No Lunch Today
“Grande soy frappucino, no whip.” He didn’t look up to see who took the order. It was not his concern, so long as the drinks continued to disappear before he brought the next order to the counter. His only concern was to make the drinks correctly and as quickly as possible.
“K.C.,” he called back to the shift supervisor, “we need another bag of espresso beans up here when you get the chance.”
“Alright,” K.C. answered shifting her bulk off the bar stool she always commandeered when she was in charge. “Anything else?” God help him if he made her make more than one trip.
“Umm,” he glanced around has he poured a vente mocha. “We could use some more chocolate and… “he checked the fridge, “we’re running low on soymilk.”
“Okay.” And she disappeared into the back. As far as shift supervisors go, she wasn’t bad. She let you do your thing however best you could do it, so long as you weren’t screwing up or otherwise making more work for her. Sandy found that he preferred her leadership style to that of the more ambitious lower management. They tended to micromanage, carrying a well-thumbed copy of the policy book in their back pocket.
It was a normal day; the lunch rush was abating, and as the line to order diminished, Sandy fell out of the manic tunnel-vision that allowed him to keep it down to ten people or less. He threw his arms over his head in a brief stretch, and then swung his elbows behind his back. A satisfying series of pops signaled a release of tension, and he took a quick glance at the clock before picking up an order for a tall Americano with two percent. He had fifteen minutes till his lunch break. He glanced outside to see if it was nice enough to take his lunch to the park down the block.
It looked sunny and beautiful, except that Andrew was opening the door and coming inside.
Sandy ducked his head and grabbed a rag. He was furiously cleaning the counters and his station by the time Andrew got to the counter. He could feel his brother’s stare burning into him, the questions unvoiced purely because there were still a lot of people at the tables to provide an audience for what should be a private conversation.
Sandy snatched up the next two order slips and got to work, as K.C. emerged with her arms full of cartons and bags. She stepped behind him and started putting things away, stepping in and around him so he could keep making up the orders.
“Thanks, K.C. Anything else I can do? Maybe some clean up in back?” He whispered hopefully. She did not pick up the hint.
“Nope. Why don’t you let me take over and go to lunch.” She smiled generously, thinking she was doing him a favor by letting him leave ten minutes early. He could have wrung her fat neck. He thought about protesting, but a glance told him that Andrew had heard her, and he didn’t have the guts to insult him by trying to wait him out.
Andrew stood patiently at the end of the counter facing the bulletin board, as if that were what he’d come in for, because to watch Sandy would be too direct, too difficult to do without displaying the fact that he was waiting for him, and frankly appalled to find him there.
Sandy took off his apron and opened a drawer where he kept his cigarettes. He thought briefly of his lunch in the fridge, but his appetite was gone, so he stepped around the counter and into Andrew’s line of sight.
“Hey, bro’.” Andrew’s eyes settled on him then, his face carefully neutral. Sandy watched him take a breath and put a careful smile on his lips.
“Hi, Sandy.” They turned together and walked out of the shop and into the bright sunshine. Sandy lit up as they headed toward the park.
Andrew launched into some amiable small talk about the weather, to which Sandy mumbled automatic replies as he focused on his cigarette. Andrew was a douche, but he was family.
“You haven’t been returning my calls,” Andrew commented as they walked along.
“Yeah. Battery died yesterday,” He lied.
“You haven’t been returning Mom’s calls either,” Andrew continued, ignoring the lie. “Then she calls me. All the time.”
He knew Andrew meant well, but this pussyfooting around, as if he were an invalid or a mental patient, was insulting and tiresome. He struggled to ignore him, staring deep into the park as they approached it. The rhododendrons with their masses of huge blooms, the soft grass a perfect green, the huge oak at one end that stood next to the pond in such a way as to provide the perfect backrest. When they reached the grass, he kicked off his flipflops and scooped them up, watching the ducks on the pond. Andrew followed.
“So,” Andrew said, changing tactics, “Mom tells me you deserve congratulations.”
“Yeah?” Sandy realized he had the choice of being angry or bored; he chose boredom.
“Passing the bar on your first try is no mean achievement. You should be proud.” Sandy thought about the logic of this, and decided not to argue. “Okay.”
Andrew stared out at the pond for a minute. “Is this where you usually have lunch?”
“When it’s nice.” Sandy flopped down against the oak, stubbed out the cigarette and put the butt in his pocket. Andrew looked around for a place to sit, but was clearly unwilling to sit on the grass in his nice slacks. They must be expensive, Sandy thought, and smiled ruefully.
“So… what now? Any leads?”
“Leads on what?” Sandy pretended obliviousness.
“Um, what do you mean, ‘on what’?” Andrew was struggling now. Sandy could hear the barely controlled temper in his voice. He shook out another cigarette and lit up. If Andrew was going to do this, he would not help him.
“Leads on jobs, Sandy,” he growled. “For Christ’s sake, you took that test eight months ago. Have you had any interviews?”
“Well I know some people, let me help you. I’ll give your resume to some people.”
“Sandy, are you kidding me? What the fuck was law school for then? Your debt has got to be huge.” Finally, a direct response. It left Sandy feeling vaguely satisfied, not that he’d forced the veneer of niceties off.
“Well then get off your ass and get a job!” Andrew’s face was turning red. Good.
“I have a job.”
“What are you… So is that your plan? Live like some useless slacker and let Mom bail you out. You know she’s talking about mortgaging her house, dipping into Dad’s pension—”
“I never asked her to do that!” Sandy shouted back. He couldn’t help it. He didn’t want anything from anyone, hadn’t asked for anything.
Sandy stood up and took a long drag of his cigarette and looked out past his brother to the ducks on the pond.
“My lunch is about up. I gotta go.” He turned around and walked back the way they’d come, carrying his flipflops.
“Don’t walk away from me, Sandman,” Andrew ordered as he grabbed Sandy’s arm. This was too much. Sandy felt his body lock up. It was getting harder to stay bored.
“Let go of my arm, Andrew.” But he didn’t.
“Listen, you ungrateful little shit, you’re not going to siphon—”
“You’re making me late,” Sandy said, turning to face away from Andrew. He noticed his jaw was clenched. Andrew could put him in this state faster than anyone, and now he was moving around Sandy. He was physically standing in Sandy’s way now.
“Forget it,” he spat. “That’s not a real job. Now I’m taking you—”
Sandy’s fist hit Andrew’s jaw so fast Sandy was startled to see it at first. But he wasn’t sorry. Andrew fell to the grass with a soft thud, and the park was quiet once again.
Sandy stepped past his brother and took a deep breath while rolling his shoulders. He listened to the sound of the sparrows chirping as they fed on the remains of pastries from earlier visitors to the park. Sandy stepped out of the park where his brother lay, and went back to work.
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Portland Fiction Project
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