Painfully Crispy Fried Chicken
"Painfully Crispy Fried Chicken," the sign on the otherwise unmarked building read.
"Either it's going to be amazing or terrible," Daniel said. "There's no in between."
"I tried to look it up, but the place isn't even listed on Yelp," Audrey said.
"That's okay. Let's just go in."
Daniel grabbed the giant metal door handle and pulled. "After you," he said.
"But it's dark in there," Audrey said, backing away from the door. "You go in first. I'll follow you."
"Okay, darling," Daniel said. He took a step into the building, but because there was no floor, he fell downward into the darkness. "Audrey, help!!" he screamed. His voice grew quiet as he fell.
"Noooo! Danny!" Audrey shouted, sobbing. For a moment she hesitated to go in. Then she stepped off the front concrete entryway, falling into the darkness and screaming.
"Audrey, is that you?" Daniel's voice called out from below. "I think I found the dining room."
"You okay, sweetie?" Audrey called downward before landing with a thump.
Daniel extended his arms and helped Audrey up. "See that light over there? That has to be the dining room. Do you hear that?"
Sharp crunching noises came from the lighted doorway in the distance. The savory scent of fried chicken wafted in the air.
"That's it! Let's go!" Daniel said. He grabbed Audrey's hand and led her toward the doorway.
As they approached, a chubby man in a rooster hat poked his head out. His hat had a tall comb that brushed against the top of the doorway. "Party of two?" he asked.
"Yes, it's just us," Daniel said.
"Then you're in for a treat," the man said. He led Daniel and Audrey down a long row of tables. At each table was a couple with a tall pile of fried chicken. "This is the date section, for couples on dates," he said. He looked Daniel and Audrey over and saw that they were still holding hands. "You can sit here," he said, pulling a chair out at an empty table.
"That's perfect," Audrey said, taking her seat. Daniel sat down across from her.
"You look like you've never been here before," the man said. "It's your first time, right?"
"It sure is," Daniel said.
"Well, we rank our chicken on a scale of one to ten," the chubby man said. "One means it's crispier than any chicken you've ever had. Ten means it's so crispy your teeth can break if you're not careful."
The man smiled, revealing a mouthful of chipped teeth. "I like my chicken level ten," he said. "I know it's not good for my teeth, but I just can't help myself."
"I really do like crispy chicken," Audrey said. "Do you really think my teeth will break if we try level ten?"
"Definitely," the man said. "How about I get you level one, since you've never been here before?"
Audrey frowned and looked at Daniel. "But I like crispy things," she said.
"Don't worry, a one will be crispier than you've ever experienced. I guarantee it," the man said.
"Okay, let's start at one," Daniel said to the man. "We can always order more if it's not crispy enough."
The man pulled a giant notepad out of his jacket. He uncapped his pen and began scribbling away. For two long minutes, Daniel and Audrey sat in silence, looking at each other as he continued to write.
"Alright, I'll go put in your order," the man said.
"Thank you," Daniel said.
"That was a lot of writing for such a simple order," Audrey said to Daniel after the man walked away. "What do you think he was writing down?"
"I don't know, but something about this place is strange," Daniel said.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Audrey said. "Sometimes that's the price you have to pay to get really crispy food."
A loud bubbling sound came out of the kitchen. Crackling filled the air. "I worked with hot oil fryers all day at the Chinese restaurant, but I don't remember anything ever sounding like that," Daniel said.
The sound stopped, and a moment later a tall Asian woman walked out of the kitchen holding a giant platter of fried chicken. Wings, drumsticks, breasts, and thighs were piled higher than her nose. She brought the platter over to Daniel and Audrey's table and set it down. "Careful, it's hot," she said and walked away.
Upon closer examination, the chicken was so full of nooks and crannies that it sparkled.
"Let's eat," Daniel said, grabbing a drumstick.
Audrey took a wing and put it on her plate. "You bite yours first," she said. "Tell me how it is before I try it."
Daniel opened his mouth and brought the drumstick to his teeth. As he bit into the chicken, a loud shattering sound filled the room. "It's good!" he tried to shout over his own crunching.
"What?" Audrey said. "I can't hear you."
Daniel continued to chew, his mouth sounding like a wrecking ball hitting the side of a brick building. "It's really good!"
"I can't understand a word you're saying over all that noise," Audrey said. "I'll wait until you're done chewing."
For several minutes Daniel continued to chew the same mouthful of drumstick. Audrey grew hungrier as she waited. Finally he swallowed the last bit. "Sorry that took so long. It's really good. You'll love it," he said.
Audrey took a bite of her wing, filling the room with a sonic boom. For the next hour she chewed her mouthful of chicken.
"This is definitely the crunchiest chicken I've ever had," she said. "But at the rate it takes me to eat, we'll be here all week."