Ashton Kutcher’s email said I could pick the place to meet. I thought about picking some fancy boutique café up in Hollywood, but since I wasn’t sure if we were going dutch, I chose this diner I know in Torrance that serves the best burgers in L.A. County.
I waited in the parking lot. There was this Norwegian forest cat sitting atop a low cinderblock wall next to the diner, watching me like I was up to something. Its dense coat was like a Kansas thunderstorm streaked with tufts of ash and granite. It never took its avocado eyes off of me.
I waited for a good half-hour, and Ashton was a no-show.
I went inside and ordered the double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing and paid extra for sliced avocado. Something about the cat’s eyes had made me hungry for the avocado.
I was waiting at the pick-up counter for my burger when the main door of the diner opened.
In walked a biker about the size of Redondo Pier. His hair was the color or rain and dolphins. His eyes were an incensed shade of jade, and they made me hungry for the avocados on the burger I was waiting for. I was so hungry, in fact, that I was dangling prepositions with little regard for the consequences.
“You Matt?” the biker asked.
“Yes, sir,” I said, always wise to display good manners with those who look like they could break me like a porcelain doll’s head.
“My name’s Elvis,” said the biker. “I’m here on behalf of Ashton Kutcher.”
“Ashton couldn’t make it?”
“He doesn’t even know I’m here. Sit.”
“Get you anything? The burgers here are better than Breaking Bad.”
“I’m vegan,” Elvis said. “Sit.”
We sat at a table close to the pick-up counter so I could grab my burger when it was ready. “Have we ever met before?” I asked.
“Don’t think so.”
“Your eyes look damned familiar.”
Elvis leaned forward so I could see the eyes more clearly. I saw the colors of cactus and cucumbers, and I remembered the cat on the low cinderblock wall. “The ‘Wegie out front,” I said.
“We don’t much like that term,” said Elvis. “Kind of racist. Norwegian forest cat will do.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
“I’m not here to provide shortcuts for your vocabulary.”
“But the cat was you, wasn’t it?” I said. “You’re one of them, like in that story I’m writing.”
“I’m one of them,” he said.
“Ashton Kutcher didn’t send me any email.”
“Nope. That was me.”
“You’re Ashton Kutcher’s cat?”
“Ashton Kutcher doesn’t have cats. He has dogs.”
“What are you then?” I asked.
“Consider me a fan,” said Elvis.
My burger appeared on the pick-up counter. I thought about grabbing it, but then I looked at Elvis and thought better of it.
“I saw one of your videos on YouTube the other day,” Elvis said. “The one about Ashton Kutcher.”
“I know the one.”
“You ought to. It’s the one where you called Ashton Kutcher a d—”
“I know what I called him. And for the sake of completeness, I actually said disposable d—”
“Fine,” said Elvis. “Disposable. I want you to take that video down.”
“What if I don’t?” I asked.
“I don’t think you want to know.”
“Can I have a hint?” I asked.
Elvis scratched his remarkably clean-shaven neck. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms across his chest. “Go get your burger. I see you eyeing it.”
When I came back into my body, Elvis asked:
“What if I asked you nicely to take that video down?”
“Let's be clear here,” I said. “Technically, I did not call Ashton Kutcher a disposable [insert loud car horn here]. I said I 'had about as much use for him' as a disposable d—”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m a man,” I said. “How often do you think I need to use one of those things?”
“That’s about how often I need to see Ashton in a movie.”
“You don’t like Ashton Kutcher?”
“I didn’t say that,” I said. “Did you watch the whole video?”
“I only got as far as the disposable part,” said Elvis.
“So watch the rest of it,” I said.
“So I can hear you make jokes about Ashton’s mother?”
“Just watch it. Watch the whole thing.”
I reached into my pocket took out my iPhone (which was rather a coincidence since Ashton Kutcher was recently cast to play Steve Jobs). I pulled up the video from YouTube and I showed it to Elvis:
But then he paused and scratched his chin again.
“I’ve never seen that Ashton Kutcher movie," he said. "Now I have to track it down.”
“Do that,” I said. “And before you go, let me buy you a burger.”
“I told you, man, I’m a vegan.”
“I can tell you’re a lot of things.”
“Hey,” he said, clapping his hands and offering his palms like a blackjack dealer. “This is what I do.”
And with that, Elvis left the building.