The Northville Review
an online literary journal
At Your Service

Penni Jones

So sorry about your extremely overdone steak, sir. You see the chef isn’t really a chef, but an illegal immigrant who works very hard for minimum wage. I’ll get you a new one, pronto.

The joys of restaurant management do exist, but none come to mind as I toil away into the late night hours. My feet hurt, my back hurts, and I only recently lost the hangover from the previous day. Two more hours to go, then I can drink. Oh screw it, I’ll start now. I can sneak one in the office easily. I’ll just pour a little vodka in my soda while no one’s looking and viola: instant inner peace.

You have twenty dollars missing from your bank? Of course we have to take it from your tips. Don’t blame me. I’m not the one who can’t hold onto cash. If we find a random twenty on the floor, you can have it.

Another sip of happiness before I go back to the restaurant floor. I’m so tired. I’ll check with a few of the servers to see if anyone has anything that can help keep me awake. At least two of them take meds for ADD. Someone should hook me up.

Where’s the busboy? He’s not outside smoking again, is he? Of course he is. Get back inside. There are three tables that need cleaning.

My job consists of leading a team of students, potheads, cokeheads, drunks, and felons through meal service without anyone getting high, stabbed, or poisoned. Why do I drink and pop pills? It’s not too hard to justify, believe me.

Drinking every day can reduce your fear of bird flu, AIDS, Ebola, cancer, botulism, home invasion, bankruptcy, and, strangely enough, alcohol poisoning. Drinking every day can help you temporarily forget that your college degree is completely going to waste and your life is, too.

Many women my age are raising children and attending Junior League. I’m raising a gaggle of misfits who wear aprons.

Please tell me you didn’t just serve someone the bread that you dropped on the floor. Ever hear of food safety?

Everyone here has slept with everyone else, the incestuous commune of under-achieving substance abusing quarter lifers who are wasting their potential.

Anyone have anything to help keep me awake? Thanks, I owe you one.

Ah, that’s the spot. I’m alert, happy, just need one more sip of my cocktail and I’ll feel perfect. I can finish this shift. Then, there’s another one tomorrow. The long hours make time seem infinite. Work, drink, sleep, work, drink, sleep. My life is full. Who needs family, career goals, or sobriety?

I’m sorry that table stiffed you. You can’t take it out on the rest of the staff, though. Everyone thinks you’re a bitch when you behave this way.

Only two more tables remain. I can make it. I just hope the tables aren’t squatters. I hate asking people to leave for “security reasons.” Sure, it’s not safe having customers in the place much past closing. But, the main reason is I don’t want any of us to have to behave like cordial human beings any longer than necessary.

Given the right circumstances, any hospitality worker could become a mass murderer. “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it sure helps.” Oh, how hilarious.

Anyone going out after work? Sure, I’ll see you there.

Please, clean your section better than that. It’s a disgrace. Be quick about it. We all have places to go.

All the customers are gone. Finally, I can drink out in the open. Tastes like freedom.

Oh, no thanks. The last time I took one of those pills, I woke up at four in the morning with a pint of ice cream melted in my lap. Well, then again, give it to me for later in case that other pill keeps me up too late.

Somebody mop the dining room, please. We can’t leave the place like this. I’d hate to see any of your houses if you think this is clean.

I have seen some of their houses, they’re disgusting.

All the cash is in. The bartender’s drawer balances after three tries. Tips have been distributed. We’re all meeting at the bar down the street.

I will look for an office job on Monday. Definitely Monday.

About the author

Penni Jones is a former service industry "professional" in the South turned stay-at-home mom in the North. Her work appears, or is forthcoming in, Six Sentences, Bird and Moon and Newport Review. She is currently in the process of revising her novel, Hook-Ups & Heists, for the 471st time.