Monday, April 9, 2018

run, Jennifer, by doungjai gam

Friday evening at Shenanigans and happy hour is in full swing. Rob sighs when he sees the party of ten come roaring through the door, ablaze in their loud polo shirts and even louder blather.

Elizabeth comes over and drops her happy hostess fa├žade. "I'm sorry," she mutters. "Yours is the only ten top open."

"It's fine. The way my day's been going, how much worse can it get?"

"You really want me to answer that?" Their laughter reeks of bitterness.

After tending to his other customers, Rob grits his teeth and takes a deep breath before approaching the table. "Hey guys, welcome back to Shenanigans! I'm Rob and I'll be taking care of you tonight and—hey, Jennifer! Good to see ya."

"Hi Rob!" She gets up to hug him. She's the only one not wearing a company polo and she looks out of place in her dress slacks, blouse and pink highlighted hair.

"What are you doing hanging with these guys?" He points to her coworkers, hoping that his smile looks natural.

"I just started working with them a couple of weeks ago."

"Very nice."

"Rob is a friend of my brother Errick," she tells the group, who smile in utter fake interest while he takes their drink orders.

He hates judging people, but he's waited on this group before and they've never struck him to be anything more than empty suits who give out unwanted nicknames and crappy tips. Their polo shirts range from pale to bright red, all bearing their corporate logo.

Whether it's on the streets or in a cubicle seat, gang colors all the same.

As the evening rolls on, customers come and go but the raucous corporate party sticks around, drinking and occasionally snacking on a half-price appetizer. He brings Jennifer another beer and tries not to glare at the guy next to her, a blond dudebro whose hands like to roam. Rob's seen him in here many times with his coworkers and on dates, never with the same woman twice. Kevin, he's sure his name is. Rob sees Kevin's hand on Jennifer's knee, inching up ever so slowly. She looks uncomfortable but none of her coworkers seem to notice or care.

She excuses herself and damn near runs to the bathroom, purse in hand. Rob overhears her coworkers talking as he reads the specials to the table next to them.

"What is with the pink hair?"

"She's an odd one. Did you see what she was eating for lunch the other day?"

Then the dudebro chimes in, his voice grating: "Don't be talking about my girl Jenny like that."

His declaration is met with "Dude, you wish!" and much laughter. He responds with, "You just wait, you just wait" on a loop as if repetition will make it true. He hears them call out to him, "Hey Roberto, we're thirsty!" and ignores them.

On his way back to the kitchen Rob runs into Jennifer.

"Hey." She smiles. Her face is pale and one hand clutches at her stomach.

"You okay?"

She shakes her head. "I feel. . . off. Anxiety's kicking in hard."

"Nice bunch of coworkers you have."

"They're not my type, especially…" She trails off, leaving Kevin's name unspoken.

"If you don't feel good, you should go home. Fuck 'em."

After a moment's thought, she reaches into her purse and gives him a fifty. "Can I pay my portion now? I'm going to go back and tell them I'm not feeling well."

"Sure thing." He cashes her out and writes two words on her twenty. When he brings her change over he hands it to her so that the message is visible. She looks at it and nods, handing him a healthy tip.

"It was so great to see you, Rob. I'll see you soon." She hugs him and whispers, "Thank you."

Kevin stands up too quickly and wobbles. "I'll walk you to your car."

"I'm fine, thanks." She gives Rob's hand a quick squeeze before dashing away.

While the corporate schlubs razz on Kevin's failure, Rob heads to the bathroom. It's another hour until his shift is up but he can't wait that long. Happy hour is long over and the bar is quieter now. While he washes his hands, someone bangs on the door. "Be right out," he says.

The second he unlocks the door it flies open and whacks him in the face. Stunned, he staggers back and sees Kevin's ugly sneering face looming in on him fast.

"Motherfucker," Kevin says as he locks the door.

"The hell, man?" Rob tries to maintain his friendly waiter face but that mask is melting fast.

"I saw what you wrote on her change. Who you want her to run from?" Kevin's in his face now, all loaded up on alcoholic swagger.

"You need to get out of my way. And once you're done pissing, don't even bother washing your hands. I want you to get the fuck out of here."

Kevin growls as he charges and knocks Rob back against the wall. Rob shakes his head and notices the other feeling around in his pockets for something. He takes advantage of this and grabs him by his overstyled hair and bashes the side of his head against the sink. The wannabe ladies' man slumps and falls to the floor. Rob pats the guy down and finds a switchblade and a vial of clear liquid in his pants pocket.

That piece of shit. He wonders how many of the ladies he'd come in with had fallen for his average looks and slobbering attempts to slide right in, and how many of them became another unwilling unknowing bedpost notch.

It takes all of Rob's might to not open the switchblade and finish the job. Instead, he grabs the bottle and dumps the contents straight down Kevin's wretched gullet. He immediately gags and coughs as he struggles to get up off the floor. He grabs him by the hair again and slams his head into the sink – once, twice, and one more time for good measure. Finally the sonuvabitch goes quiet.

Rob pokes his head out of the bathroom and sees no one around. Working as fast as he can, he grabs Kevin underneath his arms and lifts him. He drags the guy down the hall past the kitchen to the back door. Once outside, he bangs his head one last time against the side of the dumpster and shoves him in through the door. He considers closing it, but if it's open it could look more like an accident, that in his inebriated state he could have been looking for a place to get steady and then—whoops.

He wouldn't be the first drunk that ended up in their Dumpster.

Rob heads in, making a stop at the bathroom to fix his hair and make sure the scene is clean. He curses when he spots a cell phone under the sink—how did I miss that before? The lock screen photo is a terrible selfie of the scumbag with a girl who is all teeth and mascara. He powers the phone down and rushes back outside. All is quiet in the dumpster. He wipes it down before tossing it in the trash and walking back in.

One last bathroom check and now all is good. He starts for his section only to be stopped by Elizabeth.

"Your ten top is demanding their check."

Rob readies their check and puts on his best smile as he hurries over, where they're sloshed and laughing about who knows what.

"Hey, have you seen our friend? This guy here." One of them motions at the empty chair next to him. "He went to the bathroom and he hasn't come back yet."

He pretends to think. "I'm pretty sure I saw him heading out the back door. He looked like he needed some fresh air."

They laugh at this and talk over each other:

"Fucking Kevin."

"He's probably trying to skip out on the bill."

"I'll cover his beers. . . he owes me for this."

They pay their check and predictably leave a terrible tip. Rob watches them from the bar as they leave. A couple of guys go around back. Rob waits for something—a scream, any of them to come rushing back in demanding justice, a blast of sirens.

But nothing comes.

5 comments:

  1. Reminded me of the dark-side of "Waiting." Well done!

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  2. I've encountered this kind of asshole customer all too often; wish Rob had been their server.

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  3. Love this. Want more. April Hawks

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