LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

The Blackout Diner by Technicolorlover

First Shift

Brad Delson has never known desperation before. Born as an only child in an upper middle class white Jewish family, he never went hungry, never had to worry about money, never had a worry in the world. His parents have a picture perfect marriage and he knows that he's loved. While his dating life isn't going as well as it could be (I.e. going steady with his right hand for over 2 years now) his life has been happy and carefree.


That is until now.


He's fresh out of law school (complete with a shiny new law degree) swimming in student loans and has had no luck getting a job. He's had shit luck with every law firm in town, it's like these motherfuckers can smell his desperation. The bills are piling up, rent is late, and his car has already been repossessed.


Desperation tastes like a week of rice and beans and he's getting pretty fucking sick of it.


So he hangs up his pride and starts setting his sights on something a little more lowbrow. Which is how he ends up at The Blackout Diner. It's an old greasy spoon type restaurant, sort of a local landmark. Opened for sixty-three years with no sign of stopping, it's the type of twenty-four hour restaurant that you go to when you're either: A) Drunk of your ass B) Hungover as fuck or C) Questioning your life choices.


But it's a ten minute walk from his apartment and there's a “Help Wanted” sign on the door so he’ll take his chances.


He asks to talk to someone at the job and the waitress (whose name tag says Sam) yells out “RICK! SOME POOR BASTARD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE JOB!”


It's his first clue that he's made a mistake.


Rick Rubin turns out be an older man with a gray beard that rivals his own ‘fro. Honestly, it looks like the thing is trying to eat his face. They go to his office, which is cramped and looks like it's a repurposed broom closet, and the interview begins.


“Name?”


“Brad Delson.” (True.)


“Age?”


“Twenty-five.” (True as well.)


“Any prior experience with serving?”


“None.” (True, he has no prior experience with any job, not even babysitting.)


“You have a flexible schedule and okay with working holidays?”


“Yes.” (True, in the sense that his schedule is wide the fuck open, and as much as he loves his parents, if he had to spend one more holiday season with them, he’d eat the family menorah.)


“D’ya like people?”


“Yes.” (False, he hates them.)


“You ok with working overnight shift?”


“Yes, I'm a bit of a night owl.” (False, he's more of a morning person.)


“How soon can you start?”


“Soon as you want me to.” (True, he needs two grand by the end of the month or he's out on the streets.)


“You have any problems either cutting your hair or tying it back?”


“Absolutely not.” (Partially true, he's fine figuring out how to pull back the bush that's on his head, or even putting a bandana/hair band over it, but he WON’T cut it off.)


Rick sighs and leans back in his chair, hands folded on his chest. “Well I probably should wait for someone more qualified, but we need another guy on the overnight shift tonight, the other guy got busted in a crackhouse this morning. Can you start tonight at ten?” (There's clue number two.)


And just like that he finds himself outside The Blackout Diner at nine fifty-five that night with his hair pulled back in a weird ponytail that resembles a giant pompom. A young man with a million watt smile greets him and introduces himself as Mike. He’s the overnight manager and his new supervisor. He hands him an apron, a pad, and a half dozen pens before showing him around.


Rob is the dishwasher, a tall younger college kid who does his homework in between dish loads. Joe and Dave work the line in the small kitchen in the back. Joe is a slightly heavy Korean man around his age who looks like he's trying to be a samurai with his facial hair and haircut. Dave is also around his age and has a bright red goatee. His hair would probably match, but he’s either shaved it all off, or is completely bald before he’s hit twenty-five.


Fifteen minutes after ten, the entrance door is kicked open by a skinny punk covered head to toes in tattoos, his hair is bleached blonde and spiked. Before Mike can even say anything, the newcomer puts on his apron and says, “I know I'm late Shinoda, you try getting anywhere on time while bustin’ your ass working three jobs.”


Mike introduces the man as Chester and instructs Brad to shadow Chester for the night and learn the ropes before going solo the following night. As soon as Mike walks off, Chester looks him dead in the eye and says as he shakes Brad's hand,


“Welcome to hell.”


And there's clue number three.


Brad follows Chester around the rest of the night, learning the job. Despite being the dead of night, the diner can get surprisingly busy. He's had to escort three and a half drunks out to their Uber’s, stop one potential fist fight, and he’s pretty sure he caught a hooker giving a handjob to her client while he was dropping off their order (steak ‘n eggs, med-well over easy for him and a simple salad, dry, eevo and balsamic on the side for her).


Chester is a sarcastic asshole who, as much as Brad hates to admit it, makes this all seem easy. The sonovabitch can carry a full tray of food plus an additional four plates in the other hand while dodging customers with the grace of a goddamn swan. It makes him irrationally angry at how good Chester is at this. The man doesn't even need to write down the orders, no matter how complex the orders are. (“One cheeseburger, eos, medium, cut in four, half cheese fries, half reggae fries. One caesar salad, garlic allergy, no romaine, sub kale, add tomatoes and red onion. One spaghetti and meatballs, sub macaroni pasta, dairy allergy, add shrimp, lemon on the side. Two loaded baked potatoes all day, one reggae, the other dairy allergy, extra bacon, extra crispy skin.)


He actually hears Joe and Dave shout, “What the fuck is this bullshit how the fuck do we give’em a caesar salad with no garlic that's like a key ingredient and this motherfucker can't cut his own burger?” when that particular order reaches them.


Granted, Chester's got the charm of a rock, but the customers seem to enjoy it. Chester chalks it up to “If they wanted to be treated nicely then they'd go to the steakhouse down the street and pay fifteen bucks for a baked potato.”


(“Can I get that mac ‘n cheese gluten-free?” “Lady, that shit is full of gluten, try again.” “Oh, well what about the disco fries?” “There ya go.”)


Chester teaches him some of the lingo. It's like learning another language. Reggae is short for regular, say ‘behind’ when going behind someone, ‘corner’ when rounding a corner, sos for ‘sauce on side’, eos for ‘everything on side’, if you need it now you say ‘on the fly’, if something is out then it’s ‘86ed’, say ‘all day’ to say the total amount of something, if Joe and Dave are behind on tickets then they're ‘in the weeds’. And so on an so forth.


He's given a menu and a glossary of lingo, food terminology, allergies, food safety, and health codes to go over on his break after the midnight rush.


He never thought he'd be studying after college but life is just full of fucking surprises today.


He notices how everyone either gives Rob food throughout the night, or treats him really nicely. When he mentions this observation to Joe, he explains,


“When your mom told you that dishwashers weren't important and that you should study hard because no one respects a dishwasher, she was fuckin’ lying to you. If any of us decide not to show up, we can make do. But if his ass calls out? Then we get fucked. So treat your dishwasher right Braddles.”


(Apparently ‘Braddles’ might be his new nickname.)


Brad’s eye catches Joe and Dave in the middle of the rush and is taken aback at how graceful the two are in such a cramped kitchen. He finds himself staring at how they shout back and forth about who's taking care of what, helping each other out if they start getting swamped by tickets, and move around one another like they're ballet dancers all while dodging sharp knives and burning metal.


(Not that he'd ever tell them that, they'd probably give him a swirly in the deep fryer.)


Mike spends the first half of his night expediting (or ‘expoing’) the tickets, making sure the right food goes to the right table. In between expoing he manages to find time to interact with the customers, he remembers the names and important details of all the regulars and tells Brad to commit them to memory. (“When you remember their name and even small things about them, they're more likely to leave a better tip.”) When the rush is over, Mike spends the rest of the night in the closet/office, going over paperwork. Chester doesn't buy that though.


“He's probably lookin’ at porn.” Chester tells him as they drop the plates in front of the nice family with tired looks on their faces. The middle aged mother covers her young son’s ears, scandalized by such talk. The father doesn't mind, he’s clearly too tired and hungry to give any fucks at this point. Chester rolls his eyes and places the grilled cheese in front of the boy. “Lady, it's two in the morning, you've lost all rights to complain about us corrupting your kid.”


“Is he always like this?” He asks Rob later as they split a slice of key lime pie that Dave brought Rob earlier.


“Who, Chester? Yeah. Today’s a good day though. Last week someone tried to order dairy-free mashed potatoes and I thought he was gonna bite the man.”


“Last month someone said they had a black pepper, garlic and onion allergy and then she ordered the spaghetti and meatballs,” Dave tells him later, “Chester almost threw an onion at her.”


(Brad’s brain almost shorted out trying to comprehend that allergy.)


“How long have you been working here?” He asks Joe. The man gives it some thought before answering, “‘Bout a year an’ a half now. Dave started shortly after me and Rob came only about three-four months ago. Mike’s been here almost two years now. And Chester’s been here almost three years.”


This explains so much about Chester. The only question is how he hasn't killed someone or set the place on fire.


“Even if this hellhole caught fire, Rick would still have us here the next day workin’ like it was just another day. All it would mean is I'd go a day without pay and my broke ass can't afford that. And for all you know, I HAVE killed someone.” Is Chester’s response to that particular question.


After what Brad's been going through tonight, he wouldn't be shocked if Chester’s backyard is full of bodies of people with fake allergies and picky orders.


By three thirty the place is empty and they're bored out of their skulls. So naturally they grab the hand towels and start rat-tailing the shit out of each other. Rob, as it turns out, is a sneaky motherfucker who managed to wet the tip of his towel while no one was looking, resulting in bright red welts wherever his lashes make contact. He also seems to have some weird ESP shit going on that helps him land his hits on his foe’s nipples.


For a superpower it's pretty unsuspecting, but after the third nipple whip, Brad knows that he must NEVER get on on Rob’s bad side. So to enforce their newfound alliance, Brad offers to help Rob with his homework in between the dishes and serving tables.


Sometime after four Joe shows him how to tell what temperature a burger is just by poking it out of boredom. As a reward for getting it right, Joe slides him a small stack of pancakes that a customer didn't want at the last minute. Brad’s not sure what Joe did, but they're the best damn pancakes he's ever had.


(Sorry mom, but you’re reign has ended.)


When five rolls around, so do the construction workers, bus drivers, cabbies, and teachers. They stare into the abyss and hold onto their coffees like it's their only source of life and Chester tells Brad to keep their mugs full.


“I took too long with a kindergarten teacher’s refill one time and she came at me with a pair of safety scissors.” He explains. So Brad takes the advice and keeps the coffee flowing like a fountain.


Hey he’s managed to go twenty-five years without a scar, cavity, broken bone, or even a surgery, he wants his record to stand.


He even manages to wait on his first solo table without spilling everything on himself or the customers. It's a large table full of burly construction workers who could probably bend him in half backwards if he so much as mixes up their orders. But by now they've had enough coffee that if they were dropped in the ocean they'd be able to swim to Mexico so he’s feeling good. All their food goes to the right person, their coffee brightens their eyes, and he’s proud at how he's finally mastered holding the serving tray.


(“Don't lay it flat on your palm you won't be able to adjust it if you run into someone, ya gotta rest it on the pads of your fingers, it distributes the weight better and you won't hurt your wrist so you'll be able to enjoy some alone time when you get home.”)


They leave a good tip and he feels a sense of pride well up in his chest. He places the tip in his shirt pocket and gently pats it.


(Chester teases him about it later, but Mike tells him to shove it and give Brad a break.)


His shift is over at six, when the parade of tired servers, dishwashers, and cooks shuffle through. Their eyes are devoid of all happiness and they look like their souls died as soon as they started working here. It's a scene that looks like it's straight out of The Walking Dead. Chester and Sam share an icy look as they pass each other. Mike whispers to him that Sam is Chester’s ex and they parted on less than ideal terms.


He leaves for the long walk home exhausted, his feet hurt, his ‘fro is loose after breaking the hair tie during the rat-tailing, and he feels like punching a fucking cow out of frustration.


But he’s going home with around two hundred fifty dollars in cash tips, so he guesses he might as well stick around.


(It's actually half of Chester’s tips, since he’s the one training him.)


When he gets home he kicks his shoes off and heads for his bed. He’s been thinking about it since twelve. He pulls all the cash and change he’s received in tips tonight and throws it on his bed. The tip he received from the construction workers goes into his box of keepsakes and mementos. Falling back onto his mattress, he breaks out in smiles and giggles as he attempts to create a snow angel out of cash.


He falls asleep in his boxers on a bed of dollar bills, a smile gracing his face.


------


What's this? Something not filled with smut? Trying something out. I may make this into a full-fledged series, let me know if you think I should in a review! And rate it while you're at it too please!

Go to chapter:

Reviews Add review