by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
An effort to tame the woodland creatures that live underneath the tables and in the rafters of the Country Home Cafe. In Lebanon, Tennessee critters were created from illegally dumped excess baking mixes and re-solidified grease from fried chicken and catfishes. Part pieces from oak whiskey barrels, part flocking from flour – the creatures had Crisco for blood, and pegs for joints, and eyes made from local artifacts.
The lot of little land dwellers took refuge in the Country Home Cafe several horse-lengths down the road. Not that shitty racist country store and cafe, a totally different one that didn’t need a PR team to quiet civil justice concerns. Even barrel-bottom squirrels have their scruples.
Barn owls made their nests in the curved band of wicker rocking chairs, pulling strands of the woven cane to make their homes. White wooden hairs littered the porch of the store, and patrons would get bit by curved beaks if they dared to “take a set.”
Raccoons were known for replacing the specially roasted coffee with flavored blueberry coffee from the gas station. Petrol handprints left on the handles of the coffeepots, the thieving, little, washing bears would share the quality java with their gaze.
In the main dining room, the mouse and grouse would form hunting parties to drive out any rascally intruders. In between bites of chicken fried steak and cheddar grits, restaurant go-ers would have to shield their ankles and eyes from flying spears made from toothpicks that were poorly aimed at stray louses.
A hare, a beaver, and a bear had been playing a vicious game of poker since everyone moved in. They argued loudly about cheating, and the suicide king, and full houses. They engaged in rounds of rancorous oaths and slammed their hands on the bric-à-brac table. No diners could hear each other over the shouting.
The waitstaff staged a coup and walked out mid-shift after a skulk of foxes freaked out when someone interrupted their retelling of a popular Reynard story. The server, listening in on the recitation of the medieval tale about how the trickster hero outsmarted the wolf Isengrim, butted in to ask if Reynard was like the French word for fox, renard. The leash of bushy-tailed pups pounced on the server, baring their angry teeth and producing a chorus of yips that bounced off the rafters of the restaurant. Frightened and fed up, all the servers took off their uniform-approved aprons and left.
The management tried stepping in to calm the beasts following the night the moose threw a French Revolution themed prom. The owner asked to speak to the woodland creatures’ rep to barter. But off-duty unicorns are not invested in brokering agreements and the offer was taken off the table. Boars decided to step in and scab, waiting on tables and working the fryers, while the management attempted renegotiations.
Red robins were the ones to report to the rest of the animals that the owners of the restaurant decided to abandon their eatery. They agreed to just leave it for the fauna to run. The thrush flitted from their nests in the beams to drop the resignation letters from the former owners. A confetti shower of shredded notices rained from the lips of the robins. A chorus of joyful animal noises rang out in the Country Home Cafe.
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review, a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, a cat lady, a contributing writer at SSG music, and a candy enthusiast. She received her BA and M.Ed from Arcadia University, attended Goldsmiths: University of London, Sarah Lawrence College, and is an MFA candidate at Antioch University. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com. She occasionally drinks wine out of a mug that has a smug poodle on it, and she’s not wonderful at writing in the third person.