Friday, August 22, 2008


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is satire, not a genuine news feature. As Reader’s Digest used to say: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Thank you. Thank you very much!

It was a late night in Chardon. I had just completed meeting with friends about a new book project. Though satisfied with the result, my body throbbed from fatigue. As the radio crackled away, I drove down Water Street, past the Geauga Theater. Darkness clouded my consciousness. A neon glow from storefronts along the strip lit my path.

With a shrug, I noted the absence of McDonald’s. The familiar fast-food depot had been completely demolished, to make way for a new version of the Golden Arches. My belly hungered for a double cheeseburger, and a sweet tea. But it was not to be…

Not tonight.

A glimmer of moonlight flashed to my left. I realized that a familiar pickup truck was parked across the street, in Chardon Plaza – a green, flatbed, 1981 Dodge. Inside sat my erstwhile friend, Ezekiel Byler-Gregg, a veteran of the defunct Burton Daily Bugle. He seemed to be in a trance.

I waved in passing, but my cohort offered no response. He seemed to be transfixed by an invisible force. Puzzlement made me turn at the stoplight. I circled back, toward the parking lot.

Why was he here on Water Street, alone?

I pulled into a space beside his truck, and rolled down my window. “Zeke! Are you okay, brother? You look like a zombie!”

He sat stiffly in his seat, more wizened and gray than I remembered. A moan ebbed from his lips. “It’s gone…”

“Gone?” I said quickly.

“Gone,” he repeated. “The house that Ronald built. It’s gone…”
I laughed out loud. “Well… is that what you’ve been staring at? I’ll admit, a double cheeseburger would hit the spot right now. But it’s worth the wait to get a new set of Arches here in the capital of Geauga County.”

Ezekiel widened his eyes. “Worth the wait?”

“Sure,” I said impatiently. “They are remodeling McDonald’s locations all around northeastern Ohio.”

My friend snorted with defiance. “This is ground zero,” he observed. “The first of many targets for radical elements of the ‘Foodie Fringe’ in their secret campaign…”

My jaw fell open. “What??”

He whispered, angrily. “The ‘Foodies’ hit Ronald with a clandestine strike, right here at home. But no one in the media will speak about it. They’re terrified that the anti-burger activism will spread. And, it will…”

I went red. “Zeke, they just closed for new construction. I read about it in the newspaper, last week.”

Ezekiel pounded his dashboard. “I thought you knew better, Rodney!”

“Knew better?” I sputtered.

“The truth is out there,” he exclaimed. “But not necessarily in the mainstream news. Haven’t you heard of the movie ‘Supersize Me’ by Morgan Spurlock?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But I doubt he’s ever been to Chardon.”

“No,” my friend agreed. “But the message has spread across America. The ‘Foodies’ have become bolder, and better-organized.”

My face burned. “Look, I agree that the movie was a propaganda-style rant. But I don’t think very many people took it seriously. If anything, it was a good way for Mr. Spurlock to avoid having to get a job at Wal-Mart…”

Ezekiel shook with frustration. “An entire fast-food restaurant just disappears, overnight, and you think it’s funny?”

“Oh, Zeke, take it easy!” I said.

He produced a bundle of newspapers.

“From USA Today,” he began. “California… became the first state to prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing their food. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will ban restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. In a statement, Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease. ‘Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California,’ he said.”

“Right or wrong, it’s a law with good intentions,” I reflected.

“Ronald’s foes have been strengthened by the food police!” he grumbled. “I’ve heard that the new-age Big Mac will feature tuna patties and kelp! This is cultural violence. Hamburgers are America on a bun! Wake up, Rodney!”

I took a deep breath. “Zeke, I agree that setting a precedent for the government to regulate personal conduct isn’t wise. It lays the foundation for a kind of artificial social engineering. But you’ve gone over the edge…”

“Read these again!” he stammered. “McDonald’s locations are vanishing across the nation. From Geauga, Lake, Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, and everywhere!”

I sighed. “It’s their renewal plan, Zeke. They want to update busy outlets to better serve their customers.”

“They’re rebuilding alright,” he agreed. “But… why? The story has been silenced before it could be told. Ronald McDonald is on the run.”

“Good luck getting away in those big red shoes,” I said.

Ezekiel burned with irritation. He unfolded another newspaper story.

“From the New York Times,” he read aloud. “The McDonald's Corporation said yesterday that its fourth-quarter earnings would fall short of earlier forecasts…for the last three years, the company has been struggling to compete against its traditional fast-food rivals while facing new competition from healthy-food chains like Subway.”

My patience was exhausted. “Look, I’ve always been a fan of Mickey D’s. But I don’t mind having the free market provide alternatives as well. We just need to maintain our balance, without interference from the legal system…”

“The sky is really falling this time,” he said. “Look up, Chicken Little!”

“Let’s forget about the House of Ronald for now,” I continued. “Are you hungry? Why don’t we just go to Burger King, or Wendy’s? It’ll be my treat, old buddy.”

“Run!” he growled. “Run like a frightened bird! But you’ll find that there is nowhere to hide…”

“Okay, speaking of poultry… how about Wing Street at Pizza Hut?” I said.

“Run, run, run, my feathered friend!” he barked.

Frustration made me shudder. “I’m not running anywhere, especially on an empty stomach!

“I expected more from you, Rodney,” he said with exasperation. “Food means nothing… without liberty!”

I bowed my head. “Right now, I’d settle for that McTuna with kelp!”

Ezekiel twisted the ignition key of his Dodge. I heard its Cummins diesel motor rumble to life.

“First they came for Ronald, and I said nothing,” he exclaimed. “Then they came for Mayor McCheese, Captain Crook, Grimace and the Hamburglar, and I kept silent. Then they came for me, and I was alone…so terribly alone…”

Scorched rubber filled the air.

Like our local McDonald’s location, Ezekiel was gone!

As wisps of diesel exhaust faded away, I stood silently in the streetlight glow. Thoughts of the new book project had been shattered by encountering my ornery friend. Now, there remained only a raw hunger in my belly. Not for steak, crab legs, enchiladas, or barbecued ribs, but instead… a humble bit of ‘Mac Tonight.’ The sensation left me perplexed while considering the construction site that used to a favored spot in the community for speedy dining. But then, I realized hope waited, just over the hill…

It was time to drive to Middlefield!

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