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May 18, 2023

Free Sandwiches

E. Nolan

We tried to think up the most complex sandwiches to order so that Leonard would be distracted long enough for us to get into the cooler and steal a few cases of beer.

He was so psyched that we were visiting him at the deli where he worked that he couldn’t hide his smile.

Andre ordered the Dagwood, which was the most advanced sandwich on the board, but to make the job even more time consuming he asked to subsitute out the turkey for warmed olive loaf and all the toppings on the bottom, in exact reverse order.

Leonard scribbled down the request.

Raff was probably the least inventive of the three of us, but he surprised me with his order. He asked, “Remember the Steak-umms that they used to serve in the elementary school?”

Leonard nodded.

“I think on every Thursday?”

The glitter of nostalgia in his eye made me want to puke. “Of course,” Leonard said.

Raff leaned in. “Make me one of those, but with a Salisbury-steak-tv-dinner vibe. Ram in some mashed potatoes and peas, okay?”

The poor guy looked overwhelmed, but said he’d try his best.

Andre and Raff took off toward the back exit according to plan, and when Leonard was busy listening to my order, they ducked into the cooler.

I remembered a sandwich my dad had once told me about. “Let me get a Monte Cristo,” I said, and in a moment of inspiration, added, “Deluxe.”

He scratched his head, but listened patiently as I explained it. “You start with two pieces of French Toast . . .”

He got this all down on his scratch pad, writing a few question marks next to different ingredients. It sounded gross, but I had no intention of eating it. “. . . fresh sauerkraut, and finally you sneak in a chicken cutlet before you close up the sandwich.”

He got straight to work.

I went to the cooler.

Leonard had promised us free sandwiches if we came around this time of day when the owner wasn’t there. None of us cared about anything that didn’t get us high, but Andre realized that stealing beer would be easy with no boss around.

Raff snuck out a twelve of Heineken, Andre got three forties of St. Ides, and I grabbed a case of Natty Ice cans. Passing the cigarette display, I couldn’t help myself and took four packs of Camels. Outside, we put beer in the trunk. I hid the smokes under the passenger’s seat.

“Yo,” Raff said to me, “Leonard saw you pocket the Camels.”

We could’ve just left. Should’ve. I hadn’t cared about Leonard’s friendship since third grade. Andre already had the car started. But something tugged at me. “Alright, I’ll go fix it.”

I went back inside.

Leonard knew. You could see it in his face as he finished up the third sandwich.

Before I could apologize, I was stopped cold by what I saw. Leonard expertly slid in a steaming hot chicken cutlet between two golden slices of Challah.

I turned right around and went back to the car, humiliated. “Just drive me home,” I told Andre when he asked what happened. Leonard’s impossible success would’ve ruined my drinking from the very start. I knew that I’d never accomplish anything so pure in all my life.