>> Sunday, May 10, 2009
I used to work at this vegan restaurant in Minneapolis. It was short lived; I lied on my application when I applied. I promised that I didn’t eat meat. Actually, I am a voracious carnivore. They fired me when they found out I was sneaking beef jerky on my break in the broom closet.
The job was interesting. I am a people watcher, and it was definitely a great spot to watch. One day I was finishing my shift and hanging back rolling some silverware, near a back booth; a man sat alone watching a table across the restaurant from the top of his menu. Three giggling women had already ordered and seemed to be enjoying a Trio Sampler (Pesto, hummus & olive tapenade served with flax crackers). The man had mentioned he was waiting for friends and asked for a glass of water.
A stocky red-head rounded the corner, walked quickly over, and slowly lowering himself to the table. “Geez, John, what is this place,” he whispered.
“What? It’s a restaurant… see,” John motioned, “people eating.”
John’s guest smirked, “Yeah, I see that. What are they eating?” His face was scrunched up as he tried to make out what was on other customer’s plates.
“It appears to be food, Ruben,”
“Always the smart ass,” Ruben shot, “Come here often, do you?”
“Um,” John paused, “I have never been here before.” He tried to be inconspicuous and glance at the other table over Ruben’s left shoulder but he took notice and turned to look behind him. “Is Franco coming?” John asked. Ruben screwed up his face as John continued, “I thought he was coming with you.”
Ruben grabbed for John’s water and said, “You thought wrong,” guzzled the whole glass without breaking eye contact with John, and slammed it on the table. He picked up the delicate menu and began looking it over. After a moment he huffed, “I don’t think I can eat anything here…” Ruben made a weird clicking noise and threw the menu on the table. “It’s going to give me the shits. I just know it.”
John rolled his eyes and sighed. Another man rounded the corner, tall and slim with very untidy hair and clothing. John stood up and waved, “Franco!”
Franco walked over to the table and gave Ruben a nasty glare before he turned to John and said, “There you are.” He grabbed John’s hand firmly and shook it. Franco grit his teeth and smiled, “I had to take the bus,” before turning to Ruben to acknowledge him with a nod, “Ruby.”
“Freakshow,” Ruben responded.
“Thanks for the ride, asshole,” Franco sneered.
A large smile spread over Ruben’s face, “Don’t mention it.”
John gave them looks of great irritation and Franco sidled into the booth next to John. “I have never been here before… I’m starving” Franco said as he grabbed the menu off the table, “Er…Um… What’s hummus?”
“It’s some kind of dip or something,” said John sneaking looks at the girls again while Rubin drummed his fingers on the table.
“Oh… eh, no burgers?” Franco grumbled.
“No burgers, “ Ruben sang.
“Right… no meat here,” John pointed out.
“No meat,” Ruben continued.
Franco turned to John seriously, “What’s going on here, John?”
John looked for a moment at Franco, opened his mouth to say something, but closed it and looked away. Shyly John replied, “I overheard a girl I work with on the phone today; she is eating here. “ Ruben whipped his head from side to side. John motioned to the girls’ table, “Over there… no, over there. Christ! Don’t look. Just look.”
Franco just smiled while John looked at them both questioningly. “So,” Ruben started, “you dragged us to this place, without an edible lick of food on the menu, so you can stalk this girl?”
“I’m not stalking, Rube,” John replied, “I was just curious as to whom she might be meeting here.”
“Why didn’t you just ask her at work if she was seeing someone? I guess this ruins your ‘I’m a successful Architect’ line,” Ruben smirked. “She knows you’re working in a shitty call center because she works in the same shitty call center.”
John shot Ruben a nasty look, while Franco continued to gawk at the table. “Well,” he said, “looks like she is just meeting some friends… no dudes.”
“No Dudes, Frankie,” Ruben added, “Does that matter? What if she is a lesbian?”
“She’s not a lesbian,” John interrupted, “I saw her making out with this guy from the fourth floor.”
Franco smiled and shook his head, “I wish I had your job.”
“Not at work,” John stammered, “at her… um… house.” His face grew extremely red.
“You… freaking… stalker.” Ruben pronounced each word crisp and perfectly clear, and allowed them to soak in before continuing, “You’re mom (‘rest in peace Mrs. Warrington’) would roll over in her grave if she knew you were peeping into girls’ windows.” He shook his head with shame.
John snorted and rolled his eyes, “Whatever.”
“Just go talk to the girl,” Ruben insisted.
John stood up, mumbled, “fine,” and walked over. Ruben and Franco stared at each other for a long time without blinking; apparently trying to communicate telepathically. Ruben would drum his fingers on the table, Franco would tap his feet, and both would chance a look at John talking to the lovely blonde haired girl now standing by her table.
When John finally returned to the table, his friends were hungry for information, “Well…” they said in unison.
John shook his head, “she had no idea who I was, so I told her I was… a… um… successful architect. What? I was nervous and it just came out. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because she is going to dinner with me tomorrow night.” He was beaming.
“Johnny,” Franco asked rather reluctantly, “You think she will notice you at work; now that you have introduced yourself?”
“She won’t” John replied.
“She won’t?” Ruben asked.
“Nope.” There was silence as John motioned the waitress for the check. His water would surely cost a small fee because he wasted space during the lunch rush, “Where do you guys have to be?” Both Ruben and Franco made it clear that their afternoons were free, so John went on, “want to go grab a burger?”
“Don’t you have to get back to work?” Franco asked.
“No, I quit. I texted my boss right after I programmed Sarah’s number into my phone.” John replied.
“Niiiiiice,” Ruben stood up and followed his friends out of the restaurant. John waved a last goodbye to Sarah as he walked out onto the sidewalk. Giggles consumed the girls’ table.
They were gone, so I finished rolling my silverware without distraction, clocked out, and left the building. On the way to my car, I saw that girl, Sarah, making out with one of her girlfriends up against a car in the parking lot.
It was a fun job, but I would never give up beef jerky for it.
This is my submission for The Protagonist game at: http://www.inspirationunderground.com/