I went to the mall to go to one of those cookie stores. I wanted one of those giant cookies, you know, the ones where they take two giant cookies and make them into a really giant cream-filled cookie sandwich. But I got lost trying to find the cookie place. My first stop was the food court, because that sounds like a reasonable place you’d expect to find it, right? Wrong.
There was the food court proper, like it was this big oval in the center of an indoor atrium. Around the perimeter of the oval were all of the food court stalls, shops, whatever you call them. Why am I describing what a food court looks like? Everybody knows what I’m talking about.
Whenever I’m at the mall, I make it a point to go to the food court. It’s like stepping into a parallel universe. Every type of food and restaurant is represented, but it’s never anything you’ve ever heard of. It’s like, sure, you want Chinese food? We’ve got Chinese food. But it’s not a regular Chinese place. It’s some place called Wok around the Clock, Wok it like it’s Hot, or Rock Out With Your Wok Out. And whereas most Chinese places in the US sort of sell the same stuff, food court Chinese places make it even more derivative, every dish has even more of a generic flavor.
I always get mildly tempted, like maybe I might just get some Chinese food. But, and I don’t know why they do this, they always have a guy standing outside of the counter holding a tray of little Chinese food bites skewered with tooth picks. I guess I don’t blame them for trying, but you try a little taste and you figure out immediately that there’s something off about it. It’s not bad. But it’s not really that great either. Also, you wind up with like forty high school aged moochers hanging around trying to fill up on free samples, even though it’s never going to be enough to satisfy a teenage hunger, and eventually that guy’s going to get pissed off, he’s going to say something to the kids, and they’ll all turn on him brutally, instantly, taunting, jeering, one of them flipping the tray out of his hands, Chinese food bites everywhere. Man, high school kids are mean.
But the cookie place. I couldn’t find it. This food court was especially big, so big that, after having explored the entire perimeter of the oval, I couldn’t tell if I’d successfully made a full revolution. Some of those places look nearly identical. You’ll get some Cajun kitchen on one side and then three stalls down there’s a Mongolian BBQ place. The food is all the same: chopped up pieces of heavily sauced up chicken.
Pizza place. Pasta bar. Salad works. Gyro factory. No cookies. I finally noticed that, over to the corner, not in the food court proper, there’s a pretzel place tucked away in a corner just outside from the rest of the vendors. Maybe they’d be able to steer me in the right direction.
But there was such a long line. Could I cut? Probably not. I was hanging back toward the end of the line and I was starting to think that maybe they wouldn’t help me find the cookie place even if they knew where it’s at. But as I was debating my next move, my cookie craving started getting attacked by all sides from the aroma of pretzels.
They had regular pretzels, yeah, some salt, they had these ones with cheese. Whatever. Those are OK. But the ones that are really dangerous are those cinnamon sugar guys. It’s really not even a pretzel. It’s a pretzel-shaped cake that’s drenched in that crumbly, sugary, just perfectly cinnamony powder. And they give it to you with a big cup of warm white icing, whatever it is, it’s probably just confectioner’s sugar and water. I was sold. I needed one, or two, or a whole box of mini cake pretzels.
But just when I got to the front of the line I noticed the huge vats of “fresh-squeezed” lemonade. Practically drooling in anticipation of my sugary treat, I thought about how even a drop of that sour lemonade would wreak havoc on my icing-coated palette. The imagined clash in flavors was enough to jolt me back into reality, back to why I was really here, the cookie place.
I made a break for it, got away from the food court entirely. I remembered the movie Mallrats, I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remembered the two main characters fighting about whether the cookie place counted as an extension of the food court or if it was something different entirely. On a total lark I decided to check the mall’s second floor, on an opposite wing.
Bingo. Mrs. Cookie Place, or Auntie Cookie. I forget what it was called. “Give me the cookie sandwich. Please.” The lady just stared at me for a second.
“Are you sure you don’t want to try our new cookie pizza?
Cookie pizza? No. I had to stay focused. Just get the cookie sandwich and go. But a cookie pizza looked unbelievable. Instead of dough, obviously, it was a giant cookie. Where a normal pizza had sauce, the cookie place used vanilla icing instead. It looked almost like the same icing from the pretzel place. Was it warm? Was the whole thing warm? But it got better. There were toppings. They used regular sized cookies on top of the icing, making it almost look like little pepperoni. And then the whole thing was topped with grated chocolate.
But then say I ordered the cookie pizza, would she asked if I wanted it cut like a pizza? Because I didn’t. Would she automatically cut it like a pizza? Like maybe that was the default option. But I didn’t want to say, “don’t cut it,” because then it would look like I was just going to eat this thing by myself, which I was.
“Just … just give me the cookie sandwich.”
It was … it was OK. It really was just OK. After the second bite, it all just started to taste the same, like sweet, like sticky and sweet mush. I should have bought a bottle of water.
Why did I come to the mall in the first place? It couldn’t have been just for this cookie sandwich. Shit. Pants. My wife sent me here to get pants, something about a dinner tonight. Damn it, I can’t buy pants now, I feel gross. I feel sick. I feel like I’m going to puke. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ll just tell her they didn’t have my size, and that I’m sick. Cookie sandwich. Shit.