then, if you like (thank-you) Purchase it
© 2016 Timothy Gager. All rights reserved. Big Table Publishing Company retains
the right to reprint. Permission to reprint must be obtained by the author, who
owns the copyright.
This book is a work of fiction. The
characters, names and plot are entirely a product of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance of the characters or incidents in the book to real life persons
or events is unintentional and purely coincidental.
Printed in the United States
Author Photo: Teisha Dawn Twomey
Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan
A Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions
Big Table Publishing Company
Thanks to Gabe Gager, Caroline Gager,
Teisha Dawn Twomey, my mother and my father,
Mignon Ariel King, Rene Schwiesow,
and Cheryl Devitt for their editing eyes.
Also to Colin, Bill, Gail, Dottie, Dino, Joe, Mario, and Kenny,
for two summers of food for the story.
“Don’t think we
doing, because we do.”
Birthday from Grand Slams
Woody Geyser was born on
April 17, 1965--the same year Grand Slams introduced their Double Home Run
Breakfast. His full name was Woodrow Wilson Geyser, after his father Herbert’s
didn’t care too much about any of that. All he knew was, it was difficult to be
named Woodrow, even in progressive Lexington, Massachusetts, a town known for
some famous history of its own. Upon further review, Woody discovered that
Woodrow Wilson’s first name was really Thomas, and Woodrow was actually President
Wilson’s middle name. Who the fuck does
that? he thought, considering his parents poor naming idea. Often, he
wondered if his life would have been easier if he’d been named Thomas.
On his seventeenth birthday, Woody Geyser
took the family wagon and headed just over the town line, to Bedford, where a
Grand Slams was open 24 hours. It was midnight when he drowned his sorrows in
the Double Home Run Breakfast: two pancakes, two eggs, two bacon strips, two
sausages, two slices of toast, and two scoops of whipped butter. The breakfast’s
name, even in baseball terms, made no sense. Who’s ever heard of a double home run
in baseball? The hash browns cost extra, but he ordered them on the side
because he admired the way the flannel-shirted trucker in the booth next to him
sucked the thin, greasy, litmus-paper-looking sliced potatoes down his throat. Woody
was served by an old, salty-looking waitress named Maura. He knew his cute-as-can-be,
former high school classmate, Sugar, worked here, but she was nowhere to be
Maura was the server. She was at least fifty, with baggy stockings and a spare
tire around her middle that Woody compared to his old stay-at-home, pretzel and
this free?” he asked Maura. “It is my
Maura said, not without her cutting frown, already worried that 15% of nothing
would be nothing, especially with a kid looking like Woody in front of her.
“First time here?” she snapped.
was nervous. In fact, his voice sounded awkward and odd. He rubbed the back of
his hand against his oily face then flipped his hand over and ran it through
his short, spiked hair. “Well, sort of, you know, it’s my first time out here
on my own. How long have you been here?”
worked here for twenty years,” Maura replied, pointing to the gold, racy-looking
GS on her one-piece, brown polyester
uniform with the number 20 centered
smack in the middle of it. “Best job I ever had,” she said. Woody saw her smile.
a coffee to go. He didn’t like coffee but figured it was about time he learned
to get used to it. It was some kind of horrible birthday, but it was about time
he got used to doing the things that everyone else did--to try to blend in.
First, he had to wash his face. He left a dollar on the table, heading to the
bathroom before he left.
felt the April chill of the Massachusetts weather against his still-wet face as
he exited the front door of the restaurant. After five strides he was grabbed and
tossed to the ground by a kid who, he would learn later, was nicknamed Kayak
Kenny. The kid looked sick, with a sort of greenish-yellow tint to him, which
usually means the suffering and grinding of two or more vital organs. Kenny
acted strangely excited as he yelled out urgently for someone with a name that sounded
like “Cheating” or something. Woody grit his teeth as Kenny’s full body weight
pressed on his back, his arm twisting at a weird angle, his other hand pushed
down on his dark, spiked hair.
his skull pressed against the blacktop, all he could see was a pair of plastic-looking
black shoes in front of the cement curb from the sidewalk in front of Grand
Slams. The shoes reminded him of the shoes a Ken doll wears. The man in the
shoes, standing above him, finally spoke, “You didn’t forget to pay for that,
did you, college boy?”
tried to shake his head, but the weight of Kayak Kenny’s chest on the side of
his own left him immobilized while his nose filled with the aroma of fried eggs
and sickly sweet syrup roaring from the skin and rank clothes of Kenny. “Tell
you what,” the man with cheap shoes said. “Come back in a few months and you
can have a job for the summer. How does that sound, punk?’
yet landed a summer job, and the spring semester had been rough on him,
academically and financially. Without
much thought about anything further, he opened his mouth and grunted out the
word, “Yes,” while the bouquet of dish swill coming from Kenny caused him to
next day the skin on Woody’s face was raw, making it uncomfortable to the
touch--which was new, since Woody always felt raw on the inside rather than the
outside. It was that inner-tenderness that drove him toward the bottle and the
need to experiment with other substances as he discovered the vast potpourri of
kicks and tricks he depended on to change the way he felt. Despite the fact
that Woody had been late to the game, not indulging in partying until much
later than most kids his age, drinking made him feel warm and confident. Even
if he was a little awkward, he no longer agonized over every conversation. Finally,
he was granted relief from caring so much about how he was perceived, opting
for playing the role of King Pig, amongst the garbage and slop.
like last night reinforced how simple social interactions often went straight
to hell when he was involved; how he failed at reading social cues; and how the
rest of the world reacted to it. Yet somehow, amongst this inadequacy, Woodrow
Wilson Geyser had landed a summer job.
2. Geyser’s Grand Slams Glossary
Bus Tub: Molded, sturdy
plastic basin, with built-in side utensil
Swill-(n): The liquid or solid remnants removed
from a bus tub to
the dishwashing work area. (v)-The act of washing dishes.
Swill Station: Dishwashing
Bus Apron: Brown,
leather-like apron worn when you’re working
on the floor, clearing tables and
helping the wait staff.
Dish Apron: Green
plastic apron which is waterproof, but tends to have
dish water run down, soaking your pants.
Grand Slams Top 40: Any
song where the lyrics are changed, or imply
a change, by employees to reflect
a Grand Slam menu item or
employee. i.e., “Sugar, Sugar”
sung directly to the waitress
named Sugar or “Born to Swill” sung to Springsteen’s
clip-on bowtie, which male employees are required to
wear when assigned to the front
restaurant area, unless there
aren’t any available because aforementioned employees threw
them behind the dishwasher or
Scrubbie: (1) Sponge-like cleaning pad with rough
side to rub dried egg
off dishes before placing them in
dishwasher. (2) Person who
performs the job of dishwasher.
Pool area for The Super 8 Motel, the chain attached to
Grand Slams restaurant, Store #506.
Pre-prepared, ten-gallon bucket of uncooked, whisked eggs,
ready to be poured for omelets and scrambles.
Home Special: The $4.99 open-faced turkey sandwich covered
gravy, served before 5 PM to people over aged
65 with dental
Ayatollah or Pope: The shift’s Head Chef who wears the white,
starched, and standing tall chef’s hat.
Giant Snake: High-pressure water hose that hangs over the
area to power-wash old food and
crud off plates
before entrance into dish machine.
and Boil: Any sauce, gravy, melted cheese, or vegetable not found
in a can which is heated via boiling water
Convoy: Supply and shipment truck, full of Grand Slams food
Drug Dealer: Driver of above truck, usually importing and
exporting recreational drugs.
Woody Geyser’s stomach and head are slow-boiling
from a hangover. If only he can get through his shift, his very first at Grand
Slams, he will be fine. He walks to the dish area, and the odor of grease and sulfur-smelling
egg remainders, combined with that damn syrup smell, makes his stomach tighten
in pre-retch anticipation. He is nearly paralyzed. It’s 6:45 AM and his peers
are here early, with way too much energy for this time of morning. Bees are
dormant at night, but during the day they buzz around in a frenzied turmoil,
hustling to complete their tasks. This is what it feels like as two boys, about
his age, swoop back to claim two brown, fake-leather busing aprons, before
racing to the front of the restaurant to work. An older pock-marked man, named
Marisimo, is sliding and slamming brown plastic tubs toward a large overhead faucet
the size of a small showerhead. He wears a different apron, one that is
stained, green, and waterproof.
I’m Tribuno, a manager,” a stocky man with a black handlebar mustache, suit,
and heavy accent says, walking up to Woody, interrupting his sickness. “I’m the
Assistant Manager of Grand Slams #509, Bedford store. Let’s head over to the
break area and fill out some paperwork.”
the break area being a comfortable, living-room-type space or a cafeteria
setting, but is disappointed by the cramped area with a conference table pushed
against a crumbling wall that holds a time-clock, mounted and perfectly
centered. To the left and right of the punch clock are two racks with cardboard
cards that have the printed and alphabetized names of each employee. Tribuno
grabs a blank card and writes Geyser on
it. “Punch in, like this, and sit
down. I’ll bring you some papers to sign,” he says.
AM, Sugar walks in, looking to have aged between five and ten years since graduation.
“Hey, Sugar,” Woody says shyly.
tilts her head, face scrunching in a way that matches her dry, blonde, crimped
hair. She is obviously trying to place him.
refreshes her memory. “Woody Geyser. Remember we had algebra together, and I
helped you during the final?”
yeah… Woodrow,” she says dryly. “I’m late. Gotta get on the floor now.”
She looks much rougher,
Woody thinks; the combination of too much makeup, the deadness of her eyes, and
her inability to recognize him throws him for a loop. He suddenly realizes that
during the past ten months, while he’s been away at college, she’s just been
here, working. “Slinging hash,” his father might say.
to work,” Tribuno returns to bark, totally out of habit.
I’m waiting for you to bring me papers.”
that’s right, never mind. Here’s your W-4 Forms, a consent to be treated if you
get injured at work, the Workman’s Compensation Policy, and the Sexual
Harassment Policy. Read and sign.”
signs without reading as Tribuno juggles a handful of video tapes. He drops the
top one onto the break table along with a tri-fold pamphlet titled, Hot, Hot, Hot, which trains employees
about the temperature of coffee and other hot beverages. “I’ll be back with the
video player,” Tribuno grumbles.
the dishwasher with the wrinkled face and clothing, Marisimo, joins Woody at
the table, eating a glazed muffin. He asks Woody what’s on TV, then volunteers that
because he’s blind in one eye, he can’t watch. He also volunteers that he’s on
a fixed income. Woody tells him the film is called, Diner Amongst Friends, but Marisimo points to his right eye where
there appears to be a large, round, and bulbous cyst-like formation. The cheesy
music in the video is annoying, perfect for a training video, which creates a
surreal feel to the video’s portrayal, one that stresses the importance of
being courteous and friendly to everyone, no matter what the circumstances. Conclusively,
customer-to-server conflict resolution in the film is resolved by the Grand
Slams Team with an over-the-top amount of ass-kissing.
the busboys Woody saw earlier hustles by with a tub full of smelly dishes,
covered in a one-inch thick sludge of swill, which sloshes, left to right, as
he makes a sharp turn towards the dish area. The bile in Woody’s stomach
mirrors the motion of the liquid throwaways. The busboy is a large man with dark
hair pushed slightly over his large forehead. “Bobby Maloney,” he bellows as he
sprints by, “Nice to meet you.”
those there,” an agitated Marisimo directs, pointing to the dish station
counter. “Can’t you see I’m on my break, you asshole?” he shouts at Maloney’s
way back, Maloney mockingly hums the music of the training video and repeats
the line, “It may not be your way, but
it’s the Grand Slams way, and you always want to hit a Grand Slam with your
customers” verbatim. “Here it comes–the laugh. Here it is. Brace yourself
for the laugh.” Sure enough, the Grand Slams Team on the video lets out a boisterous
group laugh, complete with additional chummy back slaps. All is right in the Grand Slams world.
hears Maloney and Marisimo talking and enters the back area. “Maloney, get to
work. Marisimo, get to work,” he says rapid fire, then, “Geyser, there’s someone
outside to see you.”
pushes through the swinging doors and sees his mom at the counter. “Excuse me,
sir, may I have some coffee, please?” she asks with a wink and a smile. “Just
wanted to check in to see how my boy was doing on his first day,” she adds at a
volume not hushed enough for Woody’s liking.
fuck,” Woody says under his breath, easily drowned out by Sugar introducing
herself to Woody’s mother and saying that she is her server. Woody is relieved,
knowing that Sugar has saved his ass, and retreats thankfully back to the break
area. This feeling is short lived, as Sugar comes back rolling her eyes, taunting,
“Oh, Woody, dear, I’d like some coffee, please,” then to Maloney, “I just
wanted to check in on my little boy….” After about the third go-around, his
co-workers overhear the mocking and begin to notice what’s going on. This is
not a stretch on Woody’s part, because Sugar always gets noticed. When the
chuckling dies down, Woody fixates back on the video, cranking the volume, which
is now lecturing new employees about proper restaurant etiquette.
Slams employee who passes him now eithers says out loud a partial quote from
his mother or gives a running commentary on his mother’s current actions at the
counter. Mommy is ordering pie. Mommy is
paying. Mommy has left a dollar tip. Mommy says to tell you she said bye-bye. It
feels like torture, but Woody tries to remind himself, it’s all part of the
work environment and all part of the bullshit he gets paid for. Just four more
hours to go, he counts down, eager to be free to finally go home. He grits his
teeth and mentally prepares himself for the no-nonsense lecture he intends on
giving his mom.
“You know, I wouldn’t worry too much
about anyone who works here. We have a strange crew,” Maura says to Woody. “Not
like any other that I’ve worked with in my twenty plus years. Much less
professional.” She looks down at the training video Woody is watching. “These videos
are good. The workers that stick around… what I mean… good workers are the ones
that take pride in Grand Slams and stick around. It’s the Grand Slams way. You
getting this?” She takes a sip of orange juice from a large plastic tumbler.
has his head down on the break table. “I’m on break. Check the time-card.”
know, I know who you are. You’re the kid that tried to run out on the check a
few months back. You should be grateful you didn’t get arrested.”
out on the check? I thought it was free. Isn’t that the policy on someone’s
should be grateful that Grand Slams gives you another chance in life. It saved my life. You could have spent your
birthday in jail and the day after in front of a judge.”
know, I’m just here for my summer break. I go to school at UMass.”
has stopped by, raking her bag for a cigarette. “Yes, big college man. We’re
all proud of you,” she scoffs. “UMass. Great parties there. Bobby Maloney went
there too.” Woody doesn’t recognize Maloney from campus, most likely because he
went back to Grand Slams to work on the weekends. Sugar taps Woody on the top
of his head and struts into the walk-in refrigerator to smoke, “I’m allowed….”
raises her eyes at her. “I’ll talk to Mr. Keating about it. Not that he’ll do
anything about it, but at least he’ll say he will. Honestly, I don’t understand
why he is still here, while hard-working Tribuno is waiting in the wings, like
a dog sitting loyal next to his master. Sometimes, I wish I had taken over one of
these franchises. Now that place
would be amazing.”
strolls by. “Break’s over Geyser,” he says. “Did you learn anything?”
pauses, shifting his gaze toward Maura. “Yes, I learned a lot about Mr. Keating.”
no, from the video.”
downs the rest of her juice, “He learned about how courteousness pays off, both
for the company and for the employee.”
Good, Maura. You’ll have a successful career here,” Tribuno says. “Now, Geyser,
watch the next one till you can answer like Maura”
need to get back to my tables,” Maura says. “It does pay off, remember that.”
The gold-colored metal of Maura’s
twenty-year pin wasn’t made from any precious metal of any innate value, so
Maura only needed to polish it with whatever was in the cleaning bottle full of
orange liquid. It wasn’t the pin itself she valued, but rather what it
represented, along with the number 20,
inserted inside a script GS. The
number could have been written on a paper towel with a green crayon for all she
cared, it represented change for her–how her life had changed and how working
here saved that life. She remembered the day she was hired by Grand Slams. It
was the same day she’d removed the cross she’d always worn around her neck.
early nineteen-fifties Maura, trapped in the ideals of “the fifties”, had
nowhere to go. Those values did not include someone like her, pregnant in her
early twenties, living off the charity of her strict Catholic parents who were
so uncomfortable with her life choices that they wanted her to disappear. The
mortification of this alone caused them to struggle for breath, heavy-chested,
wondering what to do with their swelling and husbandless daughter. Disowning her
was out of the question, but still the facts were, sinners and
non-perfectionists from their belief system stick indecent thoughts about their
daughter into their heads. If they were honest with themselves, they’d realize
that women like Maura just weren’t ready for life in general. It was a time in
California when most young people were supposed to be free and easy. It wasn’t
that way for Maura.
Bridget was born, Maura passed a “Help Wanted” sign posted on the window of a
Homer’s Donuts in Lakewood, a town of pronounced growth. At the interview,
Maura was surprisingly impressed by the manager/owner Mike Homer, who would end
up becoming the CEO of the entire Grand Slams franchise. She loved that the
place was always open; in fact, it didn’t even have a lock on the front door. There
was something comforting about a place always welcoming those who needed it,
that no one would ever worry about being turned away.
Aircraft Plant was nearby and there was always a steady stream of customers and money
to be made. For a single mom, who relied on her parents to watch the baby, it
allowed her the flexibility to work whenever she wanted and whenever the
restaurant needed her. She even filled in, when Mike asked, as a Night Porter
during overnight shifts. Even Homer had to admit that Maura was second, only to
him, as the hardest worker he’d ever known.
Mike was self-made, a trait Maura
appreciated greatly, as she yearned to make it on her own. Maura was still
there when the name changed to Homer’s Coffee Shop and, later, she was there
when the name became Grand Slams Coffee Shop. This change was necessary as a
nearby competing chain, Homer’s Coffee Shop, was named after its owner, Homer
worked relentlessly, saving every penny, as Grand Slams grew and franchised, each
building looking virtually identical to the last. This presented the
opportunity for Maura to relocate, as her young daughter Bridget was approaching
school age, and Grand Slams was popping up in new locations all over the
country. The chance to move on and no longer feel the shame and the guilt from her
parents, which was as thick as the tan gravy ladled over Grand Slams powdered mashed
potatoes. It all seemed logical, the Gold Rush in reverse: moving from
California to make her way to the East Coast, with all the hope in the world.
Besides, her daughter, she believed, would be better off being raised by her
hoped that one day a solid worker like Maura would become a manager or owner of
a new franchise. However, it turned out that waitressing was good enough for Maura,
mostly because she enjoyed the work and she made a lot of money. There was
nothing in this world better for Maura than doing something she enjoyed.
4. Keating’s Barter Economy
on an old method of exchange, used long before money was invented, the Super 8
always had a room available for Joe Keating. If Keating bartered items that
were expendable, like Double Home Run breakfasts, he could get the things he
wanted. It worked so well that sometimes he wished money had not been invented
Pudlow manages the Super 8 located no more than twenty feet from the back door
of Grand Slams. Keating has no idea why the place is “super” or why it has the
number eight attached to it, but that doesn’t stop him from getting a room
nearly every night. Eash time he thinks of the same tired old joke about an ad
campaign he might pitch: The Super 8 is
the perfect place to share a super eight-ball.
comes into Grand Slams every day Keating works, and when he gets sick of the
free breakfasts, he comes for free lunch and dinner. The entire staff know Pudlow’s
a customer Keating serves, which suits them fine because Keating usually sits
him in a section that’s closed, or in Keating’s “executive” table in Section 1.
It’s the table of utmost importance.
Super 8 would buy into Keating’s slogan, or into the fact that a customer like
Keating can call and get a room for an hour, midday, for whatever reason he
wanted. Jimmy obliges Keating with the room furthest away from the closest
overnight guest. It’s not that Keating would be loud; it’s just that Jimmy
knows most substance abusers tend to want their lives to be under cover from
the general public.
is alone tonight in Room 124, having struck out with his invitations, but he is
too wiped-out to drive all the way home. Cocaine hangovers are the worst. Sugar
was here last night, but all they did was talk, and talk, and talk. A few times
when they had fooled around, Sugar always felt bad afterward, shamed and riddled
with guilt. She finally confessed to him that she felt obligated to be physical
with him because he’d paid for the room as well as the other things.
snorts a line and takes a spin around the channels. He stops at Scarface, a movie he’s seen before. Near
the beginning of it, Al Pacino, a drugged-out gangster, takes in Michelle
Pfeiffer, who’s the girlfriend of Robert Loggia. Keating can remember the
actors, but keeping track of the names of the characters they play takes too
much brain power. Pacino plays a power-hungry sleazeball, and Keating relates a
lot more than he cares to admit, so he shuts off the TV and flips through the
restaurant section of The Yellow Pages
Keating looks at the pictures and drawings of the restaurants he could be
running, an activity he enjoys as much as the toothache he suffered through a
few months ago. His mind wanders back to his graduation day at Endicott
College, where he was the top of his Hospitality Administration class. Man, was
his father proud. So, how did he fall into the grasping arms of Grand Slams? He
thinks some more, with further regret, and rolls onto the opposite empty pillow
and concludes that many times in his life he’s made the best of bad situations.
What he’s doing now is not all that bad--a free bed anytime he needs it, a
young woman, and enough drugs. Things are in control, right? He then questions
the logic of all of this. Keating tosses
and turns until 3 AM, but before finally drifting off to sleep, he dials
Sugar’s number too many times, leaving a series of increasingly desperate
messages on her answering machine.
wakes up late for shift. Where is he? What day is it? He hasn’t been home in
days. Who is opening today? Then he remembers. I am. Shit, I am. His
panic is short-lived as he pauses to consider the schedule. Maura is there for
the 6 AM shift, and she can handle anything. He trusts her more than Tribuno,
anyway. Besides, Maura knows the combination to the safe, whereas Tribuno does
not. What else do I need to note? New
kid, the college boy, there on his first day, paired with Maloney. Sugar is on,
but will pretend not to know him the way they really know each other. What else? Can I go back to sleep? Keating
reaches into his shirt pocket for the triangle of paper he keeps there. He
pours out some powder. Sleep is a luxury.
He combs his thinning, sandy-colored hair, then pulls out his can of Lysol,
giving his suit a couple of perfunctory sprays.
later, Keating saunters in like he’s feeling like a hero, smiling strange and
reptilian, shouting, “Okay, everybody, I’m here… Joe Keating is here.” The
black overlapping rings circling his eyes are as thick and dark as
coffee-colored rings from a cup’s liquid, absorbed on a white tablecloth (a
nicety you’d never find at a place like Grand Slams.) The rest of his employees
never think of him in the grandiose manner; rather, they view him as slithering
in or perhaps sliming in. Keating is wearing the same powder-blue suit he wore during
his last shift, two days ago. At least it smells of lemon freshness from the
Lysol. Sunday is the busiest day at Grand Slams, and Keating is about to swim
into a pot of coffee, his sandy mustache flavored by the coffee, cream and seven
shoots him a smile, but Keating can tell she is stressed out, perhaps even angry.
Sugar had called in late again this morning. Keating plays it cool, as he knows
Maura, after it’s all said and done, won’t mind; she’ll have picked up extra
tables, making extra money. When she counts her tips at 3 PM, all will be well
in Grand Slamville.
his first pot of coffee, Keating brings his briefcase into the men’s room. He
yanks down the metal flap of the paper towel dispenser to see if Kayak Kenny
has restocked product. He takes a towel and polishes the GS logo embossed in the rack’s metal. He then walks into each
stall. The toilet paper should have three rolls in each unit; when one is
finished and the roll pulled out, a new one should drop down to replace it. In
stall three, the handicapped unit, there is only one roll of toilet paper.
Usually this is where he starts, stall three; being that it’s meant for a
wheelchair, it’s big enough for him to settle in, to pull a mirror out of his
briefcase, and to pour the powder out of the triangular piece of paper and
snort it up. No need for him to carry any dollar bills, as Grand Slams supplies
him the plastic straws.
briefcase carries a cache of important sprucing items. There’s a smaller sized Lysol spray can, which he again
sprays his blue suit with, some wet naps to wipe down his plastic shoes, a
bottle of Secret roll-on deodorant, which Sugar left behind, and a 16-ounce
bottle of Listerine, which he sloshes a mouthful of before swallowing the shot
for good measure. They don’t sell beer or booze on Sundays in Massachusetts.
Kenny is in the dish room helping Marisimo. Together they do the work of half a
is only one roll in stall three,” Keating says as he whirls past with a smile
pasted onto his face.
it,” Kenny counters, pulling the curl of his hair, resting on his forehead, out
straight. It looks like a cursive G
or S hanging the way it does. “Look
at the checklist.”
don’t care about the fucking checklist,” Keating yells. “Some guy in a
wheelchair will use the last square and there will be nothing left to wipe his
ass with. Kenny, complaints from the handicapped are not the kind of shit we need
looks confused, child-like, reaching back into the deepest parts of his brain,
but not responding.
swear, you’re a bit slow,” Keating says sarcastically, waiting. “Well?”
might not be smart, but I’m a good worker,” Kenny says, defending himself.
a good worker, huh? Well, then, fix it!!”
follows Kenny, past the supply room where Kenny grabs only one, rather than two,
rolls of toilet paper, the white wrapper gleaming against the greenish-yellow
skin of his hand. They then pass the break area, where Kenny pulls a piece of
buttered toast off a plate and takes a bite.
you put that on your time card?” Keating says, smiles, because he knows he has
will, I will,” Kenny scowls, thinking The
nerve of this guy.
Toast is not a free item, Keating
thinks, but even dumb people need to feel
big enough to cut corners.
Call me Mr. Keating.”
When I save up and buy a kayak, do you think Sugar would like to go out with
me? Then we could sit somewhere after and have a picnic. Do you think if I
asked her, she would say yes? I would say, ‘Hey, Sugar, would you like to go
out with me in my kayak. You wouldn’t even have to paddle.’” Kenny ponders the
possibility, committed to his daydream. “I’d do all that for her. I’d paddle and we’d
ride around in my kayak and I’d ask her if she liked me. I like her sunglasses.
Do you think she’d say yes? Do you, Joe?”
think she would never do that. Now can you do me a big favor,” Keating adds
with a transparent sarcastic smile, “if you want to get paid, just shut the
The Insider vs. The Outsider
think of Sugar is not what Sugar thinks of herself. People think Sugar is
gorgeous. Sugar is worthwhile. Sugar is social. Sugar is fun. Sugar is ditzy.
Sugar has got it together. Sugar lives for the attention from men. Sugar is
from the South. Sugar is a “cocaine whore.” These are all false, except she was
born in the South; but only lived there for less than a year. Sugar does not
care what others think about her.
When Sugar pals around with her friend,
the boss, Joe Keating, it’s mostly out of convenience. By staying local to her
job, Sugar does not have to drive the back roads for thirty minutes to her
house, but the most important factor is, she likes drugs and she likes hotels.
Even motels are a worthy stretch. Even hanging out with Joe is a worthy stretch,
though others think she is a bad person, just trading companionship for his
is, the hours and hours of conversation she has with Joe, except for the sexist
cracks he makes about her smallish breasts or anything else he can think of,
are fairly interesting. Joe, after a few lines, can be very optimistic. He
tells her what can be, rather than what could have been, such as college in her
future. She tells him that she enjoys his optimism and that he is one of the
few people who believes in her. Sugar is careful to build him up because an
all-nighter, when Joe feels sorry for himself, is pure torture. What people do
not see is that Joe, when he is happy, is a gentleman, and Joe, thank God,
would never put a move on her when she doesn’t want it. It’s all on her, and
when anything happens it’s kind of a pay-back for the money and the attention
Joe gives to her. She feels bad, immediately after, and even worse the next
morning when she needs a full two hours to get her shit together before she can
face her co-workers. It is time needed to place her head in a space that she
can convey proper swagger and attitude, the kind that people are used to out of
her. It’s the only way she can survive. Without the “I don’t give a crap what
you or anyone thinks” attitude, Sugar would probably stay in her bed,
depressed, for weeks.
by, Sugar is intelligent. That’s what she reminds herself when her old
classmate Woody is hired. Keating calls him “college boy,” which he uses as a
deriding label, but it also cuts Sugar deep into her soul. Sugar likes to disparage
Woody by calling him “Woodrow” instead.
still wants to continue her education at some point, if only she can get out of
this cycle of work, party, get paid, spend money, and so on. She never gets
ahead, but by getting ahead, it would only mean working to save money and
sleeping. Eating is optional. She has problems with that. Her co-workers joke
that no one has ever seen her eat at the restaurant.
night she tried to change the pattern. She went home to her small apartment in
Billerica where she lives by herself. No one questions the circumstances that
caused her to live on her own as an eighteen year old. Everything has led her
she came to work late because she had to condition and blow-dry her hair. Her
hair is always softer when she washes it at home because the motel shampoo is
of extremely poor quality. Lately, her hair has felt brittle and harsh; a
different kind of brittle and harsh than the looks Maura gives her when she
walks in at 7:30. Sugar tells her friends it’s salty old Maura’s “shaming look.”
Even coming from home this morning she receives this guilt-by-association stare
from her connection with the boss who she knows had a rough night next door. He’d
left three sad and lonely messages from the Super 8 on her answering machine.
It had pissed her off. “Deal with it,” she’d spoken back to the first recording
of his pathetic voice, without fully listening to the last two messages. Now Maura’s
eyes are hawking her, and this morning Sugar barely can tolerate it. She’d
rather deal with Maloney sexualizing her with his flirting, and shooting down
Woodrow before he can start with something as simple as a “Good Morning.” To deflate
a guy like Woody, it would only take one single bitchy look. She didn’t even need
to put out the energy it takes to straight-up ignore him, as that simple look
which she does so well, with her eyes, works exactly like her hand brushing off
Woodrow like a fly from her arm.
Maloney and Woody’s voices on their way back to the kitchen area, stops, and softens
briefly, thinking maybe she is being a bit harsh; Woody is harmless, perhaps too
nice...he’d never hurt a fly or brush her off in any way.
and Woody hustle, two hands on bus tubs, kicking open the swinging doors to the
back, their dishes clamor and rearrange themselves from horizontal to vertical
within the plastic tubs.
“Hey, sexy,” Maloney says, while
scurrying by. Sugar and Woody share a look then, as if synchronized, roll their
eyes with tight-lipped pressed grins, towards one another.
6. Woody Geyser And The Members of Grand Slams
Often when the days hit 90 or 100
degrees there’s a pool party after the 3-11 PM shift at the Country Club, a.k.a.
the pool area at the Super 8. This is a club that only accepts awkward guys as
members. It’s not much of a party--a few six packs shared by the members of the
dish staff, maybe a waiter and Gus, the young cook who only works two shifts a
week. Jimmy from the Super 8 usually discovers the party around midnight. In the
past he’s tried calling Keating’s room if he’s there, to tell him to put a lid
on it and break it up. This produces no result except the usual one: the party
ends when it normally would anyway, fizzling out at 1 or 2 AM. The next day Keating
will give the boys his usual sarcastic head tilt and a predictable jab, “Did
you have fun boys? Any of you guys sneak a kiss? Because I can get you a room through
my connection, you sweet bastards.”
Woody doesn’t know what to do when the boss makes gay
jokes. His cousin is gay, but Woody knows he’d only stick up for him if his
cousin was standing right there; and even then, there was no guarantee.
Woody also doesn’t know
why he goes to the pool parties. Parties make him uncomfortable. Sure, last
night there were extra supplies: a case of Miller Beer, a boom box and some
weed, but Woody is free to drink alone and listen to music at his parents’
house, his place of residence for the next three months. He smokes pot on
occasion, not very often, but last night he gave Bobby Maloney ten bucks for
three joints because his parents are always asleep when he returns from the
night shift and he is bored with nothing to do--smoking pot seems like a good
Kayak Kenny shows up
poolside after he finishes work, twenty minutes later than Woody and Maloney.
It takes him awhile to get the end of the shift necessities completed, but he
usually catches up to the others’ progress at the Country Club when it comes to
drinking. Kenny can down three quickly in about a half hour. The bright light
inside the pool shines through the highly-chlorinated water, casting a blue hue
over Kayak Kenny, making his coloring appear less yellowy green, or more
precisely, as blue as everyone else.
“Hey, I asked some of
the waitresses to come over,” he grins. “But, they all said they had forgotten
their bathing suits. Some said they had plans.”
“Ugh, don’t mention
that you’re hanging out with us,” Gus says. “I don’t want that association.”
Maloney snorts out a
laugh. “Well since it was you who asked, of course, they forgot their suits,
and their plans were to do anything else but come back here.”
“Huh?” Kenny said. “They
smiled when I asked. It means they wanted to. Do you think they like me?”
“I’m sure it means that,”
Maloney adds, feeling a little guilty now.
Woody is sitting with
his feet trolling in the water, admiring how the lights create blueish, yellow
and green swirls beneath the surface. It’s the only light besides the overhead
ones in the parking lot, cutting into the night. Jimmy shuts the deck lights off
at 10 PM.
When Woody was in junior
high, the night he took all those pills, the lights in his head, when he lost
consciousness, looked almost exactly like what he’s looking at now. Then he
woke up at a hospital. That was the end of the story, no questions asked by his
parents, no follow up therapy, just be left with your own thoughts and go back
to school on Monday, please.
“Ah, they don’t like
you, as in like you, Kenny. They’re
just being nice. Sometimes women can act nice just to shut guys, like you, up,”
“Guys like me?” Kenny’s
voice has an added incredulous trill to it. “What the fuck do you mean? You’ve
only been here a week and I’ve worked here for three years. What the fuck do
“Chill, Kenny. They do
it to me too, and you admitted yourself, that you might not be too smart…but
you’re a good worker.”
Maloney is sprawled out
across a deck chair with sunglasses on, pretending it’s daytime, the glasses
splitting his face and forehead in near equal parts. “Pass the sunscreen
Kenny starts walking
around the deck to look. “I can’t find any, Bobby.”
The boys let out a
laugh and Gus says, “Keep looking, Kenny. You don’t want Bobby to get sunburn.”
Then Gus turns to Woody, to needle him: “What about it, Woodrow? You sleeping
The hairs on the back
of Woody’s neck begin to stand up, as if his instincts are kicking in,
preparing him for a fight. “It’s Woody,” he says, aggravated. “No one calls me
“Relax,” Gus says. “I’m
just busting your chops because I’ve heard Sugar call you that. I think she’s
calling you that for a reason.”
“Yeah, it’s because
she’s busting my chops too. It’s her way of saying, I knew you when, and when I knew you, you were this way, so please
remember what the pecking order is. Girls like Sugar want to keep the power
structure from high school exactly the way it was at the time of their senior
year, when they were on top of the social ladder.”
“No,” Maloney says.
“It’s not about being on top and keeping the pecking order. I think it’s about
preventing you from thinking you’re better than her, I mean, going to college
like you are, and all. Last winter, over break, I used to talk to her all the
time. She felt left behind. All her friends were in school and it made her feel
bad about herself.”
“Did you guys smooch?” Kenny
“No, retard. We’re friends.
I see how others would find her pretty, but she’s not my type. I’m not fond of
that All-American, girl next door kind of look, but perhaps with bigger breasts....”
“Yes, you, peering
through the blinds into the bedroom window of the girl next door, you should
know about her breasts,” Gus said, ending his own joke with what he usually
ends his own jokes with--a manic laugh.
“She was, umm,” Woody stops
in mid-sentence, as they all stopped to listen to him. “She was the
All-American type of girl. She had everything going for her. She partied too
hard and by the end of high school, she hadn’t applied to any schools except
the ones she was reaching high for…the Harvards, Yales, and Dartmouths. She
might have gotten into those schools if she hadn’t fucked up, but after her
senior year grades she had no chance. Of course she has regrets.”
sound of the pool filter kicking in replaces the sudden reflective silence. Kenny
belches. “Anyone want to smoke another joint?” Maloney asks. Gus and Kayak
Kenny walk over, but Woody stays in the deck chair. “I’m good,” he says.
Woody’s parents are
asleep. He still has two joints left but he’s too stoned to smoke anymore. He
hits the bed at 5 AM, too paranoid, too self-attacking to sleep. In ten hours
he has to go into work again and the switching from the early mornings to
mid-afternoons is tiring him out.
Maybe if he gets
himself off he can sleep. He has a small window of opportunity, because his
parents will be awake soon and even though he’s two floors up, the kitchen
coming to life in the morning is a sound he has a difficult time blocking out. He
starts having thoughts about Sugar, but not the current Sugar, his co-worker; he
thinks about the one he knew in high school, the wholesome version he talked about
tonight. Yes, I am a douchebag, he
thinks, pretending to know all about her tonight at the pool--and to act more
of an expert on women, in general.
In high school Woody
had been an obvious virgin, ashamed of his thin body, which failed to reach
puberty until much later than the rest of the boys in his class. Showering
after gym was a nightmare, so he never did it, enduring the rest of the day
covered in dried salty dodgeball sweat. He carried this awkwardness into
college, and even when he had the chance to close the deal and have sex, he
didn’t know what to do, so any chance he had to gain experience was missed.
Most of the girls in his dorm figured it out and when Cyndi, who had slept with
his roommate the week before, asked him to come over to her room across campus
the night before Christmas break for a drink, he didn’t think much of it.
a gift for him, which he unwrapped while sitting on her bed. In a small box was
a cocktail glass, with a heart and #1 printed on the side of it. She kept
filling it with rum and cokes, getting him drunk, while sitting closer and
closer to him, until her legs were slung over his lap, and the back of her hand
was resting directly on his crotch. Her other hand was tugging at his short,
dark, spiked hair. She re-gripped and pushed the back of his head; pushing him
in firmly, with eyes closed for a kiss.
the sex was over, he went to the bathroom to pee, still erect and feeling such
relief that he almost busted into laughter, which once started, he would have a
difficult time being able to stop. Instead he held it, and went back for four
more times with her, lasting until dawn. By the time morning came, he knew he
wouldn’t have a reason to ever see her again.
Woody slides his hand
under the waistband of his pajamas, but nothing happens. He thinks of Sugar’s
mouth and something begins to stir, but quickly dissipates, like a not-quite-dead
car battery. He tries again, thinking more and more graphically about Sugar,
her petite breasts and small ass, but instead all he can think about is the
need to hurry and how floppy he is. He hears the frying pan bang against a
sauce pan as it is pulled out of the cabinet for the purpose of scrambling his
father’s eggs, and the image of Sugar disappears the way a match is
extinguished when dropped into a cup of water.
Woody’s parents’ house
is a nice, white-painted four bedroom house with black shutters. It has a large
wraparound porch, in a neighborhood in Lexington with many other white houses
with black shutters. Woody’s dad, up at 6 AM for work, moves Woody’s empty beer-can-filled
vehicle to the street nearly every morning. The bottom of Woody’s vehicle has
started to rot out, so his father is never sure what is making the rattle
sound, the car or the cans. Woody’s mom debates on what she’ll say to her son
when he wakes up. Should it be, “We know what you are up to”? or “I’m worried
about you”? Perhaps it’s all because of the influence of his co-workers. She
could casually mention that she doesn’t like the people he’s been hanging out
He’s always been a good
kid, drinking “normally” with friends, never experimenting with drugs; but then
there was that strange incident at age fourteen, which she reckoned was just a
cry for help. A car full of beer cans is concerning to her. What if he gets
pulled over with all the empties in there?
After cleaning the
kitchen and wiping down the table, Woody’s mom sits with a cup of coffee,
waiting. Woody is usually up after 10 AM, unless he has the early shift. When
she hears the steps creaking, she straightens, preparing herself for the
uncomfortable interaction. Before Woody
can even say “good morning,” and before he gets into the kitchen, she blurts
out, “Don’t think we don’t know what you are doing, because we do.”
Maura Has Dreams
Waking up at 5 AM has Maura in
bed by 9 every night. It’s all about work ethic and doing the right thing. It’s
about getting enough sleep. The success that she is, a waitressing powerhouse,
is not about partying, staying out late or dating. Not that someone her age is
doing that anyway, but it’s what she has been doing ever since she started
Freud's theory about sleep and dreams was that your dreams are an expression of
what you’re repressing during the time you are awake, while Carl Jung believed
that dreams provide messages about “lost” or “neglected” parts of us that need
to be reintegrated. Many dreams simply come from a preoccupation with the day’s
activities. Maura dreams more than the average person.
Last night she dreamt about Mike, her first boss, returning
as the new CEO of the entire Grand Slams franchise. It wasn’t a dream about
Mike, per se, though she’s had some very personal ones about him that she would
be too shy to admit; no, it was more a motivational speech, spoken directly to
Maura, in a supervision meeting:
even though you never picked up a franchise or region here at Grand Slams, it
is up to you to promote the integrity and pride of the Grand Slams Corporation. Think of the two Bobs, out
of uniform…oh, not in that way, but in this one: Even when they are off
duty they think, act, and promote the corporation with the sense of pride and
respect that I always attempted to emulate. They know that it’s not just about
profits, but instead, it’s a way of life. It’s like you, Maura–without Grand
Slams you may not have had the wonderful opportunity to turn your life around
and do what was best for your child. You thought of the Grand Slams way each
and every time you awoke to a new day and proudly zipped up your freshly
pressed, brown uniform. Someone like Keating simply isn’t who we want the
company to look like. We do not barter Double Home Run Breakfasts in exchange
for motel rooms and narcotics. We don’t show up for work with our mind in the
gutter, thinking of which one of our employees we are most likely to pursue
sexually. Likewise, the kids on college break are not company people. They are
too willing to trade minimum wage work for books, beer, and other frolicsome
dorm-life expenses. Employees like Sugar are clearly in transition. They are
still looking for themselves, what they will truly “be” in life. Chances are,
when they find it, it won’t be here, nestled soundly beneath our beloved red
and yellow Grand Slams sign. The “Kennys” of the world are only able to labor
in these types of jobs. They’ll be with us much longer than the rest, but only
with the simple purpose of cleaning. They will never learn to love, to live the
Grand Slams way, and they must be brought down.
Maura, you are a power of example. You need to continue to make the customers
think seriously about their breakfast and brunch choices, inspiring within them
the desire to pick Grand Slams every time. It’s up to you to take the
employees, lateral to you in your job, under your wing. You must be a one-person
pep rally, but do so in a reserved and prideful way, that quietly promotes
others to follow your lead. Maura, you are the one I’ve chosen, same as out in
California, to continue the mission of Grand Slams family restaurant.
“God,” Maura mutters, and
rolls out of her shallow sleep. She immediately jumps into the present and
hopes Mr. Tribuno will be there with her to open the shift and make all the
coffee. She knows Tribuno works hard and he’s been someone that Mike Homer would
have been proud of.
Barely awake, Maura
falls through that dark fissure in her memory once again. She suddenly
remembers a different scene almost twenty years ago, a scene from California,
where Mike was her hero and her rescuer. It was after a shift when Mike walked
in on his co-manager pressing her body against the wall, kissing her, while she,
pinned, was unable to move or push him off to get away. Mike shouldn’t have
been there at the overnight shift, but he had forgotten something and had come back.
When he yelled at his co-manager, the piece of slime stopped what he was doing.
Maura felt her skirt slide back down in position as her balled hand swing wide
and hard. She felt almost nothing when her fist made contact with her
attacker’s sweaty face. The contact was strong but sounded like a faint echo, not
louder than the buzzing in her own head which brought the scene completely to a
halt. Mike told him to leave and never come back.
Maura rolls onto her
back, wishes she could get better sleep for once. She wishes she never had to
think of her work history and the importance it has in her life and the various
turning points. The big one was in Colorado, the first time she began slowly
crossing the country to the east coast. She reaches to the nightstand and
begins to polish her pin with a tissue, suddenly remembering the day that Mike
had died seven years ago and how she couldn’t take time off to attend his
understand why people conduct themselves in ways that they will regret later.
She thinks, Sugar doesn’t know what she’s
doing with her life. Keating knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t care. The
college boys, Geyser and Maloney, care what they are doing, but really don’t
know what they’re doing. Worst of all are people like Kayak Kenny, who doesn’t
know where he is in the Universe and may never, ever. Why do they mess up, or
set themselves up to be messed up?
doesn’t know, because she grew up fast, but her daughter has grown up fast as
well, without her. She tried to establish a relationship after Bridget’s trip
to rehab. Bridget ended up there very quickly, and Maura still can’t get
emotionally invested to any of that.
works the early shift most every morning, and follows a set Grand Slams procedure.
The only time it all gets done correctly, using the proper time and the proper precautions,
is when Tribuno is working with her. On the mornings Keating strolls in an hour
to an hour and a half late, looking like hell, smelling like stale cigarettes,
he says such things as, “Yeah, I see everything has taken care of itself.”
her own high work ethic is more comparable to her successful customers than to
her co-workers. It’s always been that way, as Maura is always trying harder to
do well, to be the most professional, and to show that when you are given
lemons, you might as well make lemonade.
them, a return customer sitting alone, is an Egyptian man named Sayid. He is in
his mid-twenties, and orders, coincidently, his usual lemonade this morning.
Maura has waited on him enough times to know his name, where he works, and what
he’s interested in, because Sayid, open from the very first time he sat in
Maura’s section, also revealed that he is single.
works at the Air-Force base down the street. He shows Maura his base ID every
time to get the 20% off his Double Home Run Breakfast, the name making no sense
to Sayid for a different reason than it makes no sense to everyone else. For
Sayid, it’s a language issue rather than the poor baseball terminology. Maura looked
at the ID and thought how handsome he was. When he left after he had coffee, which
he always orders as well, he jumped into a black BMW and pulled away, a blur
through the heat rising off the parking lot. He looked to be a good catch--handsome,
well-off, successful, and certainly not a screw-up.
teases him upon his return to Grand Slams, musing aloud, if only she were 35
years younger, to which Sayid blushes strongly, visibly coloring his bronze
complexion. For the rest of the breakfast, he appears to be unable to say
following visit, he asks if she knew any women that he could be set up with.
Maura says there are plenty of them who come in all the time, but perhaps she
may know one or two that work here. Sayid, shrugged, “No, seriously,” he says.
“Do you know anyone?”
On Sayid’s fifth visit to Grand Slams
Maura places him in Sugar’s section so she could be the one to bring him his coffee
and lemonade. Sayid is unable to bring himself to speak to the pretty waitress.
He can’t even ask for the 20% off his Double Home Run Breakfast. He does say
something which makes Sugar take a step backwards, and makes her eyes bulge
into a large, rounder form.
see you again?” he asks.
actions are cautious, the question almost creepy, but then, suddenly realizing
that it may be a cultural difference, she bursts out laughing. “I didn’t realize
we were on a date,” she jokes.
face turns as red as it had when Maura complimented him a few days ago. His
mouth moves, but no words come out.
work mornings some of the time, but mostly, I work nights–never the overnight
shift. Come in any time I’m on.”
finds the invitation to be quite forward. He is not used to girls coming on so
strongly, because in his country they hardly say anything--they just fall into their
roles. He doesn’t know what to do about any of this, but he is both smitten and
intrigued. “Yes, I will try to come in again, so I can see you. Perhaps that is
what I’ll do.” Maura catches his eye from across the dining room and gives him
a big-old “OK” sign.
Without realizing it himself,
Kenny is easily daunted. The fiber of his character is naïve, almost childlike.
Those who get to know him find him harmless, but those who do not often
misconstrue him as creepy.
Kayak Kenny was hit in
the head with a canoe oar by his father, causing a head injury which forced the
schools to hold him back in third grade for two extra years; then reluctantly they
advanced him every year after. As a seven year old, before the accident, he’d
loved going to the beach and watching boats. Now he watches Gilligan’s Island reruns but doesn’t
understand the most basic of gags that the show promotes. His mother yells at
him for being so stupid.
Residents of The
Commonwealth of Massachusetts have a funny way of distancing themselves from
each other. Folks who live in New England notice this when they leave the area;
on vacation they think how other people generally seem friendlier and warmer. Kayak
Kenny also does not understand the social nuances of the Massachusetts residents
or recognize why they act the way they do. Not being able to understand this is
not Kenny’s fault. Kayak Kenny hears Maura talk about the people here all the
time, because Maura lived outside of Massachusetts for many years. Kayak Kenny
thinks people should be nice and that everyone is trying to be nice, at all
times. Kenny doesn’t believe that people aren’t nice. He interprets people as
“laughing with him” not “laughing at him.” For him, simple is a good way to be
and a simple smile or a hello is misinterpreted by Kayak Kenny as a show of
interest for friendship, or as in the case of the female, an interest in a
relationship with him.
Kenny thinks that if he
saves up and buys a kayak, women will want to date him. It’s innocent enough: a
trip out on the water, and a picnic. They would never want a thirty year old
who washes dishes and sometimes buses the tables at a Grand Slams, but a man
with a kayak is a different story.
Kenny often gets
tricked into washing the dishes when he should have a turn working up front as
a busboy. Maloney and Geyser always tell him that it’s their turn, not Kenny’s,
and cite dates and times they recently had to wash the dishes. Truth is, it’s
never Kenny’s turn to work up front, unless the old and slow Marisimo is on with
him, but Keating and Tribuno never pair the two of them up on the same shift. Together
they are so slow at their jobs that they can’t keep up and the restaurant runs
out of dishes, silverware, coffee cups, and water glasses. Kenny often starts
his dishwashing shift pissed off, because even though he is a bit slow, he’s
fully aware that the closed-in dish station is the worst place to be in the
entire restaurant. There are racks on his left stacked high for the dirty glasses
to be placed into, and a massive, two-foot in diameter garbage disposal in
front that looks like a giant serving bowl of swill. This monster is where
everything uneaten gets thrown and ground up, washed down the drain. Kenny
often forgets to run the disposal, which creates a river of reddish-brown stank
that runs over the counter and through his work area. The color scheme is
surreal and depressing; the red-brown of the dirty byproduct along with the
green-yellow of Kenny’s skin, gives the appearance of a cheap color television set
about to quit working.
Keating passes and with
an upward sarcastic nod and smile, notes the flooded area and says, “I think you
need a kayak for back there.” Kenny realizes that Keating is the only person
laughing at him or at least the only
one transparent enough that Kenny understands what is happening. Most of the
time, near the dish area, people are laughing at or placing demands on the
dishwasher--any dishwasher. It’s a natural consequence. None of that matters to
Kenny. His only focus is to get his paycheck, save up a little each time for
his kayak--a red one, or perhaps blue. A blue-eyed girl would look good in kayaks
of that color, but Kenny seeing the complete image in his head, of him, a girl,
and a kayak, is unable to understand why.
9. Keating and The Two Bobs
Joe Keating sits at a table
with Dino Tribuno and two humpty-dumpty gentlemen, both named Bob and both wearing
tan shirts and matching ties with the Grand Slams logo scripted about a million
times on the color-coordinated fabric. Unfortunately, that is the only thing on
Keating’s mind: how ugly those ties are. His is a blue Brooks Brothers, given
to him on a long-lost birthday by a long-lost fiancée, which he needs to at
some point get dry cleaned, as there is a series of very small grease spots on
it. At one point Jimmy said that he could take it down to Super 8’s laundry,
but the last time that was offered the Haitians, as Keating called them, who
worked there didn’t know what to do with a silk tie and it was ruined. If this
made Keating a racist, then he was a racist in the first degree.
Keating often thinks in
this way. When he is overtired he’ll say those thoughts out loud; for example, the
people working at the Super 8, who he refers to derogatorily as “the Haitians” also
work shifts at Grand Slams, filling in when needed as night porters. Keating refuses
to learn their names and acts as if their names confuse him, but they are not
that difficult: Mahalia, Manouchka, and Martine, who he once called Marty (which
drew a blank stare.)
Bob is a name that he
can remember, which is fine when he is presented with both of the Bobs, in Section
1, shoveling in their fried eggs and hash browns at the manager’s meeting. The
dirty-blond Bob is important to the chain as he oversees six Grand Slams in the
New England Region. He has traveled two hours to be here. He’s all business,
and Keating knows he is the wheel that needs greasing.
The other Bob, Bob
Boolay, has jet-black dyed hair and makes better jokes than Keating, but then
again, the bar is set pretty low. Dyed-hair Bob Boolay oversees a few very well-run
stores in Holyoke and Chicopee Falls, but his main location is in Chicopee. The
other day, when Geyser slipped and fell on the wet mopped floor behind the
counter, Keating told him if he wasn’t careful he’d transfer him to Chicopee
Falls. Then he laughed at his own joke.
“Hey, Sugar,” Keating
calls across the restaurant. “Bring us some more coffee over here.”
Sugar slides in with a
smile and two bulbous coffee pots, one with a brown collar for caffeinated and
the other, orange topped, for decaf. Keating and the bosses take the
caffeinated, while Dino requests the orange one, saying, “My wife says I keep
her up all night.”
Dyed-hair Bob cracks,
“She’d rather not have to keep you up all night.”
Sugar fakes a chuckle,
“Good one, Mr. Boolay.”
“Good one, Bob,” she
says before she hurries off.
“Oh, that Sugar,” Dyed-hair
Bob cackles. “I’d like some Sugar with my coffee.”
“Is that actually her
name?” Blond Bob asks. “I was about to say something about nicknames on
nametags, but if that’s her legal name, I guess GS Corp has nothing to say
“This is what I’m
getting at, Keating. We need to make sure Bedford, #509 is run by the book. We
need to, as the company says, Bring the
Pride. Our accountants are at wits end about some of the stuff going on at
this store.” Blond Bob pushes his coffee cup forward, sloshing a little over
the lip of the cup, making a small brown puddle on the table.
shouts. “Come get this.” Keating notices Kayak Kenny is standing much closer to
them, but certainly not to be considered helping out with the Bobs here.
“Geyser, clean up the
coffee geyser,” Dyed-hair Bob jokes. Keating decides to laugh, but the other
Bob doesn’t, so Keating quickly silences himself.
Woody jogs in from the
other end of the restaurant with a Handi-Wipe to absorb the mess. “He’s right
there!” Keating compliments, yet noticing that Blond Bob does not look happy, Keating
scolds him, “Now, slow down! We don’t need a Workman’s Comp.”
“Keating,” Blond Bob
says, peering over a quarterly report. “This free coffee you bring us is great,
but you should account for it some way, just like the occasional free meal you
might give out as a perk, or even a chef error that an employee eats. It seems
like the Bedford store has a huge overall produce to profit loss margin in this
area. Now, I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but something needs to be
cleaned up. We have the ability to tabulate each of our portion sized meats and
frozen foods and the amount of eggs used, per a computer program which
calculates amounts and orders. All I have to say is that your store is one of
the worst in the state. It’s just one of the points I wanted to talk about.”
Tribuno rubs and pushes
down his mustache with the inside of his thumb and glances over to Keating.
Jimmy from the Super 8 has entered the restaurant. He also looks over at Keating,
who sternly nods, indicating for him to keep his distance. Jimmy approaches the
table anyway, sweaty, quick and nervous. He’s been using the same top-flight cocaine
he sells to Keating.
“Joe, we need to talk
about the room.”
“Well, there is a
“Jimmy, I’m in a
“Okay, I’ll just have
my breakfast. Can we talk after breakfast?”
“Not now, Jimmy!
Dammit, not now!”
The two Bobs freeze
over their reports, not that they know what’s going on, but the easily-perceived
slime running off of Jimmy has left them feeling uncomfortable. Blond Bob grips
the papers and dyed-hair Bob doesn’t have a joke up his sleeve.
“Some folks won’t ever
listen,” Keating says, rubbing over the spots on the front of his tie, before
adding, “Welcome to the restaurant business.” Both Bobs shuffle the reports
around in their hands, as Keating’s humor has gone flat on his critical
audience. This is not going well.
“Get a new suit, Keating,”
Blond Bob says. He reaches into his briefcase and pulls out the same necktie he
and Dyed-haired Bob have on. “Wear it tomorrow. Make everything you wear look
like a fresh start.”