“I thought this was supposed to be fast food…Ally.”
I glanced up at the fleshy mass of guest leering down at my chest as I built his burger. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, because my nametag (Hello, My Name is Ally) just so happened to be pinned an inch or two above my heart.
Fleshy Man had tutted twice, rolled his eyes at least three times, and I’d lost count of the number of snorts he’d fired out of his cavernous nostrils. I opened my mouth to reply, but he’d already gone back to his phone.
Bun toasted, three concentric circles of mayo, a swizzle of ketchup, a swirl of mustard, one all-beef patty, mittful of lettuce, three pickles and one slice of gummy tomato. In that order. Every time. Or I’d get a write-up.
“Seriously, what the hell?” Fleshy Man asked.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m going as fast as I can,” I explained.
“Not fast enough.”
I clutched a pickle in my hand, staring at the brine dripping off the ridges. What I would have given to fling the pickle across the counter to land square in the middle of his slimy forehead.
“Just one more moment, sir,” I said, biting back as much bile and vitriol as I could. I slapped the burger onto a wrapper and folded it up. He reached over the counter and grabbed it off my prep table, swearing as his gelatinous arm rubbed against me. I wiped the table down, focusing all my energy on the shreds of lettuce. I ignored him as he opened the wrapper, and tried to keep ignoring him as he leaned against the counter once again.
“How can I help you, sir?” I said, praying that the help he needed was a paring knife embedded in his skull.
“I said no pickles,” Fleshy Man said. He reached into the burger, poking his sausage fingers into the steaming core and yanking out a single pickle. “What’s that?”
He reached over the counter and dangled the pickle right in front of my face. I could actually smell the salt, mingling with the faint tinge of ketchup, mustard, and regret on Fleshy Man’s fingers. With a twitch of his well-practiced wrist he flung the pickle to the floor. It skidded to a stop right beside the deep fryer.
“I want a new one,” Fleshy Man said.
A full-colour vision of the burger congealing as a blood-stopping lump in his aorta brought a small smile to my face. I fought the urge to ask ‘a new pickle, sir?’ but it took a hell of a lot of willpower to win that battle.
“Of course, sir, I’d be happy to make you another sandwich,” I said, reciting the training guide word-for-word.
He disappeared in his apps and I had a moment of blessed peace, free of Fleshy Man interaction.
“Does anyone else work here?”
Fleshy Man leaned on the counter, slapping it with his juicy hands.
“I’m sorry, sir?” I asked, breathing slowly through my nose to maintain calm.
“You have got to be the slowest, stupidest cow in the whole world,” he said. His moist, doughy lips hung off his face like a pair of overfed slugs.
I paused, and lowered my mayo and the bun. I’d been called worse, and by even more aggro people than Fleshy Man. Somehow, Fleshy Man was the one. He was the trigger man, the spark that set the forest on fire.
“What did you say to me?” I asked.
“You heard me,” Fleshy Man growled.
I reached behind my back, untied my apron, and slipped it up and over my head. I crumpled it into a tiny, stinky ball and hurled it into a corner.
“Now, look,” I said. I was keyed up, ready to rip into this little snotweed with every curse word I knew, in all three of my languages. I had a flurry of verbal assaults lined up to make him cry and beg for forgiveness, but just before I opened my mouth to unleash Hell, the manager decided to finally emerge from the back office.
“Everything all right?” he asked, not looking at me, but directly at Fleshy Man. They launched into a back-and-forth of ‘she’s so stupid’ and ‘I’m so sorry’ which resulted in me making the burger and apologizing to Fleshy Man like I’d done him a great personal wrong. He left with a new burger, a free drink, and a coupon to come in next time for another free meal of his choosing. Once he was happily on his way, Manager Boy turned on me.
“Don’t ever let me catch you talking to a guest like that again,” he said, waggling a long, bony finger in my face.
“But he was — ” I started, but he wasn’t having any of it.
“Never again. You’ve been a problem since you started. You’ve got a bad attitude, and if you even set so much as a toe — ”
Life has a funny way of going in slow motion when the worst things happen. Manager Boy took a small step backwards and his big, steel-toed boot came slamming down onto Fleshy Man’s pickle, flung only moments before. The pickle dislodged itself from its briny moorings, and pickle, boot, and man flew skyward. Manager Boy’s eyes actually met mine as his limbs flailed in the air. Gravity kicked in, and he landed, headfirst, in the deep fryer.
I froze. I couldn’t move. I watched in horror as his stretched-out legs scrabbled for purchase on the greasy floor. He skidded and slid, unable to stand up, until finally, everything came to a rest.
My phone buzzed. I pulled it out of my pocket. My best friend, Serena, had texted me.
Gah! Don’t you just want to kill your boss sometimes?
I took a long look at the deep-fried Manager Boy with his head beside the chicken strips.
Jim Maher is a stay-at-home father of three wild and crazy boys, loves pesto, strawberry rhubarb crumble, and can quote ‘The Princess Bride’ verbatim.