Authors: Whitney Boyd
I smile back. Sure, my feet hurt, my back is starting to spasm, and it’s only nine o’clock, but I have an ally, albeit a reluctant one.
“So what do I do, then?”
Leila laughs shortly. “All you need to do is greet the customers, ask for their orders, give them drinks first, make sure they have all the food they need, and then have them pay at the cash register. Max mans that booth, so you just need to get them to him. He’ll be in around nine fifteen, before anyone has to pay. Food comes from the kitchen. After you get an order, you go tell Gary what they want. He makes it, you carry it back out. Simple.”
“Got it.” It sounds easy. I can do that.
The door opens and light spills into the room. “Mornin’, Gary,” Leila says with barely a glance over her shoulder.
Gary is a stoop-shouldered man with a black beard that is starting to go gray. He looks over and grunts, “Hi.” He walks back into the kitchen area and I hear pans banging around.
Leila winks at me. “He’s not the most social of men. But considering his personal hygiene, that is a good thing, trust me.”
Leila looks up at the clock on the wall. “Nine o’clock. Let’s get the lights on, you get changed into your uniform and then come on back out here. We usually get a dozen people or so for breakfast. Sound good?”
“Everything except having to put on this uniform.” I wrinkle my nose
and go to the ladies room.
There are definitely a fair number of stains on this dress, but I plug my nose and eventually manage to pull it over my head without messing my hair too bad. It fits okay.
I fold the outfit I wore in and glance around for a place to put it. I don’t want it to get dirty or stolen, but the bathroom has only two stalls and a small sink. I go back to the dining room where I see the lights have all been turned on. Leila is in the corner, fiddling with a juke box. Jazzy music fills the air.
“Do you know where I can keep my dress?”
Leila nods. “We have a communal locker in the back. It’s right beside the fridge in the kitchen. You can keep your wallet there, smokes, jackets, whatever.”
When I return to the dining room a few minutes later, I am surprised to see that a couple of customers have appeared. An elderly gentleman with a walker sits in a booth in the center, two women wearing heels are chatting at the other end of the room, and as I watch, the door opens and a tall, skinny man with glasses enters.
I freeze. Do I say something to him? Leila didn’t specify if we have assigned seating or if people just sit where they want. I lick my lips, ready to walk over there when Leila pushes her way out of the kitchen, holding a pot of coffee and two ceramic mugs.
“Sit anywhere you like,” she chirps to the man and then nods at me. “Newbie, go ahead and help the man in the middle, I’ll take the women and the guy who just came in. Sound okay?”
I swallow once to get my wits about me and then walk up to the old man in the center booth. I don’t know what to say to him. From across the room I hear Leila say brightly, with just a hint of sarcasm, “Welcome to Maxie’s, my name is Leila. I’ll be your waitress today. Can I get you something to drink?”
Perfect! That sounds good. I look down at the old man and smile. “Hello sir, my name is Kennedy and I’ll be your waitress today. Can I get you a drink?”
He pulls a large, white handkerchief out of his pocket and blows his nose into it, honking like a Canadian goose. Then he folds it again, sniffs once, and squints up at me.
“Kennedy, huh. Named after JFK, I’d imagine. Shame to waste a strong name on a woman though.”
“I’m not sure who I’m named after,” I say after just a slight pause. Be polite, Kennedy, I warn myself. This is my first customer. Don’t blow it.
The man sniffs and peers at the menu. “I would like a coffee, black, with hash browns and scrambled eggs.”
I look around desperately. Don’t waitresses usually have something to write on? I see Leila talking to the skinny man, laughing and jotting things down on a little coil bound notebook. She has one.
I guess I’ll just have to remember this and find a notebook after.
“Okay, so a black coffee, hash browns and scrambled eggs. I’ll go place your order.”
I walk away quickly and duck into the kitchen. “Um, Gary?” I say, not sure if I should just shout them out or if he needs me to write it down or something.
I hear a grunt in reply and take that to mean that he acknowledges my presence. “I need a coffee and scrambled eggs and hash browns. Okay?”
“I don’t do coffee. The rest, five minutes” is all he says, and mixes something in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
Leila enters and rattles off her order, too. Gary grunts and Leila turns to me. “How’s it going?”
“I need something to write on.” I point at her notebook. “Any chance there are more of these?”
Leila nods. “Yep, we keep a whole bunch at the cash register. Just grab one whenever you need one. Anything else?”
“Uh, yeah. Gary says he doesn’t do coffee,” I say, glancing over at him, a little ashamed to be talking about him right in front of him, “but my customer ordered some. How do I do this?”
“Oh, right, sorry about that. Yeah, we do all the drink orders ourselves.” Leila guides me over to the counter and points out a soda machine and beside it a coffee maker, some tea bags and a kettle. “Just grab a cup from the cupboard, fill up whatever the customer ordered, and take it out.”
I nod. “Gotcha.”
After the mug is filled, I carry it gingerly back out to the old man’s table. He is nowhere to be seen, however, and I look around quickly, making sure I’m not at the wrong table. Nope. He’s gone.
I hesitate. Did he leave? Do I take the coffee back into the kitchen? Do I leave it on the table?
Just then I hear steps behind me, I turn to see the old man hobbling toward me. He must have gone to the bathroom. Thank goodness my poor waitressing didn’t drive him away from the restaurant. I smile at him, relieved.
I place the coffee on the table just as the man pulls up beside me. He reaches out and puts his hand on my shoulder. “There’s no soap in the men’s room,” he says in a raspy voice. His hand slides down my arm and he sits laboriously back into the booth.
My arm feels wet. I think I might throw up. No soap in the men’s room. And he just rubbed my arm.
“I’ll be right back,” I say and dash back to the kitchen.
Leila is leaning on the counter, texting on her phone when I barge in. She looks up. “Where’s the fire?” she asks.
“Oh my gosh!” I tell her what happened. “I need soap! I need to wash my arm!”
Leila laughs. “Chill out, girl. Seriously, I’ve never met a bigger clean freak than you. There’s some hand sanitizer under the sink, I think.”
I dig it out and rub it liberally over my arm. My skin tingles slightly as the alcohol dries.
“All better?” Leila stretches and drops her phone back into her pocket.
I nod, a little embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m good. Sorry.”
She pats my arm as she walks by. “Don’t fret it, okay? Now look, let’s go back out there, you get the next person who walks in, and we’ll forget about this. See? Waitressing isn’t that bad.”
I grimace. “I’m going to have to start showering before and after work now.”
Leila shrugs. “Honestly? You’ll get used to it. I promise.”
And with that, we get back to work.
“Hey newbie, can you take table eight for me?”
I look up from where I am wiping off the corner booth. The cloth is damp and cold now and I wish that I had remembered to put on the rubber gloves that Max leaves in the kitchen for this exact purpose. I’ve only been here a few days and am still getting the hang of it all.
“What was that?” I say, brushing a strand of hair from my eyes with my free hand.
Leila places a steaming bowl of soup in front of a customer nearby and then turns back to me. “Could you take table eight for me? The guy just came in, and I’m totally swamped. Man, Sunday’s are crazy! I still have to clean off three more tables before Max will let me go on break. And seriously? I am desperate for a smoke.” She grins at me and puts her hands in a praying position, while managing to also stick out her lower lip.
“Where’d Christine go?” I ask, looking around for the other waitress. She only works here during lunch and dinner service, but right now she’s nowhere to be found.
“She had to go home early. I think her kid was sick or something,” Leila says, making her lower lip tremble just a little. “So
can you take my new table?”
I’ve always been a sucker for that trembling lower lip thing. Besides, it’s kind of nice to be in on the camaraderie thing. She asks me a favor, I do it for her. That makes us friends, right?
“Sure, you go ahead and get on your break. I’ll help the new customer.” I finish cleaning off the table and glance over to table eight. I can only see the back of his head. Black hair, slightly wavy but clipped short. He’s wearing a blue t-shirt and I can’t tell from the brief glance I get if he’ll be a good tipper or not.
“Thanks, buddy, I owe you one!” Leila pats my arm in gratitude as she hurries by, heading to the kitchen to grab her own cleaning supplies. I feel a little smidgeon of happiness inside. Doing favors is a nice feeling.
I toss the rag I was using into the kitchen on a counter and pick up a notepad by the cash register. I grab a menu and walk over to the guy. He’s tapping away into an iPhone and barely glances up when I place the menu in front of him.
“Hi, I’m Kennedy and I’ll be your waitress. Our special today is blueberry pie. Can I get you something to drink?” At least in the few days since I started, I’ve gotten the welcoming routine down pat.
The guy looks up. He has brilliant blue eyes with dark lashes framing them. If it wasn’t for a small scar running along his left cheek, he could pass for a model. He has incredible features, strong and tough. He is quite possibly the most attractive man I’ve seen in a long time, and I feel myself start to blush as I look at him.
I am such an idiot!
“Kennedy, huh. And you’re new here?” His voice is soft but masculine. He smiles at me and I feel like my knees are turning to butter, as cliché and ridiculous as that may be.
“Uh, yeah, I mean, well, kind of, well,” I trail off and take a deep breath, wishing I could disappear. Why am I such a bumbling fool? It’s like I’m in seventh grade all over again and the cute boy on the basketball team is talking to me for the first time.
“I started three days ago,” I finally say, somewhat lamely. “How’d you know I’m new? Did my poor waitressing skills give it away?”
He leans on the table and laughs. “Nothing like that. Just the sticker on your name tag made it a little obvious.”
I glance down and spot the
I’m in Training!
sticker that Max said this morning we all have to wear for the indefinite future. Something about liability and how if we wear it, he can’t get sued if anything goes wrong. Leila and Christine wear them too, and they’ve been here for, like, five years or something crazy like that.
I blush even deeper, feeling quite stupid now. I’m sure I look ridiculous too, with my hair all limp and floppy with the humidity, my face flushed, and my ugly green waitress uniform on.
“So, uh, do you want something to drink?”
The guy nods. “Sure, could you get me a Pepsi?”
“Of course.” I scribble the word down on my notepad and as I walk away, I feel his eyes follow me.
I hurry to the soda machine and pull a clean glass off the rack.
“You look awkward.” Leila has materialized beside me and places a large pile of dirty plates and utensils into the sink. “Everything okay?”
I laugh and shake my head. “I’ve just determined that I’m an idiot. The guy who came in? He’s a total stud and I got all tongue tied and acted like a . . .” I can’t think of a word to describe myself well enough, so instead I simply hit the ice button and the cup fills up halfway almost immediately with the large, frozen chunks. Then I place it under the Pepsi nozzle and begin pouring the bubbling drink into it.
“No words, huh? He must be pretty hot.” Leila tilts her head to one side, her dreadlocks flopping over her shoulder. “Lemme see.” She walks to the door and peers out the small window at the top. Then she looks over her shoulder at me and wrinkles her nose. “He looks like my ex-husband. Sorry, girl, that look doesn’t do it for me anymore.”
“You have an ex-husband?” I’m in shock. I mean, I’m twenty-five and Leila is at least a good four or five years younger than me. Twenty is way too young to have been married
Leila shrugs her shoulder and reaches down into her pocket, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. “It was a mistake. Eighteen, thought we’d run away together and join the Peace Corps or something. Ended up smoking way too much weed in Mexico and when my head finally cleared, I realized the guy was a tool. Well, actually I didn’t realize that until after I was thrown into a Tijuana prison for three months and my dear husband didn’t even bother to visit.” She hits the Camels against her leg and grimaces. “You know, the usual story.”