By Dave Gregg
I had no idea the old man liked to cool his testicles in the iceberg lettuce.
I was a cashier at The Pick N’ Lick, a bottom-of-the-barrel buffet restaurant — your typical scarf-and-barf — that paid lousy but kept the lights on in my apartment and got me off food stamps for a while, since my dream of playing guitar in an acid rock band had corroded into playing gigs at homeless shelters and abandoned graveyards.
It had been another day over the century mark and I felt sorry for the homeless drifter. He looked worn-out and sweaty. How could I know that by giving him a complimentary meal he’d try to rust his slinky in the salad bar? I had only wanted to help the guy, not get him arrested for lewd behavior.
Consequently, when I arrived late to work the next morning I didn’t give a damn. I knew I would get fired. Because of my charity, the crazy old fool had put his gonads on ice, and the patrons in the restaurant were understandably appalled and upset. It was my fault. I deserved the axe.
I was only at work, I assumed, to meet with the manager, collect my final paycheck and part with a goodbye and a fuck you. I was tired of helping my fellow man. There was no percentage in it.
When I entered the restaurant, a line was already forming in the cattle trough, as I liked to call it. At peak hours these lines would get so long that young children matured into adulthood, had families of their own, and filed for social security benefits — all before they reached the cashier. The Pick-N-Lick was that popular. If you arrived in summer, you’d think it serendipitous if you had a table by autumn — or so we liked to joke.
Penny, a young brunette, was working the register today and when she saw me pushing through the crowd she started waving at me and hopping up and down. “Hey, Vincent,” she said, and then she sang a mock children’s song, “You’re getting fired…You’re getting fired.”
I joined her behind the counter. “And I once considered you a friend, why?”
“Oh, shut up,” she said, with a grin. “Everyone has been talking about you.”
“I’m sure they have.”
Penny informed me that Rodrigo, our manager, had conveniently called in sick today and that Thornton, the area supervisor, was on the premises and wanted to see me.
“Well, we know what Thorn intends to do,” I said. “Where is he? I might as well get this over with.”
“I think he’s in the storage room with Rosa,” Penny said, trying to suppress a giggle. “She’s in trouble, too.”
I frowned at Penny and her interminable glibness. Then with amusement, watched a commotion brewing in the line.
Customers were leaping aside to avoid the stormy vortex of activity known as Mona, our five-foot-two warrior waitress with a perpetual take-no-prisoners attitude on her face. She was never happy about coming to work. She burst through the scattering throng and bustled past the counter. I considered feigning a wave but lost my nerve. She was the most feared employee at The Pick-N-Lick and refused to serve any guests that offended her. Some of us wagered that eventually, she might boycott every customer that dined at the restaurant and only show up to work to stare menacingly at those that riled her sensibilities — which was any human being still breathing on the planet.
Digby, another employee, and the human approximation of the Pillsbury Doughboy shuffled in not long after Mona. We had yet to ascertain Digby’s job description. Even the manager, who had hired him as a favor to a friend, was unsure. On most days, Digby stood motionless behind the counter, smirking at the hordes of hungry customers and doing nothing else. After a while, we thought of him as an immovable object, just a pillar to hold the ceiling up.
TO BE CONTINUED…