Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

The Employee of the Month

A burst of orders hit his ticket wheel all at once, but grill cook Ellis Leahy was in the groove, and he had the food ready in short order, while the waitresses, Mona and Johanna, darted about the dining room like frightened fish, delivering steaming plates, fetching syrup and pouring refills of orange juice and coffee, while the cook's order wheel stood empty.

Ellis wiped down his grill then stepped out of the kitchen and sidled along behind the counter and poured himself a cup of Joe. And when Mona bustled back after some napkins and silverware, the time-to-kill cook leaned back against the wall and slurped noisily at his coffee. Mona pulled up short and fixed him with a look that would have wilted a lesser man. He ignored her, blew steam off the glassy black surface of his drink, soaking in the negative vibe his frazzled co-worker radiated his way.

"Hey, employee of the month," Mona growled in a low tone. "Think you could brew us another pot of coffee. If you got nothin' better to do, I mean."

Coffee pot Ellis drew his cup to his lips again, a thick index finger hooked into the mug handle, his pinkie sticking out. He slurped anew, loud and long. And then he lowered his mug and turned his gaze to Mona, taking in her plump figure and heart-shaped face, the rosebud of a mouth pinched tight with her irritation at him, at the little beads of sweat gleaming like crystalline opals on her upper lip; a girl who looked to him like an angel when she smiled; but reminded him – as she glowered now, with small rolling spasms flickering the muscles in her face – of the devil herself.

"A pot of coffee you say?" Ellis crooned.

Mona hissed a vulgarity his way, then bent to re-supply herself from the shelf beneath the counter, with her round little ass sticking out like a glorious invitation. Ellis resisted an urge to pat that ass, and said: "I'll get on it right away, Mona-love," as the waitress rattled up a fistful of forks. "Because," Ellis continued, "that's the type of thing an employee of the month does; he covers for his co-workers when they can't quite keep up with the job."

Mona snapped up to attention, glaring. She shook herself like a mad hen then made a move as though she'd skewer Ellis with her bunched forks before she checked herself and stood quivering, at which point Ellis cast an adoring look at the glossy 8 by 10 framed photo of himself on the wall beside the Employee of the Monthservice window, with the small golden rectangle beneath it embossed to proclaim him the Loma Alta Cafe's first Employee of the Month. He sighed with satisfaction, then let his guise of cordiality fall away as he turned back to Mona – who wasn't the Employee of the Month – to say: "It's just eating you up, isn't it, girlfriend?"

Mona barked an unprintable name at him as her forks fell with a clatter; and her suddenly freed hand shot out quicker than a snake to tip the remainder of Ellis's coffee into a hot black splash against his chest. Then she stomped away, her voluptuous figure bouncing, as Ellis plucked his shirt from his skin and Nate and Benny, the two tile layers at the counter who'd come in for an early lunch, hooted at him like a couple of monkeys.

That evening Ellis filched the photo of himself from the wall frame and took it to the novelty copy shop down by the pier and had his square grinning mug with its shit-eating grin emblazoned on a t-shirt, which he wore into work the next day. When Mona got a load of it through the service window she pantomimed a finger down the throat; then she called him a conceited butthead; and he replied that he could get her one if she wanted, throwing out his chest to better display himself on the front of the shirt in all his Employee of the Month glory. Through the window, she flipped him the bird; and later in the day, after she'd steamed on it awhile, she stalked back there and mashed half a buttered biscuit right in the middle of that face on his chest, followed up by Johanna – who'd watched Ellis being an ass these past two days – who stalked back there and smashed a second biscuit in his real face, leaving him dripping crumbs all over the floor, calling out: "THAT'S WHY YOU TWO WON'T EVER GET YOUR PICTURE ON THE WALL, CAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET ALONG WITH YOUR CO-WORKERS!", and Mo, the owner, re-thought the wisdom of the establishment of his Employee of the Month idea.

Spring 2004 Fiction Section | Spring 2004 Main Page
Current Fiction Section | Current Home Page