Davy stood next to the deep fryer, in the food preparation area of the fast food chain, staring blankly at the daddy of all deep fryers. He adjusted his paper hat, glanced to his left at Mark The Manager Guy, and waited for his signal. He waited, and waited, and then, with a slight nod of his head, Mark The Manager Guy gave the signal.
This was what Davy had trained for since the previous Tuesday. This was the moment of truth, when Davy would know if he had what it took, that special something, to be worthy of making freedom fries. He looked at the pile of long white, perfect julienne potato strips lying on the table next to the deep fryer and remembered his training.
Six AM this past Tuesday Morning…
“Man I’m beat,” Davy said, fighting back a yawn.
“Tell me about it, bro,” Lexi said.
The two teenagers had been out partying the night before, and neither 17 year-old was in the mood to be up at the crack of dawn to learn how to operate a deep fryer. They were hung over from consuming too much liquor they swiped from their parent’s liquor cabinets the day before, and now were paying the price of their folly.
“Well, maggots!” Mark The Manager Guy shouted, startling the boys. “You’re both late. That’ll cost ya.”
“Huh?” Davy uttered the questioning sound.
“What’s your name, trainee?”
“I’m Davy. You remember, you hired me on Friday?”
Mark cracked a slight smile. “Oh yes, I remember. I don’t know what I could’ve been thinking, do you, trainee?”
“Uh, no.” Davy said.
“That’s no Sir!” Mark shouted. “You will address me as Sir. You got that trainee?”
Davy leaned back from Mark who was now nose to nose with him.
“Do I frighten you, trainee?” Mark asked.
“Dude, you’ve got garlic breath,” Davy answered.
“Dude? Dude?” Mark paced back and forth before the food preparation tables. “I am not dude!” He pointed to the sliver nametag proudly pinned to his chest. “No where on here does it say dude! I am Mark The Manager Guy, and I am your worst nightmare!”
“You’ve got that right,” Lexi said.
Mark turned and eyed the second trainee. “What’s your name, trainee?”
“I’m Lexi. You hired me the same day as Davy.”
“Lexi? Lexi? Hmm, I don’t recall hiring anyone with such an unusual, and obviously not born on American soil name,” Mark said. “Oh yes, now I remember you. Your name is Alexander.”
“Yeah, but my friends call me Lexi. And I was born here,” the defiant teenager replied.
“Do I look like your friend?” Mark asked, a snarl in his voice.
Lexi snorted out a brief laugh, but stifled it when he saw the look in Mark’s eyes. “Um, no.”
“Um, no what?”
“Um, no you don’t look like my friend?” Lexi said, in a questioning tone.
“Sir! You don’t look like my friend, Sir!” Mark shouted. “For Pete’s sake, what kind of discipline do you kids get in high school these days?”
“Um, Mark, Sir,” Davy said. “You graduated a year ahead of us.”
Mark glared at Davy. “Did I speak to you?”
Davy glanced down at his sneakers. “No.”
“No Sir,” Davy replied.
The day dragged on, with Mark lecturing and shouting, and barking out commands as Davy and Lexi both attempted to carry out the instructions they were receiving. Always wear plastic gloves. Always wash your hands before leaving the restroom. Always address Mark The Manager Guy as Sir.
The job was going to be more difficult than Davy thought he was capable of handling. Maybe his father was right? Maybe he should consider applying to a college and getting a degree before going out into the work world? He pushed those thoughts out of his mind as Mark’s garlic breath permeated the air around him, and made him wish for better ventilation in the food preparation area.
“Are you listening to me, trainee?!” Mark shouted.
Davy hadn’t been listening. His mind had wandered off to MTV and the hot Spanish chick that wore leather and shimmied in mud while singing wherever, whenever. He knew he was in trouble. “Uh, sorry Sir, I wasn’t listening.”
“Boy, don’t you get how important your job is going to be?” Mark asked.
“Boy, you are going to be in charge of the deep fryer on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4 PM until closing. That’s some pretty heady responsibility, and I don’t need a goof off on duty. Do you understand me, boy?”
By now Davy and Lexi were both used to Mark’s shouting, and both kind of imagined his head expanding like a balloon and popping, but neither wanted to go looking for another summer job. “I understand you, Sir!” Davy said.
“You boys are on the brink of something great,” Mark said, before heaving a great sigh. “The world is changing. You don’t know it yet, but word has come down from corporate HQ. Starting next week, you won’t be making plain old French fries any more.”
“We won’t?” Davy asked.
“No, you won’t,” Mark replied. “As of next Tuesday, you will be making the new symbol of patriotism for the American people. You will be making Freedom Fries.” Mark wiped a single tear from his eye. “You are the real first wave in American’s war against Saddam Hussein. You’re not just deep fryer operators, but soldiers in the war on terrorism.
“Don’t you boys get it? You are the link between the American public and those soldiers who will eventually be dropping bombs on Baghdad. You are the men in charge of making Freedom Fries! Every time a man, woman or child stands out front at the register, and our crack staff of order takers asks ‘do you want Freedom Fries with that?’ you’ll be responsible for helping another American feel as if they’ve personally delivered a blow against the axis of evil by making sure their Freedom Fries are crispy and fresh.”
One week later…
Davy moved on Mark’s signal, taking a hand full of uncooked julienne potatoes and tossing them gently into the 350-degree oil. He watched the julienne slices sizzle and dance in the hot oil, knowing he was taking an ordinary potato and turning it into an enduring American symbol of freedom. He wished Lexi hadn’t quit after the first day of training to go to work for the Dairy Queen down the block, but that had been his decision.
Sure they still hung out from time to time but now Davy felt a kind of self-importance, which was leading him into maturity. He didn’t need to hangout and party all night, because he knew he had to be ever vigilant in his duty to the American people. He wondered if it was too soon to approach Mark with his idea of using low cholesterol cooking oil?
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
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