Fast Food Avengers: The Chicken Wars (Part 6/Finale)

Paul unlatched the doors to the storm shelter and climbed down first. Ronald McDonald lifted Paul’s son, handed him down before helping Paul’s wife climb down the small ladder.

Ronald looked back at the ever-growing battle behind him. He saw another canon ball crashing into the barn. He saw Jake from State Farm sprinting away from The Jolly Green Giant. And there was Burger King and Little Caesar locked in an epic sword fight. Ronald McDonald sighed, shook his head, then climbed down, closing the doors behind him.

Note: If that last paragraph made you scratch your head and go, “Huh?” chances are you might need to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 first. This has become an epic fast food adventure.

Down in the storm shelter, there was one long table with white chairs on both sides. String lights hung down from the ceiling. The walls were bare and the floor was cold concrete. In the back, there was a full kitchen – gas stovetop, large counter with a couple of wooden cutting boards, dark green refrigerator, oven, microwave. And a Rocky II poster.

“Woah, what’s going on here?” Ronald asked.

“Eh, just something I’m working on, I guess,” Paul said. “Kind of a farm-to-table concept.”

“More like farm to shelter,” Ronald said, taking a seat at the long table. He smiled at Paul’s son who sat on his mother’s knee.

“It’s gonna open any day now,” Paul’s wife said with a smile. She kissed the back of her son’s head. “And that day might happen any year now.”

“Yeah, I think I’ve always liked the idea of opening a restaurant better than actually opening it,” Paul said.

“Well, sounds like you’re at least open to it,” Ronald McDonald said.

They all heard a loud thud on the storm shelter doors. One of the doors flung open. Reaching down was a pirate’s hook and an oven mitt. In between these makeshift hands was a very plump and very terrified chicken.

“Take it!” the Oven Mitt shouted. “We don’t have much time.”

“What?”

“Take the fricken chicken,” Oven Mitt repeated. “We’ve got one more coming. Husband and wife.”

“I think they’re just living together,” Long John Silver corrected.

“Aren’t you guys in the chicken wars?” Ronald said, reaching up for the chicken.

Long John Silver’s hook and the Arby’s Oven Mitt disappeared for a second then reappeared holding another chicken.

“We’re gonna zig when everyone else zags,” Oven Mitt said. Ronald reached up for the second chicken. “Only gonna serve roast beef and fish. And then just like a ton of hush puppies.”

“It be our differentiatorrr,” Long John Silver said.

“You made this pivot mid-fight?” Paul asked.

“Yeah,” Oven Mitt said. “Lot of time to kill on a boat. Alright, well, Mr. Clean’s charging at us with a lightsaber so, gotta go!”

Paul looked down at the two chickens. They started nervously pacing around the room, clucking, and bock-bocking with each panicked step.

“My mom always said, no matter what I do, I gotta keep two of those chickens alive,” Paul said. “Guess we’re still okay after all.”

“Paul, did I ever tell you what I’d do if I only had one day to live?” Ronald asked. He stood up from the chair and started walking back to the kitchen.

“What?”

“I’d make a Big Mac.”

“Don’t you do that every day?”

“Yes and no. See, I’d take the whole day. I’d go to the butcher shop for the beef. The farmer’s market for the vegetables. A local baker for the sesame seed buns. And then I’d start making the secret sauce.”

“Which is just thousand island dressing, right?”

“Yes and no. And by ‘no’ I mean yes. Anyways, I’d fire up the grill, get out the veggies, get out the knives. I’d put on some Smash Mouth and try to make the best Big Macs I’ve ever made. And then I’d serve ’em to my friends and family. That’s what I’d do.”

Ronald paused for a second, smiling down at the stovetop.

“It’s funny, I’ve served billions of Big Macs, literally, billions, all around the world, and yet all I really want to do is serve one or two really good ones.”

“I feel like you’re tip-toeing around a metaphor here?”

“Paul,” Ronald said. He took out a frying pan from one of the cabinets. Grabbed a bag of flour. “I see a kitchen, a family, two chickens, and a chef. I think it’s time to make some chicken sandwiches.”

“I can’t,” Paul said. “For all we know, these truly are the last chickens.”

“And?”

“I’ve gotta keep Mom’s wish alive.”

“What’s more alive than a memory?”

Paul paused. He looked back at Ronald, speechless.

“For the rest of his life, your son will remember the time he and his parents chased around a couple of chickens with Ronald McDonald in a storm shelter. He’ll tell his kids about the greatest chicken sandwich he had for dinner and how there’s no way anyone could ever, EVER, make one better. Eighty, ninety years he’ll carry that story around with him. And the nostalgia will only make the sandwich taste better.”

Ronald took out a few wipes from his pocket and started wiping the white and red makeup off of his face. He removed it shockingly fast, two or three swipes. He reached behind him and took off what looked like the Captain America shield, but ended up being a large blue and red mixing bowl.

“All that chaos outside,” Ronald continued, “deep down, each of them knows that no matter how hard they try, how hard they fight, heck, they could sell a billion chicken sandwiches, and never compete with a memory like that.”

Paul looked over at his wife and son. Just as he was about to say, “Ronald, I hear ya, but I just can’t,” he caught the Rocky II poster out of the corner of his eye. He pictured Rocky in the alleyway chasing the chicken with his trainer Mick barking at him. You catch this thing, you can catch grease lightning!

Paul looked at those final two chickens rushing around the storm shelter.

What’s more alive than a memory?

“Carter, start over there, chase ’em over to me. Tessa, can you start working on the eggs and flour? Ronald, start making the buns.”

“There we go!” Ronald exclaimed.

It was a sight to behold in that little storm shelter on 2850 Poultry Road. Paul and his son chased the chickens, laughing every step of the way. Ronald McDonald handled all the butchering. Paul distracted his son from the memory-scarring scene of a clown wielding a bloody knife. Ronald McDonald took the buns out of the oven, painted on a coat of sauce. Paul and his son started breading the chicken. Tessa got the French fries started in a device that tripled as an air fryer, pressure cooker, and printer/fax machine.

Eighty, ninety minutes later, the four sandwiches were finished. Tessa set four plates down on the table. Carter jumped right in, took a man-sized bite.

“Shouldn’t we say grace?” Tessa asked.

“Grace,” Ronald said with a smile. His smile was just as big without the makeup.

No one said a word during the chow fest. Just a few grunts and, “Mmmmmms.” Maybe one or two mumbled, “Oh, that’s good. Frick, that’s good!” Paul’s wife said it was the best chicken sandwich she ever had. Ronald McDonald said it was better than the ones he had growing up in the castle. Paul’s son said, “Thanks Daddy-O, that was awesome,” with sauce all over his chin.

Paul couldn’t say he agreed or disagreed with any of their reviews. He simply looked down at the crumbs on his plate and knew one thing: this was the absolute best I could do. He felt a wholeness take over his body, a feeling that had no comparison because it was something totally new. There was nothing left to compete for or against. He felt light, almost like he was floating over the table.

The four cleaned up, gathered the dishes into the dishwasher. They sat around the table and listened to some of Ronald’s ol’ restaurant stories. Like the first time he made a Big Mac. Or the time he and Grimace ate 250 chicken McNuggets. Or the epiphany he had at a Texas rodeo, which led to the McRib sandwich.

Three hours went by in the blink of an eye. Paul had no idea how late it was until he saw Carter rubbing his tired eyes. Paul checked his phone.

“Wow! Yeah, we gotta start getting ready for bed,” Paul said.

Paul went to the storm shelter doors, stuck his head out. It appeared the coast was clear. Tessa held a sleeping Carter in her arms. She said goodbye, it was nice meeting you, then she and Carter went back to the farmhouse. Paul walked with Ronald McDonald back to the clown’s car.

“The way I see it,” Ronald said. “You got yourself two roads here. You can come back with me, we use your chicken sandwich recipe, start selling ’em at every McDonald’s in the world. Or, you stay here, get that breakfast restaurant up and running. Either way, I don’t see you walking on eggshells anymore.”

“Yeah,” Paul said.

“Paul, you got quite the fork in the road here,” Ronald said.

Ronald McDonald reached down and picked up a silver fork laying by his feet.

“Must’ve dropped it during the fight,” Ronald said. He put the fork in his pocket. “Anyways, keep me posted. Although I’m pretty sure you and I both know what happens next.”

Ronald McDonald handed him his business card. He pulled out a horn, gave it a toot-toot, then danced his way back to the car. Paul looked down at the business card and couldn’t help but laugh and roll his eyes at the simple contact information.

Ronald McDonald
Big Mac on Campus
1-800-SMILE-ON

4 WEEKS LATER

Paul and his son walked the aisles of the farmer’s market. Carter had his Incredible Hulk action figure in one hand and a big 24-count egg carton in the other.

Paul grabbed a dozen or so juicy red tomatoes from Tom’s Tomatoes. He bought a jar of honey from Honey 4 Yo Money. And then Paul purchased a peck of pickled peppers from Daryl’s “Double Dog Dare Ya” Pepper stand. Daryl offered some unsolicited menu advice for the grand opening of Paul’s farm to shelter restaurant.

“Remind me again, what it’s called?” Daryl asked.

“Dancin’ on Egg Shells,” Paul replied.

“That’s right,” Daryl said with a nod. “Wife says you’re only serving breakfast? You know, you should really think about lunch and dinner.”

Paul nodded and made his final stop for a couple of handfuls of spinach and lettuce.

“Thank you,” Paul said, holding a pause for effect. “Maggie.”

Maggie smiled and the three of them — Maggie, Daryl, and Tom — watched as Paul and his son crossed the road back to his truck.

Paul helped his son into the truck and went around to the driver’s side door. They had the windows down and it looked like a couple of flies were zooming around inside the cabin.

Right as Paul was about to hop in, he heard someone shout his name from across the country road. He looked back and saw Ronald McDonald. This time in full clown get-up.

“Hey, Paul Tree!” Ronald shouted. Hands cupped around his bright red mouth. “Why’d the chicken cross the road!?”

Paul started to smile.

“Why’s that?” Paul shouted back.

“To get to the other side!”

A few cars drove past, and by the time they’d buzzed by, Ronald McDonald had disappeared. Paul shook his head a little, smiling at the last month’s absurdity, then hopped in the truck.

“I don’t get it,” Carter said. “What’d he mean, Daddy-O?”

“Eh, it’s hard to know with a clown,” Paul said. He turned on the ignition and looked ahead at the open road.

“Whaddaya say we make some eggs?”

– THE END –

Thank you for reading this fast-food saga! This post is also the last one of 2021 (and probably the last Fast Food Avengers post for a while — although I plan to write more stories in that “fast food universe.”) Medium Rare will return on Wednesday, January 12th.

If you’d like to subscribe to the blog, email me here. You can also check out my other works (plus start your own journey from ideas/stories to finished book) over at Long Overdue Books.

Thank you for continuing to support this blog, have a great rest of the year, and see you here in 2022!

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