordinary Guy who scared him.

Oz went to the small diner/bar across the street to have a calming cheeseburger.

***

She was photographing a homeless man in front of the diner.

He was a kind, intelligent and thoughtful man who gave her his scarf when he thought she might be cold. He refused to take it back so she exchanged it for her gloves.

They were both trying to stay warm, and when Oz remarked they should come in and share a pot of coffee with him-- his treat--they accepted.

The homeless man told the girl and Oz about how he made money in the summer by creating chalk paintings on the sidewalk. Portraits, funny animals created from imagination, landscapes and buildings.

He then asked the girl if she knew what it was like to be living the way he did.

She said, "Clay, there's no way I could ever imagine what it's like to be living out here."

Clay took her hand and started to cry. He said she was the first person he'd met since living on the streets that didn't think they knew what it was like to be in his shoes.

Oz felt uncomfortable in the light of such honesty. It was one thing to be honest about the little things. But Big Truths made him feel like a hypocrite.

He left a three dollar tip and without ever asking the girl's name.

***

The diner was easier to find again that he would have thought.

"Hey, Clay."

"Oz, how is the world treating you?"

"Fine. Want some dinner?"

"Man, that's sweet...but. You're too nice." Clay swayed on his feet until Oz shrugged and replied.

"This summer...you gotta make me a drawing on the sidewalk. A...a forest."

They shook on it.

The whitest entree, perhaps in existence: 'creamed cod'.

Once in, Oz immediately began editing the chalked menu of specials. "Caesar's, NOT Caesars," he muttered, erasing, fixing.

After they'd been seated and served drinks, Clay spotted the creamed cod...they both laughed.

"Well someone has to get it. It might be really awesome."

Oz ordered it, of course he did.

And it was worth it, they both decided. White steamed fish over boiled chunks of potato with a thick waxy wallpaper paste sauce oozing over the surface.

They pondered who could've thought it up--Oz felt it more Lutheran than Catholic in theory.

It wasn't fair though, Clay thought. Oz going hungry while he attacked his greasy 'n good cheeseburgers. But Oz refused to trade.

It was a kind of martyrdom for the sake of anecdote.

Oz left a five-dollar tip that time, saying that it was a thank-you for the proof that creamed cod existed.

They parted ways on the sidewalk. Oz walked towards his car when Clay called out, "Hey man! The girl, the photographer. She thinks you're cute, I reckon. Wanted to know if I knew you."

Oz simply raised a farewell hand over his head and kept walking.

***

"Tater Tots."

Clay and the girl both nodded seriously at Oz's comment, eyeing the pile of potatoes on his plate.

The girl paid this time. For Clay because he let her photograph him and for Oz because he treated her coffee that first day.

Oz told them about Devon.

"The floor of that basement was so yicky...But we sat there anyway, making sculptures from the disgusting cafeteria food that Devon would steal. He'd always take two tater tots, two that were attached at the top, and attack me with it. "AHHHH TWINS! CONNECTED AT THE HEAD!"

His companions laughed, and the girl told her own story.

"I can remember me crying and my mother listening to me. I was feeling misunderstood...you see--I preferred my broccoli raw, not cooked, and the whole world liked it cooked and we were having it cooked for dinner and so I cried." She ends her little tale in a breathless rush, looking scared that it might not measure up or brand her as an oddity.

But Clay and Oz applauded, and she blushed, taking a bow in her seat. Her hair nearly fell into her spaghetti sauce as she did, and Oz reached forward to brush it out of danger.

The girl still didn't tell Oz her name. Perhaps she thought he already knew, and didn't want to be forward. Whatever the case, he didn't ask and they parted ways on the sidewalk.

***

Post dinner ease, and there was going to be entertainment. This was the first time Oz has been to the diner at night.

In the evening, it was much more bar-like.

Warm atmosphere, red lighting, golden chandelier, mood bass around the corner, and a trumpet.

Oz approved.

The act was the trumpet, bass, and a singer. No piano, drums or electric guitar. Just three deep sheltering sounds that melded into comforting blues.

Clay told Oz he used to be a mechanic. But an alcoholic one. Does he still drink?

"Shit, 'course I do. It's my vice, man."

Why?

"Because you can't guess what you'll be, and if you could you'd never realize it."

Oz thought cheap, meaningful words that made no sense--and made you feel stupid 'cause you couldn't understand what is meant--were overrated, and told Clay so.

"That why you still don't know the girl's name?" Shaggy eyebrows were raised at Oz, who unsuccessfully tried to raise his own eyebrows in mimicry.

"I like the mystery."

"You like the mystery? Man, people take it all too seriously. Go ask her name and stop over-analyzing. Too many secrets in your skin. Too alert to *nothing*. Think that's a *good* thing." Clay was drunk and rambling.

Oz shrugged. "Yeah. 'Kay."

He sat back and listened to the performers on stage.

***

The girl was suddenly next to him when he looked over, placing obvious focus on the stage. He could smell how nervous she was. She was wearing lipstick and a scarf he had mentioned he liked.

***

She nudged Oz. He noted her smell and decided it was rather pleasant.

"Blues makes me so sad. And it's so funny, because it reminds me of Mickey Mouse. And balloons."

"Really? Why?" Oz couldn't help but be intrigued by such a random comment.

"I got a Mickey Mouse balloon at the mall once. When I got home I was standing in the driveway with it and I lost it somehow, and it sailed off. I cried as it flew away, missing something I *really* wanted. It still hurts to think of it today."

She caught his eye and they both smiled at her memory.

"All of the mistakes and losses over the years and the balloon makes me sad." She shrugged.

"And that's the blues to you?" Asked Oz.

"Yes."

Oz took a deep breath and eased it out. "Yes, it is. I get it."

She also took a deep breath and her eyes widened slightly, her heartbeat quickened. "Would...would you like to go for a walk?"

Oz scrunched his eyebrows up perfectly; perfect Clay-ism. "Where?"

She shrugged. "Anywhere. I like to walk when I'm getting to know someone new."

Oz leaned forward a bit. "Because it's moving forward. Right? It's both physical and mental. Emotional. Whatever."

He couldn't find quite the right words, but she was nodding, her small smile making her cheeks into plums.

He decided he quite liked her smile, after all.

"Let's go. But only if I can wear your scarf. We can trade for the night, see?"

She laughed, and they headed towards the exit after waving to Clay, who was lost in his own thoughts and memories.

Their exit was near the stage, and Oz had to speak up as they neared the trio performing.

"What's your name? I don't think we've been properly introduced....."

***

And the performer on stage sang far into the night.

"We must forget all that can be forgotten, that already has passed away.  Forget those hours that sometimes killed in attacks of "why", the heart of happiness. Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me."

"I will make a land, where love will be king, where love will be law, and you my queen. Don't leave me. Do not leave me. I'll make up crazy words that you'll understand. I'll tell you about the lovers who have twice seen their hearts catch fire. I'll tell you the story of this king who died from not being able to meet you. Don't leave me. I won't cry anymore I won't talk anymore I will hide there. To watch you dance and smile and to hear you sing and then laugh. Let me become the shadow of your shadow, the shadow of your hand, the shadow of your dog. Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me."

"Don't leave me."