What’s worse than sitting on a sofa unemployed, broke and bored? Working at a fast food restaurant, someone might say. Well, allow me to retort. Never underestimate the benefits of having a job where not much is expected of you. My experience working fast food wasn’t bad, and I even found some hidden benefits. It might pay to leave your preconceived reservations at the door, and consider some of your local joints. And if you do, let me share a few things with you.
Choosing the right place is important, but it doesn’t really matter whether you’re shoveling shit into a corn tortilla, flipping burgers or frying chicken. What’s important is that your work experience is as stress free as possible, especially considering the amount of money that you’ll be making. Therefore, before you apply at that joint you’re considering, go there sometime, in the evening, and order something. Take a seat in the dining room with a clear view of the kitchen, and observe. Do the employees seem relaxed and jovial, even if it’s busy? Or are they acting as if their lives depend on getting the orders out the drive-thru window in under a minute? Is everyone’s uniform unvarying, or is there a disheveled looking employee wearing jeans and another a Yankees cap? These are very important things to note because you don’t wanna work for managers who are uptight assholes that take their job too seriously. Find a crew that looks and acts laid-back, and you’ll find laid-back managers. You’ll also want to check out the dining room and bathrooms. Are there plenty of dirty tables, and are the trashcans overflowing with food wrappers and soda cups? If so, the managers probably don’t give a shit, and that’s where you want to work. What about the bathrooms? Are they spotless? If they are, someone’s cleaning them every fifteen minutes, and it’s usually the new guy. So if you don’t wanna be that schlep, check out a different joint.
Choosing the right shift is also important. Basically, there’s day and night shift. The general and assistant manager work days, which will make it harder for you to get away with much. Also, dayshift has more stodgy employees and customers. Visiting corporate managers and health inspectors, who pop in unexpectedly, contribute to the uptight atmosphere. Not a lot of fun. The night, or closing shift, is a different animal altogether.
Closing is usually from 6:00 until the store is closed and cleaned. It’s the shift the lowest level of management works: the shift or swing managers. Unlike the general and assistant managers, they are not salaried, have bogus benefits and are paid little. Since the general and assistant managers sure as hell aren’t going to work until 4:00 in the morning, when a shift manager position is needed, it’s simply given to the night shift employee least likely to completely fuck things up. My promotion to shift manager consisted of getting a different colored shirt, a key to the front door, and a twenty-five cent raise. So it’s easy to understand why they’ll let you get away with murder. The dining room is locked at around 11:00, and then the shift manager and closers have free rein of the store.
The first few days are always the most arduous, but each day exponentially less. You’re the new guy, and you don’t know what you’re doing. You won’t be making the food orders until you can put a supreme burrito or a big deluxe burger together in under ten seconds, and that’s not gonna happen if you don’t even know what the fuck goes on them. The registers have a myriad of digital menu item keys, and variations of each item. Even if you look honest enough to be trusted around money, you won’t be running a register right away. And when you finally do, you’ll often find yourself staring at the register screen dumbfounded. However, you will be put on some mundane task like putting a basket of fries or a batch of taco shells in the fryer every couple of minutes, and you’ll probably fuck that up. So for the first few days, don’t worry about too much, except figuring out out how much each manager will let you get away with.
My first day at the last fast food joint I worked at consisted of washing a lot of dishes. I didn’t hate washing dishes. Being left alone listening to Nirvana on the store’s boombox was fine with me. And not dealing with customers is always a good thing, too. After a busy first night I was mopping the floor. Matt, the other closer, approached me. “Do you smoke?”
“Cigarettes?” I asked.
“No weed, dude.”
“Sure, but I don’t have any,” I said.
He leaned in closer to me, even though we were alone in the back room. “Cheryl always smokes us out after work.”
“Awesome,” I said.
He was probably just making sure I was cool and relaying his findings to Cheryl, a recon mission of sorts. Although Cheryl was a pothead, she couldn’t afford to loose her job and was the most straight-laced out of the four shift managers. She didn’t smoke pot inside the store, or before everyone clocked out. But she turned us on afterwards, usually in front of the store by the outdoor tables.
At 4:00 am there was almost no traffic on the normally busy street. However, an occasional police car did zoom by, which made me a little paranoid. It was good shit.
The next night Sheila was the closing manager. She was twenty, which was three years my junior and about ten or fifteen years younger than Cheryl. She still had acne on her plump cheeks, and was sunny, easy-going and joked around a lot. She didn’t smoke pot, but loved a beer buzz. Shortly after Sheila locked the dining room, I noticed Kevin, the other closer, putting an 18-pack of Bud Ice into the walk-in refrigerator. Just before I finished up a mound of dishes, Sheila shouted from the office where she was sitting. “Hey Johann, do you know how to do the dining room?”
“Clean the tables, empty the trash… sweep and mop,” I replied.
“Yup, but don’t forget to fill up the sauces and napkins, too.”
“No problem,” I said.
“There’s beer in the walk-in if you want some,” she said.
Fuck yeah, awesome! is what I thought…”Oh, cool, Thanks,” is what I said.
“Yup, help yourself,” she said. “But don’t loose any bottle caps and don’t throw them in the trash. That’s how you get busted. Throw them in here.” She motioned to a trash bag hanging from the office doorknob.
“No problem,” I said. Pot one night and beer the next…so far, so good.
Within a couple of weeks, working there became second nature. I became pretty quick at making orders and tossing them to whoever was working drive-thru. One night, Kevin and Sheila let me in on what scamming was. It was shortly before midnight when Kevin asked, ” Do you wanna make some cash?” Being broke as fuck I said yes without even asking how, nor did he bother to explain.
Just then the drive-thru bell rang, indicating that a car was at the menu board. Through the headset, Kevin greeted them with “can I help you, please?” I stared at the monitor above the food making table, which is where the order normally appeared, but it stayed blank. Kevin gave the customer the total and told them to drive up to the window. He handed me a napkin with the order written on it and said, “Here, make this.” We did this a few times throughout the night.
After closing, while mopping the back room, Kevin handed me twenty-seven one dollar bills. About a three way split, I thought. I’m not advocating scamming, but it was perfect timing: I was down to a half pack of smokes, and payday was a week away.
As time went on, working there became very comfortable. The people I worked with became like a second crazy family. Half of us hung out outside of work regularly. Matt, his girlfriend Rachel and me never missed going to the head shop on payday, and then to Cheryl’s house to score some good ganja. Sheila, her best friend Jenny, who also worked there, and me went to the beach often – always getting sloshed on Zimas. Kevin had a party at his apartment at least once a week. Well, that’s if you consider a dozen people getting fucked up on a variety of substances, while playing Mortal Kombat or watching Beavis and Butthead on MTV, a party.
Joe was a complete fuck up as a manager. He often came to work with matted hair and a wrinkled shirt, stained with sauce splatter from the day before. When he closed, the opening crew regularly arrived to find the store dirty, pot seeds on the food prep table, empty beer cans on the front counter and registers short. More than once he called in sick an hour before he was supposed to start his shift. I had been working there a couple of months when Sheila approached me and said, “Laura wants to fire Joe but needs a closing manager tonight. I told her you can do it.” Laura was the store manager, and was really pissed at Joe, probably for calling in sick.
“Okay, sure,” I said. “Why not broaden my horizons?”
“Cool beans!” Sheila exclaimed. “Lets go talk to Laura.”
Matt and Rachel were a free-spirited couple who I had been hanging out with since I began working there. Matt turned me on to the Smashing Pumpkins on my first day, letting me borrow the Siamese Dream CD for the night. He was a computer geek way ahead of the curve. Most people didn’t even own a PC in 1993, yet shortly after we started hanging out, he wrote a card game program to sell. The three of us drove to Ft. Lauderdale and he sold it to MajorBBS, a software company, for 350 dollars. We saw In the Line of Fire at a drive-in, and had dinner at a great Japanese steakhouse, ordering plenty of sake. That day reminded me of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , except we were under the influence and didn’t wreck a car. Matt was quiet, and rarely showed outward excitement about anything. Rachel was the opposite. She was outgoing and passionate about whatever she did or talked about: from the new Meatloaf CD to seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the hundredth time. And they were stoners on the level of Cheech and Chong.
I closed the night before, and was asleep when they knocked on my door at around noon. I stumbled out of bed. It was ice cold in my small apartment, as if to spite the Florida heat. I always kept my place pretty cold, but not like this. I had a slight headache from the 12-pack I finished the previous night, and didn’t remember turning the thermostat down that low. “Hey Yo-E,” Rachel said. She acted overly excited as usual. “Wanna get high?”
“Yo-E” was her nickname for me. Matt just called me Johann. I squinted as the blazing summer sun made Rachel’s bright red hair look like it was on fire. She stepped in before I could answer. Matt followed.
“Guess what I got?” Rachel asked.
I rubbed my eyes with my palms and sat on the sofa.”What?”
“Acid. My sister’s boyfriend has a sheet, and I got us three hits.”
“Wow,” I said. I lit a Marlboro and took a deep drag. “I haven’t tripped in about three years.”
“Really? Me and Matt did some last week, but it wasn’t that good.”
Matt was breaking apart a big bud on the coffee table. “Yeah, I barely felt anything,” he added.
“Well this is supposed to be killer,” Rachel said. “There’s a Pink Floyd laser light show at the Bishop Planetarium at midnight. I was wanna save it for that.” The tone in her voice suddenly changed to that of a seductive temptress. “Wanna go?”
“Definitely,” I replied.
Rachel shivered. “Fuck it’s cold in here.”
Matt and Rachel took theirs at around 10:00. I wanted to wait until 11:00, so the peak of the trip hit me during the laser show. Well, that’s what I told them. I thought it would be a good idea to make sure no one started climbing on the roof or running around the neighborhood naked, in case it was some super strain of the drug. Though I didn’t have to be at work until 6:00 the following evening, we did have to be at an employee meeting at 8:30 that morning. My plan was to stay up all night, go to the meeting, sleep all day and then go to work.
No one wigged out, and we left for the planetarium a few minutes after I ate my hit. The laser show was amazing. Rachel was right, it was really good acid.
I started worrying around 7:00 that morning, realizing that I had probably waited too long to take the hit. I was still tripping hard, and there was no sign of it subsiding – and the meeting was in an hour and a half. Matt and Rachel were fine with missing it, but I had just been promoted the day before – so for me that wasn’t an option. I had to be there and Matt was my ride – so we had to be there.
I kept trying to focus on the reality of the morning, but it was hard. Sounds still echoed like the world was plugged into a guitarist’s digital delay effects pedal, and trails of light followed everything that moved. The room was pulsating with the rhythm of my mind. I thought a shower would help, but the water running down my face and body felt like warm liquid metal. That made my heart race and face flush, intensifying the trip.
The last thing I wanted to do was walk in late, giving everyone a reason to notice me, so we left on time. Even through my sunglasses, the dining room was surrealistically bright. Nothing hindered the sun from infiltrating the huge panes surrounding the dining room. Taking an inventory with just a glance, most employees were already there. Lynn, the assistant manager, and a couple of opening employees were minding their own business in the kitchen, clanging pans around while setting up the food making table. Cheryl sat at a table with her legs crossed, reading files.
I avoided eye contact; I didn’t want to talk to anyone and be discovered. If anyone starts talking to me, I’ll fake a bad hangover so they’ll leave me alone, I thought. A few of the employees had their kids with them, trying to keep them occupied and somewhat quiet with crayons and coloring books from the kids meal bags. The store’s Muzak system, which normally played Top 40 songs, was off. It was too quiet, just some mumbling around the room. Nothing was solid; the floor and walls were moving – humming and shifting as if they were made out of trillions of tiny insects.
Matt and Rachel sat in a booth in the farthest corner, shamelessly away from everyone else. Matt stared out the window as if something spectacular was going on outside. His torso twisted to the point where he was almost completely turned around, his back to everyone. Rachel was fidgeting with her Walkman. I couldn’t sit with them. I had to sit near the front by the managers and people who gave a shit. If I didn’t it would be conspicuous. I cringed knowing I was going to be introduced as a new manager. Will everyone stare open-mouthed in shock wondering what terrible thing was wrong with me? What the hell was I thinking? What made me think I could pull this off? Why am I here? Then Sheila sluggishly walked
in, purposely making it clear to everyone that she wasn’t a morning person and that she didn’t want to be there. She plopped down in a chair at the table with Cheryl. Everything was subtlety pulsating and vivid, like the subatomic vibrations of the universe were now visible.
Laura came out of her office and walked to the front counter. She looked around, and then down at her watch. “It looks like we’re still missing a couple people, but we’re gonna get started.” Her face seemed to be made out of a cosmic material unfamiliar to me, some mixture of liquid and solid instead of flesh. She discussed the usual stuff: the calling in sick policy, overtime policy, our last couple of mystery shopper results and new menu items. I couldn’t look at her face for more than a moment – it freaked me out. And by not doing that I was inadvertently staring at her big tits. I finally realized what I was doing when I looked up at her for a momentary glance and saw that she was looking fixedly back at me.
She continued the meeting by telling everyone that Joe was no longer working there, and that I was now a shift manager. That’s when Sheila rapidly clapped her hands together a few times and shouted, “Woohoo!” I turned my head towards her and grinned slightly, thinking that’s what a normal person would do. I noticed it was almost 9:30 when, after an hour long panic attack on acid, Laura grabbed an envelope from the counter. I knew it contained the twenty-five dollars for the employee of the month, and hopefully, the end of the meeting.
“All the managers took a vote, and the employee of the month was chosen unanimously,” Laura said. “Now normally managers aren’t eligible, but we made this decision before he was promoted.”
My face got hot; my stomach tightened. You’ve got to be shitting me. Please don’t fucking let this happen.
Laura looked right at me. “The employee of the month for August is… Johann!”
Everyone clapped, and I looked around: everyone was gawking at me. I gulped, stood up and took the envelope from her. “Keep up the great job,” she said.
She sounded sincere. Maybe she can’t tell.
I said thanks and sat back down. I couldn’t say anything more: I wasn’t sure if I would start slurring, stuttering or doing something else that would show everyone how fucked up I was at 9:30 in the morning. Cheryl gave me the thumbs-up. I grinned for a moment and returned the gesture.
“Thanks for coming in today, especially you guys that closed last night,” Laura said. The screeching of chairs sliding back and the bustling about of people snapped me out of my anxious daze for a moment. I slipped past Laura, who was chatting with Sheila, and pushed the front door open. The sauna like heat and beaming sun overwhelmed me for a moment. Is this what a vampire feels like? I put my shades back on and lit a Marlboro. The flame from the lighter looked like a tiny sun, and my fingers looked foreign. A few seconds later Matt and Rachel came out.
We climbed into the car and Matt asked, “Back to your place, Johann?”
I leaned forward from the back seat. “Are you guys hungry?”
Rachel replied right away: “Yes.”
“Let’s go to Mickey D’s. My treat,” I said.
“Yeah, you’re rich, Yo-e,” Rachel said, sarcastically.
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I said.
Matt opened his CD case and pulled one out right away. He slid it in the player and turned the volume way up. He had a great stereo. I recognized the song from the first note. Good choice, I thought.
“Today is the greatest/ Day I’ve ever known, Can’t live for tomorrow/ Tomorrow’s much too long...“
“The customer is always right” is just hyperbolical bullshit. The straight dope is that ten percent of them are pleasant, ten percent are assholes and idiots and the rest are detached. Once, I had a guy complain to me that he was charged one cent too much because the program the cash register was using was rounding up the tax incorrectly. Even if he was right, what did he think I could to do about it? Did he think I had the ability and authority to reprogram the corporation’s computer systems at 1:00 in the morning? It was busy. Why was this asshole bothering me with this shit? Others saw the simplistic task of ordering a value meal as an opportunity to vent their frustrations on someone who they think has an even lower lot in life than themselves. These pricks feel they are owed worship-like gratitude for buying a fucking burrito, and if denied that, feel cheated. And god forbid you don’t get their order right. Then they act as if you did it on purpose, or to spite them.
The worst of the worst, the ten percent of the ten percent, sometimes make the mistake of doing something asinine like coming through drive-thru at midnight, pulling up to the window and throwing the food item that may not have been made to their exact specifications through the window, or even at the cashier. It certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to refuse this prick service or to punch him in the fucking face. But usually we’d just remake the item, in a very special and extremely appropriate way… because the customer is always right. Contrarily, the pleasant ten percent are not just the cool old folks who give everyone working a dollar tip, or the drunk chicks who flash you, or Randy Macho Man Savage, who readily gave out autographs while eating his meal. The pleasant ten percent are simply the people who you can clearly tell were taught how to act in public: Not condescending or patronizing, in control of their emotions and polite… even when we fucked up their order.
Friday and Saturday nights were the busiest and usually the most interesting. We were open until three – the bars and clubs were open until three – and everyone was in the mood to party. Though it was busier, more employees were scheduled to work, so you’re still not working much harder. The dinner
rush lasts until around 9:00. At 10:00 the dining room is closed, and we go down to five employees. Four people at eleven, and usually the manager and two closers from midnight on.
This particular Friday Jeff and Tina were the closers. Jeff was still in high school, and on the weekends took as much ecstasy, smoked as much pot and went to as many raves as he could. In other words, he was an average American teenager. Since all that costs money, working part-time at the store and closing at least one day a week was a necessity for him. Tina was a stoner about my age, maybe a couple years older. She worked full time; she closed the store four days a week. She was conscientious and playful. I liked working with her.
Jeff walked in at 6:30, and it was busy. “Dude, you were supposed to be here at 6:00,” I said.
“Sorry, but I was getting laid.”
I hesitated, shook my head as if dumbfounded and without any sarcasm said, “Okay, I can respect that… now jump on drive-thru. Jessi was supposed to be off already.”
At 11:00, I told Jeff to take his break and took over the drive-thru. After taking a few orders, a newer Jeep Cherokee pulled up to the window. I wasn’t sure about the driver, but the other two girls in the SUV were definitely buzzed. The passenger leaned over the driver towards me, almost laying on her lap. “Did you get the order right?”
I read it back to her and she conceded that it was correct. The girl in the back seat motioned to the driver to pull up a little because she was paying and couldn’t reach me. The girl in the back leaned half of her body out the window, straining to hand me the money. “Ooh… I like your shirt,” she said. She didn’t seem like the typical drunk clubbhopper, but more incisive. Her full, shoulder length auburn-red hair, thin frame and statuesque features reminded me of the hot schoolteacher from a porn movie I had seen. I quickly tried thinking of something witty to say back to her.
“I like yours, too.” That’s all I came up with. We were in the middle of a Star Wars promotion, so instead of a shirt and tie, I was wearing a Star Wars promotional tee-shirt.
“I’ll trade you.” She said, running her fingers playfully through her hair. She wore a snug, sleeveless black sweater that didn’t cover her naval.
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” she said.
Okay, I will if you will,” I said.
She crossed her arms, reached down and grabbed the bottom of her sweater, pulling it inside-out up over her head. She handed it to me cracking a crooked smile. She wore a white sheer semi transparent bra.
God, I need a girlfriend, I thought, trying not to look as if I’ve never seen a nice chest before. I took my tee-shirt off and handed it to her. She slipped it on right away. It was loose on her. Tina finished making their order and placed the two bags on the drive-thru counter next to me. I grabbed the bags and handed them to her.
“I’m very fond of that sweater, so take good care of it,” she said. She handed both bags to the girl in the passenger seat. “I’ll be back for it.”
“I can’t wait.” I said, as they pulled away.
I stood in the drive-thru barechested. A middle aged couple, who were in line behind the girls, pulled forward staring at me. I pressed the sweater against my face and walked to the office. It smelled good. Perfume. Flowers. I grabbed a wrinkled crew shirt from a box in the corner. Tina, who was making the orders, and Jeff, who was in the office chatting on the phone, didn’t give me a second look – as if walking around the store without a shirt was routine. I opened the drive-thru window and said, “That was my girlfriend… she’s very demanding.” I was hoping they’d let out a chuckle, but they just looked confused and didn’t say anything.
At midnight, it slowed down and I was ready for a cold beer. I told Tina and Jeff that I was going to Chevron for a minute, which was across the street. Robert, a tall, skinny eighteen year old, who used to work with us, was there working. He had a crush on Tina. But she thought, and rightly so, that he was too young and immature. He loved telling exaggerated stories about partying, hanging out with bands and getting laid, though no one had ever seen him with a girl.
A few weeks earlier Robert stopped by the store after he got off work at Chevron, which was his normal routine. He grabbed a drink cup and leaned on the counter, waiting for the opportunity to bullshit with anyone who might acknowledge him. Everyone ignored him. I was topping off my Pepsi and said “hey” to him. Right away he told me about the Livestock music festival that he went to the day before. He continued by telling me that he drank three bottles of Jack and eighteen beers there. I had to cut him off. “Why do you constantly have to bullshit so much, Robert. You know you can’t drink one bottle of Jack and still function.”
“Shit, I drank a bottle of Jack in half an hour once,” he said.
“A big bottle? A fifth? … bullshit!”
He took a sip from his cup through a straw that he’d been chewing on. “Wanna bet?”
“Sure, how much?”
“A hundred bucks,” he said.
“Robert, your body can only burn one drink an hour. I think there’s about twenty shots in a fifth of Jack.”
“Are you chicken now?” He looked at me with a sly smile on his face.
“You get a bottle, drink it in an hour and I’ll give you a hundred bucks. But if you throw-up, you lose. Plus you have to still be able to function to some degree… since you said you were in public when you drank all that.”
“You just lost a hundred dollars,” he said.
A couple of nights later I was helping Brian, another shift manager, because one of his closers called in sick. It was almost midnight and I was mopping the dining room when I heard knocking on one of the big dining room windows. It was Robert trying to get my attention over the music from the boombox on the front counter. I stepped closer to the the window and saw that he had a hundred dollar bill pressed against the glass. He yelled something while pointing at the bill. I walked into the kitchen, where Brian was busy making an order. “You won’t believe this shit, dude.”
I told him about the bet, and all Brian had to say about it was, “He’s such a fuckin’ dumbass!”
I unlocked the door and asked him if he had the bottle. He pulled a fifth of Jack Daniels out of his backpack. “You’re gonna have to drink it out here,” I said. ” Brian doesn’t want you throwing up or dying in the store.” He agreed, sat down on the curb next to the side dining room doors and unscrewed the cap. Jennifer, who had just clocked out, came outside and lit a cigarette. I explained the bet to her, and asked her if she would hang out so that if I needed to go inside to help Brian make an order, Robert couldn’t cheat. She readily agreed.
Robert put the bottle to his mouth, tilted his head back and swigged several gulps, like it was a refreshing drink on a hot day. The grimace on his face showed that it wasn’t. He took a deep a breath and drank from the bottle again, this time just a shot. The last car that was in drive-thru pulled out of the parking lot and Brian came out with Yoda. Yoda was a twenty-something year old petite girl with frizzy hair and pointy ears. We called her Yoda because she was four foot eight and looked like Yoda. “Damn you drank all that already?” Brian asked. The bottle was more than a quarter of the way empty.
“Yup,” Robert said. He grinned and looked smug.
He took a couple more shots back to back, then lit a Marlboro Red. The bottle was now almost half empty.
“Maybe he’ll do it,” Brian said.
Though I was a little surprised at how much he drank already, I stuck to my guns and said, “No fuckin’ way.”
My remark apparently motivated him because he immediately took another swig, then quickly took another drag, as if the cigarette counteracted the pungent taste and burning in his mouth. Two cars in a row pulled into the parking lot and everyone except Jennifer went inside to make the orders.
“He might just pull it off,” Brian said while washing his hands. “He’s still got forty minutes.”
“I hope not. I don’t have a hundred bucks.”
I gave Yoda the bag for the last customer and went back outside. The bottle was three quarters of the way empty and Robert was laying on the sidewalk staring straight up. I was a little worried considering that he only had a few swigs left. “How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Fine,” he answered.
Not very talkative for someone that has to be high as hell on liquor, maybe he’s getting sick.
Yoda stepped out and lit a cigarette. “What are you looking at?” she asked Robert.
“The stars,” he replied.
“Well, can you find Ur-anus?” Yoda loved needling him.
I giggled. Robert sat up and said, “I gotta pee.”
He walked to the edge of the parking lot, which was surrounded by hedgerows about two and half feet tall and two feet wide. He stood with his back to us, apparently taking a leak. I noticed he was swaying, like a tall reed in the breeze.
” I gotta hand it to him, he almost drank the whole bottle,” Brian said.
“It’s not over yet,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s probably gonna die,” Yoda said, continuing her taunt.
Then, without warning, he fell straight forward. His knees didn’t bend. He fell like a tall tree that had been cut through at the trunk. His arms remained by his side as his face smashed into the branches of the hedge.
“Ka-Pow!” I yelled. “I knew it!”
Yoda cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Timmmber!”
“Holy shit,” Brian said.
“Is he dead?” Jennifer asked.
He was motionless in the hedge; his hands and arms were still by his side. We took a few steps toward him and heard the telltale sound of almost finishing a bottle of Jack in an hour. Huuurrrrgeh.
He slowly tried to disentange himself. He was struggling clumsily, as if stuck in quicksand. Brian grabbed his arm and helped him out of the hedge trap. He had vomit dripping from his chin and was unsteady on his legs.
“Are you alright?” Brian asked. He had a cut on his forehead and a blank look on his face.
Suddenly, like geyser, a huge eruption of brown liquid sprayed out of his mouth. It splattered against the passenger window and down the side of Brian’s shiny black Dodge Neon.
Brian jumped back to avoid bring splashed. “You asshole! Get away from my car!”
Robert hunched over and right away more of the vile liquid gushed out of his mouth, this time splashing on the pavement. A car pulled in the parking lot, and slowly cruised by us. Just then Robert let out another burst on the pavement.
That was appetizing. These customer’s mouths must really be watering now.
The car stopped at the menu board. Yoda had a mobile headset and said “can I help you” while walking back inside.
“Jennifer, can you make that order for me while we figure out what to do with him?” I asked.
Eventually Brian and I decided that we couldn’t just leave him outside or let him try to walk home since he was completely incoherent. We dragged him to a dining room booth and put a bus tub on the table in front of him. His face fell into the tub and he passed out. After closing, we drove him to his parent’s house, where he lived. We slapped him in the face a few times, and kicked him out of the car. Stumbling toward the house, he fell against a Lincoln parked in the driveway. He pushed himself off the car and found his way to the front door. Fumbling to get his key into the lock, he fell over again…into another hedge. “What a dumbass,” Brian said. We drove off towards my apartment.
I grabbed a beer from the twelve pack I just bought from Robert at Chevron and offered Jeff and Tina one. Jeff, whose eyes were bloodshot from the bowl he probably smoked in the bathroom while on break, rarely drank and declined. Tina declined because she had peppermint schnapps. I was a little surprised. “Peppermint schnapps? Like Rumplemintz?” I asked.
She was wiping down the food making table in between orders. “Yeah, want some?’
“Sure, where’s it at?”
“In the freezer,” she said.
“When were you gonna let me know?” She grinned and winked at me. We flirted with each other on a regular basis, even when she was still together with her ex-boyfriend, but it never led to anything.
Tina was mellow and sexy. Not the bubbly, ditzy cheerleader kind of sexy, but the groupie at a hard rock concert kinda sexy. She teased her long black hair so it was big and wild when she went out, but wore it pulled back in a ponytail at work. Her bangs covered her eyebrows, shadowing her deep set green eyes, which were surrounded by jet-black eyeliner and lashes with plenty of mascara. She used extra foundation on her face, masking some acne scarring and a thin but deep scar across her nose and chin,
which she got from a car windshield a few years earlier. Her sharp features were emphasized when she smiled.
A few orders in a row appeared on the monitors. I got out of my chair in the office and joined Tina at the food making table. It got busy and stayed that way until about 2:30, which still gave everyone time to get caught up before closing – so we wouldn’t be there all night. I was out of pot and had given up on any of my connections coming through for me that day. Tina told me earlier that she had a joint with her. I never bought any from her, but thought I’d ask. “Do you have just that one joint?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Why, do you want some?”
“No one came through for me,” I said.
“I can pick up some for you tomorrow. It’s good, too.” She brushed past me and opened her purse in the office. She handed me a joint. “Smell it.”
“Wow, it’s really piney.”
“Yeah, it’s called Christmas bud,” she said. I looked at it closer. It had bright green, almost florescent buds peeking out the ends of the joint. “I’ll bring you a quarter tomorrow.”
“Damn, I’m off tomorrow,” I said.
“Well… give me your number and I’ll call you and bring it by your place around noon. I’ve got some running around to do, anyway.”
“Okay, cool,” I said.
Jeff was unusually diligent in cleaning and preparing for closing that night. I asked him what was up, and he said that he was meeting his new girlfriend after work. He had worked hard all night, so I told him he could leave at closing, sparing him the clean-up duties. I wasn’t in a big hurry to leave that night anyway. We had beer, peppermint schnapps, and a fat joint. Tina didn’t seem like she was in a hurry either. Besides, I wanted some alone time with her to see if her occasional flirting with me was just innocent fun or if it might lead to some not so innocent fun.
I sat in the small office finishing up the daily paperwork with a nice 100 proof schnapps buzz. A Stone Temple Pilots song was blasting on the boombox on the front counter. I didn’t forget about the joint, but was trying to get the brunt of my work done first. I assumed Tina was in the same frame of mind; I hadn’t seen her since we closed.
Since I let Jeff go home early, I was hurrying with the paperwork so I could help Tina sweep and mop the store. The clanking pans and spraying water noise from the dish area stopped, and she walked by me and turned the music down a little. Then she leaned against the door frame of the office, and let out a deep breath with a whew.
“Almost done… already?’ I asked.
She wiped a layer of sweat from her face with the bottom of her untucked T-Shirt, revealing a gold naval stud. Damn, she’s got a nice body, I thought.
“All I’ve got left to do is sweep and mop,” she said.
“I’m almost done, too.” I refocused on the computer monitor in front of me.
“Do you wanna smoke now?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. She pulled the joint out of her purse, and placed it between her lips.
“Not in the office, though,” I said. ” I don’t need Laura catching a contact buzz in here in the morning.”
“In the bathrooms?”
“No, I’ve got a better idea, if you’re up for it.”
“I’m up for anything, baby,” she said, flirting again.
“Okay, come on,” I said. I walked to the back room and next to the freezer, on a storage shelf, was a huge box filled with bundled packs of napkins. I pulled it off the shelf and emptied it – putting the individual bundles of napkins back on the shelf.
“What are you doing?” she asked. I didn’t say anything back.
I grabbed the half empty bottle of schnapps out of the freezer. “Get those two folded boxes by the back door and follow me,” I said.
In the corner of the back room, where the paper goods were stored, was ladder that led to the roof. It was like a ships ladder: fixed to the floor, steel and led straight up to a hatch. I handed her the folded-up box, held the schnapps with my left hand and carefully climbed up. At the top, I hooked my left arm through the second to last ladder step, and opened the hatch with my right hand.
“Have you ever been up here,” I said.
She was looking up at me. “No.”
“Hand me the boxes.”
She had to stretch a little, but I reached them. I forced the boxes through the hatch, and climbed through unto the roof.
“Come on,” I shouted down to her.
“I better not fall.”
“Don’t worry, getting up is easy… getting down is the hard part,” I said.
The roof was flat, covered with tar and gravel. The three foot high parapet surrounding the edge concealed you completely from anyone on the street if you were sitting down. It was humid and hot, even at almost 4:00 in the morning. The sky was clear and the constellations bright… the city seemed surreal. It was quiet, not like during the day. I laid the flattened boxes down like a picnic blanket and sat down, Indian style. “It’s kinda nice up here, huh?’
“Yeah but you better help me get back down,” she said.
She knelt down in front of me, sitting on both knees. She put the joint in her mouth and felt her pockets for her lighter. I found mine first and lit the joint for her. She took a long drag and passed it to me, then coughed out the smoke, and continued to cough repeatedly. Her eyes got watery instantly. I put the joint in my mouth, picked up the schnapps, unscrewed the cap and handed it to her. She took a swig in between coughs, but choked on it , coughing even more.
She regained her composure somewhat. “Asshole,” she said.
I finally took my first drag, and exhaled without incident. I passed the joint back to her. She took a couple of smaller, shorter puffs this time. Then she started fanning her face with her empty hand as if she was burning up.
“You can take your clothes off if you’re that hot…I don’t mind,” I said. She handed me the joint.
“Oh, really. First you laugh at me and now you wanna get me naked?”
I took a puff, holding it in long to avoid answering her. Without saying anything else, she pulled her T-shirt up over her head. She wore a low cut maroon silk bra showing prominent pokey nipples. My eyes stayed fixed on her as I took another puff, not wanting to interrupt her. Then she stood up, kicked off her shoes and nonchalantly unzipped her pants. They were like a second skin, so she peeled them down like a banana. She wore matching panties, which she just as casually slipped off. She knelt back down in front of me, reached back and unhooked her bra.
Our eyes connected, she smiled, leaned into me and grasped my thigh. Just then I remembered that I hadn’t clocked out, and was getting paid for this.
Working fast food isn’t all that bad, I thought.