Chris Barton

 

1

I am throwing the MINI MOO’S half-way across the dining room. Little piles of MINI MOOS on the floor between myself and the wall. A counter on the the wall by the big glass door with a glass container on it. A glass container that I am aiming at that is half full of MINI MOOS.

This is the game I play when it is slow. Throw a MINI MOO. Make. Throw two MINI MOO’s. Make that. Throw three MINI MOO’S. Miss, start back at the previous number.

MINI MOO's are the name of the tiny packets of half & half that are used at the cafe. A French Cafe.I can throw a MINI MOO from halfway across the dining room, behind the big table. The four-top. Hit rim. The mini moo fall, smack the tiles, the baby vomit stained tiles, get kicked into a corner. Lost, for weeks, behind a trash can--grey garbage juice trashcan--you can still drink it.

MINI MOO'S. No refrigeration needed.

My highest throw is four. Four MINI MOO'S thrown at once into the glass container. Half way across the dining room. Read the instructions, get back to me.

Only don't get back to me. No one ever gets back.

MINI MOO'S. Shake Well.

I stop the game and go outside and do the street sign. Because it's slow. I only do the sign when it’s slow. I draw a picture of a face, a balloon, and some kind of alien pet. Not really thinking. Only focusing on myself and the sun. Tolerating myself in the the sun. The sun heating the life out of everything. My body exploding in the sun, back first. Dogs walking by, admiring the explosions.

I pick myself up off the sidewalk and a bird flies over my shoulder. I go inside and everything smells fried and dead again.

A buttered deadness.

A cow carcass under a heating lamp.

I watch the bird hop around the patio, and notice Walter standing across the street.

Walter has red hair, and a red face that no one talks about. It’s a circulation issue. No one has said this, I just assume. Walter is two years older than me, and talks about his garden; and how the city doesn’t understand that flowers won’t grow in the flower beds on the sidewalk, because the homeless people keep pissing in and using them as ashtrays.

Walter said this after I helped him take the trash out, while he stood in the alley and smoked. Walter is the kitchen manager. He is usually five to ten minutes late to work.

Walter comes in through the glass door, and neither of us say anything. I throw a MINI MOO, miss. I hear Walter moving kitchen equipment in the back.  

Frank Sinatra starts playing over the dining room speakers.

‘Frank Sinatra is over-rated, except for that one album, ‘which I probably never would have heard of, if Frank Sinatra wasn’t over-rated,’ I think.

I stare blankly at the piles of MINNI MOO’S covering parts of the floor. I throw another MINI MOO, miss, start back at the previous number.

Walter walks up behind me. “Who drew on the sign today?” says Walter.

“I did,” I say.

“It looks fucking terrible,” says Walter.

“Oh,” I say, looking down at a MINI MOO.

Very glossy label on the MINI MOO.

“Like a fucking boner or something,” says Walter.

“Oh,” I say again, rotating the MINI MOO in my hand.

“Like were you trying to draw a boner?” says Walter.

Walter is probably smirking but I won’t turn around and face him.

“What was the or something you said earlier. ‘A boner or something’. Like did the drawing resemble a boner to you, but also something else? Something that looked similar to a boner, but that you were unsure of. Or was that just self doubt?” I say.

Walter doesn’t bother to answer.

“Just trying to understand,” I say.

“You practice drawing boners a lot, don’t you?” says Walter again.

I can tell the question means a lot to Walter. I rotate the MINNI MOO in my hand and don’t look at him.My palm is sweaty. I feel the sweat leaving my palm and building onto the MINI MOO.

A mountain of palm sweat on top of a MINI MOO.

MINI MOOS. No refrigeration needed.

“What in the fuck are you doing anyway,” says Walter.

I throw the MINI MOO. Miss. Dig my hand into the box for another.

“What in the fuck are you doing,” says Walter again.

“Read the instructions, get back to me,” I say.

“Fuck you,” says Walter.

I throw another MINI MOO, miss. “Frank Sinatra is overrated. Except for ‘Wee Small Hours of the Morning’, ?” I say.

“You are fucking stupid,” says Walter. Walter walks to the back. I throw another MINI MOO and miss.

I move forward and start picking MINI MOO’S off the floor. I look down at the very glossy labels.

Amy Winehouse starts to play over the dining room speakers.

“Life is like a pipe and I’m a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside…”

“A drawing of your face,” I say.

MINI MOO’s. Real cream.


2

Today the mop closet smells like boxed raisins. It's slow, again. “It’s slow because it is raining,” says Stan.

I don’t do the sign today. I clean the sign then think about writing a dinner special then decide to carry the sign inside and hide it in the mop closet.

No one ever puts the sign in the mop closet.

MINI MOO’S. Fuck yeah.

I walk behind the Chef station and make an avocado sandwich. I take the knife to the dish area, and lay it by the sink.

The dish area smells as bad or worse than cow carcass.Under the sink in the dish area there is a tan-grey buss pan that used to be white. The buss pan collects water that overflows from the sink drain.

Warm, brown sud water.

Water that will eventually turn to room temperature brown sud water.

Like a death bath.

A semi-clean cess.

I walk up front to get my sandwich, and there is a customer waiting.

‘Always a customer waiting.’

‘You will die talking to a customer,’ I think.

‘You will be killed by an unhappy customer from a previous job seeking revenge,’ I think.

‘An unhappy customer stabbing you in the face and neck with a fork,’ I think, ‘as you try to interact with another customer, who is asking about the Crispy Cheesy Ham and Cheese.’

‘Always the Crispy Cheesy Ham and Cheese,’ I think.

‘A line of customers piling up in front of your dead body as you slowly become more unable to attend to them.’

‘Unable to die entirely, because of the line of customers already awaiting your death.’

‘Life itself the culmination of a long line of customers waiting to die.’

Waiting...

Waiting...

Would you like a copy of the receipt?


3

A small bird gliding, relaxed, like almost asleep, through the air;

a small bird landing on a patio to pick up crepe crumbs;

a bird flown in from another city, because yours is the #3 ranked restaurant on trip advisor

“An eating destination,” says your owner--

your owner, sweaty, red faced, holding a bag of crepe flower;

your owner naming off the prices of equipment in the cafe, as a way of making conversation, a self-reflexive conversation.

Your owner naming off the unit value of things, like “that’s a .50 cent squirt of whip cream”

“Every squirt of whip cream should be .50 or less, see; that’s too much whip, see; that’s like .75 of whip.”

Or, “it takes 6 full oranges to make a freshly squeezed orange juice; that’s why the OJ’s are $4 a pop.”

Your owner patting everyone on the back, unexpectedly, while they are working--

A small bird getting bored, now.

A small bird thinking about flying north for the summer.

A small bird gliding upward to a heating lamp then taking a shit on the patio.

You or someone like you washing bird shit off of a patio.


4

Today I eat Xanax and go to work. I stand behind the register glowing. A fucking star. Silver star employee, level four. Customers see my face and explode into piles of money.

Two people walk in. They look lost. Deer at night pushing an empty shopping cart through WalMart lost. I save them. Assure them that they will not die during the transaction. That the menu is dense, but intelligently crafted. I ask questions. They laugh. I laugh. We all laugh--laughing at the confusion.

They both order $5 dollar lattes, and two different variations of ham and cheese.

I talk one into adding an egg.

I say, “how would you like that egg?”

I answer the question: “over medium?” I say.

I push a button:

one egg on top, over medium.

Upcharge: 1.50.

One egg.

Extra points.

A silver star.

MINI MOO’S. Fuck Yeah.

Laughing at the confusion.

I motion for the customers to sit down then walk into the kitchen. Walter is cutting tomatoes. His face is red.

A giant bowl of tomatoes is beside him on the prep table. I imagine crawling inside the bowl and staring up at him then saying “pick me, pick me.”

I look at him until he looks at me.

I look at him a second longer, after he looks up.

“Just got us a twelve dollar tip from two people,” I say.

Walter doesn’t say anything.

“Your turn,” I say.  

“Pssshhh,” says Walter. Walter is looking down and cutting tomatoes again.

“You have an order,” I say.

Walter still doesn’t say anything.

“You have…”

“Fuck you,” says Walter.

5.

Sometimes I do downward dog in the bathroom until my face turns red.

I look between my legs while I do it at the space under the door.

I count how many shadows from the dining room pass over the tile floor.

The bathroom is a single, so I can virtually see everyone in the cafe from this angle.

No hiding from this angle.

Sometimes I pretend I’m Casper while I do it.

6.

Today the chef ran around the dining room hitting people in the face with baguettes.

Raw doughy baguettes.    

Hard flakey baguettes with semi-soft centers.

“You want a fucking roast beef sandwich? Go to subway”.

The Chef is Kim and the people duck like the moles in that mole game that you try to hit with a padded hammer at an arcade.

“Go to fucking Subway,” said Kim.

7.

Some Topics for Debate--

Debated on not going to work today, and going to sleep in a clover field.

Debated on riding the bus around for the rest of the afternoon, and asking every passenger a single question.

Debated on using a bag of baby carrots for the microphone then eating the carrot .5 way through.

Debated on going to work just to throw customer orders from behind the counter into the dining room floor, while saying, “ORDER UP” in a calm, confident voice.

Debated on getting a work-shift coffee then promptly quitting and walking outside to sit on the patio to use the wifi.

Debated on giving a car to someone then walking somewhere for iced coffee.Then calling into work to say, “sorry, won’t make it to work today, gave my car to someone;” then hanging up the phone, propping my feet up in the booth, and sipping iced coffee while looking triumphantly out the window.

Wearing phantom sunglasses that I didn’t have before.

Like the end scene of a movie.

A b-movie.

A 64% rating movie that you’re debating on whether or not to watch.

Chris Barton’s work has appeared in Hobart, Word Riot, Potluck, and most recently Entropy. He is from Knoxville, TN. A thousand hugs. cbarton7g@gmail.

Artwork by Bridget M