A man in a wide-brimmed hat walks into the lobby of a Taco Bank five minutes before it opens. The room is lined on three sides with rose-colored glass windows that reach all the way to the ceiling. It’s the color of hunger as it approaches and departs. A narrow bench and table divide the room in two. On the far wall at waist height there’s a small counter, speaking port, and a narrow slot for passing money and tacos through.
He accidentally slams the door on his way in and the sound ricochets around the room’s ninety degree angles.
A door behind one of the reflective glass windows opens and a short blonde woman in a hat and pinstriped vest walks in. Her name tag says “Judy”. She unlocks the speaking port and taco slot.
“We’ll be with you in a few moments, sir.” Judy looks at her watch. “We open in exactly four minutes.”
“The same as yesterday then, thank you, Judy.”
The man rehearses his request for the taco teller. His account numbers and taco codes are neatly stacked at the top of his mind because he’d been here for nearly an hour the night before. A security guard had politely asked him to leave the building after he threw his hat hard at the glass walls and had an outburst in front of an attractive couple toying with hot sauce packets at the table. “I just. Want-my-god-forsaken-Taco-Back! WHYcan’t-you-horrible-little.. Taco wardens HELP-ME?!”
He’s calm now but there’s a curtain of anxiety hanging from his forehead. Judy returns to her window and nods at the man. “How can I help you this morning?”
“I would like to replace a taco that I lost yesterday morning. My account numbers are 107002147 434776898 and I believe the taco code is 200070.”
Judy writes all of this information down on a small square of paper. “I should be able to help you with this request. What’s the reason the original taco was lost?”
The man stares at Judy. Dang hot sauce, he thinks. I squoze too much hot sauce atop the poor thing and threw it in the lake.
“I believe it was taken from my car by some child on his way to the school bus, mam.”
Judy notes this detail on his paper. She stands up and tells the man that she’ll be right back and then walks away, her chair spinning a quarter of a clockwise turn.
It’s early and the lobby is still empty. A security guard, different from the one yesterday, stands by the front door.
Within a few minutes, Judy returns and sits down at the window again. She looks at the man for a few seconds before speaking. “Thank you for providing your account numbers. However, the taco code you gave was invalid. I went ahead and pulled two tacos that have similar values to the one you provided.”
She slides the square of paper underneath the taco slot and uses her Bic pen to indicate to two illustrations she’s drawn. The first shows the half-circle outline of a fancy taco with cubes of meat and lettuce protruding from the shell.
“This taco, number 206070,” she emphasizes the last four numbers, “is made with steak, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and a creamy avocado ranch sauce.”
Judy squints through her red horn-rimmed glasses at the man.
“Ok” he says. His heart does a troubling flipflop in his chest. He hooks his thumb under his tight collar and wonders for a moment if he’s about to die. It had been a rather hot morning. He was perspiring. He’d forgotten to eat breakfast and his stomach was gurgling fire sauce.
Her pen moves down an inch to the second illustration, this one showing a simple taco with an almost imperceptible filling of ground beef. “And here is taco number 207700, which I suspect is the correct number from which you mistakenly transposed your code. You ought to write these things down the very moment you see them.”
“Sorry but…” He pulls at the skin around his forearm. “Those are the numbers I wrote down.”
“No, these are the numbers you wrote down. They are nothing.” Her pen points to his numbers. “And these numbers over here, these are a crunchy taco made with seasoned beef, cheese, and lettuce.”
A feeling like snapped rubber bands, expanding gasses, a garden hose kink finally working itself free, trapped water sizzling past the defeated obstruction and all the way out to the end. His jaw unclenches and bowels unfurl.
“That’s my taco. I’d recognize it anywhere.” Almost immediately, a doubt scrapes at his heels. What does a man know about tacos? I’m bound to ovresauce every taco I get my hands on. He sighs heavily and a thick plug of mucus catapults from his left nostril and lands on his tie. He wipes some of it away with his hand.
“Yes, well, thank you for your assistance. I’ve been trying to replace this taco for a while and it’s been quite troubling to find a match. Now how much do I owe you?”
Jason Fox is one of many Jason Foxes. His stories have appeared in X-Ray Magazine and Riggwelter press. He’s on Twitter @JJFoxBox