I call them Meatheads. Three hundred pounds of flesh, football brains, and pants that ride too low. They grunt into dainty wooden chairs, organize excess meat, and realign caps. After huffing and high-fiving, they call me over. It is Monday night: football and "$4.95 all you can eat wing night."
They smell dank, like unwashed sheets and balled up sports socks. Testosterone seeps from unkept pores and oozes down wide flanks. Hormones, football statistics, scores and sports charts are printed on pudgy faces.
"What can I get you tonight?" I'm snappy, bitchy, a Russian ice queen.
"Wings and Beer."
"Anything else? "
"Just lots of wings."
When the wings come out they dive. I watch Cheeto-orange fingers and mouths pluck and stuff. They get high on spicy sauce, greasy snot, and chicken guts. A swill of beer and a grunt are the only intrusions to the massive gluttony. In minutes I am back to remove the wreckage; to clear the chicken graveyard, to stack up heaping bones, and wipe away the languid drool of sauce.
"I want more wings."
"So do I ."
"Yeah, better get some for me."
"And for you?" I am repulsed, edgy, disgusted.
"Naw, I'm fine." Meathead rubs a swollen stomach overhanging a belt, trousers and thighs.
I storm away, hashing out numbers of wings in a .69 cent notebook. On Monday nights the computer and I battle it out. The rational glow informs me that is not possible to order 100 wings for $0.00. All calculations, ratios, analytical reasoning, and mathematical theories conclude that 100 wings should not cost $0.00. I protest. "But it's Wing Night you fucking computer." No argument, the computer flashes its quaint two favorite retorts: "currently out of menu item" or "amount required to place order."
Since the willful computer has stood me up, I have to brave the kitchen. But, before I push through the doors, I can hear the volcano, the tornado, the rumbling sound of wings protesting their decent into the 30 gallon vat of hot frothy grease. I hate the kitchen, not only because it reeks of pungent acidic BBQ wing juice, but also because I have to face the colorful variety of ex-cons that are attempting to cook.
Wing night confuses Tattoo Boy. His criminal record is not as impressive as that of previous employees, who threw around phases like "armed robbery," ³aggravated assault," and "breaking and entering" as if they were saying just add a little salt, pepper, and butter. However, Tattoo Boy does have a winding, linking rope of tattoos that slithers up his arm and leaves tracks of red and black. Someday, he informs me, he'll cover his entire body.
"Won't that be cool?"
Anyway, Wing Night is difficult for Tattoo Boy. I can see him cranking numbers, dividing plates, sorting through the numbers of wings. He paces, mumbles profanities, and looks questioningly at the bucket of frying wings. "How many are down there, and how many are left, and how many do I need for this order, and how many are left in the freezer?" It is agonizing to watch him writhing, choking, ravaged by orders and spattered in grease.
Tonight, I decide to give my order to the Texan. I don't know where he came from. Maybe he was picked up as hitchhiking roadkill, or perhaps he just seeped out of a Willie Nelson song. Wherever he came from, the Western Stock Show, the rodeo, or off of a lost tractor, he is an unwelcome package. He is always telling me about his former place of employment. "It was real fancy, and the management was organized, unlike this place, and we had. . ."
I'm sure he's talking about an all night pig and pork stop off of a seedy Texas highway.
"Turn up that country." He tells Tattoo Boy, who, after a million days of employment still can't locate the dial.
"I need five reorders of wings." I maintain my frosty, dead bitch tone. I don't like his bloated red vinyl face.
"Where's the ticket?"
"The ticket for the orders."
"The computer won't let me enter re-orders." Now, propelled by his cheap officiousness, I have fully launched into bithchville.
"Well, I need the ticket to send out the food that's what Larry said."
"Just start the order. I'll talk to Larry."
"I'm just covering my ass."
I don't understand this new breed of self-righteous, inventory taking, accountant, secret agent type of cook. With former cooks you could walk out with the microwave, smoke crack in the walk-in, or write slanderous obscenities on the schedule only to receive an occasional inquisitive glance. But now that Lone Star man is here, justice has been reinstated.
Finally, after two commands from the boss, encouragement from Tattoo Boy, and a stack of handwritten tickets, I am able to coax a re-order from the Texan. All the while he has been consuming his own wings, which he has lined up in a neat row on the steam table. I don't tell him about the wing particle that is dozing in between his canines, or the orange stains that creep around his mouth. I'll let him sit back there, like a kiddie second-grader with a milk mustache or a Kool-aid smile. This is my revenge for "covering my ass" and the multitude of other fatuous remarks I've had to suffer through.
The Meatheads are waiting. The Meatheads are drooling, sliming, sniffing the air for more wings. They are ravenous, rabid with an insatiable hunger that nags and itches. I set the plates down and stand back; I'm afraid to get tangled in the bulk of a football huddle that hovers over 100 scrawny wings.
"Another order of wings."
I bring them paper napkins; one apiece, flimsy low-budget, generic 3" cocktail style. One Meathead flabby finger devours the napkin in a matter of seconds. It is then cast away, rumpled, useless, scarred with blood and battle stains. I hide and watch them consume 99 more dripping, sauce infested wings without any napkins. Then they sit red mouths gaping, chant, and cuss at a TV screen full of interceptions. When one Meatheads rises to take a piss, I notice his pants resemble finger painting portraits; a little heavy on the red.
I don't feel bad about poor service (i.e. inadvertently destroying a customerıs pants). If the Meatheads would have glanced up from the trough, or down from Lywnn Swann's engaging commentary, they might have noticed the impeccable rows of stacked napkins that line the bar. Maybe they noticed, and decided that a cleanliness was not worth the effort of sifting mass, missing a play, or losing a wing to competitors.
I continue to watch, a perverse voyeur, a peeping-tom sicko that lurks in the shadows of the bar and witnesses the spectacle. That is until I'm interrupted by the Boss.
"Come back to the kitchen. I need to talk to you."
In the kitchen he says: " Guys, we're having a crisis. We're totally out of wings."
I don't know why he calls it a crisis. I would simply call in an occurrence, since we have run out of wings every single Monday night.
"What do you think we should do ?"
We huddle up. It is a multifaceted team comprised of 1 Russian, 1 Texan, 1 Tattoo Boy and 1 Boss. We churn thoughts, sift through sticky coagulationıs of the brain, and sweat over the clock. Tattoo Boy is stumped, bewildered, lost somewhere in Tattoo land between his ex-girl's name, a red skull, and an undulating serpent.
"Uhh. . . I don't know, man."
"We better git more wings. That is just bad customer policy. I mean it's bad business not to have enough food." The Texan is clearly proud of this punctuated, jargon-laden, enunciated plagiarism from the employee handbook.
"Don't get anymore wings on my account. I'd be happy to cut my customers off." My statement is terse, blunt, bitchy as usual.
"Y'all just can't do that. It's cheap."
Cheap? The Meatheads have consumed 677,999,890,000 wings, labor and time all for $0. That is a bargain, a grandiose deal, and restaurant generosity at its highest level.
"I would be pissed if I got cut off. Probably wouldn't go back to the restaurant."
"I say forget getting more wings, Larry."
Larry inhales the information and slowly extracts some keys.
"I'll just get one more bag. That will last us the rest of the night."
The Texan is gloating, a blimp of pride that tosses a victorious smirk at me. I shoot him down with a violent death glance and scowl. Ok, you won, asshole. But I'm chalking it up to male patriotism, to discrimination against blondes, and to your sycophantic display of tossing around quotes from page 45 of Employees guide to the Restaurant Business.
Tattoo Boy has not registered the conversation.
"Hey, is Larry leaving?"
Yeah, Larry has gone to pimp and prostitute himself at every quick mart for a bag of wings.
Finally the Meatheads have licked their plates, unbuttoned their trousers, and exhausted our new supply of wings. I deliver the meager check for $8.98.
"Hey, we need this check split up."
I refrain from telling the Meatheads that if I knew how to add and subtract, I would not be working at this establishment.
I won't receive any help with this dreadful mathematical task from the computer. It is still a little cantankerous and bitter about our previous disagreement. The 1940s calculator is also unavailable for consultation, since Tattoo Boy gutted its insides.
"I need these batteries for my walkman," he said as he pawed out two copper tops.
So I have to brave the problem on my own.
While looking for the lowest common denominator, and contesting integers, prime numbers and long division, I feel the creeping sensation that I am back at the sterile GRE testing center. I'm stuck on the last problem of the math section.
If Meathead 1 orders a plate of wings at $4.95 and a beer at $2.25, and Meathead 2 orders 7 reorders of wings at $0 minus the price of the initial order and the $.50 cover charge, and Meathead 3 orders 2 times Meathead 1's order + 2x(6-y) +3, what is the ratio of wings per Meathead in x terms of y? Who has consumed the most wings, and what is the rate of consumption per Meathead?
"Larry, I need help with this check."
The Meatheads have left me an array of sticky pennies, 4 wet nickels, and a lonely quarter inside a vacant glass. They have also left their typical scrawl, grease printed, slobber stained note on the back of a discarded meal check. The Meatheads have brilliantly pieced together a perverted fictitious character, who visits me every Monday night and torments me with lewd propositions. This pornographic man takes on a new identity every week; last week it was John The Rope Douglas who told me that "I had eyes that made him ---- ." The week before I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Long Dong Silver; who suggested that we "go to his house and ---- and ---- until the sun came up." Tonight it is Joe E. Slong Jr. According to the note Joe would like to ----- with me and then take me out for a good time. If I'm up to it I can reach him at 651-7768.
Sorry Joe. I just can't pencil you in. I'm booked clear until December.