Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights

How It All Got Started 016: Alex
Free serial fiction from author and creator Matthew Wayne Selznick.


[post_list_box series=92]

Tuesday, June 19, 1984

Alex Kent sat in a small booth inside Hagar’s, a burgers and tacos fast food joint at Belltower Plaza in El Toro. The plastic bench felt cold through the fabric of his best jeans.

He wished he was still at Grant’s, hanging out with Heather. It was crazy to think they’d said good night… good morning, that is… just seven hours ago.

Alex was really tired.

Across the table, the day manager spread across the opposite bench, small eyeglasses perched low on his nose as he perused Alex’s job application.

What was taking the guy so long? Alex knew there wasn’t much to look at, since he’d never had a job before.

“Hm. So…” The manager pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and tapped the application. “Just out of school, eh? First job?”

“Well, I hope so.” Alex smiled through the lie.

The manager put the application down and covered it with plump, white fingers. “Why do you want to work for Hagar’s, Alex?”

Dear sweet God in Heaven, the last thing Alex wanted was to work at Hagar’s. He was tempted to tell the truth and shut the whole thing down… but he needed a job. Any job.

“Well… I have friends who worked at fast food jobs.”

And they hated it, and got the hell out as soon as they could.

“I think it would be a good experience.”

The manager—Alex had already forgot his name and didn’t want to seem rude by glancing at the name tag pinned to the guy’s left breast—nodded slowly.

“What do you think your duties would be on an average day?”

The question seemed so obvious, Alex was momentarily confused. He covered with a thoughtful expression and imagined a day in the life of a wage slave.

He pictured himself in the maroon polyester shirt, the cap, the brown slacks, sweating behind the counter…

He felt like a cornered animal.

“Well, I guess… taking orders, making the food, cleaning up, helping customers… re… re-stocking..?”

“That’s about right,” the manager agreed. “It’s hard work, but it’s a good feeling to get people what they want. That’s the best part of the job.”

“I bet it is,” Alex said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.

This made the manager smile. “Oh, it is. And there’s a lot of room for advancement, if you decide you’d like to stay with the Hagar’s team for the long haul. It only took me six weeks to make manager, for example… but you have to put in the work!”

“Really?” Alex looked impressed. “That’s… just another reason to hope I get the job, then!”

The manager laughed. “Well, Alex, your prayers are answered. I’d like you to start next Friday, if that’s okay with you.”

Alex flinched. “Really?” Spend his birthday… here?

The manager seemed to interpret his dismay as surprise. “I know you probably weren’t expecting such a fast decision, but that’s how I like to run this ship, you know? I go with my gut.”

“Yeah…” Alex nodded.

It didn’t have to be forever.

It didn’t have to be forever.

“Okay, thanks!”

“So you accept?”

“Yes, sir. Thanks.”

The manager held out his hand for Alex to shake. The flesh was warm and moist.

They stood up.

“You get two shirts,” the manager said. “You have to provide your own slacks. Any dark brown shade is fine. Oh, and shoes, which should be black dress shoes.”

Alex was going to go into debt before he even started the job. Totally awesome. Maybe he could get his mother to spring for the shoes and pants.

The manager squeezed behind the counter. “I’ll get your shirts.” He went into the back, leaving Alex alone with the kid manning the cash register.

Alex nodded to him. “I’m Alex. I guess I’ll be working here next Friday.”

“Bill,” the counter jock said. “Good luck, man. I’ll be outta here way before then.”

“Oh. Well, good luck to you, then, too…”

Bill laughed and moved off to take an order from the take-out window.

The manager came back with two shirts shrink-wrapped in plastic. “Here you go, Alex. These are Hagar’s property, so if you lose them or get them messed up, you’ll have to buy the next ones out of your paycheck, okay?”

“Sure.” Alex took the shirts. “Thanks.”

“Welcome to the Hagar’s family,” the manager grinned. “See you next Friday!”




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