A teenaged girl, takes a seat across the restaurant manager’s office desk, the blue-white phone screen cradled in her lap illuminating the careless smirk on her face.
The obese lady on the other side of the desk wore a blue and white striped neck scarf under the collar of her periwinkle blouse that barely contained the mortars of her breasts. She watched the girl for a few seconds and then said, “Thank you for coming. This is your quarterly review. Do you have anything you’d like to say before we begin?”
The girl’s smile widens and she shakes her head. “No,” she says, then crosses her legs at her knee and places the phone, screen down, on her left thigh.
This is how the story begins in my head. I saw it all in a single flash. It took a while to type it out because I would write a few words, review the image in my head, then rewrite those words until I got them reasonably correct. I’m not sure it’s completely right, but closer than what it was before I started.
The idea in mind is this – the restaurant manager is a fat girl who’s been a fat girl her whole life. She grew up inside of books. She read books, she wrote fan fiction – she was part of a small Star Wars fan fiction site and gained some slight notoriety – and she played role playing games. She loved RPGs. She created her own campaign world that she still maintains, if only in her head.
She has worked in the restaurant her whole adult life. From a part time worker during high school and college, with summers spent working full time. When she got her degree in hospitality management, she got a job as a full time manager of the restaurant. “Codfather’s” grew to be a respectable small town seafood restaurant chain in the Kawarthas under her guidance. The owners came to respect her judgement and her plans and granted her free reign. They offered her everything in hopes she wouldn’t leave them but all she ever wanted them to promise is that they would leave her alone to do what she wanted. If they gave her that, she assured them she would never need to leave. She had her small house in Ladyburn Pond, she had her job, she had her books and her RPGs. She was happy. And that was more than anyone could ask for.
When her online comment system – the one that patrons used when logging on to the free wifi (no strings attached – she insisted on that and it was the only time she threatened to quit) – went online, she took the comments seriously. She would categorize the comments and graph the results to give her the next project, the next goal, for the restaurant. But as she reviewed the results, there was one commenter who’s voice stood out. He would seem to log on at the same time every week, and he would talk about how he enjoyed eating there and admired the manager who brought all of this to life. He spoke about he could see her in everything the employees did and admired her a great deal. The comments got more and more personal and she reviewed them more and more often, to the point of reading them daily. Finally, the poster got brave enough to say that he would come into the restaurant on a Saturday night, carrying a single yellow rose and that is how she would know it was him. And that all he asked was that she talked to him.
She worked a rare Saturday night at the host station, greeting everyone until closing. She got more and more anxious towards the end of the night, not once taking a break for something to eat (she usually had a full three course meal towards the end of the night, followed by a snack break). But when the doors were finally locked, she seemed dejected for a moment before powering through to the fastest close the staff ever experienced.
The story starts with the employee quarterly reviews (another idea of hers). The smug girl who takes the seat in front of her – the one that uses the free wifi more than she actually works – is the person who faked the comments that got her to work that Saturday night. She worked alongside the manager for the whole shift, seeming so eager to please when all she was doing, really, was mocking her boss.
Our manager goes through her life and what she has done – her life should be graphed as a story, so it fits the formula – and the employee listens but gets frustrated quickly, because none of it has to do with her review. But as the story progresses, she starts to see that the manager has figured out what she did but that only makes her more smug, because the worst she can do is fire her. And who wanted a scummy job in a rundown, small town restaurant anyway? She would finish high school and move to the city and go to university and get an real education. Something about her manner will indicate her indifference.
But, at the end of the manager’s story, when the review should really be conducted, when it’s obvious what an odious, malevolent creature this little girl is, the review is dead average. Nothing wrong but lots to improve.
I think the story will be called ‘Meets Expectations’.