First Day

“So, you ready to start?” Wallace asked Bernice.

“I think so. I mean, how hard can it be?” Bernice said, tying off her apron.

Wallace laughed. “Well, just make sure you put their orders in right. People hate sending food or drinks back.”

“No problem, I’m ready.”

“Great, that table over there is yours.”

Bernice walked to the table where three gruff, aged men sat, alternately scratching their beer bellies and burping. “What can I get you guys today?”

“The usual.” The oldest one said.

Bernice stood for a moment, uncertain whether to ask Wallace, or ask them. She took a chance, and said, “Sorry, I’m new. What’s the usual?”

The man sighed. “Fuck off and bring a good waiter.”

Bernice walked back to the computer. “They said they want the normal waiter.”

“You asked them what their usual was, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll punch it in. Next time, just tell me its their usual, I’ll put it in for you.”

“What is ‘the usual’?”

“I’ll put it in, you can go get the table over there,” he pointed to a dingy woman wearing various layers of dirt over her torn clothing, counting out change.

Bernice walked over to her and said, “Hi, how are you today?”

The woman looked up at her, her face a study of lines and grimes. She snorted, a bubble popping out of her left nostril. She reached her hand up and wiped it, the string extending nearly a foot before breaking and falling, half on her arm and half on the table. “How the hell do I look like I’m doing?”

Bernice pursed her lips, suppressing a gag at the smell; somewhere between body odour and garbage. “What can I bring you?”

“Hot soup.”

“Bowl or cup?”

“Whichever I get with…four fifty-two.”

“Cup it is.”

Bernice went back to the computer, where Wallace stood. “Soup, right? Bowl or cup?”

“Yes, and cup.”

“How much does she have today?”

“Four fifty-two.”

“We’ll make it a bowl. You can ladle it in the kitchen, I’ll get this next table.” He left Bernice standing there as two men and a woman, all in business suits and checking their smartphones, entered.

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