Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Hydras

"What am I supposed to do?" Jolene asked. "Its out there ruining the buffet and the customers are starting to complain!"

Patrick patted her on the shoulder.

"Mythical monsters are the job for the shift supervisor," he replied.

He straightened his shirt, made sure that his tie safely hid the missing button, and marched out of the kitchen into the public area of the buffet. He dodged hungry people swinging to and fro with platefuls of macaroni and cheese. A small child careened through the rows of steamer trays with a scoop of ice cream on a plate still hot from the dishwasher. The lump slide around the plate and almost ended up on Patrick's shoes, except that he knew how to handle himself. He moved around the six-year-old obstacle with a shuffle step that would've confounded Pelé.

He approached the customer that Jolene had spoken of and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir, you're under the sneeze guard," Patrick said.

The customer pulled his head out from underneath the sneeze guard. Then his second head. And then his third head. All three of the hydra's heads writhed in the air several feet over Patrick's own.

"He hassss a problem with us," the red head of the hydra hissed. Its scales glistened the same color as the french fries under the infrared lamp.

"But we are simply hungry, there should be no problemsssss," replied the yellow head of the hydra.

"What isssss the problem?" the blue head of the hydra asked Patrick, eyeballing him from its vantage point.

"Customers are not allowed to stick their heads beneath the sneeze guard, first of all," Patrick said, crossing his arms.

"Our apologiessssss," the blue head replied.

"We have done nothing wrong in the sssslightest!" the red head said.

"I didn't, but perhaps you did," said the yellow head.

"Not possible!" the red head replied, baring its long, needly teeth that dripped with the gravy from the meat loaf tray that was mysteriously empty.

"Just...don't do it," Patrick said, trying not to stare at the teeth. He swallowed and mustered the courage for what he was about to say next.

"Also, you only paid eight dollars. That charge is per person," Patrick said.

"Lies!" hissed the red head.

The blue head shook its head and the muscles along its long neck rippled.

"Not true. We paid sixteen dollars," it replied.

"Even if you did pay sixteen dollars," Patrick said, "you have three heads. You should have paid twenty-four dollars."

The red head let out a scream that cracked the sneeze guard and blew the circuits on the ice cream machine. The force overturned bowls of sprinkles.

"Quiet!" the yellow head snapped.

"Let me feast upon his flesh and blood and marrow!" the red head bellowed. Its breath smelled of decay.

The blue head did its best to shrug with communal shoulders.

"When we came in, we were two. Green and I came in for a quite lunch. If you have an issue, take it up with the hero in our stomach. He attacked us near the fried chicken and sawed off Green's head with a bread knife before I was able to devour him. In Green's place sprang Yellow and Red, and they are not quite the company for lunch that I was expecting," blue replied.

"I'll kill you!" yelled red.

"He's quite right, you're boorish," yellow said.

Blue rounded on yellow.

"And you're too negative!"

"It doesn't matter. Three mouths to feed is still three mouths to feed. Cough up another eight bucks or I'll have to ask you to leave," Patrick said.

Red lunged for Patrick, who grabbed a tray and used it as a shield. Red's teeth snapped the plastic into shrapnel. It went in for the kill when it gurgled, its eyes rolled into its head, and it landed in a puddle of mashed potatoes.

Yellow scowled and spat out red's blood. Spots on the drab carpet sizzled and smoked where the droplets fell.

"Thank you, Yellow," blue said. He screwed up his face, squinted, rumbled, and puked up a knight in slimy armor. Blue licked his lips. "Tasted terrible. He jingled when I swallowed him, so I assume that he's got some coin in there somewhere."

Two small buds appeared on Red's stump.

"Oh dear, I have to hurry," blue said, mostly to himself. "Hey, Yellow, check it out. Have you ever had shrimp?"

"No, those look awesome!" yellow said, sticking his head underneath the sneeze guard and eating the entire tray. Before he could pull out, his eyes swelled shut, he gurgled and died with his face in the tray of crab cakes.

"I don't enjoy conversations with lunch," blue said to Patrick. "Nine times out of ten, they're allergic to shellfish. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a good chance that I might be able to have a peaceful lunch for once."

"Well. Then. Um. Carry on," Patrick said.

Blue bowed and went back to eating from the buffet.

The Moral: if you're just a head, there's not really a place to keep a medical alert bracelet.

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