She had messy, startlingly white teeth and pale blue eyes. She flipped his coffee cup with a twirl and a flick of her wrist. "You need this." she said, pouring him coffee from the brown rimmed jug. "But, how you doing? I'm Flo."
"Hi Flo. I just watched an Octopus hug a prehistoric boar into the nether." Todd stared at the coffee in his cup. "I think I will miss The Octopus, now its gone."
"Gone, into the nether?"
"Out of existence sounded corny, in my head."
"Neither of them sound real."
Todd smiled, "Not to you." He said and burned, choking and coughing, his mouth --spat scalding coffee onto the paper dining mat.
Flo deftly stashed her pen in the tight bun of hair on the back of her head. "An Octopus hugged a prehistoric bore --"
"Boar, like a giant, hairy pig."
Flo sat. She sighed gently. "That sounds like a simile."
"It isn't. It isn't a metaphor, either." Todd considered asking Flo if she wanted to have sex with him. He thought to himself: Be cool, just do it, don't ask. He kept talking. Todd said, "IT isn't a metaphor. It's what happened to me, what has been happening to me. The Octopus came to me, and we chased a boar."
"Well, that doesn't sound boring." Flo cracked a smile. Her humor was lost to Todd, but her smile wasn't. They say quietly for a moment before Flo said, "Why don't you tell me about it?"
"About the boar?"
"Whatever you want, hon'. You're the only one here and I'm the only waitress and its freezing outside and I've got hours to go before I can sleep."
"I should really write it all down."
"Why don't you?"
"The boar. It --the boar-- it broke my computer, and my laptop, too. it."
"So tell me, I've got a good memory, I'll recount you your story once you're done. Then you won't loose it."
"Like so many dreams."
"Nothing, sorry." Todd carefully tried to balance the coffee cup on its bottom ridge, couldn't yet do it. He tried to sip some of the coffee out, but it was still too hot. "I'm tired." he said, lamely.
"But not too tired to talk."
"Apparently not to you, no."
"So." Flo said.
"So." Todd said. Todd said, "So there I was, I was asleep when the boar appeared in my apartment."
"And broke your lap top?"
"No, that happened when it came back."
"It came back?"
"I don't honestly know."
"Oh," Flo looked disappointed.
"I was writing this story --"
Flo asked, "About The Octopus?"
"No. Sort of. Mostly it was about this little girl who had to kill an evil spirit."
"But then this boar --similar to the evil spirit in that story I was writing, appeared."
"How do you know it was a boar?"
"It just is. It couldn't be anything else."
Todd sipped his coffee, scalding; bearable. "Dunno. So this boar appeared and snuck out of my apartment. And I knew it was the boar."
"Somehow, yeah. Then this Octopus appeared. It hovered at first, but after a day or so it started walking on some of its tentacles."
"A little. It learned sign language, too. We talked, and it --The Octopus-- explained that it was there to find the boar. It didn't know what it was going to do once it found it, but it needed to find it." Todd sipped his coffee again. The phone was silent. No one came in. The snow whipped itself against the window, quiet and ineffectual but for the quietly seeped heat. Flo was quiet, when Todd seemed lost, after a moment of quiet, she nodded encouragingly. "An angel must've passed," he said.
"Or The Octopus and the boar," Flo smiled.
"Right. The Octoups would, it would go away now and then. Mostly it was out. I think it was hunting the boar, but I don't know how."
"Was that lonely?"
"No, it was good. While The Octopus was out I wrote more of Toa's story. The girl? That's her name. Toa."
"It's a --it doesn't matter."
"Not really, no. It's a misspelled other name."
"Anyway, so The Octopus would go out and sometimes it would come back with food, or a map, or a missing limb. Once it came back without an eye and covered in splinters and porcupine quills. Once, it came back with the best samosas --"
Flo interrupted, she asked, "Like the girl scout cookies? Isn't it early for them?"
"Close," Todd smiled, "Sam oh suss. They're a --they're a pastry stuffed with potato and spices and peas."
"Like a fancy Perogi?"
"Like a --yeah-- like a spicy, fancy Perogi. Yeah."
"Yeah. So. It brought me these samosas and they cured a case of writer's block I'd been having for a few days. I wrote a lot after eating samosas. So that that gave me a new pattern to follow: eat samosas, write a chapter or two of this story I'm writing."
"How'd you know there was a 'but then' ?"
"There's always a but then."
"You done this before?"
"Done what before? You think you're the first guy with an Octopus and a Boar story that slummed on in this diner, the wee hours of a weekday?"
"No, don't worry hon', you are. Mostly we got discouraged deer hunters, this season."
They shared a solid chuckle.
"Probably on account of the boar." Todd said, quietly.
"It really isn't a metaphor?"
"Really, it was real."
"Until The Octopus took it."
"Until The Octopus took it." Todd laughed but it turned into a sigh. "So. But then."
"But then I'm passed out on my notebook, and the boar comes back. Breaks into my apartment and"
"And it trashed the place and I don't know what else it did, but it woke The Octopus and they fought, I almost died."
"Yeah, fell out my door, almost went into orbit."
"That makes no sense."
"Tell me about it."
"Well, it's batshit crazy."
"Yup." Todd finished his coffee and Flo refilled his cup. He sipped it and smiled. "Thanks."
Todd continued, "So, I passed out, knocked out falling into my shower. and when I woke up, my phone was gone. The Octopus forced the boar to eat it, or it ate it, or something. So."
"So that's how you tracked it up here?"
"Weird isn't it?"
Todd looked at her, head cocked, "How so?"
"Its like the boar wanted to be caught, in the end."
"Don't we all?"
"I dunno, hon', I don't."
"Anyway. Yeah, I honestly don't know. I think it thought it was destroying something, when it ate my phone. We tracked it to this apartment building I used to live in, and it destroyed the laundry room, and we lost it --it got away. Then we followed my phone's signal to a gas station and --"
"Holy shit man!" Flo was suddenly standing, "You're the guy who blew up the Shell station on the 75?"
"What! Hey! No!"
"You're blaming a boar and an Octopus for that? I'll be right back."
Todd sighed. He put his head in his hands. He stared at the soggy paper mat. He quietly said, "The Octopus would know if she was going to call the cops or not."
"I didn't call the cops." Flo stood, her checkered shirt stark against the white of the wall. "I just went to check on the cook. He's okay. He was asleep. You want anything to eat?"
"You really didn't call the cops?"
"Stick around, see if they show up."
"I hate living in uncertainty."
"And yet living with an Octopus is okay."
"Yeah. That's the unknown."
"More possibility there?"
"Something like that."
"So. There was a gas station that exploded and that didn't get the boar or The Octopus, either."
"But it wounded the boar. It bleed and the blood evaporated slowly and left like a, like a messed up trail of breadcrumbs. Eventually we found it, in this national reserve."
"And it disappeared."
"I think The Octopus made it disappear."
"We got a flat, tire but The Octopus changed it. Eight arms and all."
"Huh. Handy thing to have around."
"I don't know where the samosas come from. I don't know." Todd sighed. "I don't know so much about that creature."
"Does it matter?"
"I want to know how long you've been chasing it."
"A month or so."
"When's the last time you wrote more of Laura's story?"
"The girl you said you were writing about." Flo looked concerned, She but her lip, "Did I get the name wrong? I'm usually a better listener."
"Toa. I haven't. We've been on the road. Before the gas station we stayed in this motel with this creepy night clerk --"
"They're all creepy, aren't they?"
"That was my first creepy experience."
"You don't travel much, then."
"And you do?"
Flo straightened, broadened her shoulders and laid her hands, fingers splayed, on the table. Very slowly she said, "Yes. Yes I do."
"Yes." Flo softened. "So, you want more coffee?" Todd nodded, and she refilled his cup. Flo said, "You got a room at a creepy Motel."
"Yeah, and I remember I had nightmares, but I can't for the life of me remember them, now."
"Huh." Flo said, as if answering a math question. "Huh." Then, "So, after the hotel?"
"We drove, and it shouldn't have, but it took us until dark to get to the national park, and then we had to walk on foot through what felt like a thousand miles of field, into the treeline, and then our flashlights died, and then we found the boar."