[S01E17] "The Great Buffet Robbery"

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Rick was fast asleep in the passenger seat when they crossed the border into Nevada. He was right. Driving stick wasn't that hard at all. In fact, Liz didn't even think she would ever want to drive anything else.

She popped in the last mix tape she had gotten from Mandy in Denver. Listening to the tapes and driving across the desert landscape she could help but wonder if she was just reliving some old adventure that Rick and Mandy had been on before.

She began to imagine herself as Mandy, decked out in a denim vest and a shirt with paisley lapels, window down smoking a giant blunt, dreadlocks blowing in the desert air rushing through car. Would Mandy wake Rick up to pass him the blunt or would she let him sleep and "take it to the head" as Mandy would say? She looked at Rick sleeping peacefully.

Take it to the head, Liz thought, as she puffed on the imaginary blunt.

Now that Rick had shaved again, Liz thought he looked more like he did when she had seen him in that bar back in Indiana. Was that really just four days ago? She still really didn't know a thing about him, and yet at the same time it seemed she knew everything about him.

It's had been four days. Four days and they still hadn't had sex. Sure, they had made out and shared a bed together, but was is this? Is this normal for people Rick's age? Just make out without making love? Liz laughed a little. She had caught herself calling it, making love... I bet that's what Rick calls it. That's when it caught her eye.

"Rick! Rick! Wake up! Come on!"

"What? What's wrong this time?"

"I saw it! A sign for Out and About! Ten miles!"

"Oh, is that all? Forget it."

"Forget it?" Liz turned the radio down. "But it's Out and About! It's the whole reason we came on this trip."

"No. We came on this trip to eat Out and About Burger in L.A. You can't eat Out and About Burger in Nevada. Not when we're a couple hours away from the buffet capitol of the world. I will not hear such blasphemy!"

They both laughed silently, yet they could hear the sound of each other's voices in their heads.

"So, I suppose you are going to teach me the fine art of buffet burglary," said Liz.

"Something like that."

The both looked out ahead at the road cutting through the dunes. The sun had passed the horizon, but there was still daylight creeping its way around the curve of the Earth. With the radio still turned off Rick opened the window and they listened to the sounds of nothing passing by them for a while.

"Rick?"

"Yeah, Liz?"

"They don't have tornadoes in Nevada, do they?"

Rick let out and audible laugh this time.

"No, I'm pretty sure they don't even have clouds."

As they came into the city, it was as descending into a bubble of light in the dark void of the desert. Liz was surprised by the lack of traffic. Back in Indianapolis it would have been bumper to bumper this time of night. Back in Indianapolis, she thought. It seemed like so long ago. Like that was her childhood and now she was an adult.

"Adult Entertainment" is what it said on the billboard truck they were passing. As they passed through another set of green lights, they emerged on to the main strip. They then passed the Circus Circus and the Riviera. The lights of a double decker bus flashed on the right.

"Should I stop somewhere?"

"No. Just keep going."

Through another set of lights and there was a pirate ship. It had red shadowy sails. There was the burst of cannon fire and one of the pirates dove off the side and into the water. A real pirate battle right here in the middle of the desert.

It was a miracle Liz didn't rear end the car in front of her. But on they drove past the Mirage and Caeser's Palace, the Eiffel Tower and the New York City Skyline. It was all miniaturized and right here in the middle of nothing.

They parked the car in the lot behind the Sliver Spike. Rick was practically dancing as he got out of the car. He grabbed two back packs out of the trunk. They were both empty except they each had a garbage bag duct taped to the inside.

"Buffet bags."

"You were being serious, weren't you?"

"I don't lie when it comes to food, Liz. It's my favorite part about Vegas. You hit one buffet and you can eat all weekend!"

Back in Indianapolis, thought Liz, she would have found this kind of behavior embarrassing. Back in Indianapolis... Now, here she was about to loot a Vegas buffet, like some kind of glutinous pirate.

They found a $7.99 steak and seafood buffet on Fremont Street. "If you want to find the best deals in Vegas, you have to follow the walkers and canes." That's what Rick had said and that what they did.

"On the first pass you want to take as normal looking a plate as possible. Whenever you go into a buffet, assume you're being watched for the first ten to fifteen minutes. After that, the staff generally gets bored with you. Take extra bread on the first plate, but don't eat any of it, just break it up and leave it on the plate," Rick said as they sat in the booth.

He continued, "That's the first thing you'll want to dump in the bag, but not until you get your drinks. And when the drinks come, make sure you have a mouth full of food and can't talk, but don't eat too fast. And no seafood in the bag, it doesn't last."

As they sat there in the booth, Liz felt quite silly, pretending to eat food. She was making a good show of it, lifting the food to her mouth, taking a small bite, pretending it was a big bite, and breaking the majority of the food up on the plate.

"Ok, now!" whispered Rick, and the both dumped their plates into the back packs. They spent the next 30 minutes getting plates and bringing them back to the table. First meats, then vegetables, they even put some desert into zip locks. When their bellies and their bags were full, Rick stacked a large pile of single bills on the table.

"Tipping is the key. No one who makes minimum wage is going to start an argument with a good tipper."

Sure enough, as they walked out, nearly the whole staff smiled and thanked them. For the first time since she had left Indianapolis she felt like she was free, truly free.

When they packed the food in their cooler back at the car, they gave a bunch of it away to some kids who were living in a van. Two boys about the same age and a little girl.

Their names were Billy, Andy, and Lily. They were following the NASCAR season around the country with their parents. Billy was selling beer koozies. The more he sold, the more room there was in the van. One dollar each or two for a buck and a half.

Rick bought a baker's dozen. They were glad togive them the food too. They couldn't have eaten it all any way. 

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