Joey went out for one and stayed for five. He climbed aboard the Metro for a twenty minute ride to the suburbs. His boots crunched on gravel, through the pedestrian walkway under the tracks where ASBO paint graffiti murals, past the terrible pub on the corner, on towards his house to heat up ramen noodles on the stove.
Streetlights were sporadic, but the moon was bright. Joey could see shadows of horses sleeping on their feet in the open field. A patina of fog softened focus, creating a hazy, dreamlike vibe. How had he never noticed the neon sign, the one that said GOUT KEBAB in red block capitals?
There was a queue. White guys like him, overweight to obese with nondescript haircuts and dark coloured clothing. A meaty aroma wafted into the bleary evening. He took his place next to a guy in a black turtleneck.
“Who can resist the Gout Kebab,” said black turtleneck. “By the chef who started Heart Attack Burger. He reckons this is gonna be the next big thing in medical risk dining.”
“Someone actually died after eating a Heart Attack Burger,” said Joey. “I saw it on the news. Didn’t they sue the restaurant?”
“That’s the beauty of the business model,” the guy rubbed his hands together like an excited child. “The waiver is ironclad. You don’t sign, you don’t eat.”
“Gout Kebab uses the same ironclad waiver?”
“Bingo. They make you fill out a questionnaire with associate nurse.”
Joey palmed the glass to kill the neon glare and peered in. Men in white lab coats sliced strips of meat from the rotating elephant’s leg. Customers fumbled with clipboards, using string-bound pencils to complete their paperwork.
“What’s so dangerous about Gout Kebab?”
“Hell if I know.”
Joey pointed to the small print in the Gout Kebab’s window display. “Organ meat. Chicken liver, beef hearts, hog spleen.”
“Floor scraps from the butcher’s but seriously delicious. Best kebab I ever had, and I’ve had a lot of kebabs.”
It was finally his turn. Joey was handed a clipboard by the associate nurse.
“I hope you don’t mind, but we need to take a small blood sample as part of the waiver process. Can you take a seat here and roll up your sleeve?”
The associate nurse was young but professional. She wrapped a rubber strap around his bicep and hit the vein on her first attempt. Boom. The needle felt like hot buttered rum.
“This gives us a snapshot of your baseline uric acid levels and will be provided to medical staff should emergency attention be necessary.”
She told Joey to press a cotton bud on the puncture point. A man in a white lab coat emerged from the kitchen with a white paper sack.
Joey stepped outside and unwrapped his Gout Kebab. Steamy strips of assorted organ meats, topped with crisp onion strands, pulpy red tomato, and tzatziki sauce. Satisfied by its quality and aroma, he took a massive bite.
He felt the attack coming on immediately. The quiver in his big toe, tingling on the arch of the foot and blossoming into full-throated throbbing in his achilles tendon. He couldn’t put any weight on the ankle. Incredibly, the Gout Kebab triggered an actual gout flare in one bite.
Joey wrapped up the kebab and hop-hobbled through the searing pain, dragging his dead leg behind. He wanted to get off his feet, to finish the Gout Kebab. Having come this far, there was no turning back.
J. Archer Avary is an aspiring boat captain. In past lives he was a champion lionfish hunter and TV weatherman in paradise. He was born in the USA and now lives in sunny South Tyneside UK with his wife. His latest poetry chapbook TOTAL RHUBARB is out now via Back Room Poetry. Twitter: @j_archer_avary