Slight Return

This is a continuation of Fall, which is a memoir.

The manager of the restaurant I worked at before my accident is sitting across from me in an old church pew, cut down and re-purposed as a dining booth; I want to smack the smug look off this entitled prick’s face. I can’t because I am basically interviewing to get my old job back.  He studies the scrawled note clearing me for work; it’s four lines long but he acts like he’s reading a freaking novel. He casually tosses the note off to his right, right and explains how he is concerned about my knee “blowing out” while I’m working and that the other guys have “stepped up their game” since I’ve been gone. I know this is bullshit, ,if these guys were capable of stepping up enough to replace me even after four months of practice we would not be having this conversation.

“I got you, and don’t worry the bone’s knitted back together already, I’m pretty sure that can’t happen.” I unthinkingly run my hand along my right thigh, that leg is still half the size of the left. I know it’s not going to re-break, but I don’t tell him about my uncertainty about how long I can stand on it before the muscles and tendons give out, and my knee buckles from fatigue. “I just don’t have full flexibility back yet, so I shouldn’t work the line right away. I’ll need to start back on pizzas or the salad station.”I’m not trying to knock anyone out of position; besides it’ll be a while before I am able to work enough for that to even be issue.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking man.” he says, all I can think about is how likely it would be that he’d be my boss if he wasn’t the son of one of the owners. “Cool bro, tell you what, check back next Wednesday. I’ll see where I can fit you on the schedule.”

I’m pretty sure there is a special fate in store for people who use the word Bro, if there isn’t we should make one up.

I leave through the empty kitchen, the cooks won’t be in for another hour. They’ve got the busiest weekend of the year coming up and he’s trying to play it cool like he can do it without me. It’s possible, but I know that my career longevity to date has been based on ensuring that the job sucks just sightly more without me there than it does with me.

Later, that night I track down Danny, the sous-chef, at the bar down the street after his shift. Through a haze of smoke, cheap beer and shitty bands I manage to confirm that my replacements haven’t quite matured the way needed to me and adding to the staff a quite likeable, but functionally illiterate hill billy has not improved things in my absence. I leave the bar dunk and self-satisfied.

The week crawls by and I show up for my first shift back, an insulting short waste of one, but I’ll take what I can get. Chef is sitting out back playing some idiotic game when I roll up.

“Welcome back, you drinking again?” Since most people haven’t bothered to visit me they’ve had to rely on social media to keep track of my life. I haven’t made a public matter of my slip back into the world of my vices yet.

“Yep, cigarettes too.”

“Thank God.” He breathes, clicking off his iPhone. He’d make hell of a support group sponsor; good thing I’m not looking to join one.

“Hey Doug!” Luke yells as I walk in the back door. They promoted him out of the pit and onto the oven in my absence, not sure on what merit; kids basically a snot nosed turd with delusions of wit. “How was your vacation?” I’m fairly certain he thinks that shit eating grin on his face make him look clever.

“Tell you what, I’ll go ahead and break your knee. Then, I’ll drop a three-year old off at your house and you can tell me how much of a vacation it is, asshole.” So this is how we’re gonna start it off. Fine we’ll play it hard.

I spend the two and a half hours allotted to my schedule doing menial prep work, verbally sparring with my coworkers who missed how good I am at it, and telling these guys, who’ve obviously stepped it up oh so much, what they were forgetting to do; what with us planning on doing tens of thousands of dollars in business this weekend and all. As I’m wrapping everything up we’re looking good going into tomorrow.

The manager comes up and asks, “So you think you got your bearings back?”

What an ass bag. “I broke my knee, not my skull. I could do this type of work with on arm.” It’s true, I once worked the grill with my arm in a sling for more than a week. “I could have done it from home, except it’s not legal.”

He laughs nervously and I clock out. I return to the comfort of my front stoop where I ice both my knee and several glasses of scotch and water. Tomorrow starts the main event and I need to make sure I’m properly hung over for it.

In a sick, sad way, it feels good to be back.

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