“Hit me.” Chef stood where he always did, leaning up against one of the counters, wielding a spoon like a wizard would a wand. Kevin couldn’t remember a time that he hadn’t seen the man leaning in that exact spot.
“Wait. You’re just putting in an order. Isn’t there a computer you just punch it into?”
Kevin and Chef traded glances, both clearly mocking. Chef folded his arms across his chest, shook his head, and muttered something about kids these days. “Do you want to take this one?”
“Chef likes to know how the customers are.” Kevin spoke slowly. “If they’re dicks, if they’re nice, if they’re cute, let him know with how you tell him the order.”
“But what does it matter?”
“It matters to him, Noob,” He turned to Chef. “I need a shiny Bleu Burger with slaw, and a Caesar.”
“Sounds like a good table. Is the burger for a girl?” He turned and nodded to Julio and Brian, the line cooks, giving them directions.
“It is, yeah.” Kevin blushed a little, but hid it well. “They’re a couple of regulars, They’re in almost every day.”
“I thought the order sounded familiar. Girl’s got good taste in burgers, sweep her up while you’ve got the chance, Kev. Now get out of here, I’ll have that out in a bit.”
Kevin turned to leave, new guy in tow. “Happy hunting!”
“Why do you call it hunting?”
“I dunno, man,” Kevin said, twirling around Kati so he didn’t spill her tray of drinks. “Chef has just kind of got a weird sense of humor about things. I once had this douche giving me shit for hitting on his wife.”
“No, Noob, I wasn’t hitting on his wife.”
“My name is Rick,” The Noob said.
“Your name is Noob until you’re not the new guy. I was Noob for six months, you can deal with it until we can replace Joe. Could you grab me two cups?” Rick obeyed, if obstinately. “I wasn’t hitting on his wife, so much as. . . okay, she was hot, I couldn’t just –“
“Say no more, I get it. So the husband was giving you shit, go on.”
“Chef told me to stab the guy with his own fork to make me feel better.” Kevin smiled, and walked away with two Cokes, leaving Rick to gape at his back. “Alright, ladies, I’ve got your orders in, it’ll be just a few moments. I’m having the chef make your burger better than the rest.” He flashed a crooked smile at the brunette. A few days before, he’d overheard her name to be Sandra, or something close to it.
“Uh, thanks,” She said, and his heart skipped a beat. He turned and hustled away, grateful that he didn’t trip and fall as he walked away from the table. Kevin listened, trying to pick up any scraps of their hushed conversation, but failed.
Kevin made a round, checking on each of his customers, the few that had come in. Business would pick up about an hour later, but until then he was grateful it was slow. Once things picked up he wouldn’t have another opportunity to get off his feet. He picked a stool at the bar and gestured for the Noob to join him. They put their backs to the bar and watched people passing by on the street.
They were silent for some time. Rick shook, full of pent up energy. He seemed uncomfortable, he opened his mouth several times, and closed it trying to speak. “How. . . Why would he tell you to stab that guy?”
“I told you, he’s got a weird, dark sense of humor. I love it, it makes this place different from what I hear of other jobs. He’s different than other bosses are.”
“Yeah, most of my old bosses aren’t twisted old fucks.”
Kevin looked at Rick and sighed. “You’ll get used to him, I promise. Come on.” He hopped down from the stool and walked into the kitchen, past the supply bar. “Ooh, very nice.” Kevin reached for the plates, arranging them on a circular tray and handing it to the Noob. “Alright, let’s get these out.” He turned and put his shoulder to the door.
“Wait,” Chef’s voice stopped the two boys. The two plates slid across the tray until Kevin’s panicked hand reached out and stabilized it.
Rick turned back to look at Chef. “What’s up?”
Chef leaned against the counter, his head bobbing in time with the music. He reached up and switched off the radio and looked at Rick, his expression serious. “Noob, did you know that in Papua New Guinea, to this day, they kill and eat evildoers and practitioners of dark magic as a means of cleansing their society?” His mouth tightened into a line as his eyes bored into Rick.
The bustling of the Sous-Chefs stopped, Julio and Brian leaned forward to look at them beneath the heat lamps, Kati had slipped into the kitchen and stopped, her eyes and her amble cleavage staring at the Noob. Only the sizzling of meat hinted that time had not, in fact, stopped to await his response.
Chef’s eyes didn’t waver from Rick’s, it seemed that both men had stopped breathing, locked in their stare. The corner of his mouth twitched upward in a smile, and the room burst into activity once again.
Rick muttered, “Twisted old fuck,” and Kevin started laughing behind him.