At the Mercury Cafe, the lights are always on

Let's look beyond the obvious drawbacks of having the nation's nuclear waste dumped in Nevada's back yard and see the Yucca Mountain Project for the moneymaker it can be.

Get in on the underground floor, I say.

I am not much of an engineer, so I tried to think outside the box, to define the auxiliary needs of such a huge venture like being home to the country's nuclear garbage.

Food -- my favorite four-letter word -- popped right into my head.

People have to eat, right? And before long there will be an employee cafeteria or a little cafe -- call it The Mercury -- on the outskirts of the dump. It will be run by a couple named Ruby and Stan who still can't get enough of each other after six kids and 20 years of marriage. The food and the service, always good, are the best right after they've had a big fight and are trying to woo each other back.

Down the road a piece, in the shade of Yucca Mountain, are the ranches of the Amargosa Valley that produce everything from milk to pistachios. If we get creative and negotiate a government subsidy of some sort, everybody wins.

Some genius in marketing will come up with the Homeland Security menu, a perfect blend of patriotism and hucksterism to cash in on the language of our war effort.

Can't you taste these celebrity sandwich and regular menu items being perfected in our own Nevada Test Site kitchens?

Let's roll: A continental breakfast of coffee, freshly squeezed juice and a selection from our bread basket. Add bacon, home fries and a soft cinnamon pretzel and you have the Not Over My Dead Body special.

Osama's Mama's Omelet: Three eggs and your choice of side dishes. Mrs. bin Laden doesn't believe her son is the culprit and you won't believe your eyes when you strap on the feed bag.

The Evildoer: Not for the cholesterol-conscious. A piping hot skillet of eggs, cheese, sausage, onions and butter. Yummy!

The Hero: In honor of our nation's emergency personnel. Bring a firefighter, police officer or paramedic and one of you eats for free.

The Vegan: We're trying to cater to the tree huggers bound to be demonstrating outside the facility, so we're offering veggie specials. Stan, however, thinks we named it after an actual tourist from Las Vegas who lost his or her shirt at the casinos and had to find work or disappear in a hurry. It's a combination of thinly sliced vegetables stacked high on sourdough bread and drizzled with Stan's secret sauce.

The Lone Ranger: We take a flock of chickens and let them roam over Yucca Mountain following a trail of biogenetically engineered corn. The first one back wins (or loses depending on whether you are the chicken or diner). Can't you practically taste it? Best to order ahead.

Bury'em shake: After a few of these creamy delights, your insides will radiate with health. This drink is approved prior to certain medical procedures and may be covered under your HMO. See your server for details.

Catch of the day: Seafood in the desert is always a dicey proposition, but Stan works wonders. Before sunrise, he throws a line in the cooling ponds and comes up with the most amazing selections. Let us choose one for you.

U-khan-du-it, stan: An homage to Project Enduring Freedom and our chef, it's a 44-ounce slab of Amargosa beef with Ruby's favorite side dishes. If you finish it, there's no charge; if you don't, we'll wrap up another one, so you can take it home and share it with the family.

That brings us to the children's menu, catering to employees kids and all the scout troops and school children who will be touring the dump.

The spent rod: A hot dog and French fries that comes with a Yucca Mountain action figure, collect the whole set!

Nook-aroni. A big favorite, macaroni in the shape of Spencer Abraham's head, smothered with creamy cheese from Amargosa cattle.

For the over-55 set, we recommend the Bald Pate specials. Losing your hair over Yucca? Try Stan's tuna melt (down) or the mushroom burger, a favorite we carried over from the good old nuclear test days.

Be sure to save room for dessert! The specialty is Stan's Silkwood, the finest slice of cheesecake you can find outside of New York, N.Y. (and we don't mean the casino).

If this doesn't leave you hungering for more, perhaps you would like to try the Nuclear Waist, our dieters' special. It's just a big bowl of Nevada sunshine warmed by a giant blast of hot air blowing westward from Washington, D. C.

Doggie bag, anyone?

Sheila Gardner is the night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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