On any given school day, you can tell who’s finished their homework and/or chores first by who’s downloaded to our favorite table outside 3 Hags’ Doughnuts. Today, that just so happens to be Ernie and Theo. Well, Theo wanted to do Pho Goodness’ Saké, but Ernie would have none of it. His exact words were, “I’m not blowing my allowance money on what is essentially meat-sweat when I can have the actual meat instead.” That turned into an argument ending with 3 Hags’ as a compromise. Somehow. For the record, I was up for finding a massage parlor that’s unbiased against getting tweens off, but I guess this place has its charm. It got 4.8 stars on Yelp, though I suspect .8 of those stars are due to the gingerbread house décor, because while my cruller’s good, it’s not great—a common ailment at places that offer gluten-free alternatives on an otherwise gluten-enriched menu. Gluten-free is always an afterthought, just like chicken at burger joints, vegetarian at pho restaurants.
“Advertising is such bullshit,” Ernie says, upset despite the large milkshake and half-dozen pastries laid out before him.
Theo’s selection is more conservative (and, yes, hipster): gluten-free muffin and green tea latte. “You say everything is bullshit,” he points out.
“That’s because everything is bullshit. But advertising, especially.” Ernie points to the strip mall across the street. There’s a large poster in the window of a cell phone store showing two gorgeous college girls laughing and dancing together while sharing a pair of earbuds. Two chicks, one phone, in other words.
“Everyone looks better and has whiter teeth in advertisements than in real life,” Theo says.
“Oh, I don’t care about any of that.”
“Your porn collection begs to differ,” I say with a smirk.
Theo glares at me while replying to Ernie: “Then what?”
Inserting a handful of Danish into his mouth, Ernie says, “Just look at the tarts! Who shares a pair of earbuds between a single phone and dances to music like that? No one, that’s who!”
“You’re both twelve, and I’m plush,” I suggest. “How do we know what college girls do with their free time?”
“Doesn’t matter! A baby could call out the blatant inaccuracy of that poster! Clearly both girls are rich enough and white enough—”
“Racism,” Theo interjects.
“—for each to be able to afford her own phone, her own earbuds. Unless they’re going to trib immediately after, why would they put up with one earbud per person, one playlist on one phone? Totally unrealistic!”
“Ads aren’t supposed to be real. That’s why they’re ads.”
“Can you imagine a world where people use the things they buy the way they’re portrayed in commercials? Office jockeys off-roading to work every morning in their Jeep Grand Cherokees? Supermodels having orgasms while lathering Herbal Essences into their hair? Everything in cheesy slow-motion?” Ernie thinks for a sec. “Can you imagine if I ate this Danish all commercial-style?” He grabs Theo’s phone—
“Hey!” Theo yells, nearly spilling his tea.
—waves at him dismissively. “Relax, Goten. I’m just putting on a little music.” He searches for a moment, sets the phone back down. Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” starts playing. Trying to move in slow-motion, trying to look sexy, he picks up his Danish, teases one edge with the tip of his tongue. With his free hand, he removes his beanie, tosses it aside; he leans back, pretends to shake out a non-existent mane of unbridled hair. He braces the Danish above his gaping mouth—at which point a large chunk breaks off and falls directly into his windpipe. For a second he just freezes, bug-eyed, unable to suspend his disbelief that his breath has literally been taken away. He starts chewing with his neck. Or trying to, anyway. When that doesn’t work, he jerks forward and chokes loudly. Like some kind of gasping, grotesque piñata, he manages to cough up the Danish, as well as several undigested bits of Skittle and Gummy.
Theo clears his throat. “I’ve never seen that commercial.”
“I think I have Danish Lung,” Ernie rasps.
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