Light and carefree piano notes dangled in the air, spreading that cheery jazz throughout the atmosphere. They danced around slowly, bouncing softly off the pale blue walls, attempting to fill the entire room with a positive vibe. But the jazz was a mask… a mask that the owner of this establishment was trying to fit over an ugly, evil face of deception.
The air of the restaurant was already riddled with blatant lies. Each time the door to the kitchen was flung open, it pushed plumes of poison down the patrons’ throats. The jazz band played on; smiles plastered on their faces. Were they in on it? Were they oblivious to their purpose here? Did they realize they were contributing to a horrific scam? The jazz music tried to make it okay. But none of this was okay.
The owner approached the table and asked how everything was.
“I know what you’re doing here and it’s not okay!” Daisy unleashed furiously.
The owner’s eyes popped open with disbelief. Angie choked on her soup and lurched her neck forward, afraid she may spit it out onto the table. Everyone in the restaurant looked over at Daisy. The jazz band stopped playing their instruments, one by one. The piano player was the last to stop, and it took him a few seconds.
Suspicious. He must be in on it. Daisy eyed him.
Her eyes shifted back to Angie just in time to witness the forming of a confused and angry face, post-soup-choking.
“Daisy, what are you doing?” Angie whispered, her face as red as the spicy sauce next to her bowl of soup.
The owner shifted uncomfortably in her spot in front of their table, waiting for Daisy to answer. The owner noticed Daisy hadn’t touched her soup.
“Miss, whatever the issue is, I’d be happy to accommodate you.” The owner said as pleasantly as she could. “Is there a problem with your pho?”
“Absolutely there is a problem with my pho!” Daily announced so all could hear. “It isn’t vegan!”
Gasps and silverware clattering on the thin, eco-friendly tablecloths were the only sounds bouncing around the room for a moment. Quiet dropped its curtain in the dining area. The owner opened her mouth; the sound of her inhaling slowly before speaking was a roar in the silent room.
“Miss, I can assure you, everything here is vegan. We are a fully vegan restaurant.” The owner spoke carefully and loudly enough so all the patrons could hear.
“Including my Phoenix Pho?” Daisy asked with a skeptical eyebrow raised.
“Including your Phoenix Pho.”
“Wrong! You say this is vegan Phoenix. But it’s not! It’s real Phoenix!”
“Vegan Phoenix is hard to master.” Daisy announced. “Phoenixes were only discovered to be real about five years ago. And immediately people started killing them and eating them. I had tasted it before…”
Gasps were flung across the room and into Daisy’s eardrums.
“Before I went vegan! Calm down!” She answered in annoyed fashion. “So, I know what it tastes like. And I know what all the vegan Phoenix options out there tasted like. No one could quite master it. They never got the flavor and the texture right. It’s just like how when they first started making vegan chicken and beef and turkey and all that. In the beginning, the vegan versions were obvious. Over time, they mastered it. Now, we can’t even tell. But Phoenix… there hasn’t been enough time to master it. No one has mastered it. Except for you here at The Phoenix Room. Lauded as the best vegan Phoenix in the world.”
One stupid guy who couldn’t read the room or the situation applauded. He got seven claps in before he said “Oh” and awkwardly stopped clapping and sat on his hands.
“So, how is it that you all mastered it?” Daisy asked.
“Our world class chefs…” The owner started.
“Enough about your world class chefs! How is it that you expect people to not realize that it’s real?”
“I’m confused, Miss, it isn’t real. This is vegan…”
“I can tell!” Daisy lifted a piece of “vegan Phoenix” in the air for all to see. The broth dripped from it and pattered onto the table. “You see, vegan Phoenix and real Phoenix always look to be about the same. It’s the taste and the texture that we can identify which is which. But when The Phoenix Room here gives you this “vegan Phoenix” that tastes “just like the real thing” then how would you know it isn’t the real thing?”
Daisy ripped the piece of “vegan Phoenix” in half and revealed a glowing stripe in the center of the meat. It was orange and it was red and it was neither of those colors all at the same time. It appeared to burn like fire and glow like a glow stick.
“In the center of real Phoenix… is this glowing piece.” Daisy announced. “It can’t be mimicked. It’s impossible. Do you think they want you to think that they also mastered the glowing piece on the inside? No. They want you to never look. That’s why they don’t serve a Phoenix Steak, or Buffalo Phoenix Wings, or Fried Phoenix Tenders. Because you’d end up seeing the inside. No, they only serve a Phoenix Pot Pie, a Phoenix Omelette, Phoenix Egg Rolls, Phoenix Shepherd’s Pie… and Phoenix Pho… because it’s all cut into pieces expertly to avoid the glowing pieces… and because you won’t go rooting around in your soup or your pot pie… not like I did!”
The glowing truth was illuminated in Daisy’s hand, held high above the table for two with a view out the window. Angie was disgusted. She pushed her bowl of Phoenix Pho away from her vicinity. Jaws in the dining room dangled and their accompanying ears waited for an explanation from the owner.
“Well…” The owner started, nervous smile on her face, scanning her patrons. “Okay, it’s true. It is real Phoenix. But hear me out.”
There were screams. There were curses flung about. There was even a “Well, I never” which hadn’t been used in a serious manner in exactly 50 years, and because someone who worked for the Guinness Book of World Records was in attendance for this spectacle, the speaker of the ancient phrase became immortalized in the book later on. But that’s a separate story. The crowd finally quieted. The owner continued.
“Hear me out, please. You are all vegan because you don’t want to eat dead animals, right?”
A resounding “right” echoed in the room and almost blasted the roof right off.
“So, if you eat something… and as a result of you eating that something… if an animal is no longer alive after that… then that is not vegan, right?”
A less resounding and more unsure “right” sounded off in stilted manner as the patrons were confused by the wording of the question.
“Perfect. So, then… this is vegan.” The owner smiled. “Because, after you eat the real Phoenix… the Phoenix is alive afterwards. We kill our Phoenixes in a specific manner… allowing them to do what they do… reincarnate themselves. After we kill them, we leave their ashes on a table in the back room, and we allow them to be reborn from their own ashes. So, you eat the Phoenix… but it is alive again afterwards. So… it’s vegan.”
There was a lot of confused consideration of this very strange situation. The patrons didn’t know what to do or where to look. The same stupid man began to applaud before his wife kicked him in the shin. Everyone looked to Daisy.
“After the Phoenixes are reborn… do you kill them again?” She asked.
“Yes, but we let them be reborn again. So, they get to continue to live.” The owner smiled. “They never truly die, people.”
Angie slowly extended her hands out towards her bowl of soup and started pulling it back towards her. Daisy slapped Angie’s hands away and halted the action.
“Then, that is worse!” Daisy exclaimed. “You’re killing them over and over again. They have to die many times just for us all to have a meal. That’s worse than one death. We want to avoid death, people!”
Daisy turned to the crowd and pleaded with them as she could feel the tide turning. Some standing patrons had seated themselves once again and started pulling their chairs back up to their pot pies and their egg rolls.
“What you are avoiding is eating an animal and that animal being dead afterwards.” The owner took control of the narrative. “And that is not what happens here, I can assure you.”
“No!” Daisy corrected her. “What we are avoiding is killing animals and causing them pain. She is doing this more so than anyone, actually! It’s worse than I thought! Think of the poor Phoenixes.”
“I think the plural is Phoenix-ii.” The Guinness Book World Record Holder announced.
“No.” The owner had a smug smile. “You are avoiding the animals being dead after your meal. Not an issue here in The Phoenix Room. No one here is doing anything wrong. You people are all helping to save the world. Go on, continue to enjoy your meals.”
Everyone mindlessly listened to the owner and sat back down.
“For the disturbance… free Thai Iced Teas for everyone!” The owner exclaimed.
Everyone applauded with the exception of the one guy who kept applauding out of turn. He had a Phoenix Egg Roll in his hands and became enraged that he was unable to applaud with everyone else and slammed his fists down on his table.
As if they knew this was coming, the serving staff all emerged from the kitchen with Thai Iced Teas and began handing them out to everyone. As the excitement grew to loud levels, the owner moved in close to Daisy, knowing no one else would hear her.
“I can afford to give out free Thai Iced Teas every day and still make a fortune.” She smirked. “The money I am saving with the Phoenixes, it’s ludicrous. Think about it. I bought 80 Phoenixes when I started on this venture. It was a hefty down payment, yes. But, that’s enough to pump out all the meals on any given day. And then they're reborn and I use them all over again. Imagine only having to buy ingredients for a dish once, and being able to make that dish every day. My costs are so low… I’ll be rich in no time.”
“Why are you doing it?” The corners of Daisy’s frowning mouth suddenly pulled up for a moment but then she bit her lip back down.
The owner was confused but then shook her head and returned to her pompous smile.
“The vegan Phoenix was too hard to master. You were right.” She answered. “And people love the gamey taste and that natural spice lined in their flesh from all that reincarnating from their own ashes. It can’t be mimicked. It’s the hottest new food. But Veganism has been on the rise ever since the early 2000’s and I wanted a piece of that action. I wanted a piece of both actions. This was the perfect marriage. I pass it off as vegan, because essentially it is. I got the dietary lifestyle and I got the delicious, hottest new food.”
“They’re not food. They’re animals.”
“They’re making me rich.”
“It’s not vegan. You’re hurting them and killing them.”
“Oh well.” The owner flashed a toothy smile. “One bird’s pain is another person’s pleasure. I bought a hot tub to go right in my living room. I have a car for each day of the week. Soon, I’ll have more houses. All thanks to those same stupid 80 birds.”
An explosion sounded off in the kitchen. Flames danced past the window in the kitchen door and then a squawk and a flash of brightly colored feathers emanated before a man yelled out a battle cry and followed that up with the sound of a cleaver clanging into metal objects and then into the body of something.
Daisy’s lips curled downward at the spectacle. She scanned the restaurant and saw everyone happily drinking their vegan Thai Iced Teas. She looked back to the owner. The owner smiled big. Daisy smiled…
The owner became immensely confused.
“I had a feeling the Phoenix thing wouldn’t fully work for me. The reincarnating thing… I had a feeling that’s what you did. Because you’re smart. Not as smart as me.” Daisy’s eyes lit up as she spoke. “That’s why I had a backup plan.”
“Hey everyone!” Daisy announced. “I know you all made your peace with the Phoenix you’re eating… but how are you liking that real cow’s milk in your Thai Iced Teas?”
“Yep. Jorge, would you bring the milk out that is used for the Thai Iced Teas?” Daisy shouted.
One of the servers headed into the kitchen and then emerged with a large container of some type of milk. He approached Daisy and the owner.
“Jorge?” The owner was astounded.
“Yeah, I got people on the inside.” Daisy whispered, then spoke loudly. “Is this the milk that you here at The Phoenix Room use for the Thai Iced Teas?”
The owner examined the container of milk labeled, ‘Coconut Milk.’
“Yes.” The owner laughed. “It’s coconut milk. Are you going to tell me the coconut struggled and was in pain?”
The owner guffawed and everyone laughed with her. The one idiot tried starting a slow clap and no one followed.
“So… this went into the Thai Iced Teas that everyone is drinking right now?” Daisy asked.
“It sure did!” The owner said proudly.
“Jorge.” Daisy looked to Jorge with narrowed eyes.
Jorge ripped the label off the container, revealing the true label underneath. Farm Fresh Cow's Milk. Everyone went berserk. Screams about their lactose intolerance, shouts about the cows being forced to become pregnant and give milk, a couple people vomited.
“Cow’s milk? What is this, 2025?!” One woman yelled as she dialed a number on her phone. “I’m calling the Vegan Services right now.”
The next five minutes were a mess. Patrons demanded their money back, demanded justice, more vomiting, four men ran to the bathroom due to their lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, The Phoenix Room only had three stalls in the Men’s room.
The owner never moved. She stood perfectly still, right in front of Daisy. She was frozen. She knew she was done for. She knew the agreement she had signed upon opening this restaurant was about to send her straight to prison. She had no one to blame but herself… and Daisy. Daisy knew that too. So, she smiled.
“And another thing.” Daisy said to the owner. “The Phoenix Room? Are you stupid?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You serve Phoenix Pho. The “Pho” is the first three letters of Phoenix. Plus, “vegan” and “Phoenix” almost rhyme. There are so many great names you could’ve come up with and you settled on The Phoenix Room. It sounds like the name of a strip club. You missed out on so many golden opportunities. The bad name alone made me hate you, even without all the other stuff.”
“No, I seriously thought long and hard about the name of the restaurant.” The owner reasoned. “It sounds like there’s a perfect name there, but there isn't. It's deceiving. I tried to come up with something but there was nothing.”
Daisy pulled out a list and showed it to the owner as she rattled off name ideas. “Vegan Phoenix Pho. Rolls right off the tongue. Vegan (Pho)enix. I mean, come on.”
“But then how do you pronounce that second one?” The owner questioned. “Do you pronounce the pho? Fuh-nix? Or is it Phoenix? Then, the joke is lost on those who can’t see the name. Then, people become confused about how to say the name.”
“And that becomes the marketing strategy. That’s your commercial campaign. People don’t know how to pronounce the name. They argue over it. They go back and forth. The commercials could be hilarious.”
“Oh my God! I missed a golden opportunity!” The owner smacked her face with the palm of her hand…
…and then one half of a pair of handcuffs slapped onto the wrist of her face-palmed-hand. The owner looked up to see several Vegan Services Officers had arrived. One was cuffing her, twisting her arm behind her back, and locking both her arms up.
“You have the right to remain silent…” The man spoke slowly as he pushed the owner along towards the front door.
Vegan Services ushered her outside to their electric car and tossed her in the backseat. Pandemonium continued inside the restaurant. The waitstaff did all they could to calm people down… they weren’t sure where to begin.
“So, you used Jorge to swap all her coconut milk out with cow's milk?” Angie asked Daisy.
“Yeah, of course.” Daisy laughed. “I couldn’t take a chance. Clearly, it was for the best.”
Several explosions sounded off in the kitchen, flames danced high and wide in the kitchen. Chefs and waitstaff sprinted out of the kitchen, screaming in fear and ducking under tables. Dozens of Phoenixes flew through the swinging door and into the dining area. The Guinness Book World Record Holder ran to the front door and propped it open, allowing all the Phoenixes to find their way out of the restaurant and into the wild.
It was quiet for a moment.
The one idiot, you know which one, stood up on his chair. He extended his arms out wide, slowly, readying himself for the slow clap of the century. And everyone waited… ready for him to finally have his moment. Just when he couldn’t extend his arms any farther, his eyes bulged out and he halfway-squatted on the chair. He clenched his thighs together tightly.
“Oh no. The milk. I’ve been saying I’m lactose intolerant for so many years just to sound cool… I forgot I actually am.”
He leapt off the chair and scurried towards the bathrooms with his legs pressed so tightly together, the friction almost started a fire. Perhaps the friction fire that burned his pants into ashes would later reincarnate… and rise up again… as a new pair of Phoenix Pants. But Phoenix Pants had been outlawed in 42 of the 50 U.S. States, including this one. No, this man wore a cotton-polyester blend. And due to the stalls in the Men’s room all being occupied, those pants were about to be a blend of more than just that.
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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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