Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings.
Author's Note: I've always wanted to write a modern-day comedy featuring the LotR characters, so here it is! I usually don't write humor and I'm completely out of practice, but this silly little idea has been building in my mind and wouldn't leave me alone.
Would You Like Lembas With That?
Welcome to Elf-in-the-Box
Haldir straightened his nametag and stood listlessly in front of the cash register. Another boring day at work. Haldir worked at Elf-in-the-Box, the #1 fast food chain in the big city known as Middle-earth, and he was about ready to fall asleep when the tinkling of a bell suddenly got his attention. Great, a customer. Customers were both a blessing and a curse as far as Haldir was concerned.
Faramir shuffled into the restaurant, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he approached the counter wearing an over-sized hooded sweatshirt that looked like it was stolen from his brother's closet (with the words "Minas Tirith University" printed boldly across the front). The hood was pulled up over his head and his hands were stuffed into the front pockets.
"Welcome to Elf-in-the-Box," Haldir droned boredly. "What's with the get-up, Faramir? We don't allow hats in this restaurant."
"It's not a hat," Faramir protested. "It's a hood."
"Well we don't allow any head coverings of any shape or form in this restaurant. It says so right on the door."
Faramir glanced towards the front door of Elf-in-the-Box, which indeed bore a poster with the words No weapons, no orcs, and no head coverings of any shape or form. We have the right to deny service to anyone who isn't in the norm. "It rhymes," Faramir remarked, guiltily lowering the hood pulled over his head.
Haldir shrugged. "It's an elf thing. It's why they always hire us to write greeting cards and radio jingles. What brings you here anyway? Isn't your dad having a barbeque today?"
Faramir twitched at the mention of his father and leaned in closer to the counter, so that only Haldir could hear him speak in a whisper. "I've always hated Dad's barbeques, so I snuck off when he was busy grilling the burgers. Or at least I hope those were burgers and not the neighbor's pet warg, who I haven't heard barking in a while. I didn't tell Dad yet but I've decided to become a vegetarian." Watching his father cook various meats on the grill with a sadistic gleam in his eye was enough to put Faramir off on eating mammals forever.
Haldir secretly admired Faramir's courage. The only time he ever stood up to his own father was on the day of his nine hundredth birthday, when he insisted he wanted chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. He had to settle for chocolate chip because the nearby hobbit neighborhood was having a block party and bought up every chocolate carton in the store.
"Well, what would you like to order?" Haldir droned, quickly changing the subject in case his boss was lurking behind him. Galadriel once made an employee run off in tears when she scolded him for wearing his nametag upside-down.
"What have you got?" asked Faramir.
"Well, we have lembas bread, lembas bread, and lembas bread," Haldir explained. "And diet lembas bread. And the lembas bread combo. And the lembas bread kid's meal. And the buy one get one free lembas bread special. And the bite-size lembas bread appetizer."
"Do you have anything besides lembas bread? I'm on a low-carb diet right now."
Haldir would have gifted any other customer with a Condescending Glare, but he and Faramir were on the same recreational archery team last year and therefore counted as sort-of-friends-but-not-exactly. "You're a vegetarian and you're on a low-carb diet? What exactly do you plan on eating besides carrot sticks?"
"I've got to stay in good shape," Faramir mumbled, looking tempted to pull his hood back on in embarrassment. "Boromir's best friend's sister is coming over for dinner tomorrow and I don't want her to think I'm a wimpy loser. Guess I'll take the diet lembas bread with a side of ketchup."
"That'll be two-fifty."
Faramir handed over the money and shuffled off to an inconspicuous corner, where he hopefully wouldn't be recognized if any of the neighbors wandered in. They were probably all at his father's barbeque but he couldn't afford to take chances, especially when Elf-in-the-Box was famous for its elaborate kid's meal toys that glowed in the dark when danger was near. Their next-door neighbor Beregond could drag his son into the restaurant any minute to buy one of those things, and then Faramir would be caught.
A bell tinkled as the door to Elf-in-the-Box opened, and Faramir held back a groan. He would have preferred to see Beregond dragging Bergil in for a kid's meal, but instead he saw Ioreth, the gossipy old lady who worked as a nurse and lived down the street. Once she finished talking Faramir's ear off about her arthritis pains and her sister's new cat, she would probably stroll back home and spend an hour telling Denethor all about Faramir's truancy from the barbeque party. The last thing he needed was to have his father lecture him for preferring "sissy elf food" over "good old meat and potatoes." Luckily for Faramir, Ioreth spotted someone she knew in one of the booths and settled down for a long chat, which left Faramir free to grab his order and dart outside with it.
While Faramir made his escape from the restaurant Haldir continued to stand boredly behind the cash register and counted how many tiles were in the ceiling above him. He already knew the number since he counted them at least five times a day, but it never hurt to double-check in case he counted wrong. Customers trickled in one by one and Haldir had to endure a half hour of hearing all about Ioreth's cousin's husband, who got drunk and tripped down the stairs last night, and after the old lady left Haldir had to deal with a picky dwarf who wanted specific seasonings on his lembas bread combo.
And it didn't stop there. Legolas came waltzing in five minutes later to announce his arrival to anyone within earshot and persuade Haldir to join his Treehugger's Club, which Haldir promptly rejected ("I may live in a tree, but that doesn't mean I want to save them all, Legolas.") Celeborn, who worked as a humble fry cook while his wife took care of management, crept out of the kitchens and tried to join the club, but Galadriel caught him with her radar-like instincts and punished him with floor scrubbing for a week.
Haldir was starting to get a headache by the time Pippin walked through the door and stood before the short end of the counter. Elf-in-the-Box tried to establish a No shirt, no shoes, no service policy in the past, but it became problematic when hobbits, Gollum, and shameless breeds of elves were turned away from the restaurant. The anti-hat policy still held firm, though Gandalf was always threatening to turn them into something unnatural if they didn't change it.
Pippin's arrival at the restaurant made Haldir feel slightly better, since he knew the hobbit could eat enough for ten people and was therefore good for business, which in turn put Galadriel in a good mood because she loved making money almost as much as she loved bossing Celeborn around.
"Welcome to Elf-in-the-Box," Haldir droned into his little microphone. "How may I help you?"
"I'll just have two orders of bite-sized appetizers," said Pippin.
Haldir was shocked. "Really? That's all you want?"
"I just came from Denethor's barbeque party," Pippin explained. "But the burgers tasted kind of wargish, so after filling up on soda and potato chips I decided to come here."
"What were you doing at Denethor's barbeque?"
"I didn't gatecrash, for your information. The man invited me himself."
Haldir was intrigued, though it could have also been extreme boredom. "Yes, but why?"
"I'm his new employee," Pippin said smugly. "I walked into his car dealership the other day and asked for a job, so now I'm a full-fledged car salesman at Gondorian Motors. Or maybe saleshobbit."
Haldir blinked. The thought of Pippin as a car salesman was a bit laughable, but he supposed it wasn't as strange as Celeborn doing kitchen duty and calling Galadriel "sir" during work hours. "I didn't know you hobbits were the ambitious type. What urged you to get a job?"
"My dad has been putting pressure on me," said Pippin, looking forlornly down at the counter. "Faramir has the same problem. Sometimes we get together over a couple of beers and trade horror stories about our families. Legolas joins in every once in a while."
"You ought to invite me next time," said Haldir. "I've got an eternity's worth of horror stories about my brothers. Didn't know Legolas had a dysfunctional family though. I always thought he was born from the forest or something."
"His dad gets drunk on wine every night and prances around wearing a crown of flowers. Actually his dad is drunk more often than I am, and that's saying something."
Haldir had never felt sorry for Legolas before, since the tree-hugging elf was always trying to post petitions all over the restaurant, but now Legolas' eccentric personality made sense. "Man, if I had a dad like that I would claim the trees as my family too," he muttered. "Of course, I'm stuck with those brothers of mine, so I'm not one to talk."
"Try having three older sisters," Pippin grumbled. "My childhood was a nightmare."
"Here, maybe this will cheer you up." Haldir gave Pippin his order and handed him a cup with the Elf-in-the-Box logo stamped on it. "And here's the cup for your fountain drink. No drinking straight out of the machine like last time or Galadriel will have my ears."
Pippin pouted and accepted his food. "I only did it on a dare. It won't happen again."
"It better not," said a voice from the shadows that sounded suspiciously like Galadriel. Haldir shuddered.
Faramir was feeling quite pleased with himself. He got to enjoy a nutritious vegetarian meal of lembas bread without getting interrupted, and had received no angry cell phone calls from Denethor demanding to know where he was. It was likely that his father didn't even notice he was missing from the barbeque since all of his attention went towards Boromir anyway, but Faramir wasn't willing to admit that. After throwing out his leftover trash from Elf-in-the-Box, he took a bus to Wal-Mart with plans to buy flowers for tomorrow night's dinner. He didn't know much about Boromir's best friend's sister, aside from the fact that she was female and liked free dinners apparently, but he knew she would appreciate a nice bouquet. All girls liked flowers, right? It was an automatic girl thing.
Faramir knew it was his lucky day because he got a seat on the bus to himself, unlike yesterday when the only available seat was right next to an orc with body odor. He also knew it was his lucky day because he didn't trip on the steps leading out of the bus, unlike last week when he fell flat on his face in front of a group of female elves. He blushed hotter than one of Denethor's barbeques that day.
The Wal-Mart parking lot was crowded and Faramir had to fight his way through families of hobbits, pairs of dwarves (gender unknown), and solitary men like himself in order to find a shopping cart and wrestle it away from other potential shoppers. Once his cart was procured he pushed past an elf woman who looked an awful lot like the one who had giggled loudly at him last week and entered Wal-Mart's garden section.
"Welcome to Wal-Mart, Mr. Customer sir!" said the hobbit greeter who stood by the doors. Sam, the hobbit who had spoken, was one of Pippin's friends and Faramir remembered meeting him at one of their Let's-Complain-About-My-Father sessions. Sam's dad wasn't a bad guy but he was always calling Sam names, usually inspired by whatever object was nearby. Faramir had received his share of name calling from Denethor, but he was glad he had never been called a potato peeler or a garden hose.
"How are you today, Mr. Faramir?" Sam asked. "Might I interest you in some fresh marigolds that arrived this morning? I do wish poor Mr. Frodo would come out and see them, but he's always shut up in that apartment of his. It isn't natural at all."
"Smeagol hates nasty flowers!" a voice interrupted. "Hates them, we does! Curssse them!" Gollum, clad in nothing but a filthy pair of boxer briefs he found in a thrift store, grabbed a fistful of poppies from a display near the doors and trampled them under his feet. "Curse them and the fat hobbit!"
"That Gollum has been trying to ruin business around here for weeks now," Sam muttered. "Thinks he can run me out of a job."
"Why don't you call security on him?" asked Faramir.
"We don't have security no more, Mr. Faramir. Budget cuts and all."
Gollum was now making rude gestures at Sam and baring his teeth, and Faramir quickly shuffled away from the front door. After selecting a bouquet of roses (because all girls liked roses, right?) he stocked up on carrot sticks and apples because there was currently nothing but lunchmeat in the fridge, which Faramir wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.
His last thoughts before leaving Wal-Mart were of Boromir's best friend's sister, and he wondered what she would think if he made her a tofu turkey with a side of organic lettuce one night. Surely girls were into that kind of thing, right?