A story I sent to a short short story contest. It didn’t win 😦 D’oh well, hope you guys enjoy it!! Till next time!
By Dustin Plank
It was the start of the week at OffTech Industries. OffTech was supposed to be short for Office Tech, but it may as well have been literal as the network decided to commit hara-kiri over the weekend. Maybe Doug in Accounting’s habit of trying to break the parental controls shamed it or something.
Anyway, with the network down, not much was getting done, so everyone was doing their best to keep busy. Everyone EXCEPT James, though his reasons had nothing to do with the network being down. James worked in Sales, and while not being able to access his database did hinder him, he also skipped breakfast that morning and he was hungry. On a normal day, he would have to bear with it until lunch time while making numerous trips to the break room for stale donuts or whatever. But today was different because he… had a plan.
Step one involved getting some coworkers together and talking them into step two, which was to ditch work early and get something at the family diner down the street from OffTech. He didn’t feel the need to plan beyond step two, because they weren’t coming back to work because he figured the network would be down for most of the day, knowing how slow the company’s provider moved.
He stood up and leaned over the cubicle behind his. “Hey Frankie,” He smiled, saying the name ‘Frankie’ like he was a pop star. “How’s things?”
Frankie looked up at James with frown. “The network’s down. I can’t get anything done. How do you think things are?”
“…Yeah, anyway, I was wondering if you would like to ditch this morning and get some breakfast at the Star Diner down the street?” He pointed towards accounting and added, “We can bring that one guy who looks like the person from that movie you like, if you want?”
Frankie knew who he meant; There was a guy in Accounting named Mick who looked eerily like actor Steve Buscemi, down to the expressions. The fact that Mick had blonde hair did not detract from the likeness. Even though this would be a quaint talking point for any other guy, Mick hated his looks, and harbored a hidden resentment to the actor for existing at the same time as him. Still, Mick was a decent guy, and if James was paying…
“I’ll talk to him.” He finally answered. “You got a way out?”
James smiled. “Don’t I always?” And with that, the ‘plan’ was put into action. James’ way out wasn’t too hard, as the supervisor was too busy yelling at the internet provider over the phone in his office to bother keeping track of his employees.
Half an hour later, they were in Frankie’s car, about to pull out of the parking lot. “So where are we going?” Mick asked from the back seat.
“Star Diner. It’s close enough.” James answered.
Mick groaned. “That slop house? Can we go to the Pancake House instead?”
“What’s wrong with the Star Diner?” Frankie asked, making a leisurely turn. “They cook a mean steak.”
“Have you ever had breakfast there?” Mick explained. “They burn everything to Hell, except the eggs.”
James sighed. “Sorry, but the Pancake House is down the interstate, and traffic is still shit on the interstate this time of day, so Star Diner is out only option.”
Mick rolled his eyes and looked out the window. “Can I sit in the front on the way back at least? My leg’s getting cramped…”
Turns out, the Star Diner had improved its cooking somewhat. The eggs were warm, nothing was burned, and the coffee flowed like morning wine. All was acceptable… except…
“Dammit,” James grumbled over his Belgian waffle. At least, what the Star Diner called a Belgian waffle. To James, it was nothing but two Eggo waffles cooked while fused together… poorly.
“Well, this was better than the last three times I had breakfast here,” Mick remarked after finishing his eggs benedict. “Wonder what happened…”
Frankie was still having his Southern style breakfast with grits and extra bacon. “You should have gotten this, Mick. These guys make a killer Southern breakfast…”
“Ugh, god damn waffle…” James moaned under his breath. He hated his waffle almost as much as he hated being ignored by his work relations. And, according to the gospel of Star Wars, we all know where hate leads…
Their waiter walked over to them and asked while hiding his Jersey accent best he could, “You guys need anything else?”
“Another coffee?” Frankie asked, offering up his mug. As the waiter filled it, Mick offhandedly remarked, “This is the best breakfast I’ve had here in a while. Did you fire the cook or something?”
“Well,” The waiter looked around before continuing. “We did get a new cook recently. The last one, it turns out was… I’d rather not…”
“Well, if you’d…” Mick began to say, but James, eager to share his misery with others chimed in. “No no, you were about to say something about the previous chef…”
“…cook…” The waiter corrected him warily.
“…Yeah. Anyway, it’s only fair if you let us know.”
Frankie and Mick looked at each other. If they could read minds, they would’ve found that they were thinking the same thing; “Oh, crap…”
The waiter looked around again, and abandoning his attempt to hide his accent, he knelt down at the table and whispered. “Well, we were getting complaints about the coffee, so the boss hid a camera in the kitchen, and…”
“Oh, god,” Frankie grimaced after just finishing his mug. “Tell me he didn’t pee in the coffee…”
Frankie and Mick both breathed a sigh of relief.
“It was a number two in the filter.”
Mick nearly retched. Frankie screamed in agony. “Why?! Why tell us that?!!” He shouted.
The waiter tried to calm them. “He got blacklisted for it!! He doesn’t work in cooking anymore, PLEASE calm down!! I need this job, guys!”
“I told you guys we shouldn’t have come here!” Mick stood up, knocking his chair over. “Didn’t I tell you guys? Didn’t I?!” And with that he stormed off.
Frankie was more cooperative. “I’m sorry. I-we never should’ve asked. This was uncomfortable for all of us.” He walked out of the restaurant, repeating, “I’m sorry…” over and over, as if traumatized by what he had heard.
Once things had calmed down, James looked at the dejected waiter and, pointing to his plate said, “By the way, about this waffle…”