© 2017-19  Beth Dranoff

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ramen with the demons

The slurping stopped when I walked in.

Not surprising. It was Christmas Eve, the place wasn’t busy, and they’d never seen me in here before. Not that they’d remember anyway – I was pretty sure the last time there’d been blood. Lots of it.

But that was Agency Dana. The old me. New me was a bartender working down by the waterfront at a converted warehouse at the intersection of Norm and Not Quite. A place where supes and humans could get together and drink, eat finger foods and listen to music together without violence. House rules.

Even the House closes Christmas Eve though. I’d been pulling double shifts for the last week, making up for all those days off between tonight and New Year’s, only to realize I’d forgotten to get groceries before everything shut down. So here I was, driving along Spadina Avenue – boulevard of neon signs, dumplings and homelessness – trying to find anything that was still serving.

The lights were on but everyone had gone home. This was pointless. I’d turned right onto a side street leading into the comparably deserted Kensington Market, ready to give up and head back to my place, when I saw it. A white lantern, a sign in some language I didn't recognize, and green flashing letters in the window that said OPEN.

It reminded me of those ramen shops you see in Japanese movies and TV. Narrow space – I don’t think the area was more than 15 feet wide from one wall to the other – with a long wooden counter, maybe five or six tables, and a smattering of chairs. Empty. Cotton curtains of blue and white hexagons separating me from the back.

A burly guy, tats bright against his pale skin, leaned out.

“Hungry?”

I heard chatter behind him; could almost taste the rich stews on the steam billowing over his shoulders.

“You still serving?”

He nodded and waved me back. I noticed the horns curving up from his head and the plated ridges lining the four-foot tail sprouting out from above his ass as I passed. Nice definition. I angled my head to check out the parts not obscured by his flaming red t-shirt or Kiss the Cook apron.

Tat guy caught me looking and flashed me a grin. Happy holidays indeed.

The rear section was a mirror image of the front, except this part was full. I squeezed into a stool at the bar between a Horned Snarglor demon and a three-headed Farquarant. All conversation froze, chopsticks hovering over rows of steaming bowls in case things went violent.

“We’re good,” I said, to nobody in particular. “Not looking for trouble.”

“She’s cool.” Tat Guy stared down the room, daring anyone to contradict him, as he flexed those incredible arm muscles.

Several long seconds of silence before the chatter started up again and everyone went back to ignoring me.

“I’m David,” said Tat Guy, sliding over a bowl with a napkin and his number. “And I get off at one.”

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