“Oh yeah. It’s an Olive Garden gift certificate! Great!” Jimbo Stevens feigned a mixture of delight and surprise. For the fifth year in a row, his Aunt Clara had given him a gift certificate to his least favorite restaurant in the world. It’s not that Jimbo didn’t like the Olive Garden; rather he detested it. He tried not to look too annoyed as he opened his other presents. As he sat with his family, eating birthday cake, his anger grew. Not only had his hands been soiled by that cursed coupon, but his parents had forgotten to get him a pinata again.
After everyone had left, Jimbo went up to his room and fumed. He locked the door, opened a window and lit a cigarette. He was only nine, but his hatred of the Olive Garden had caused him to start many a bad habit, of which smoking was but one. As he puffed on his unfiltered cancer stick, he pulled out a collage from under his bed. In the collage, he had attempted to embody his feelings about the Olive Garden through pictures and words. The remains of four ripped-up Olive Garden gift certificates were scattered throughout. His fifth would help fill in the large unused portion of the upper right corner.
He admired his handiwork. The main theme was Hitler and the devil leading a procession of fat people into a large meat grinder which sat on top of an Olive Garden restaurant. There were also several pictures of his least favorite Aunt in compromising positions with Hitler. He had no way to prove any of his theories, but he knew in his gut the collage spoke the truth.
There was a time when he didn’t hate his aunt, in fact he liked her. The same could not be said for the Olive Garden. His parents had taken him there when he was five years old. At first, the idea of limitless salad and breadsticks had been very appealing to him, but soon he saw this for what it was: a ploy to get people filled up so they wouldn’t eat their entrees. That night he lay in his race car bed, pondering why a restaurant wouldn’t want its customers to eat all their food.
The answer was so simple he kicked himself for not realizing it sooner. The recycling craze that had swept the country in the early 90’s had simply followed a natural progression into the food service industry. The Olive Garden was recycling its unused food! It dawned on Jimbo that you would never be able to tell your pasta wasn’t fresh under all that heavy cream sauce. He gagged at the thought of paying $7.95 for someone else’s leftovers. Still, something troubled him. It seemed problematic that he would be the only person to stumble onto the truth. Surely, greater minds than his had dined at this house of lies and free lemonade refills. He realized the Olive Garden couldn’t be re-serving its food to its regular customers, and the true diabolical motives of the scheme came to light.
Jimbo wasn’t sure how it all worked, exactly, but he surmised that the Olive Garden took the uneaten food and sold it to a less discerning clientele: the homeless. “But the homeless haven’t got any money, why would the Olive Garden target such an unappealing demographic?” It was true, the homeless didn’t have lots of money, but perhaps they paid for their food through different means. The indentured servitude of an army of bagmen was something quite distasteful to Jimbo. He could only guess what multi-national corporations had partaken of the Olive Garden’s unkempt workforce. Wherever there was manual labor to be done and no large illegal immigrant population to exploit, the Olive Garden would be there, supplying the country with ditch diggers, toilet cleaners and hazardous waste processors. Jimbo looked around his room and wondered if his own house had been built by secret slave labor. He scoffed at this idea, since his house would have surely collapsed years ago due to the shoddy masonry work he knew the homeless to be famous for.
Jimbo put his collage away and tried to focus on happier thoughts. Tomorrow was his big date. This brought a smile to his face. For months he had tried to win the heart of a special young lady and she had finally agreed to go out with him. He had known her since the first grade but had never dared to share his feelings with her. Now he was an upper-classman, full of confidence in who he was, not only as a fourth-grader, but as a man. Though she was older, he knew she could see past their age difference. She wasn’t like the other girls. She was special. He saw it in the way she taught gym class. The care she took with her students. The way she kept her hair short; she wasn’t a slave to her vanity, like so many other women. She was unmarried and it pleased him that she wasn’t in a rush to find a man, that she had waited for the right guy. She had waited for him.
When she agreed to their date, she had tried to stress to Jimbo that they were only friends, but he knew she was just being coy. She wanted him to respect her and he loved her for this. Between the anti-Olive Garden fervor he had worked himself into and thoughts of his romantic encounter, Jimbo barely slept at all that night. The next day he walked through his school in a daze. He didn’t even think about the Olive Garden once! He got home and rushed upstairs to shower and shave. He put on his finest pair of short pants and his mom helped him with his bow tie. There was the customary picture taking and much doting by his mom and his sisters.
Finally, Miss Sappho arrived at his door. She was wearing a nylon tracksuit and sneakers. He tingled with lust; she had worn a brand-new tracksuit just for him! He escorted her to her car and fastened his seat belt. As she started up her 1985 Toyota Corolla, she asked if he had any ideas about where they should go to eat. He told her he didn’t care where they went, just as long as they were together. She smiled uncomfortably and pulled her car into traffic. “I was thinking we could go to the Olive Garden, they have free salad and breadsticks. Do you like Italian?”
He begin coughing and choking violently. She patted him on the back and asked if he was all right. After a moment, he composed himself and answered that he was fine. Of course, this was far from the truth. They drove in silence. He couldn’t believe the filth that had come out of her mouth. He wanted to vomit. All this time he had thought she was special, that she was different, but she was just like the rest of them! They didn’t care if Hitler got rich trading second-hand chicken parmesan to common street people. They didn’t care about anything as long as they got their damn salad and breadsticks.
As Miss Sappho maneuvered into a parking spot, Jimbo could hold in his feelings no longer. “How can you eat here? What kind of monster are you?” he shrieked. Miss Sappho just looked at him, shocked and confused. “I really thought I loved you, I was ready to spend the rest of my life with you, and this is how you return my affection?” He had become quite animated. He flailed his arms around as he ranted about the foundation of the whole country being built on a lie. His unfortunate date looked on in horror as this nine year old boy wove together an elaborate story of Nazi restaurateurs utilizing a battalion of homeless workers in a secret plot to take over the world. Clearly he was delusional, if not psychotic. Miss Sappho began to feel genuinely afraid, and in her rush to flee the car, struck her head on the automatic seat belt release, slumping back into her chair, unconscious.
Jimbo tried to revive her, but it was no use. He cursed his misfortune! He looked at her lifeless body and couldn’t help but feel compassion for this beautiful creature. Perhaps he had been too quick to judge her. Surely, over time, she would have come to see the error of her ways. But now it was too late for any of that. With a heavy heart, he lifted her out of the car and dragged her limp body towards the back door of the restaurant. He knocked several times before a timid busboy opened the door. The busboy was shocked to see a nine year old boy dressed up like a fancy lad standing next to an unconscious lesbian in a tracksuit propped up against a dumpster. “Hey man, is she all right?” asked the busboy.
“No, she’s not all right. She’s dead,” replied Jimbo, “and I killed her. But that’s not important right now. I need to speak with your manager, quickly. There’s no time to explain, just tell him I know all about his little operation here and I don’t feel like spending the rest of my life in jail.”
“What?” the busboy had only been half-listening. Jimbo rolled his eyes as a man in a short-sleeve shirt and a tie appeared behind the busboy.
“Victor, what’s going on out here? Why didn’t you clear table seven like I asked?” The manager surveyed the scene before him. “Holy shit. Kid, what’s wrong with her?”
Jimbo tried to compose himself. He took a deep breath, paused and spoke in an overly-mannered voice. “Sir, unfortunately, this woman is dead. I am partly to blame for her death. She hit her head after I startled her. However, due to the sensitive nature of the circumstances at hand, I am not in any position to let the system of justice in this country determine my fate. So I come to you now to ask that you have one of your employees help me dispose of the body however you see fit.” He peered into the kitchen. “I don’t know exactly what goes on here, frankly, it sickens me, but I trust you’re well-equipped to handle such a request.”
“You want one of my employees to dispose of her body? Kid, are you insane?” asked the manager.
“Hey, it’s not gonna be me,” said Victor.
“No no, you don’t understand. I know what really goes on here,” he winked at the manager in a knowing fashion, “I don’t mean your employees in there. I mean the ones out here. Look, there’s a bum over there by the liquor store, couldn’t you get him to do it?”
“Kid, what the fuck are you talking about? Have you been sniffing the glue? I saw that on Hard Copy. Sniffing? Or snuffing? No wait, huffing? Anyway, I’m gonna go call 911, Victor you stay here.”
Miss Sappho had started to come to and was beginning to moan and rub her head. At first, Jimbo was relieved, but he realized too much had already been said, they would have to see this one through.
He would never forget the horrified look in her eyes as he lifted the cinder block over his head. He thought of it often as he looked out the window of his small room. He had lots of time to think now. The two men from the Olive Garden had easily overpowered him when they saw what he was about to do. He never got the chance to dash poor Miss Sappho’s brains out. Maybe it was all for the best. His doctor had spent much time trying to disprove his beliefs about the Olive Garden. Sometimes Jimbo found himself believing him, other times he seemed just another cog in a giant wheel of conspiracy. Either way, Jimbo knew one thing for sure: he wasn’t going to eat the Jello.