My First Job

Written in response to: Write about somebody breaking a cycle.... view prompt


Friendship Teens & Young Adult

Another couple walks right past the “PLEASE WAIT TO BE SEATED” sign, sitting themselves down at a table that clearly has not been bussed or wiped yet.  Mary Lou groans, politely disengaging herself from conversation with another customer at the counter.  She grabs menus and approaches the new couple. 

Front of the house is packed today.  People just keep walking in, it’s almost as though someone invited them.  Like. Who would just invite people into a place of business?  It’s disgusting, I say.  There should be less people.

The swinging door creaks behind me and Logan walks into the dining room with a stack of cups balanced in his hands.  The dishwasher’s blond hair sticks up at odd angles, and his black sweatshirt has holes in the sleeves.   The teen should’ve been here two hours ago. 

“How are you today, sir?”  The question leaves my mouth before I realize the fluidity with which it formed.  In the restaurant, I ask 60 different people the same 5 different things every shift. Now the routine seems to infect conversations with my acquaintances, as well.  

Amazing,  now I’m calling this delinquent “sir”.  Next thing I know I’ll be asking if he needs any refills or napkins. 

“Eh.” Logan chuckles, plopping the glasses on the rack in front of him.  He saunters over, removing his earbud– a sign of respect, I believe.  Or maybe he hit an ad.  Hard to tell.  Sometimes he removes his earbud when talking to our boss as well… maybe it can be interpreted as fear? 

Presently, his glossy eyes twinkle with something that I would not call fear.  “Not bad.  You?”

I blink. How many times a day do I say I’m doing great! Thanks for asking! 

But how often do I actually feel great? Like really? 

“Man, I feel like shit.” 

Logan cackles, then breaks off in a cough.  “You look like shit, nerd.”

“Well. That’s just fan-tucking-fastic.”  I sigh, leaning against the counter.  (Really?  I should sulk off to the bathroom and reapply my make-up.)  “This is the 9th day in a row that I’ve been on shift.  I think there’s child-labor laws supposed to be protecting me right now.”

“Probs. Did you tell Melissa that you can’t work Sundays?” Logan refers to our boss.  He removes a styrofoam cup from a stack next to the soda machine and pours himself a rootbeer, splashing sticky liquid everywhere.  To my surprise, he removes a rag from his apron and wipes up the spillage.  

“I didn’t work Sundays during the school year.  But it’s summer time.  So it’s not like I’ve got much better to do.  And this place is so understaffed…”

Logan looks me in the eyes, a rare occurrence. “Dude, that’s not your problem. You’ve got a life to worry about.”

“Do I tho?”

The dishwasher chuckles again. 

I sigh.  “I feel like I’m in this place more than my own house.  I just keep coming back.  I want money, but this is not what I thought having a job would be like.  I feel… exhausted. I’ve screwed my sleep schedule over, and I’m not eating when I’m on shift. I dread pulling in the parking lot, just seeing the building makes me anxious.” 

Logan watches the rain pounding on the window, sipping his rootbeer.  “Ya know… if something makes you that stressed, you should leave the situation.”


“Hear me out.  You need a job, and you want the money.  But this place can eat away at a person.  Why are you still here?  You work your ass off every day, but Melissa yells at you for every mistake.”

“I’m only 16, and I don’t know if there are other places around here hiring. I don’t have much experience…”

“Dude, that’s a load of crap.  Why are you still here?

“What are you, my psychologist?”

“Answer the question, nerd.”

Three more people enter the waiting area, shaking off their umbrellas.  They glance at the special written on the white board, before looking around expectantly for a hostess.  We don’t have a hostess.

“I gotta take this table…” I mutter scurrying away from the conversation. 

Logan shakes his head and disappears back into the kitchen. 

(Does my smile look as fake?)  “Heyyy!  How are you guys today?” 

( )   ( )   ( )

I push past the swinging door to enter the kitchen.  The humidity from earlier in the day hangs about the space, worsened by the grille and frier.  Melissa is posted by the grille, working on two different tickets.  Bacon grease drips over onto the veggie omelet. 

I hang my new table’s ticket up on the line, sliding it down with the other orders.  

My boss spins from the grille to look at the paper.  I smile, turning to go.  

I make it about 3 steps.

“Hey!  Read this ticket again.”  Melissa rips the order from the line, waving it at me before whipping it on the cutting board in front of her.  

I return to the counter, examining the slip. 

After I don’t respond, she huffs,  “We don’t have any fucking gravy today.  I thought they would share that message, but apparently not… Sick and tired of this shit…”

The room keeps getting warmer.  “Oh okay, I didn’t know that.  I’ll go ask if he’d like to change his order…”

Yeah, you do that.” 

Pressure builds behind my eyes as I streak for the dining room.  (Why am I so sensitive? Suck it up…)

Mary Lou reaches for my shoulder as I bolt past, her pen gripped in her hand. “Hey, are you—”

I keep walking.  

If I talk to anyone I’ll break apart. 

( )   ( )   ( )

“Suck it up. You’re okay.”  I hiss at my reflection, wiping off the mascara below my eyes. The bathroom smells sickly sweet, but the counter is lined with a rust-colored residue that counters the clean facade.  I wiped down the mirrors yesterday, but in staring, I notice every spot I missed. 

“The diner is closed.  You can go home.”

Why are you still here?  Logan’s words resurface. Answer the question, nerd.

(Because it’s close by.  Because It’ll toughen me up.  Because it’s a secure position.)

I pick up my handbag and give myself one last thumbs-up before leaving the bathroom. 

My boss is at the counter, eating an omelet that she’d accidentally made double of.  She sees me when I come out of the bathroom and gives me a smile.  (Like she’s never uttered a single passive aggressive phrase toward me in her life.)

“Hey, is it okay if I head out? My mom’s in the parking lot.” The corners of my mouth quiver. 

“Mm, yes you may.  Thank you for cleaning up today, hon.  Everything looks amazing.”

“Thanks, have a good—”

“Oh, I almost forgot to ask.  Would you… be able to work tomorrow morning?  At about 10, if you could.”

My voice catches in my sore throat.  How many times have I said  Sure, no prob!  instead of telling her that I need the day I scheduled off to be spent at my house?  That I have a life?

Why are you still here? 

“Actually… no. And, I’m putting in my two weeks notice.”

Melissa chokes on her omelet. “Excuse me?”

“We can discuss it on my next shift.  I’ll see you Thursday.”

I push past the swinging doors before she can recover to talk me out of it. My cheeks flush from more than just humidity.  (That was a stupid idea… Oh my gods… Where am I going to work? What if they don’t hire me?  She’s going to be horrible on Thursday…)

Logan comes out from the back office holding a carry-out bag, probably containing food he just stole. He carries a black pen in the other hand.  “Nerd, you need to chill out… You okay?”  He stops in front of me.  “Why are you still here? We closed a while ago. Do you have a ride?”

I cough. “Yeah, I’m fine.  And… thanks for the advice.”

He quirks a smile. “Oh-h-h. No prob.  See you tomorrow?” He holds his fist out to hand me the pen to sign out.

Instead of accepting, I give him a fist bump.  “Hell no.”

“Good.”  Logan saunters to the exit, flipping me off without looking back. 

I snort. Maybe I will miss this job. 

June 23, 2022 02:03

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