Two pairs of small hands appear in front of me, carrying trays with dirty plates and glasses. That’s surprising. Employees seldom bring their children to work, unless it’s a holiday and they couldn’t find someone to care for them.
Happy to be pulled out of my monotonousness, I bend to see beneath the tray shelf.
Two kiddos look back, a boy of about seven and a sweet, blonde girl of about five, both a bit disoriented by the fuss and the noise.
“Hey, guys.” I smile, gazing from one to the other. “Helping someone at work today, are we?”
The girl nods, while the boy stares at my goatee and points to his own chin. “How did you get this scar?” he asks bluntly, like only a child can.
He doesn’t need to know the terrible history of that wound, so I tell him my usual lie: “My shaving machine and I had a disagreement.”
At my side, Vasilj chuckles. He doesn’t know the truth. No one here does.
“Does it hurt?” the boy asks.
“Nope.” I shake my head like a goofy cartoon superhero. I may dislike the adult workers in this building, but I’ll always be nice to their kids. “Here, I’ll help you. You put your plate in this box”—I point to the one containing dirty plates—“and then…”
“I know.” He hurries to place his plate, cutlery, and glass in their respective boxes, before dropping his balled napkin into the bin.
“Of course you do.” I laugh from his eagerness. “You’re a smart boy.”
He looks up to me with a gaze full of pride and expectation.
I reach him a fist over the space between us.
He smiles, flashing a row of teeth with a hole in the front, and fist-bumps me like a street champ.
It’s the little girl’s turn. She’s so small she needs help, so I take the items from her tray and put them in the right boxes. When I’m done, I slide a gentle finger along her cheek. “Thanks for your help. You’re amazing.”
She giggles and squirms from my touch, looking at me as if I were Santa himself.
Warmth fills me. This kind of interaction is so rare at work—or any place at all—it not only pulls me out of my haze of boredom, it gives me something nice to live for and replay again and again for days.
I’ve spent twelve years in jail, so you can’t exactly blame me for savoring a little humanity. Before that, when I was too small to remember, my mother died of a drug overdose. She didn’t know who my father was. My granddad, who had survived extermination in WWII, swore he would keep me off the street. I still ended up behind bars at the age of fifteen.
The little girl asks, “Where’s the monster?”
“The monster? Is there a monster in here?” I turn to sweep the busy kitchen behind me. Patrick, the chef, stands in the back eyeing us. We’re taking too long. I ignore him.
“The dishwasher.” Grinning, the boy points to the gigantic brushed-aluminum machine alongside a wall.
“Ah, that one. Well, it’s not a bad monster. But it did swallow my colleague’s hair once.”
As the kids stare wide-eyed at Vasilj, he runs a hand over his bare scalp and laughs.
I send him a wink. It’s important to use humor in our kind of dirty work.
“Move on, now,” a tall man next to the kids tells them, voice low and soft. “We don’t want to stop the line.” Their father?
They obey, throwing Vasilj and me a last look of wonder before leaving the station and turning a corner.
The guy may be a loving dad when he addresses his kids, but when he turns to unload his tray, he takes in everything and everyone around him simultaneously with sharp, black eyes that gleam of shrewdness. Startling.
I don’t remember seeing him before, but then most of the office renters are anonymous to us kitchen workers. They come and go, usually looking down to avoid any interaction. As for us, we’re too busy doing our tasks efficiently to stop and see our customers. At the end of the day, several hundred people, maybe a thousand, have visited the restaurant, and I don’t remember a single face.
He sure stands out. A short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache frame aristocratic sun-licked features that match his black gelled hair. To strengthen the impression of elegance and high social standing, his custom-tailored clothes seem to be made of some expensive fabric a thug like me would never know. His hands look so neat and fine they must be manicured, one of them wearing a large dual metal wedding ring. All of this combined, he exudes wealth and power, and with the black pirate eyes of a slick business fucker, he’s the kind to have a suite on the top floor, the kind to profit on others less fortunate, the kind to despise low-paid workers like Vasilj and me.
Such arrogance. I swear on my mother’s grave, he needs to be put in his place, and though I’m not a beast, I’d like to see him visit prison for a few days. I know a pedophile or two who would have a field day with him, teach him a little respect.
Better yet, I could fuck this slick shithead myself right here on his turf, at the top of our power tower. And when I say fuck, I mean bend him over his million-dollar mahogany desk and slide my thick, hard cock into his million-dollar anus for the whole city at our feet to see.
Copyright @ 2016 Lea Bronsen