Eight to ten hours a day. That is every Tuesday through Saturday for Jack. That has been every Tuesday through Saturday for him for thirty years. Give or take. Thirty years of blistering heat and cramped spaces. Thirty years of coming home to his wife and kids smelling like a grease trap. Three decades of wear and tear on a body that complains every time he takes off his shoes now.
He dices tomatoes for omelettes without even thinking about it. It’s just one of the dozens of tasks that needs to be done between the breakfast and lunch rush. He took five minutes for a cigarette break but that is all he is going to get between now and when the dinner crew comes in. His large gut squeezed between cutting boards on the grill and coolers he grunts as he moves from one prep job to the next. He scrubs his kitchen clean, just as the first five tables or so amble in.
He grimaces and grumbles as servers vent their frustration on him, because of course, yelling at him will make a chicken breast cook faster. He vents back at them and later, if he’s not too exhausted and frustrated, he’ll feel a little bad about it. After all, they’re the ones that have to deal with impatient guests on a schedule. He never got that. If you don’t have the time to wait for a proper meal, why not just drive to a fast food joint? Then again, he wouldn’t have a job with out these, silly impatient people who get an entire hour off for lunch (and how nice that must be!)
Just fifteen more years he tells himself as the headache waxes and wanes at the end of lunch. Just that little bit longer until he can retire, so to speak, and he and Becca can enjoy their “Golden Years.” He’ll still have to work part-time because there was no way at the wages they have made to really put away. Not if they wanted to send their kids to school. He made darn sure they wouldn’t end up like him.
He changes out of his kitchen uniform and shuffles out the door. One more day in the trap, one more day of dull frustration, and he’s closer than ever to his reward.
- Why a fake chef wants a real chef to take him out to lunch (macleans.ca)
- William H. Lamar IV: Raise the Minimum Wage (huffingtonpost.com)
- Devin O’ Branagan’s Forum – Flash Fiction Contest (rosalindsmith-nazilli.com)
- Friday Nite Poetry: Quanta (handofananke.com)