Monday, January 11, 2010

Harter Union: Part One, Chapter 2

Finding a job was a lot harder. The Kwik Shop, the bank and city jobs weren’t hiring and I was way overqualified for any type of the local merchant stores but I did find one job that I was hired for: supervisor of Baker University’s food service. I was to start on a Thursday and come in at three for the night shift. I stood outside the double delivery door of Harter Union and exhaled sharply. I entered through the doors and was hit with the aroma of cooking pasta. I followed the smell past bread racks, soda syrup, freezers, an old elevator and staircase to a small office with two desks in it. I read the window in the door: JEFFERSON FRANKLIN. I groaned and opened the door, sat my backpack on the desk that didn’t have a bunch of cookbooks on it, opened the bag and pulled out a picture of Superman saving Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen from a hail of bullets and an armadillo statue. I looked around for a place to hang the Superman picture and chose to take down a black-and-white photo of the Campanile on the University of Kansas campus and hang Superman from the screw protruding from the chipped yellow-painted wall.

“Superman, huh?” asked a voice from behind me. I turned around and saw a girl standing in the doorway wearing a dark blue apron. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her brown eyes were the darkest and most mysterious eyes I have ever seen.

“He’s kind of an influence, I guess. The guy can do pretty much anything he sets his mind to but he can’t do everything, you know?” I chuckled nervously and extended my hand to her. “I’m Jefferson Franklin and I’m the new supervisor.”

“Well, pleased to meet you Jefferson. I’m Wendy Halstead,” Wendy took my hand and shook it.

“Please, just call me Jeff. I hate the name Jefferson.”

“Can do, Jeff. Well, I’m in the kitchen if you need anything but I need to get back to my spaghetti. Darrell is in his office out front. I’ll give you a tour of the place when all the food is cooked. See you later,” Wendy gave me a smile and brushed some loose hair behind her ear and went back into the kitchen.

“Maybe this won’t be so bad…” I smiled. I looked around at my new office with the two file cabinets, two chairs and two desks. I put my armadillo on the cabinet between the two desks and left the office.

I walked into the kitchen passing a coat closet, three wall coolers, a huge ice machine, and turned left into a narrow hallway with the time clock mounted on the wall. I walked through the doorway into an area where they serve the college students called the Line. I walked past them and into the dining area.

The cafeteria left much to be desired. All the lights were on but it was extremely dark. The red tile I was standing on was all dusty and scuffed, and the carpet, which at one time was probably a nice color, was now a puke-colored grey-blue-green. It was also stuffy in here but the windows were all painted shut so you couldn’t open them. The soft-serve ice cream machine also made a squeaky grinding noise when it ran that echoed through the room. The pale pink tablecloths were ratty and lay crookedly on the tables. I took a yellow cup from the cup rack, scooped some ice in it and filled it with some Pibb Xtra. I took a sip and sighed heavily.

“Hey, Jeff,” Darrell Sigvaldson said, coming in through the double doors and clapping me on the shoulder, startling me.

“Hey, Darrell,” I said, calmly, taking another sip of my Pibb.

“Ready for tonight?” he asked.

“Oh, about as ready as I’ll ever be, thanks,” I chuckled, again, nervously.

“Have any questions? I’m gonna quickly go over next week’s menu with Wendy and then I’m heading out but Wendy’ll be here the rest of the night if you need anything.”

“All right, Yeah, Wendy is going to give me a tour of the place a little later.”

“Good, good. Well, I’ll see you later, Jeff,” Darrell walked briskly into the kitchen.

“Nice talking to you, too,” I said, under my breath. I walked over to a table and sat down. I sighed heavily and lowered my head to rest on the table. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the cafeteria.

Randy, Joey and I entered the intersection on foot and looked at our surroundings. Randy stared into the wooden area across the street while I looked at the white church on the corner and then over to the cemetery a little ways down the road.

“Why did we have to park a mile away? There’s no one even around that’s awake,” Joey stated. Joey was almost as tall as me with blond hair and a boyish face. He also had a cough that annoyed both me and Randy that was from burning his throat smoking marijuana. Joey couldn’t say three words without coughing and we always made fun of him about it behind his back.

“On the off chance that a sheriff drives by and runs the plate I don’t want to be parked anywhere near Stull,” Randy explained.

“And on the off chance that you’re an idiot, next time we’re parking closer,” I said and started walking down the highway, past the church. Now come on, we’re here to see a haunted cemetery and church and standing in the middle of the road doesn’t get us there very quickly.”

The others began following me as we walked down the highway to the Stull Cemetery entrance. Stull Cemetery was unusually large for a rural cemetery and for years was plagued with horror stories of the old skeleton of the church as it overlooked the cemetery and small hamlet. Randy had gotten me interested in ghost hunting and we had been to several places in a four-county radius visiting so-called haunted places. My favorite, until Stull, had been an old house in southern Shawnee County which was said to have had devil worshippers living in it. I looked up the slanted hill toward the church, illuminated by a single light a few feet away. Randy began climbing over the chain-link fence but I got down on my stomach and crawled over the gate. Joey followed me. We followed the gravel drive up the hill and around a splintered tree trunk. As we neared the church, a smell began cutting through the air. It was a very distinct mix of trees, a creek, and musty limestone. Also mixed in was Joey’s car’s strawberry air freshener. It was a smell I would never forget.

We stood in front of the doorway of the church and looked around at our surroundings. We looked down at the tiny town of Stull and the cemetery. Randy put his overstuffed backpack on the ground, opened it and pulled out a couple of file folders.

“According to some Internet websites, the Gateway to Hell is somewhere on the north side of the church. Want to go look?” asked Randy.

“Let’s go through the church and see if anything’s in there,” I said, climbing over the barbed wire and entering the church. Rubble from the ceiling and walls had fallen to the dirt floor. Rafters lay criss-crossed on the ground with strewn-about rocks, along with beer bottles and crushed cans and cigarette butts and other evidence that teenagers were here. Trees were now growing inside the church and Satanic and obscene graffiti lined what was left of the walls. Joey and Randy entered behind me.

“Whoa! Something doesn’t feel right,” Randy whispered as he shined the flashlight around him.

“You’re just being paranoid, Randy. Everything is fine,” I slowly walked through the church and looked up through the now non-existent roof at the stars in the sky. This was so beautiful that I never wanted it to end. I came to the other end of the church and stepped through a huge gaping hole where a window used to be. We all met around the backside of the church. “So the gateway is somewhere around here?” I asked Randy.

“Yep, north side of the church.”

I looked around at the ground and went over to a clearing that was well lit by the street light. There was a small mound that was softer than the rest of the property and felt moister. “Let’s try here,” I said.

“All right…” Randy and Joey walked over to me and the mound.

“Got a shovel?” I asked Randy but glanced at Joey a couple of times.

“No, of course not.”

“Then what else is in the bag besides files?”

“Other stuff that could help us. You know extra batteries, a lantern, wood-cutting knife, BB gun and some flares.”

“Flares? You didn’t think we would have to dig but you did think we’d have to flag down a plane? Why don’t you think these things through before you do them? God, you’re an idiot!” I stormed off down the hill through the cemetery. Joey and Randy slowly followed far behind me. We came to the fence and proceeded to hop over it. Suddenly, headlights appeared over the hill. “Crap, a car,” I said as I began walking across the highway with Joey right beside me.

The lights now seemed to be extremely close so Joey and I started to walk more briskly. I turned around to see Randy get his foot caught in his trench coat and fall into the road. “Randy fell down in the highway! Run Joey!” I never looked back and Joey and I kept running until we reached the car. We waited for ten minutes for Randy but he never showed up. We started the car and went back to Stull where Randy was still laying in the road.

It was a nice service except for the fact that everybody in Randy’s family blamed me for this. The retard shouldn’t have worn a trench coat but I should’ve went back to help him. Randy’s parents wouldn’t even let me get close to the graveside services and after the funeral, me and Joey stopped hanging out and we lost touch. About a month later, I visited Randy’s grave and apologized for leaving him in the highway. I’ve never really forgiven myself and every week or so a nightmare about it wakes me up and since then, nothing has been the same.

“Hey!” Wendy shouted in my ear. I jerked my head up and looked at her. “Are you ready for your tour, Jeff?"

“I guess,” I said groggily. “Might as well know a little bit about what I’ll be supervising.” I pulled myself off the chair and followed Wendy to the Lines. She turned and faced me.

“These are the Lines. Line 1 over here…” she touched the Line on her right side, “…and Line 2,” her left. We walked past the time clock and into the kitchen where she showed me the wall-warmers, fryers, and the grill. We walked past the grill and a meat slicer and she showed me the ovens and the big pots used to cook pasta and rice.

Then we went into the heart and soul of the kitchen. It wasn’t what I had pictured but reminded me somewhat of the narration from the book Metropolis. The Dish Room was awe-inspiring and raised many emotions. New Tower of Babel it wasn’t but I still felt drawn to the shiny metallic equipment in this room.

“This is the Dish Room,” Wendy said, her voice echoing through the room. Wendy turned toward me, pointed to her left and went counter-clockwise around the Dish Room to the various areas. “You got Pots & Pans, Belt, Sprayer and Dish 3. You also have Take-Out but that’s not an official job.”

“Wait…Dish 3? Where’s Dish 1 and 2?” I asked.

“Well, long ago, the Belt/Sprayer area was Dish 1 and Pots & Pans was Dish 2. Over time, the Belt/Sprayer area became too difficult for one person to handle so it became two separate jobs. Pots & Pans is kind of self-explanatory; you scrub pots and pans…”

“Quite a history here,” I exclaimed, not quite knowing what I meant.

“And a word of advice: we’ve settled into our own routine around here so if you want to last here, don’t try to change it,” Wendy warned.

“I don’t plan to. You all have been here a lot longer than me; I’m just here to make sure no one kills somebody.”

“All right, well, I have to move the cake over into the dessert rack so just have a look around and the rest of the staff should be here shortly.”

“Okay, thanks for the tour,” I said, smiling at Wendy who smiled back and left the Dish Room. I ran my finger along the side of Dish 3 and then slammed my fist into the counter. It hurt and the sound resonated through the Dish Room for a long time.

Behind Pots & Pans was a door with a window in it. I opened the door and went inside. It was room, barely larger than a confessional, filled with soap, bleach and some Jet Dry for the dish machine but on the other side of the room was another door which led into another dining room with a piano in the corner, the Private Dining Room, or PDR. It was a lot colder in here but it was kept a lot cleaner. I slowly walked through the room and out of the door that led back into the main dining room. A blond-haired girl, who looked a tad overweight but still looked sexy, was over at the big blue counter in the middle of the room. I walked over to her and stood on the other side of the counter.

“And what are you doing?” I asked.

“Setting up the salad bar,” she answered.

“Ah, well, I’m Jeff Franklin and I’m the new…”

“Supervisor, I know, I saw your name on the door,” the girl finished putting the tubs of salad fixings in the bar and began scooping ice into it. “I’m Alyson Cambridge.”

“Nice to meet you, Alyson,” I said, uneasily, noticing Alyson’s sparkling blue eyes. “If you have any questions, I’ll be in my office.”

“I doubt that’ll happen but thanks.”

I turned away from Alyson and headed back to my office where there were three people in there, two in the chairs and one standing. “Um, hello. I’m Jeff and…”

“I’m Nathan Yates…” Nathan was almost as tall as me, very skinny with dark wide eyes and black hair, “this is Aaron McPherson and my brother, Jason.” Aaron was my height with really short light brown hair and glasses. Jason looked like Nathan but was a couple inches shorter, more built and had his black hair dyed orange.

“So you’re the new supervisor? Different from what I was expecting,” Jason said, standing next to me and obviously sizing me up.

“Did you guys want something?” I asked trying to sound important.

“No,” began Aaron, “just wanted to say ‘hello.’”

“Well, hello,” I said, trying to be rude so maybe the three of them would leave.

A girl came into the office and handed me a piece of paper. The girl was short with shoulder-length dark brown hair. Her face was covered in lovely freckles and she had just about the sexiest body I had ever seen. “What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s my time-off request,” the girl answered as she turned around, kissed Jason on the lips and left the office. I looked at the piece of paper and saw that her name was Chrissy Dighton. I looked at Jason who was getting up to follow Chrissy and raised my eyebrow at him.

“Are you and her dating or something?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Jason said casually and proceeded to run after Chrissy.

“I knew that there wasn’t a God…” I said.

“Well, we’re gonna get something to eat before works begins. We’ll leave you to your work,” Aaron said, standing up. He and Nathan left the office and went out into the cafeteria, got a couple plates of food and went to sit down. Also at the table were Jason and Chrissy, Alyson, Wendy and Maggie Andale.

Maggie was a short girl with light brown curly hair and glasses but she was still very attractive and had a nice well-developed body. “I had anal sex for the first time last night,” Maggie stated. “I was so nervous at first and was scared it was going to hurt like hell, which it did, but in a good way.” A smile came across Maggie’s face as she sighed lovingly. “I’m going to be doing it a lot more now. He started out slowly and when we were both started getting into it, he started slamming into me and I was screaming the entire time and I could feel his balls against the underside of my pussy and, I never thought it was possible but when he shot his load, I swear I had an anal orgasm.”

It was at that time I came within listening distance to Maggie’s story and heard the ‘anal orgasm’ part. “Ah, Go—Jeez. God, I hope that isn’t my first memory of this place…”

“Hey, you’re the new supervisor, right?” asked Maggie. “I had anal sex for the first time last night!” Maggie was extremely giddy about that but I tried to show no emotion toward it.

“Well, good for you. Glad you’re still able to sit down.”

“Barely,” Maggie giggled.

“Anyway,” I tried to change the subject. “I am the new supervisor, Jeff Franklin. I hope you will enjoy working with me as I’m sure I will enjoy…” I looked at Maggie who was looking at me and trying to hide her laughter, “…ugh, working with you. Any questions?”

“I have one,” started Alyson, “what’s an anal orgasm?”

Jeff is introduced to the day shift and it doesn't run as smoothly as the evening shift.