the main dining room of ernie's, on u s 40 between st charles st louis. it will be loud and bustling later in the day, but is almost empty at quarter past two in the afternoon.
quiqui folded the menu and handed it to the waiter. " - and a couple of lamb chops."
the waiter looked at faye. "surely the child can't eat all that."
faye blew a couple of smoke rings. "she's not a child. and what do you care if she eats it? i'll pay for it. if you think i'm not good for it, call ernie. i'm an old customer here."
"i don't think mister dipietro is here right now, madam."
"then ask larry . i just saw him here."
"i'm starving," said quiqui. "why don't you just take the order? you have written it down, haven't you?"
"yes, miss, i've taken it down. and you, madam, what would you like?"
"just coffee, please. strong coffee. i won't need cream or sugar."
"very good, madam." the waiter scratched something on his pad and left.
faye watched him as he crossed the room and spoke to the maitre d.
"all right, you're all set, now start talking."
"i talk better after i'm fed."
faye blew a smoke ring into quiqui's face. "none of your sass, missy. this is a good time, when the place is still empty."
"all right. what do you want to know?"
"i told you what i want to know, all about hoover and dillinger."
"all - that covers a lot of territory."
"then get started."
"have you forgotten how the universe began, faye? let me refresh your memory."
"yes, do that."
quiqui looked around the room. two men in brown suits who looked like county commissioners had gotten up and were heading for the exit.
now the only customers were faye and quiqui and an old woman sitting by herself on the other side of the room at a table big enough for ten people, staring into a martini glass.
"in the beginning," quiqui began, "was the big tree. there were eighteen apples on the big tree, one for every dimension in the universe.
and then one day the big wind came along and knocked the apples off the trees, and the universe was shattered into eighteen different dimensions.
every dimension had its own woog - which is a concept you humans are incapable of, and every woog had its own angel, and the angels got together and invented time and life and warfare."
"angels? you mean like on christmas cards?"
"no, i mean destroyers of worlds. you know that. or should. "
"why were they destroying worlds?"
"because that's what the worlds are there for."
"is this world going to be destroyed?"
"but not right now?"
"no, not for a while."
"so i'll have time to finish my coffee - and you'll have time to finish those steaks and oysters."
"let's hope so."
"you know," said faye. "maybe i don't really need to hear all this after all. since i'm only a human and too dumb to understand it. can you just get to hoover and dillinger? "
"no. shut up, this won't take that long. now, once the angels invented time and warfare, naturally they spent all their time fighting each other."
"but the big wind came along - and, this is the best way i can describe it to a human, it kicked up some dust left over from all the angels' battles, and now there were not eighteen angels but thousands."
faye started to interrupt again, thought better of it, and lit another cigarette.
quiqui continued. "the eighteen original angels did not care much for this new arrangement, and they banded together - sort of - to round up the new angels and divide them up and make them their slaves.
but things did not go so well for the original eighteen, as fighting the endless streams of rebels was thirsty, dirty work . it also produced the so-called expanding universes as humans know it, to the point where the original eighteen lost all track of what was going on.
each of the eighteen decided to create a sub-angel, or dirty worker, to fight the rebels and try to bring the universe under control."
"um - and is the universe under control?" faye asked.
"does it look like it?"
"here comes my coffee now. and he's got something else."
"my oysters, i hope."
the waiter approached with a cart. he put a pot of coffee in front of faye, and filled the cup that was already on the table.
then he placed a big plate of oysters in front of quiqui. "will you need some time with these,miss?'
"none at all. bring me my steaks."
"if you wish." the waiter refilled both their water glasses. "would you like a beverage, miss?"
"do you have yoo-hoo chocolate drink?"
"ah - i have never heard of it, so i say with some assurance - no, we do not have it."
"it's good stuff. they have it in new jersey."
"we are not in new jersey. we do have large supplies of coca-cola."
"i don't care for coca-cola. how about moxie?"
"i believe we have that."
"then bring me a couple of bottles."
"very good. would you like some ice?"
the waiter nodded and left. faye watched him cross the room.
"what a scarecrow. they used to have better looking waiters." she turned back to quiqui. "you were saying?"
but quiqui's mouth was full, and it was clear that she was not continuing her account until she was finished.