July 24, 2007

"In which much drudgery bears a little fruit..."

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The new issue of CORK ANIMAL is posted and ready to be devoured!

So many great stories this time; the theme of on-the-job horror really inspires people to let fly. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own tales of woe in the comments.

I have three of my own stories in the mix. Here's an excerpt from one, about my halcyon days as a graveyard shift waiter-slave at Denny's. The other two stories are worth poking and reading around in the issue to find!

"I grew to crave the thrill of almost certain nightly disaster, the Russian roulette in which the number of chambers, let alone bullets, was constantly changing. You could do everything right and then drown under a wave of too many customers, or you could have everything in your favor and ruin it all yourself by absentmindedly tilting your wrist two degrees, allowing a ham and cheese omelet to slide off its plate and ooze like a mutant slug right down a woman's back. Even then, as you hid in the kitchen so you wouldn't have to face the Omelet Lady, you knew that in an hour everything would be reset: all new customers, all new traps and landmines. I would see my fellow waiters and waitresses go down in flames on either side of me, peeling out of formation to rinse the syrup out of their hair or dissolve into hysterical tears in the manager's office. We were extras in an old submarine movie, running around in a panic throwing levers and shouting into radios while red lights flashed and water sprang through the leaks after each enemy fusillade. Some bore the strain better than others. A waiter who was an ex-marine developed a bad habit of settling problems with his customers out in the parking lot; I hated and admired him.

Once I found my footing at Denny's, I became a rogue entity, shortcutting my way to supremacy and undercutting each new bureaucratic contrivance that stood in my way. I gained access to the label makers they used to make our nametags, and before long the floor was humming with servers named Hoss and Lolita and Ichabod. I managed to escape every single mandatory staff meeting, leave a half hour early every shift, and read the newspaper in plain view of the office's two-way mirror. What could they do to me? Sonny, the waiter who relieved me from duty at six AM, was on work release from prison, dropped off and picked up by the grim penitentiary bus. Clearly the management had more to worry about than my saddle shoes..."

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