Copyright 2011 by Rish Benjamin Outfield
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“Welcome to Burger King, can I take your order?” I said, for what I hoped was the last time that night. And soon, I’d never have to say it again. Macsen, the shift manager, hadn’t been surprised when I put in my two weeks’ notice. Even so, I’d lasted longer than any other employee hired in the last two years. Except for Juancito, who came in to swap out the trash and mop twice a day. He’d been there since the invention of the hamburger.
Of course, Juancito didn’t have to deal with customers. Or if he ever did, he had that “No hablo inglés” trick I’d seen him pull a couple of times when he didn’t want to acknowledge what was being said to him.
I’d been at Burger King for seventeenth months, a year and a half in two weeks, but I was done. I was tired of my hair smelling like fry grease, my feet hurting from standing all day, and my hands being dirty from handling change, even on my days off. But mostly, I was tired of the customers. This particular restaurant was across from the local high school, and the students were the absolute worst. They were always so obnoxious, and so grubby, the girls overly loud and the boys always hitting on me in unsubtle, classless ways.
But my shift was almost over now, and the customers were rare at eight pm. I checked the napkin and straw dispensers, after I’d helped the squinting woman and her three snot-nosed toddlers. Seven more minutes, and I’d wash my hands and get going.
The door opened and in walked a well-dressed older man. He stepped up, looked at me, then at the menu. I stifled a yawn, then gave him my standard welcome.
“How does this device work, miss?” he asked. I didn’t know what device he would be referring to, since the register was right in front of me and he’d gestured to the side. I leaned over the counter, craning to see.
“Oh, that’s just a little game.” I didn’t know if other Burger Kings had them, but ours had, at the end of the counter, a small plastic tank of water with a pair of tiny coin slits in the top. There were spinnable platforms inside the tank, and if you caught your coin on one, you won a prize.
“I like games,” the man said.
I explained to him how it worked.
“What do I get for a quarter?” he asked.
“A Whopper Junior,” I said.
It was supposed to be a fund-raiser for some charity, and kids were always wasting their money on the game. I’d realized that when you revolved the platforms, it disturbed the water and caused your coin to move too. I’d seen high school students blow ten dollars on it before, just to win a buck-fifty in food.
“Aright,” the man said, and removed a quarter from his pristine slacks. He adjusted one of the platforms, then dropped the coin in the slot and watched it trickle down until it lit perfectly on the platform.
“Very nice,” I said, though I didn’t really care.
He smiled, proud of himself. “Let’s go double or nothing.”
“Oh, I think it’s one per customer,” I said, though it wasn’t usually an issue.
He removed another quarter. “I make this, you give me a Double Whopper. I miss, and I pay full price.”
I shrugged. “Okay, but give it a spin first.”
“A’right.” He spun the platform and not looking, dropped the quarter into the slot. It fell, swayed, and came down on the platform with the other quarter, just as it came to a stop. “Lucky day,” he said.
“I guess so,” I said. “Everything on that Double Whopper?”
“Okay. Would you like to make that a combo?”
“Tell you what, I’ll guess your astrological sign and you give me a drink for free.” The sides of his mouth were twitching, trying their darndest to become a smile.
“I’m sorry, mister, I can’t do that.”
“Look, I’ll King Size your meal for free, how about that?”
“Alright, Pisces, sounds like a wager.”
Sure enough, that was my sign. I pressed the Combo button on the register, but not the K Size button.
“On the cusp, I’ll bet,” the customer said. And he was right. “Can I guess your weight?”
“No thank you,” I said.
“Tell you what, miss, do you have a wallet or a purse?”
I shook my head, even though we weren’t supposed to do that at Burger King. Like making gang signs in the wrong neighborhood, or talking to the guests at Disneyland. “Can’t you guess?”
“I bet you the price of a milkshake I can guess how much cash you have in your wallet.”
There were no more customers waiting to order, so no reason for the man to move on. And I had to admit, this wasn’t boring. “And if you lose?”
“I pay for my meal.”
I had him, since I only kept my ID and a debit card in my wallet, so I agreed.
“What’s your name, miss?”
“Well, Lauren, my gut tells me you have no change in there. No cash either.”
I squinted at him. “No way. How did you know that?”
He laughed. “Oh, you should’ve told me I was wrong. I wouldn’t have made you prove it.”
There were no other non-employees in the restaurant, but headlights shown through the window as a car parked by the doors. Jerry at the grill stuck his head out then, seeing the customer.
“Hello again,” the man said to him. “Jeremy, wasn’t it?”
“Jerry,” he answered, then went to check on the fries.
“I was here yesterday,” the man told me.
“Yeah? Did you pay for your meal then?”
His face revealed nothing. “I don’t remember.”
The outside door opened, and a couple of teenage boys came through it, my least favorite kind of customers. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. “Alright, Lauren, final wager. The first one of these boys to order . . . you must agree to go out with him. If you do not, my meal is free.”
I was not amused. “What, is one of them your grandson or something?”
“All strangers, I assure you,” he said, and I believed him.
“And if I do this?”
“If you do this, I pay for my meal with this bill, and you keep the change.”
“Fine,” I said. This job was all but done anyway. Regardless, I knew this would be a story to tell when I looked back on my time in the food service industry.
“But no cheating,” he added.
The inner door opened and the boys came in. There were three of them. “Cheating?”
He leaned my way, conspiratorially. “You know what I mean.”
And though I didn’t, I could guess. “The first customer?” I asked.
“First one,” he said and stepped over by the iced tea dispenser and newspapers. “I’ll just stand over here.”
Of the three boys approaching the register, one was tall and gawky, one was short and skinny, and one was actually pretty cute. He wore a jean jacket with patches on it, had a pierced ear, and appeared to be their leader. I could get behind going out with him. He paused, though, and got on his cellphone, dialing someone to ask if they wanted anything.
The skinny kid addressed me from in front of the cash register. “You ready?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “Go ahead and order. And welcome to Burger King.”
He ordered and I glanced over at the stranger in between typing it in. He gave me an encouraging nod.
“No onions, okay?” the kid said.
“Chicken sandwiches don’t have onions,” I said, as patiently as I could.
The kid tried to meet my gaze and couldn’t. “Cool,” he muttered.
I studied him. He was a dorky-looking boy, probably seventeen or so, and was pale, except for a crimson zit right under his nose. He wore an oversized t-shirt with a bunch of comic book characters on it. One of them was Spider-man, twisting his body like a contortionist. “I, uh, saw that last Spider-man movie when it came out,” I said, trying not to sound nervous. Not that I needed to be, this was all in fun. “I thought it was pretty good.”
“You were the only one,” he said, then put on a smile to tell me he wasn’t trying to insult me. “It wasn’t so bad, really. Better than some.”
“What’s the next one that’s coming out?” I asked, very interested in the whole subject.
He told me. “It just came out, like, three weeks ago.”
“Oh, right,” I said. I had heard about that one, from my sister’s fiance, who would get along splendidly with this mouth-breather. “I’d like to see it.”
The kid did not respond. The tall boy next to him was waiting to order. Impatiently.
I continued. “The problem with those superhero movies is that I never know who the characters are.”
“They try not to make it too bad in this one,” the geek said. “Too complicated, I mean.”
“Even so,” I persisted, “it would be nice to go with someone who could explain everything to me, you know?”
He just looked at me, starting to suspect my intentions, but apparently not believing them. I saw his eyes move across the front of my work shirt, and then, he looked away.
Still, he could’ve been all brazen about it, like some of the teenagers were. “If you know anybody like that,” I said, “that wouldn’t mind seeing it again, I’d appreciate it.”
The geek swallowed, and it was actually kind of cute. The tall boy next to him leaned in and whispered something in his ear. The geek’s eyes got a little bigger, and his paleness was replaced by a blush. He looked at my nametag. “Lauren?”
“I’d, um, I could go with you. I’d see it again.”
“Really?” I put a grateful smile on my face. “That would be awesome.”
“Yeah,” he said, and I wondered if he had ever asked a girl out in his whole life. That struck me as sad. He wasn’t ugly or anything.
“When do you think we could go?” he managed.
“Um, I don’t know. Anytime. Like tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow night?” He started to wilt. “Unless you’ve got someth–”
“No, tomorrow’s great. Here, write your number on a napkin and I’ll write mine on a receipt.”
“Okay,” he said.
The good-looking one hung up and said, “Just tell it to him, he’ll type it in his phone.”
“Okay,” I said, and did so. “What’s your name?” I asked the geek.
“Larry,” he said. He didn’t look like a Larry. But really, nobody does.
“Larry, I expect a call from you. Don’t stand me up now.”
He looked as though I’d accused him of murder. “I won’t.”
I took the other two orders, and for a moment, when jean jacket was placing his, I thought he might ask me out too. But he didn’t.
When they were gone, the stranger stepped back in front of me. His food had been done and on its tray for a while now. “I thought you might cheat there for a moment,” he said.
“I nearly had to,” I said, though I had no idea what he was talking about now.
He handed me the hundred dollar bill. As I reached for it, he said, “Care to go double or nothing?”
I shook my head. Whoops, breaking the rules again. “No thanks,” I said, and took the money.
“Are you sure about this? More where that came from.”
He glanced at his food. “May I get this to go?”
I bagged it for him, and he walked out without another word.
Macsen the manager came out from the second drive-thru window. “What was that about?”
“Just a funny customer,” I said.
Jerry spoke from behind the grill. “He was here yesterday, talking to Sean. Weird dude. Probably gay.”
I didn’t agree or disagree. It was time to go home.
Macsen sighed. “Speaking of Sean, he didn’t come in for his shift today. Can you cover until he gets here?”
I nodded, since I always had to do that sort of thing. “When will that be?”
“I don’t know. He hasn’t answered his phone.”
I rolled my eyes, fairly sure I was going to be here till closing. Not for much longer, though. And I’d made an extra hundred bucks tonight.
I wondered how well Sean had made out. Maybe he hadn’t been so lucky. I stepped in front of the register again, waiting to welcome the next customer.
Rish Benjamin Outfield is a writer, artist, and voice actor. He can be heard month to month as host of the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine (www.dunesteef.com), where he and Big Anklevich present genre short stories with a full cast, music, and effects, as well as their That Gets My Goat podcast (www.dunesteef.blogspot.com) which is topical conversation between the two.
His short fiction has been heard on The Drabblecast, The Way of the Buffalo, Journey Into…, and Horror Addicts podcasts, as well as his own show. If you want to contact him on Facebook, he’s at www.facebook.com/rish.outfield.
Since you asked, Rish’s favorite musician is Sting, his favorite animals are frogs, and favorite superhero is Spider-man. He is currently performing audiobooks for Audible, and will probably never quite get over his fear of crawling things in the dark.
If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy creepy tales “Greetings from the Ninth Sector,” “Office Visit,” and “The Scottish Scene” by Rish Outfield, also at Shakespir.com.