Danny walked into the bar, where he'd been told he could find the two boys. He saw them immediately, swilling their drinks and staring blankly in silence. He stepped cautiously up to them.
'Hey guys, how are you?' He asked. The boys grunted in reply. Danny tried again. 'What are you drinking?'
'Watermelon Cruiser,' said Kelsey.
'Pineapple juice,' said Michael.
'Woah, what happened to you guys? It's not like you to be drinking the hard stuff this early.' Michael sighed.
'Danny, it's a bitch of a story. I don't think you'll want to hear it.'
'Well, if you're sure, but-'
'It all started on the 29th of March, when Kelsey and I managed to find time to have lunch together. We had no idea what to have so we decided to go to Woolworths and see what we could find to put together.'
'We started finding a lot of things that we found... well, interesting,' continued Kelsey. 'We were making each other laugh with all the weird stuff we found on the shelves.'
'There were the tofurkey dogs,' said Michael.
'The exotic cheese platter,' said Kelsey.
'We tried quinoa for the first time,'
'And what were those little pancake things called?'
'Oh, the mini blinis.' A smile started to crack on Michael's face, which made Kelsey cheer up a bit too. 'Those things were awful. We decided to buy a whole bunch of things and name it "Kels and Mike's Weird-Ass Lunch." We sat at the coffee table making weird combinations like tofurkey wrapped in procciutto and watching footy.'
'Wasn't it the International Rules?'
'Yeah, that was it. We took a great photo of it.' Michael fished out his phone and scrolled through it.
'You look pretty pleased with yourselves,' said Danny.
'We were,' said Kelsey. 'It was so hard to finish, but we were talking about it for days afterwards. Then there was another night...'
'June 5,' Michael interjected.
'Yeah, THAT'S the night we were watching footy.'
'Yeah, Richmond vs Fremantle wasn't it?'
'The first game Fremantle lost!
'Well, it got to like quarter-past-nine when we turned to each other and said "Shouldn't we have some dinner?" We debated for ages on what we should have and it just built and built. I was wrapped in a blanket and just barely managing to stay warm, so I didn't want to go anywhere. I suggested Delivery Boyz.' Michael looked at Kelsey and winked.
'I'll give you a tip,' said Kelsey. 'If you ever want to Google "Delivery Boyz", make sure you spell it with a Z. Spelling it with an S gets you somewhere you don't want to be.'
'It was horrible,' said Michael.
'I'll keep that in mind,' laughed Danny.
'We went from wanting a bit of Chinese food, to Mexican, to pizza, then from a medium to a large. Then we decided to try the new type of pizza that had mini pies on the crust. Then we added the "triple dippers" pack. Then we added 3 caramel bites for dessert for $3. Then we noticed that you can get nine for $6, so we did that. We knew it was stupid, but we were proud of ourselves. We gave it a name. It became known as "Escalation Night."'
'I realised we were onto something, so I invited Mike back to my house so we could do it again - but this time, on purpose. We invited Jason and Sarah along and it became the first deliberate Escalation Night - third overall. We went to Woolworths and looked around for ideas. We all chipped in suggestions and by the end, we'd made these amazing Mac and Cheese burritos with bacon and barbecue sauce. They were so cool.'
'Cool is an understatement. Those things were divine. Every bite was better than the last. Except for the last, which tasted like sadness. Sadness that the wonderful experience was over. Then gladness once you realised there was another one. You'd eat the second one, then it was over for real and we just felt satisfied. It was the perfect meal.
'That sounds amazing!' said Danny, his mouth watering. 'Can I come along to the next one?' Michael and Kelsey looked at each other with a pained, meaningful look in their eyes.
'Yeah, I don't think there'll be a next one,' said Kelsey.
'Because we flew too close to the sun.' said Michael.
'Oh... What'd you do?' Michael stared wistfully out the window until he realised there wasn't a window there.
'We had to go bigger. Escalation Night 4 was going to be our best yet. Jason couldn't make it, so we brought Mitchell along. He wasn't sold on the idea, but he's always up for an adventure.'
'Okay so here's what we did,' said Kelsey. 'We got chicken kiev. We wrapped it in slices of steak. We dipped it into a concoction of four different types of melted cheese. Then we added avocado paste and wrapped it all up in a rice tortilla for good measure.'
'That sounds... amazing!'
'That's what we thought,' said Michael. 'The cheese was the wild card. We should never have added the blue cheese.'
'I thought you knew the blue part was mold?'
'Urgh, don't bring up mold. It makes me queasy.'
'We were full of pride,' Michael continued. 'We thought we were invincible. Mitch had to run off to do a night shift at work, so he took his wrap to-go. That was a bit of a shame. We were about to taste victory and wanted him to be a part of it.'
'So let me guess,' sighed Danny. 'It wasn't as good as you thought it was?'
'Each bite was torture. The steak was all gristle and we couldn't chew through it. The cheese mixture was sickening. The wrap kept falling apart. At one point when we weren't looking, Sarah slipped some gummy bears into the wraps. That actually made it taste better.'
'I nearly threw up, it was horrible. We did end up finishing it, but we thought "Never again." Mike, show him the photos of defeat.'
'You know, Mitch told me he enjoyed it,' said Kelsey.
'Said everyone at work was jealous. He's keen to do another one. But I've learned my lesson, I'm not doing that again.
'Yeah, me neither,' said Michael. 'Not if I live to be a million.' Just then, he got a text message. He looked at the message, then paused for a long time. '...Mitch wants to go to a dessert bar.'
'Look, I'm not really hungry at the moment.'
'He is. He wants to order one of everything on the menu.'
'Mike...' pleaded Kelsey. He'd seen Michael's face snap from despair to excitement and knew exactly what he was thinking.
'Kelsey, think about it... Escalation Night 5 - The Dessert Round!'