Iceberg Lettuce

By Dave Gregg

I had no idea the old codger 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. 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 to work the next morning, I knew I would get fired. The patrons in the restaurant from the night before had been understandably appalled and upset. Several of them could be seen mumbling incoherently afterward, and one agitated woman had to be restrained from blinding herself with the salad tongs. 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.

Penny, a young brunette, was working the register today and when she saw me pushing through the crowd, she started waving and hopping up and down. “Hey, Grant,” 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.”

Penny informed me that Rodrigo, our manager, had conveniently called in sick 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, I 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.

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.

With the commotion concluded, I headed to the storage room for my confrontation with Thorn.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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