ASHEVILLE, NC—A rogue smorgasbord ran rampant through the streets of Asheville Monday, eluding police and restauranteurs for over nine hours and sating the appetites of at least seven area residents caught in its path.
The smorgasbord, a 20-foot-long buffet table with heated steam trays and dual left/right sneeze guards, was the property of Country Pantry Buffet, and was described by police as "overflowing with a wide array of luncheon meats, casseroles and hot vegetable dishes, as well as salads."
The smorgasbord had no previous history of any of the psychological disorders generally present in buffets most likely to, as food-service criminologists put it, "go rogue."
"Out of the blue, it just snapped," said Susan Matthews, 16, a high-school student working part-time at Country Pantry Buffet as a cashier/hostess. "I had just stirred the mashed potatoes, which we have to do hourly to keep them looking fresh and presentable, when I heard the squeaking sound of its little wheeled leg bases inching across the tile floor. I pulled the alarm, but it was too late. Before the building could be sealed, it had hit the swinging double doors of the loading dock at full speed. It was gone before I could rinse off my special sanitary plastic gloves."
Moving quickly through the city's alleyways and avoiding main thoroughfares, the smorgasbord managed to stay out of sight for several hours. A trail of spilled cream corn and chick peas, however, enabled restaurant personnel to track it downtown, where it had taken refuge in a ladies' restroom.
It was not until a federal restaurant-response team attempted to subdue the table that tragedy struck. "The smorgasbord was cornered, confused and frightened, and it went ballistic when it saw the nets," buffet wrangler Ben Jordan said. "One minute, it was cowering near the mop closet. The next, I was splashed with hot gravy and gorged with a delicious combination roast beef/turkey platter. It roared past us with a clang of fury I'd never heard before, banging its little tins against their lids and leaving a trail of iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese in its wake."
Jordan is currently recuperating at the Digestive Intensive Care ward of Asheville City General, along with fellow smorgasbord wrangler Bryan Unger, who had 15 pounds of hard rolls surgically removed from his abdomen.
According to police, the desperate table then cut across town, sating several more innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. The police have not released a list of the victims' names as of press time, but did report that at least seven people have been hospitalized and are listed as "full." A hospital spokesperson said that these victims may not eat for hours, possibly days.
Police officer Heidi Williams finally stopped the table's berserk flight by pumping one of its legs with tranquilizer darts fired from a low-flying helicopter. "When I got my rifle sights on it, the buffet had already sated seven people," Williams said, "but it still had plenty of ammo left—okra, chicken fingers, minestrone soup, potato salad, deviled eggs, rice pudding, you name it. One look at that selection, and I knew I had to stop it."
After being taken into custody and interrogated, the police unanimously decided to put the smorgasbord to sleep.
"Look, we all like the idea of an all-you-can-eat, pre-prepared food supply available at family or group rates. After all, we're only human," Williams said. "But if I hadn't stopped that thing, it could easily have sated a dozen more innocents. That much food in one place is just a gastronomic disaster waiting to happen."