art by Void lon iXaarii
by Anatoly Belilovsky
Swear to God, that's what the sign said: Quantum Mechanics. A faded, peeling sign on a rickety garage on a weed-choked lot. I looked out the window from the little Mexican taqueria across the street, and it still said: "Quantum Mechanics." Damn misleading.
"What's misleading?" the cook asked without turning.
Damn. I must have been thinking with my mouth again.
"Sorry," I said. "It's that sign. Quantum mechanics. That's not fixing cars."
He turned this time, and for a moment I just stared at his right arm. Or rather what he had where a right arm should have been: a cross between a pirate's hook and a vise grip. He had a spatula fixed into it, with bits of my burrito beef stuck to it.
"Mechanics fix cars," he said.
"Yes," I said. "But..." I looked up at his face. He had the leathery brown skin and the prominent nose straight off an Aztec carving. "You add 'Quantum' to 'Mechanics,' and now it means something different. Like, this is Manny's Tacos, your name must be Manny and you make tacos."
"Not really," he said. "My name is Ricardo. Manny retired, I bought the place from him with my pension money. And I'm making you a burrito. So you could say 'Manny's Tacos' is misleading, but you still knew before you walked in that you could get a burrito." He pointed at the grill with the spatula.
I opened my mouth to object, but the smell of the grilling beef hit my nose and my mouth started to water and it was either shut up or talk through drool. I shut up.
Ricardo turned toward a knife rack, unclipped the spatula from his stump, selected a knife, and rammed it into the vise grip with a movement like snapping a magazine into a rifle. He had an anchor tattooed on his arm, the bottom of the anchor disappearing under the cuff of the vise grip contraption.