“Why put salt on your fruit?”

“Salt makes it taste sweeter.”

“Wouldn’t sugar make it sweeter?”

Samantha shrugs. “I guess it’s all about contrast.”

“Guess so,” Jay says. “Though that looks gross.”

Jay is in his mid-thirties. The T-shirt he wears is a bit tight about his stomach, and his jeans a bit tight about his calves. Samantha, sitting next to him, looks about the same age. She exercises more than her husband, though she’s getting a few wrinkles around her eyes. As Jay watches a baseball game, Samantha eats an apple. On the couch between them is a small ceramic cow which Samantha lifts from time to time.

“Want a bite?” she asks as salt pours from the cow.

“No thanks.” Jay doesn’t look away from the television. “I’m eating with the boys today; don’t want to spoil my lunch.”

“Well, try it some time, ‘cause it’s not too bad.”

Jay grunts once, then again as a batter strikes out. Then: “As good a stopping place as any.” He gets up and grabs his keys from the back kitchen counter. Nearby are various implements of reconstruction, including a hammer, screwdrivers, several cans of paint, and a paint roller. A sink lays on the floor. The walls are primed but not painted, and dust is everywhere.

“Where you guys going?”

“Some new place Juan found. I’ll text you the name.”
“Well, I hope it’s better than his last pick.”

Jay grimaces. Samantha stands. They kiss goodbye.

“Sorry to leave you with this mess,” Jay apologizes.

“It’s no problem; I love painting.”

“Well, great!” And with that, Jay rushes away. “Have fun!”

Samantha sighs, but after Jay’s car pulls away, she smiles. She finishes here apple, takes up the roller, and paints until the walls of the kitchen are a lovely shade of eggshell with just a hint of lilac. Once done, Samantha washes her hands and arms, then checks her phone. And there it is, as promised: a text from Jay with the name of the restaurant. And though it isn’t too weird, Samantha can’t help but think the place will either go under quickly or be a smash hit; absolutely no in-between with a name like that.


Jealousy Burgers truly can’t be missed. Though in an industrial part of town and tucked back from the street, there’s a line from the entrance that stretches around the block. Additionally, the outside of the restaurant is bright green. “BE THE ENVY OF YOUR FRIENDS,” reads neon signs, also green, in each window. And all with an “S” that curves into a devil’s tail.

Also, you can hear the buzz as the signs flash.

Deep in your teeth. Down in your fillings.

Is that normal?

Jay opens the restaurant’s front door. The inside lobby has patched leather benches the color of old dumpsters, and in the corner is a jukebox playing what sounds like a jazz arrangement of Pink Floyd’s “Green is the Colour.” Jay walks over for a better listen, but then Juan spots him.

“Hey, man!” Juan’s body falls more in line with Samantha’s than Jay’s, with a well-defined torso and arms. He wears a football jersey and jeans, and as he and Jay make their way to the host’s podium, three other men join in behind them.

“Yes?” the host asks. He’s wearing a bright green collared shirt with green slacks and a black vest. His hair looks greasy and is slicked back. His left breast is embroidered with the restaurant’s devil tale logo. And sticking out from one of his pockets are patent leather gloves.

“Juan, party of five.”

The host nods. He turns.

He motions for them to follow.

The men go down a hallway lined with acoustic batting of the type seen in recording studios. At regular intervals are green curtains that cover the entrances to private rooms. They walk to the hallway’s end to find a wrap-around booth and a battered wooden table. The table is set with a green cloth, green plates, green napkins, but with flimsy plastic silverware. There’s a single light above, hanging down from a chain. The walls, of course, are also green, and one of the restaurant’s trademarked neon sign flashes in the sole window.

“Some color scheme,” Jackson says as he scoots behind the table. Followed by: “I hope it’s worth it.”

Jackson is a large man wearing a suit jacket. There’s a bandage across his forehead and the skin around it is puffy.

“Hey, Jackson, how’d you get that?” asks Daniel as he crawls into the booth next. He’s lanky and wears clothes like Jay’s.

“Like I said, I hope the food’s worth it,” Jackson answers. “This morning, I told my wife I was coming to eat with you guys, and she screamed and chucked a shoe at me.”

“A shoe caused that?” Benji asks. He’s the last to get into the booth and shortest of the five. The thinnest, too.

“High heel. Later, she explained she was just goofing around, but the shoe felt real enough.”

The men shake their heads. Then they open their menus, which read “BURGERS” on one side, “DRINKS” on the other. And at the top is a block of text which Daniel reads out loud: “All of our burgers feature one-third pound, perilous protein patties, gruesomely grilled to your most specious specifications and served on a fresh backstabbing brioche bun. Choice of Fiendish Fries or Sultry Chef Salad included. Incredible taste guaranteed…but safety not.”

Benji: “This is some shtick. Check out the bottom.”

Jay brings his menu up close. There, at the end of each page, is the type of warning you see about eating undercooked meat. Except this one is about the restaurant itself. “Huh,” he starts to ask. “Is this for rea—?”

“The Femme Fatale,” Daniel continues, reading the description for the first entrée, “a burger so beautiful you’ll forget all your better judgement. With dangerously delicious 100 percent Californian Angus beef, possibly poisoned pepper jack cheese, duplicitous dill salsa over pernicious pickles, lipstick-red fried onions, gun smoke-flavored bacon, and all the toppings are absolutely smothered in our trademarked Envy Sauce. This burger will chew you up and spit you out, and afterwards, you’ll only care about who it’ll do it to next. And why it isn’t you.”

“Excellent!” exclaims Juan. “I’ll have that one!”

“Sure,” Benji says. “Though the next looks better.”

Jay drops his question and Daniel resumes reading.

“The Mysterious Estate: a burger so good it’ll make you jump out a window. 100 percent Cornwall Hereford beef grilled Daphne du Maurier style (set ablaze until ashy), with gothic Gloucester cheese, Cornwall chanterelle mushrooms, devilishly desiccated dates, suspenseful sauerkraut, and hateful horseradish balefully blended with our famous Envy Sauce. Try it today and tonight and you’ll dream of coming back for more again and again.”

“That reminds me of a novel we read in high school,” Jackson says. “Did you guys like Rebecca?”

No one did, apparently, so back to Daniel.

“The Vengeful Adventurer: a burger so fun that it’s worth 14 years in prison. 100 percent Italian Demonte beef grilled with retaliatory roulade of ham, shriftless Swiss cheese, farm-raised reprising fried egg, vengeful vinaigrette-topped arugula, complete with a dusting of spiteful powdered sugar and lathered in our amends-ensuring Envy Sauce. You might be a Dantès, but after eating this burger, you’ll feel like a Count. Note: pan frying is optional.”

Jay smiles. “It’s a Monte-Cristo burger!”

Benji licks his lips. “Yum!”

Next, the Hateful Venetian: “O, beware of jealously, for it is the green-eyed monster…” but then Juan waves his hand.

“Okay, Daniel, we can all read; what’re you gonna have?”

As Daniel skims, he mentions how the Classic Lucifer looks tasty (flame-licked pork belly with Milton-inspired spicy marinara), as does the Fairytale Stepparent (with candied shallots and brown sugar glaze) and the Dog’s Reflection (with bone marrow from grass-fed Greek shorthorns). But in the end, he settles on the Hera and Zeus (two fusion quarter pounders with tzatziki spread and pita buns). Truly, it’s a hard choice, with so many options of different variety, though all at least feature Envy Sauce. Whatever that is.

Juan turns toward Jay. “You?”

“The Mysterious Estate; I like sweet and sour.”


“The same.”


“The Neighbor’s Wife.”

Daniel decides on the Joseph’s Brothers, a slider sampler of everything, and each man orders Fiendish Fries with sodas. Then, during the wait Jay goes to the bathroom, which is next to their booth. He does his business and all is fine until he washes. A crash sounds, followed by a muffled scream. Jay runs back to the room to find a table with five plates holding an assortment of different burgers and five sets of fries. Four of the meals are missing bites, though one plate has a burger that’s untouched.

And all about is chaos.

Jackson has Daniel in a half-nelson. He’s hitting the smaller man with his free arm while Daniel punches him back in the gut. Benji is on the floor with Juan standing over him, the latter who is stomping down viciously. One of Benji’s legs is at an odd angle and his face is bleeding. All of the sodas are knocked over. The light above the table swings wildly. And in the window, the neon sign absolutely blazes.

Jay gasps, and immediately the room stills.

“You…” Jackson jeers a second later. He lets go of Daniel.

“You…” Daniel locks eyes with Jay.

“You…” Juan steps away from Benji, who is unconscious.

All three men leveled fingers at the newcomer. Jay manages a single word: “Yes?” And he takes a small step back.

“You want to nick my burger, don’t you?” Jackson hisses.

“And mine, too!” Daniel adds.

“I don’t want to nick anyone’s burger!” Jay takes another step backward—this one significantly larger—and bumps into the doorframe. He tries to inch to the side, but it’s too late.

“Liar!” Juan yells while lunging forward, and Jackson and Daniel follow. They slammed fists into Jay’s face and stomach. They twist Jay’s arms. They bite and spit. And Jay screams as Jackson gets his hands around his neck and squeezes until he joins Benji on the floor, after which the men returned to fighting each other. It’s a brawl brutal and loud and over seemingly nothing at all, just like all of the other fights happening in private rooms throughout the restaurant, and from which there are no clear winners.


Jay lays on the couch with an ice pack on his head. “It started as soon as they bit into their burgers.” His voice is raspy, his neck dark with bruises, his left arm in a sling.

Samantha sits next to Jay eating a large slice of watermelon. “Again, it wasn’t about something before?” The cow salt shaker rests between her knees. Behind them, the kitchen cabinets are up and most of the dust clear, though the sink is still on the floor and the tools still on the counter.

“Juan told me that his burger was perfect, and as soon as he tasted it, he was convinced everyone would take it. He said he needed to protect his burger with his life.”

Samantha dabs watermelon juice off her chin. “I’m surprised he told you this after you left.”

“By the time we got to the hospital, everyone was fine.”

Samantha points to Jay’s sling. “Fine?”

“Well…not fighting anymore.”

After a large bite: “What did the other guys say?”

“Jackson backed up Juan. As soon as he bit into his burger, he just ‘knew’ the rest of us were ‘jealous good-for-nothings,’ and he knew more than anything in life that we wanted to take ‘his baby.’ And both Daniel and Benji agreed.”

Samantha sets the rind down. “And that was that?”

“That was that.”

“Well…should we go pick up your car?”

Jay nods. Samantha gets her keys. Jay sets his ice pack down and starts shuffling toward the door.

They leave.

As Samantha drives: “So what do you do going forward? Report this to the police, or press charges and—?”

“Oh no!” Jay shouts, startling his wife. “We all talked about it and made new reservations for next week. Also, Bens and I made an alliance. We both got the short ends of the stick, so now we’re going to team up. And we need to have our chance! If we talked to the police, they’d shut the restaurant down, or worse! And to have that happen before ever having a taste?”

“Does going back seem wise?”

“Yes, I think it is,” Jay states with conviction. Then the car goes silent and stays silent for the rest of the drive. Excepting the small sound of Jay’s mouth smacking, of course. And, if one listens closely, the quiet noise of saliva falling.

From the corner of Jay’s mouth.

Onto his lap below. Drip. Drip. Drip.


They sit in the exact same booth and in the exact same order: Jackson nearest the door, followed by Daniel, Juan, and Jay. Benji’s wheelchair is at the other side of the table, his casted foot propped up and his bare toes showing. People have written on the white polyurethane that runs up to his hip, including Juan, who has scrawled “SORRY BENS” in large letters.

“Like last time?” Daniel asks.

“Yes,” Jackson replies, and as if to punctuate his words, a crash sounds down the hall. Everyone stops to listen. From the front of the restaurant, they hear a couple bars of “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis, but that’s it. So after a few moments, they open their menus. Jay and Benji find their Mysterious Estates, Jackson his Neighbor’s Wife, and Daniel his Joseph’s Brothers. The only person to change his order is Juan, who gets a Cain ‘n’ Abel, Jealousy Burger’s only vegetarian option.

“The doctor said less protein might calm me down,” he explains.

Daniel reads the burger’s description: “The Cain ‘n’ Able: a burger so good you’d kill your brother for it. Toppings include aggressive Akawieh cheese, killer kosher pickles, apostate aubergine, a slice of rebellious red beet, a smear of greedy grey mustard, and a very heavy sampling of our sacrilegious Envy Sauce. And featuring our homage to Old Testament homicide: a sinfully large all-grain vegetarian patty paired with a confrontational challah bun. One taste of this combo and you’ll raise Cain, and for as long as you’re Abel.”

Benji: “Yum?”

A server comes, dressed in the same black-on-green uniform as before, and takes their orders. A short time later, burgers, fries, and drinks ware set down with a delicate hand, along with a large bowl of Envy Sauce. The bowl is matte black and looks like it contains antifreeze. “In case you need a little extra,” comes the explanation as the server peels his leather gloves off. Then, with a giggle, he leaves.

Jay eyes his burger. It’s tall, with mushrooms and dates that spill everywhere. The meat and melted cheese glisten. “You’ll dream of coming back again and again,” Jay whispers.

“You eat first,” Jackson says.

“Like we talked about,” Juan coaxes.

Followed by Daniel and Benji: “We’re waiting!”

Jay gulps. He lifts the burger to his nose. It smells okay…like sweetness and beef and char and…something else? He shrugs and takes a bite. “It’s good,” he declares after a few chews. “The beef’s slightly overdone, but these mushrooms are delicious! And so is the bun, and the horseradish has bite, and…hey, what do you think that…vinegary flavor…could be…?”

Another crash sounds through the far wall. Everyone pivots to look, except for Jay, who instead turns to face Juan.

“Thinking about my burger?”

Surprise flashes across Juan’s face. He turns to Jay.

“Actually, I was thinking about—”

“You’d rather have mine, wouldn’t you?”

As Jay speaks he pulled his food in close. “You know my burger tastes best, don’t you?” Juices squirt across his chest.

“Uh, no, I don’t think—”

“You’re jealous.”

Benji takes up Juan’s defense: “I don’t think anyone wants your burger, Jay.”

Jay snaps to his left. “Or maybe you’d like to steal it? Was that part of your plan; to lull me in with an alliance, then stab me in the back? You’re the biggest chump here!”

“You two have the same burger!” Jackson points out.

Jay’s fingers dig into the bun and sauce squirts across the table. “Benji wants it,” Jay hisses. “All you want it.”

“Jay, none of us—”

Jay stands up. He leans over Benji and the small man shrinks back. Suddenly, thuds and yelling sound through the wall: trying to get my food… going to teach you a lesson that you’ll never… Other than a gulp as Daniel swallows some spit, the men are silent. Then as the fight subsides, they return to Jay, who hasn’t moved. Yet, somehow, he looks meaner. His hands are claws. His face is a scowl. His eyes, green from the window’s neon light, flit between Benji and the rest of his friends. Jay exhales, leans forward further, takes a deep breath…and then, ever-so-gently, he sets his burger down.

Ever-so-calmly, he places his hands on the table.

Ever-so-slightly, Jay smiles.

“Yeah, I guess you’re all right.” Jay’s face brightens. And the table breaths a collective sigh of relief.

“After all, why would Benji want my burger, or anyone else?” Jay exclaims with a laugh. “Except…THAT MY BURGER’S THE BEST AND HE AND THE REST OF YOU KNOW IT!”

Jay shoots a fist out. He catches Benji directly in the jaw and the man crumples, sliding out of his wheelchair and onto the floor. Jay jumps after Benji and starts to kick, connecting with Benji’s shoulders and neck. Juan springs up and throws his body against Jay, pinning his arms to the wall. Jay struggles to get free, screaming and pushing. It takes all of Juan’s strength to hold him back, though he won’t be able to hold him for long.

“What’re you doing?” Juan yells.

“Bens wants it!” Jay shouts, spit flying into Juan’s face. “He’s a dirty thieving double-crosser!”

Daniel springs up. “This is nuts!”

Jackson joins Daniel. “Were we this bad?” he asks.

“I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS! THEN I’LL GET ALL OF YOU!” Jay begins to knee Juan in the groin. Juan spins him around, attempting to stop the attack, but it proves a mistake; Jay places his feet against the wall and thrusts. He flies into Daniel, Juan flies back into the booth, and as one end of the table goes down, the other end propels the bowl of Envy Sauce straight into Jackson’s face.

It paints the large man completely dayglow green.

Meanwhile, Jay and Daniel scuffle on the floor. Daniel gets his arms around Jay, protecting Benji, and as Jay gnashes anything and everything, Juan crawls back to assist.

Back in the booth, Jackson sighs.

He wipes his right eye clear and flicks his hand, sending Envy Sauce across the room.

He wiped his left eye and flicks again.

“A little help?” Daniel calls up. He already has a gash above one eye and a trail of bright green cuts across his torso.

“Hold still!” Juan yells at Jay. Sauce from Jackson’s face cuts across his arms.

Jay fights and froths, slaps and screeches. He’s making as much noise as you could possibly make in a restaurant booth, or that is until Jackson starts to roar.

“YOU THINK I DON’T SEE YOU DOWN THERE, TRYING TO SNEAK UP ON ME, TRYING TO GET MY BURGER?” He grabs Jay, who has freed an arm and is punching Benji where he lay. Jackson lifts him up to his face. Both men glowered at each other, following which Jackson head-butts Jay until Jay loses consciousness. Then Jackson drops him like a sack of leaves on the curb. He turns to where Juan and Daniel had begun tussling.

“You’ll never have my burger!” one cries.

“No, you’ll never have my burger!” returns the other.

Jackson bellowed similar sentiments as he takes two steps back. He spreads out his hands. He takes in a deep breath. And then Jackson executes a diving double clothesline that would make a professional wrestler proud.


Jay lays on the floor next to the couch. He’s wearing a brace that goes from his neck to his waist. His arm’s still in a sling, and most of his fingers in splints. His eyes are black. His nose is crooked. Also, is it healthy to have an ankle that swollen, so you can’t fit a shoe? That can’t be his foot, right?

There’s no separation between shin and foot.

Ankles can get as thick as calves?

Or as thighs?

“The burger was good,” Jay explains to Samantha, who sits above him with a grapefruit in her lap. “Not the world’s best, but good. And after I took a bite, I knew they’d steal it.”

Samantha listens and says nothing.

“I knew,” Jay continues, “that I had to protect my burger with my life, because everyone was so envious. It was that vinegary taste…it was irresistible to them. They knew that I knew that they wanted my burger, and I knew that they knew that I knew, et cetera. So I had to beat them all to the punch. Which I did; literally! Or at least until Jackson got involved.”

Samantha nods slightly.

“Anyway, like salt on fruit, I guess it is all about contrast; you know, being motived by the difference in how badly they want it compared to you, or whatever.” Jay shrugs, and then: “But hey, this kitchen looks fantastic!”

The kitchen does look fantastic. The light fixtures are up, the sink is in, and everything sparkles. The only sign of recent remodeling, in fact, is the pile of tools by the door.

“I had some time.”

“Yeah, I guess you did.”

Samantha shakes some salt onto her grapefruit, but doesn’t take a bite. So Jay returns to talking. “I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Jealousy Burgers makes quality food, but still…it just isn’t healthy.” And finally: “Please, don’t ever try it.”

Samantha sighs. “Well…I already did.”

Jay attempts to sit up. “What?”

“While you were in the hospital; I wanted to see what it was all about. So I went with my girls.”

“You aren’t hurt,” Jay thinks out loud. “So…you must have won your fight. But how?”

“A gentlemen never asks, and a lady never tells.”

“Okay, ha ha, well…what did you order?”

“They added some modern choices to the menu, so I got something I don’t think you saw before: the Fatal Attraction.”

“Was it as good as the Mysterious Estate?”

“No.” A big pause, followed by: “It was better.”

Jay snorts, then begins to talk about how something which undoubtedly featured boiled rabbit couldn’t possibly be as good as a burger with candied dates and sauerkraut. He talks about how his burger hit that right spot, about how it spoke to him. And he rants about how his burger definitely is the one to make people go the craziest, to make their mouths water the most with murderous intent, to make them unbearably envious. But at the height of Jay’s screed, Samantha stops him with just four words.

“I made another reservation.”

And suddenly, you can hear the kitchen’s new paint dry.

“It’s for today. At lunch,” Samantha states. “I thought you wouldn’t get back ‘til tomorrow, you know?”

“You can’t go…” Jay murmurs. “You can’t go there, to that dangerous place, and risk violence…without me. You might hurt…or get…get my burger. And it’s mine.”

Samantha sets the grapefruit down. And actually, she’s hardly touched it. Which is odd, because isn’t she hungry? Because that’s her stomach rumbling, isn’t it?

Jay licks his bruised lips and, as clear as day, nothing more needs to be said. Samantha goes to fetch her purse. As she does, Jay scoots toward the door. He grabs a long, pointed screwdriver from the pile of tools and tucks it into his brace. Moments later, Samantha is back and she helps Jay get up. Then, as Jay labors down the front steps, Samantha let him get a bit ahead. She turns back around, saying she forgot to lock the front door, but when she gets to the front steps, she reaches inside and picks up a hammer. It goes into her purse and Samantha locks the door. And right after she’s back with Jay.

Later, from the passenger’s seat as they drive to the restaurant: “Well, good luck to you, because I’m going to try a new strategy today; I doubt you’ll be able to get my burger.”

And from the driver’s seat: “Well, I’m sticking with what I used before, so be prepared!” And for the rest of the ride, the car is silent. Except…

Jay strokes his brace.

Samantha pats her purse.

And as the car pulls into Jealousy Burgers, their eyes sparkle, though not with sweetness, and their hearts are full, though not with love. But Jay and Samantha are nearly bursting from an utterly insatiable and delectable sense of mouthwatering mistrust that both hope will never end and which will surely have at least one of them coming back later for more.

Samantha parks, and then together, they run inside.