The Short Order Cook Who Predicted the Pandemic

Loren Kantor
4 min readFeb 23, 2024
My plate was bursting with food, way too much for one person.

Several months before the pandemic, I sauntered down Pico Boulevard near my Los Angeles apartment and found a dreary little coffee shop with a 1950s-style marquis. I sat at the counter and a rail-thin waiter with a goatee and a slew of tattoos poured me coffee.

“What you having,” he asked.

“Two eggs, toast and a side of bacon. Make ’em scrambled.”

I was the only customer, convenient since the waiter was also the cook. As he prepared my breakfast, I dove into the book I was reading, Feet of Clay by Anthony Storr. I was halfway through a chapter about Bhagwan Rajneesh, the spiritual conman who loved Rolls-Royces and Rolexes. The waiter returned. My plate was bursting with food, way too much for one person.

“This is two eggs,” I asked.

“They’re big eggs,” he smiled. “What you reading?”

“It’s about gurus and false prophets,” I told him.

“Ah yes,” he said. “They come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Matthew 7:15.”

I perused his arm tattoos. His left bicep portrayed Jesus with the Biblical reference John 3:16. His right bicep showed Saint George atop a horse slaying a dragon. Below this were the words “Saved by Grace.”

“You a believer,” he asked.

“I believe in God if that’s what you mean.”

“Are you ready?”

“For what?” Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes.

“The end days,” he said.

“Well I just bought a case of water at Costco if that means anything.”

He didn’t laugh. I girded myself. Every few years I came across a self-appointed zealot who took it upon himself to educate me about Armageddon. In my 20s, this was fascinating. In my 30s, it was annoying. These days it’s jarring.

He sat on a stool behind the counter and began speaking. “The great day of wrath is coming. Pandemics, terrorism, overpopulation, drought. Old diseases once wiped out will return like polio and small pox. Newspaper headlines will report on the end of the world. Drugs will become legal. People will riot in the streets.”

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Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.