The Clerk's Fired
The only true measure of the worth of a night clerk is not how many pennies his drawer is off, but how many people he did not strangle. Tonight, were it not for the direct intervention of a trusted co-worker, God, several people might well have suffered strangulation at the hand of The Clerk, who instead was able to end his shift murder free, although his drawer was thirty bucks short.
"I told you no mayonnaise." Ah! Another sandwich is made as other customers wait. No mayo grabs it and pounds through the door. "Sorry, sir!" calls the clerk. "Sorry!" But No mayo didn't hear. Ten people are waiting for sandwiches, but the clerk runs out of the store and catches up to the guy just as he's pulling out. "Sir! I want you to know how deeply sorry I am, and I do hope you'll be returning soon." No mayo thinks maybe the clerk is crazy, and he's right on the beam: clearly the hidden message is: Disrespect me, I will hunt you down.
Praise God. Back in the store, they're all bartenders and bouncers, sympathetic to the clerk regarding assholes, and in no hurry, though the clerk is, because he's far far far behind in things that must be done! Donuts and muffins and papers and coffee THE COFFEE! And they're picking out specialty meats, the pastrami, maybe the ham, the honey-baked? Jesus, Lord, help me God.
Specialty meats must be hunted down, slit open, drained and slapped on the slicer, as soon as it's cleaned. Now come the cops, ending their shift. Four uniformed, three undercover. They're easy to pick out partly because they're talking cop talk with cops, but mainly because they all look like Jesse Ventura, big, good-lookin' guys dressed super bad, except something's missing. Tattoos. Each cop wants a different far-flung sandwich like those other people had. More people come in. They'll have the same thing.
The clerk, a night creature, has a natural urge to curl up and play dead. Surrounded now by an audience of cops behind the glass, the pressure's just too much, he can see people shifting from leg to leg, sighing in disgust, gauging the distance to the nearest open competitor: these are the morning people, now entering the same stream of time inhabited by the late people. And they do not mix.
The clerk is sweating, his hands won't work right, they fumble in the wrap. "Just give me the stupid thing," says a cop. There's a young regular waiting at the counter, actually holding onto the counter, possibly drunk; he wants "Marbers." On hearing "$3.98," he begins his search for the pocket that holds the wallet where the money is kept, and when at last it is found, it is counted. "One... two... dollars. Um. Ten, twenty cents. Um."
Enter Clerk. "C'mon c'mon c'mon wouldja come ON already, I got a full house of people waiting on their sandwiches here, gotta have your money ready, man, like the sign says at McDonald's! Have your stinking money ready!" The clerk feels terrible because the kid's feelings are hurt. His eyebrows are sagging. The clerk tries to explain with eye talk that the place is crawling with cops, so if you're drunk you'd better not be driving. The clerk says none of that, but will later.
The Clerk is a jerk and feels he must be fired, so, in yet another attempt, The Clerk is let go, kicked off the premises. Promises are made and promised to be kept better this time. A man walks in, says, "You shorted me $5 last week!" The clerk has seen him before, doesn't doubt him, but doesn't know how to go about the recording of such a transaction, so he reaches into his pocket and gives the guy five bucks. The man takes it without a word.
Everything gets done with the smile of Buddha, breakfast is set and ready; it's the lull before the crash, when heaven is defined as a cool curb on a dead ass and enough time to smoke an entire Doral. Later inside, still in the doldrums between shifts, the clerk leans deeply across the counter and stares; the lights go out, the machines stop whirring, a dozen hums give way to crickets. Through the doors floats a fairy looking for a lost pink purse. When it isn't here, she disappears.