Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Young Adult · #1350943
|That's What She Said|
Working sucks. I’d rather eat dog shit than work. But they don’t pay you to eat dog shit.
I hate my job. I work in a restaurant called Marco’s Ribs. What kind of person named Marco starts a barbecue joint? Hell, what kind of person named Marco even eats barbecue, right? I’m a cook. While that means I get free food whenever I want, it also means I have to work in a billion degree kitchen with cockroaches crawling everywhere as if they were wallpaper decorations. There are always french fries on the floor ‘cause people never clean up after themselves. People are really dirty. And when the morning crew leaves, us guys in the night crew have to clean up after them, too. So besides getting a fresh film of grease on my face several times a night, being bitched at by the hens on the other side of the counter who I swear must have the urge to fellate all their customers the way they strive to please them, the incredible amount of filth from the dishes in the sink to under my fingernails, and the prevalent insanitation because nobody washes their goddamn hands in this place, everything’s great. Just flippin’ awesome.
“Yo Dick,” Brian called from three meters away. Brian always calls me that. My name’s Richard, not Dick. I don’t mind Rick, or Ricky, or Ricardo, or Ugly McFartface for all I care. But I hate being called Dick. I’m not a sexual organ or a 60-year old man who eats raw onions. I wish Brian’s name was Asshole, because that’s what he is. What an asshole.
“Yo Dick,” he said again, as if it were funny or something. “I’m ready for you on table 20.”
I snickered. I would call it a giggle, but guys don’t giggle. “That’s what she said.”
Brian laughed. He always laughed at “that’s what she said” jokes, although he never made them. I think he’s a pervert, ‘cause he goes wild over those jokes. I just say them to be funny.
“No but seriously. I asked it from you like fifteen minutes ago. I need it! Now!”
That’s what she said, I thought. But I didn’t say it. He’d just get mad. But I know about table 20, it’s the order whose grouper I dropped on the floor and had to remake. Fish is one thing you have to remake. If you drop a chicken strip on the floor, it goes back into the fryer and comes out fresh and clean. Same with cheese sticks or onion rings. If you drop grilled grouper (it’s not even grouper, it’s some cheap whitefish called Basa) on the floor, it’s gone. You can’t scrape the dirt off of fish.
“I’m coming already!” I yelled, but I wasn’t angry. I said it in the most obvious sexual tone I could. But Brian’s such an idiot. He wouldn’t make that kind of joke if it bit him in the cojones, because he’s too much of a stupid guy to put 2 and 2 together. Unless 2 happened to be him, and the other 2 happened to be his ugly-ass girlfriend. Dolores was just as dumb, which might explain her having worked at Marco’s Ribs for the past nine hundred years. She’s all old and wrinkly. She used to be a stripper and a crack-head, back when Dolores was a popular name for young people. I can’t even imagine her being a stripper. Not that I want to, either.
Dolores was glaring at me from the other side of the counter while I waited for the fish to cook. If she said anything I swear to God I would put the fish out raw. Fortunately she didn’t, though. She was too busy feigning tolerance, pursing her lips like a toothless old man trying to drink his juice.
Situations like the one I just described, in which I get harassed by dumbasses like Brian and Dolores, are a regular occurrence. Days like those don’t mean anything anymore. When I get out of Marco’s God-Forsaken Cave, I thank the Lord out loud every night. Like literally, I get in my car and scream, “thank the Lord!” It’s such a relief to be done every night.
Haha – that’s what she said.
But then I realize I have to drive home. Where I live, there’s still traffic at midnight, but it’s always going the direction I want to go. It’s not like I live in a big city, it’s just that all the kids my age who actually have fun on weekends start their drunk driving right when I go home smelling like hot sauce and shop-vac. They always head towards my house too, because the main road to the beach where the kids get shitfaced is also the main road to my house. My parents should really move out of there.
I might sound pessimistic, but I do like some things. I like drawing, even though I’m not very good at it. Drawing with colored pencils is the best, because regular pencil is boring, and painting takes too much time to set up and take down. I also like math. It sounds nerdy, but I’m good at that one. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I can always calculate a 15% right off the bat. Wanna know how I do it? I move the decimal place one time over to the left, that’s 10%, then I divide it in two and that’s 5%. Then I add the 10% and the 5% together. Less than twenty seconds, every time. I like simplifying really complicated equations, even though there’s a better way to do it. Sometimes I’ll just do, like, (2a+3b) to the 7th power, I don’t use none of that Pascal’s Triangle or rules of expansion garbage. I just do it all out, and then check it by putting in easy values for a and b. My girlfriend thinks I’m weird for doing that. But it passes time. Some people like crosswords, others like masturbating; I enjoy math problems. That’s another thing I like: my girlfriend. She’s all right. Her name’s Sylvia. That’s kind of an old person’s name, too, I guess, but she’s cool. She’s really hot – half Anglo-Saxon, half Spanish. Not like from Latin America Hispanic, but Spain Spanish. She’s got a rockin’ body.
A huge part of liking my girlfriend means liking sex. I’m young, but I’m old enough to make my own goddamn decisions and I do. My parents are pretty thick – I don’t think they have a clue – so we do it in my house whenever we want. I lost my virginity to her, although I always told my friends I lost it when I was fourteen to a twenty-two year old foreign exchange student from Russia. Now that I think about it, that would be kind of gross. That’s so disgusting.
That’s what she said.
My mind is so obsessed with that joke sometimes. I wonder who the first guy to say that was. I wonder if his friends were like, “dude, what are you talking about?” Who knew it would become so funny?
Sylvia: I might even marry her one day. Her little sisters are twelve and eight. Adorable little monsters. Sometimes I teach the middle one how to do my math problems. We played chess a couple of times, too. I don’t play chess that often, only with her. Chess is such a nerdy game. With the youngest one I play soccer. I let her win, ‘cause I’m a nice guy, but really she’s pretty good for being eight. Since I don’t have any little sisters of my own, I like to think I’ve adopted them. I don’t know what I’d do without them anymore, ‘cause I’ve seen them every day for a lot of years now. The youngest one barely has memories without me. I don’t go to school anymore – Thank the Lord! – so I stay over at their house during the day. Between when they get home from school and when Sylvia and I go to work, I hang out with them. My girl doesn’t mind. She thinks it’s cute. Whatever. “Cute” is just a word girls call guys when they want to have sex with them. Which is true, she does. So I guess I don’t mind being called “cute.”
After several years of the same routine, things can get boring. I never get tired of Sylvia or the Sylvian family (a little joke I love, because her last name is Forrester). But I do get tired of Brian, and Dolores, and pork ribs, and traffic, and sometimes I even get tired of sex. That last one’s rare, though. The other ones, I dread every day.
During one of these awful days, I walked into the back door of the restaurant, and this new girl was on a stepstool putting the sugar away. I ask to get by. Well, more like demand that the bitch get the hell out of the way than ask to get by. I was only half-kidding. She takes offense, gets down off the stepstool, smacks me in the face, calls me a “rude-ass motherfucker” (if you ask me, that’s being a rude-ass motherfucker), and walks up to the front to be a peon answering the goddamn phones.
I was a little shocked. I told another cook about it, but instead of the way I told it just now, I said, “I just got smacked and called a name!” Well, before I could even think of it myself, he had it ready: that’s what she said.
I laughed at that, but my face still stung. I actually felt a little guilty for saying that. I never apologized to the new girl. I probably should have. She quit like a week later and we never spoke after that. Oh well, I thought when I heard she had quit, another one bites the dust. Employees around here never last very long. Except Brian and Dolores, those assholes. No wonder they hate life - they stay in the same position too long, doing the same things over and over again without getting any pleasure from it.... all right, I set that one up. But it’s still funny.
About a year after that incident, in which I started talking less at work because I realized everything I said just made me or someone else pissed off, something worse happened. I showered after work and called Sylvia to come over and “watch a movie.” But when I went into the kitchen to get a snack, Mom was sitting in the kitchen with a cigarette. Mom hadn’t smoked since I was born. She didn’t even own an ashtray, so the ashes were everywhere. There were already two cigarette butts on the stove. I didn’t feel like asking her what was wrong, like some sensitive pussy, but I did anyway. It was just too weird to see her like that.
“Dad died.” At first I thought she was talking about my Dad, but then I thought maybe she meant her Dad, ‘cause now that I’m older she doesn’t have to call him Grandpa anymore for me to be able to tell what she’s talking about. But that was it. That’s all she said. I asked her how, but I already knew. The man was old, he was just ready to die. Mom shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t want to talk about it. But I wanted to know more anyway.
Grandpa was a cool guy. He was a helicopter pilot in World War 2, and when he got out he was an aeronautical engineer for this company called Jethro. He used to teach me which paper airplane designs flew best, ones he made up himself. And they did. One plane he made would go round and round in circles like a hundred times slowly descending before it stopped. He could always get a kite up, even if there was no wind. He also made a killer bowl of chili and knew how to play the piano, too, really well. He was awesome. I really missed him. That’s when I had the shocker. I missed Grandpa. I missed him already.
“How’s Grandma?” I asked. There was a pause.
“Like me,” she said. She kind of snickered, but it wasn’t funny. I didn’t know how to respond.
“Where’s Dad?” I asked after a while.
“Buying ice cream,” she replied. What a response. Who buys ice cream at 12:45? I guess the son-in-law of a dead guy would be the best answer.
“For all of us?” I asked. Another stupid question. I’m really not good at this thing.
“I guess. I just needed something creamy.”
That’s what she said. I didn’t say it though. Then, I reacted against myself.
God! What the hell is wrong with you?, I thought. This is a depressing moment and all you can think of is a goddamn stupid pervert joke like that?
I wasn’t being harsh on myself. What a fucking idiot I am sometimes. I couldn’t help it, though. It’s like Winston in 1984. He can control his words but not his thoughts. In the end, thoughts are dangerous.
I didn’t know what else to say, so I just stood there. Mom put the cigarette out right on the stove and pulled out another one immediately. I didn’t know what to say or do. Good thing, ‘cause Sylvia rang the doorbell just then. I went to the front door to let her in. I told her Grandpa had died, and she gave me hug. Sylvia’s great. Then she gave my mom a hug, even though they hardly ever talk to each other. Sylvia always knows what to do.
Sylvia and I went into my room a little while later, but we didn’t have sex. I didn’t really feel like it. She just kind of snuggled into the crook of my arm like a cat. In the middle of the night I woke up and I was snuggled into her arm the same way. I didn’t like that, though.
The next morning I woke up thinking about Grandpa. It’s not what Mom said but the way she said it that made me so upset. She didn't cry. The whole situation was very quiet, but turbulent at the same time, if that makes sense. Griselda Gambaro once wrote through a victim of love lost that silence screams. I think I know what that means now.
In the next few days, I tried not thinking about it. I didn’t want to deal with the whole situation. I didn’t even go to the funeral. But it’s not like I didn’t want to. My shit boss wouldn’t let me have off work. I was at the point of tell her to go fuck herself and walk out the door, but I had learned my lesson about keeping my mouth shut, especially to girls. Silence sometimes really is golden. Sometimes it’s golden but painful. In the office with her holding back a long list of invectives I had prepared for such a situation, it hurt like holding back a monster fart in church. Or like me and Mom in the kitchen. There, silence was necessary, but it really hurt too. Golden but painful.
A year later Sylvia broke up with me. She told me she didn’t want to be “stuck.” That’s what she said: stuck. I guess she felt like after half a dozen years she didn’t think we were going anywhere. We just did the same things over and over again. Everything was great for a while, but eventually the routine just ate at her until she couldn’t take it anymore. I was really upset over breaking up with her. Sylvia was awesome. She still is awesome. But whatever. I missed Grandpa still, and I missed Sylvia for a long time after that. I especially missed Sylvia’s little sisters, my little sisters. But it’s what she said that really changed my life, cliché as it might sound. She didn’t want to be stuck. Well I didn’t want to be stuck, either.
A few days after Sylvia and I split, I started really paying attention to work. Sure, being in a gazillion degree kitchen sucks, but not having heat in my house during the winter would suck even more. The cockroaches were gross, but if you do a good job cleaning up instead of half-assing it despite that really the day crew ought to do their part too, the bugs appear less and less. And yeah, it’s frustrating that no one washes their hands. But once I started doing it every time I touched raw food or a door handle, other people started to notice, and eventually they started doing it every time they came in from smoking.
I started paying attention to the people there, too. Brian really was a fucking idiot, and he still called me Dick just to be an asshole after so many times of me telling him to shut it. He probably couldn’t even tie his shoe, but he was a damn good cook. Maybe that’s why he stayed at Marco’s so long, because it was one job he could really succeed at. My boss was still a mean lady who probably was so mean because she hadn’t had sex in a hundred years, but somehow she was a good businesswoman. I used to complain for receiving ten cent raises every year, less than freakin’ inflation, but around the time Sylvia and I broke up she started giving me quarter raises every three months. Dolores was still just as annoying and bitchy as ever, but when she said something vapid (just about every word that came out of her mouth), I kept to myself. It was painful not to call her a dumb whore, but I remembered, silence is golden. Later, when I left the restaurant to go back to college, she gave me a kiss on the cheek. I remember not being grossed out.
I hate working. I hate traffic. I even hate ribs now. I hate that Brian and Dolores can be real buttheads. But sometimes you gotta deal with things you don’t want to deal with. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. People might never come to a realization about their faults, and will never change them, and therefore can be quite disagreeable. But for those who do recognize that some things need to change on account of someone like Sylvia, or for those who learn how to take care of the people they love on account of something like a death in the family, there is a way out of the routine. I’m not stuck anymore.
And I don’t make that’s what she said jokes anymore. Those are for suckers.