As usual, Cosgrove got stuck with the weird ones.
It was the way the hierarchy worked- the newest waitresses, the pale ones that babbled about student debt or unpaid loans, got the ones that the experienced waitresses deemed wackadoos. It wasn't one of the long paragraphs that accompanied her "Welcome! Thanks for coming! Now scrub tables!" memo- it wasn't in any company rulebook. It wasn't something they told her. They just caught her eye, delivered some hasty one-line order, and walked, no excuses necessary. Reasons for their laziness weren't on their mind- they had expired food and whining children to worry about at home. They had things to do, and plans to fulfill, and Cosgrove wasn't involved with any of them. The waitresses did their things, and Cosgrove did hers.
Right now, though, when she was elbow-deep in potato grease and her skirt was inching higher every time she shifted, it was not a good time to start ordering her around. The others saw that and promptly pounced.
"Coz, get'cha butt out here, it's lunch rush and you're back there tuggin' threads- pull your skirt down!"
"Coz, wash these, won't you, they're our best dishes and you need some experience- maybe Togo'll quit picking on you if you do this right or something- hurry up with it, you've got to scrub the toilets later, they're dirty again."
"Coz! What did I say about waiting on table three, you're taking all my good tips- move, will you, I'm taking over-"
"Coz, you're scrubbing table six, it needs some real elbow grease-no, Sissy, the plates can't go in the microwave-"
And then there it was, the clarion call above the bustle and the shouting and the orders. It was the instruction to end all instructions, with the force to rule the world, the ease that sent Cosgrove reeling, and the raw skill to send kings crashing to their knees. It was a line worthy to come from the lips of a goddess, from the tongue of a god. It! Was!
"COZ GETS TABLE SIX!"
Obediently, Cosgrove grabbed a pen and headed out, rubbing at the smudged ink on her wrist. She needed more space to write, and she knew she was going to need a lot of it, because sitting in a chair at table six was a weirdo to end all weirdos. He was either the reincarnated version of Einstein, or a mad scientist- his hair was in two classic poufs of white fluff above his ears, and his glasses were dangling off of his nose, and his wrists were smudged with more ink than hers had ever been. Yanking at her skirt, she composed herself- this one was going to be difficult.
His back was to her, so she didn't have to go through the whole swing-your-hips-for-the-males walk, so, accordingly, she relished her freedom. Shamble, shamble. Stumble, stumble. Skid, skid. A charming little raspberry blown at sticky children, and then Cosgrove was in Mr. Mad Scientist's view, and she was perfect.
"What can I get you, sir?" she chirped. Her talking-to-customers voice always reminded her of tweeting, somehow. The little chirp it made when you pressed the blue button and it went out into the world and people got pissed over it. Of course, that experts might attribute that to her six-hour-a-day screen time average, but what did they know? I don't have a problem, you do! I could stop if I wanted to! Addiction?! What addiction?!
"GOONIES!" he bellowed, and it was slightly concerning that nobody gave him so much as a side-eye. Cosgrove watched out of the corner of her eye as the two sticky children tried to murder their own mother. It was embarrassing to call the police on children, so she hoped that they didn't go too far. She knew several officers better than she did her own father from six months' worth of crazy customers. And that was also concerning. Lots of things were concerning here.
"Pardon me, sir?" she inquired, politely. When every word tasted like rock candy ripping out of her abdomen, there really was no better word to use than inquired. It was a word made for hospital waiting rooms and perky social workers and announcers wearing too much red lipstick. It was made for crazy men with Einstein hair with pajama shirts and plaid. It was made for Cosgrove to kidnap and raise as her own. Inquired.
"GEWWWWWWWWWW-NIEEEEEEEEEEEES," he screamed, and this time he exaggerated the "gew." Cosgrove almost stabbed herself in the eye with the pen.
"Yes. Yes. 'Goonies.'" Cosgrove chuckled with her nose, not her stomach, in short fit-for-the-cameras huffs. Ha. Ha. Ha.
"So, what can I get for you, sir?"
"Yes! Yes, sir, I know, but... you're going to have to be more specific. What does 'goonies' mean? I mean, I've never heard it before, so can you clarify its meaning for me?"
God, she sounded like she was on a first date, with the big language, and the incessant questions, and the utter oddness of the guy in front of her. Except, usually, the tips written on the wrist were better hidden, and she was paying, and they weren't tipping. One thing about weirdos, Cosgrove knew they always tipped. It was what she told herself when a man tried to strangle her with his used underwear and when a woman stuck a 1980's steak knife into her ribs for putting salt on her eggs. It was what she recited to herself in the least disgusting bathroom stall when she came back to work two weeks later and found her coworker selling the same knife on Amazon for thirty bucks. It was her mantra. Tips, money, and mantras- that's what got her through the day.
"GOONIE," the man shouts, the word as clipped and cut-short as Cosgrove's customer chuckles were. It was intriguing to her, how the wackadoos didn't realize that they were completely and totally nuts. This was probably just a usual Sunday to him. Do laundry, wear boxers, scream random words at waitresses. Ordinary. Run-of-the-mill.
Sadly, this was run-of-the-mill for her, too. "Use your inside voice, please," she said brightly, blinking to repress the third-grade flashbacks. Maybe she should go into teaching. Screaming at kids. Kicking out creeps. It'd be her normal job, but with summers off, better hours, and more pay.
"Goonie," the man says, more quietly, and Cosgrove pats his hand. Good doggy. That's a good doggy. Who's a good doggy? You are! Oh, you're such a good doggy, good doggy, good doggy.
"Goonie-Goonie-Goonie-Goonie-Goonie-Goonie," he says, urgently, like he's speaking a language that anybody could understand. Cosgrove nods weakly.
"Yes. Goo-nie. Goonie." She curled the word around her tongue, admiring the big, blocky shape of it. Goonie.
"Goonie," he says, one more time, and then the last thing Cosgrove remembers is his fist coming at her face.
When she wakes up, there's no tips.