Random burger joint.
“I bet I can eat this whole thing of hot sauce,” I say the moment my ass hits the cheap plastic seat.
“Quit boasting, fatness,” Theo says as he slides beside me, sets down his receipt and water cup.
“I’m not boasting. I’m stating a fact.”
“Factual statements don’t start with ‘I bet.’”
Bug Eyes and Janny Boy sit across from us, adding their receipts and beverage cups to the collection.
“Show your work,” Jan says to me. He holds up the bottle of hot sauce, smiles that sleazy Czech bastard smile of his.
“Ooh, wait.” Eva unslings her tiny backpack-purse thingie, pulls out one of those ridiculously large DSLR cameras you see YouTubers and their wannabe followers using all the time. Switching the beast on, she aims it squarely at me. Hits record. “Okay, go.”
“What the fuck is that?” I demand, pointing at the camera.
“It’s a camera.”
“I know it’s a camera. Why are you using it instead of your phone?”
Eva taps the lens with her finger. “Better bokeh.”
“What the hell is a bokeh?”
“The intentional blurriness of a photo’s background.”
“Why would anyone want a blurry photograph?”
“Aesthetics. I video scrapbook. You know that.”
I give Eves the stink-eye. “I’ve never seen you scrapbook—video or otherwise—in my life.”
“That’s because you never pay attention to anything that’s not sugar-coated or heavily salted. Quit stalling and eat the hot sauce.”
“I’m not stalling!” I could totally eat the hot sauce if I wanted to. I could also masturbate right here in front of everybody, and it would totally blow their minds—but just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you have to. “What, am I a clown to you people? ‘Here’s a ball—play with it! There’s food on the table—eat it!’”
“You’re the one who brought it up,” Theo points out.
“And you’re the one who ordered a veggie patty at a burger joint!” Is it possible to overdose on hot sauce? A bead of sweat rolls down my forehead—
We all look up.
This pimply-faced swing manager is standing beside our table. “I’m sorry, children,” he says, “but cameras aren’t allowed inside the diner.”
Jan raises an eyebrow. “Why not?”
“House policy. I’m an amateur photographer myself, so I get it. If it were up to me, I’d let you film to your heart’s content. I don’t make the rules, unfortunately.”
The look on Bug Eyes’ face tells me she disagrees with at least two words out of Pimple Face’s mouth: “children” and “amateur.” In fact, for a sec I’m sure she’s going to ask me to hold her rig while she jumps up and puts the guy in some kind of wrestling hold. Instead, she just dimples at him and says, “Sorry. I didn’t know.” She puts her camera away.
Pimple Face leaves us be.
“What the hell was that all about?” I ask.
“People are skittish around cameras,” Eva replies.
Theo nods at the table across the way, where a small gaggle of double-daters are laughing and taking selfies with each other. “They don’t look so skittish to me.”
“They’re using phones, not DSLRs.”
“That’s senseless,” Jan says. “Aren’t phone cameras nearly as good as DSLRs these days?”
Eva shrugs. “Specs don’t matter. It’s psychological. Smartphones are normal, familiar. Everyone’s got one. Like, if a stranger is walking through downtown Disney and taking photos on her iPhone, she’s just whatever. If that same person is snapping away on a DSLR with a shotgun mic and light attachment, she’s clearly up to no good. It doesn’t matter that the iPhone girl might be stalking underage boy buns while the DSLR girl is simply doing street photography for a school project.”
Our food arrives, lukewarm and lackluster.
Theo peels the bun off his burger, eyes the veggie patty suspiciously.
“Whatever,” I scoff. “Call the pimple dude back here. I’m going to tell him I found a finger in my fries.”
“Wait a sec,” Eva says, frowning. “A minute ago you were mocking my camera. Now you’re standing up for me?”
I blink. “What does your camera have to do with me saying I found a finger in my fries?”
Eva sighs. “Nothing, apparently.”