Serving the Man

by Wayne Scheer

Elaine had no choice but to be nice to the clowns at table twelve. Overweight, balding and middle-aged, they called her "honey" and "sweetcakes" while laughing like fools. She wanted to call them a few choice names of her own, but knew if she laughed at their jokes and touched them lightly on their arms, they'd want to show her what big shots they were.

If she refused to play their game, these were the types who'd complain to the boss about her service. 

"If you can't put up with schmucks, you shouldn't be dealing with the public," Manny had told her when a loudmouth complained how slow she was. The man had demanded her attention while she waited on a family with three children who thought it was cute to have the kids, including the four-year-old, order for themselves.  She told the man to be patient.

"Guys like that…" Manny said, waving his hand to finish the sentence. "Smile at them.  Wiggle your cute ass.  Don't tell them to be patient."

She was pretty sure a comment like that constituted sexual harassment, but she was in no position to complain.

Her shit of an ex had left after maxing her credit cards.  She had to reduce her course load at the college and take whatever shifts Manny gave her to pay her bills.  The lawyer she hired explained that the charges were in her name so she was responsible, the same thing the credit card company had told her.  Except he sent her a bill for his time.

"You want to get paid, get in line," she told him when he complained his bill was past due.

"Hey, gorgeous," the loudest of the group called out, waving his hand for her to come to him.  The grease from the burger he had been eating glistened on his fat fingers.

"My name's Elaine," she said, forcing a smile.

"Okay, Elaine.  This is the deal.  I'll give you twenty bucks if you kiss me on the cheek."  He took a twenty out of his wallet and slapped it down on the table. Without taking the time to think, she pecked him on the cheek and grabbed the twenty.

Turning from the table, she bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying and wondered what else she'd do for money.

BIO: Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He's published hundreds of stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, published by Thumbscrews Press, (http://issuu.com/pearnoir/docs/revealing_moments.) Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.