Maggie the waitress cowered in the shadows of a Red Lobster in Lincoln, Nebraska, and watched Truman Humboldt from a distance. She chewed on her fingernails and spit out the pieces onto the wild cranberry and lemon grass patterned carpeting. The small hostess with the long black hair noticed her. “What are you looking at so nervously and intently?”
“That man at table 15,” Maggie began in a hushed voice. “He’s so strange and awful. You should have heard the way he talked to me.”
The hostess stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck to look. “Oh, God. The guy with the red tuxedo? What a whack-a-doodle. Do you know I caught him sticking his head in the lobster tank?”
“Yes. Lucky me.”
“I don’t know if I can go back to his table,” Maggie said. “He’s crushing my positive Red Lobster vibe, and I’m just not okay with that.”
The two watched from the other side of the restaurant as Truman carried on a conversation with an invisible being from another dimension.
“Did you meet his imaginary friend?” the hostess asked with a laugh, gently elbowing Maggie in the side.
“Yes… And just what am I supposed to do about that?”
“Play along and take his order.”
Maggie the waitress clenched her fists and looked up at the ceiling. “Why me, Jesus? Why do I always get the weirdos.”
Satisfied with his selections, Truman closed the menu and sighed a happy little sigh. “Now, where is that Saggy Maggie with our drinks? I’m parched.”
“Just be patient, Truman,” the lobster ghost said as he continued to peruse the menu. “It’s not like you have to be anywhere.”
“Sorry. I’m a Fidgety Frannie today. Have you decided?”
“I’m torn between the Sailor’s Platter and the Seaside Shrimp Trio.”
“Hmm,” Truman pondered. “That’s a tough choice. Just go with your heart… And your stomach!” He laughed out loud like he had told an amazing joke.
It was just at that moment when Maggie the waitress appeared at the table balancing a tray with two drinks and a basket of cheddar biscuits. “All right guys. I’ve returned with your refreshing beverages… Let’s see, a yummy cranberry Boston iced tea with an orange wedge for you Mr. Fancy Pants, and a super-duper Lobster Turbo Colada with a fun lobster straw for your friend… And, to make your Red Lobster experience even brighter — fresh warm biscuits.” She put a shielding hand to her face and whispered with a smile, “I picked out the very best ones for you all… Don’t let the other guests know.”
Truman held the basket of biscuits to his face and inhaled deeply. “Oh my. They smell divine, Maggie.” He then took a sip of his cranberry Boston iced tea, savoring it with closed eyes. He let out a large audible “Ahhhhhhhhh… Mmm. That’s tasty.”
“So,” Maggie nervously began with a punchy smile, tucking the tray beneath her arm because she was one of those waitresses who could somehow remember everything people ordered without writing it down. “What will we be enjoying for lunch today?”
“I’ve decided to go for it, Saggy Maggie, just like Clark Griswold when he’s humping his wife at that hotel in National Lampoon’s Vacation,” Truman said with snickering odd delight. “I’m going to have the Ultimate Feast with mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad.”
“Ohhhhh,” Maggie said, very impressed and with her vibrant pink mouth shaped like the letter O. “That is the ultimate choice for seafood lovers!” She chuckled and then abruptly stopped when she knew that she was about to have to take the order of Truman’s imaginary friend. She looked at the empty side of the booth and forced a smile. “And for you?”
There was an uncomfortable slice of silence. Maggie the waitress cleared her throat and asked again in a slower, more volumized voice, “What would you like to eat for lunch today?”
“Gee whiz, Saggy Maggie,” Truman snorted. “He’s not deaf.”
“Well, then could you please ask him what he’d like… I don’t seem to be making the proper impression.”
Truman sighed in frustration. “Fine. But let it be known Saggy Maggie that you are sort of putting a damper on our Red Lobster experience… And that makes me a sad panda.” Truman looked across the table at the ghost lobster. “So. What’s it going to be, friend?”
There was another uncomfortable slice of silence as Truman turned his ear to listen. He then looked up at Maggie and smiled. “He’ll have the Sailor’s Platter with coleslaw and steamed broccoli.”
Maggie the waitress filed it away in her brain. “Excellent choice,” she said. “I’ll put this order in right away.”
The sound was that of pigs in a pen at the tapping of the evening dinner bell as Truman and the lobster ghost went at their meals like farm animals. There was intense slurping and guggling and grotesque guzzling. Truman’s face was sloppy as he used both hands to shovel the feast into his face.
He stopped to take a breath and looked over at the lobster ghost who was gingerly pinching at his shrimp with both claws and tossing them into his mouth like a machine. “You know what?” Truman said to him. “If I’m ever on death row, could you let it be known that I want Red Lobster as my very last meal. I want to leave this Earth happy.”
The lobster ghost chuckled. “Do you really believe you may end up on death row someday? That’s an excessive and discouraging thought.”
“You never know what could happen,” Truman said, pointing with the tines of his shiny Red Lobster fork. “I could go crazy and hijack a bus and drive it off a cliff or something like that.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about such things, Truman. You seem of sound mind and body to me.”
Maggie the waitress returned to the table and forced an ingenuine smile. “My, my, my. You guys are putting it back,” she said jokingly, and then she quickly glanced at the untouched Sailor’s Platter in front of Truman’s imaginary friend and shifted uncomfortably. “Is there anything else I could get you?”
Truman’s eyes darted all over the table as he assessed the eating situation. “I would love another cranberry Boston iced tea if it isn’t too much trouble, Saggy Maggie, and maybe some more napkins!” Truman laughed out loud at his own sloppiness.
Maggie the waitress frowned. “Certainly,” she said, and she about-faced it like a Red Lobster soldier and walked away.
“I really think you should be nicer to her,” the lobster ghost suggested.
“Why? She sucks.”
“She doesn’t suck that bad. And besides, Truman. You may end up working with this person. I think it’s important you make a good impression with these people. Bad behavior lingers in the minds of many.”
“Oh, man. I didn’t think about it that way,” Truman said. “I should probably go apologize.”
“I strongly believe it would be a wise thing to do.”
“Right. You are certainly a bottomless well of wisdom, my creepy friend of the crustaceous kind,” Truman said as he slid from the booth. “I better go take care of this at once before bad things travel too far south. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Truman wandered into the warm Red Lobster kitchen that shined in silver and white. He stood directly behind Maggie the waitress as she checked over plates ready to be served as they sat on a stainless-steel shelf beneath a row of heat lamps. He tapped her on a thick shoulder, and she jumped.
“Jesus, Joseph, and Mary!” she wailed, and she turned around. “You scared the beejeebus out of me… Is there something I can help you with, sir?”
A cook in a tall, white chef’s hat who was working the line noticed Truman standing there. “Hey! Customers aren’t allowed back here,” he barked. “Maggie, tell your boyfriend to wait out front or something.”
She turned, embarrassed and addressed the grumpy cook. “He’s not my boyfriend,” and she turned back to look at Truman hovering there. “Definitely not.”
“I’m sorry, Saggy Maggie… I mean, plain old Maggie. I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Talk to me? Is there something wrong with your order?” she asked as she frantically worked.
“No. There’s something wrong with me, and I have something very important to say to you.”
“All right then. But I must get these plates out to my tables right away. Then I will come by to check on you, and we can talk. Okay?”
“Okay,” Truman agreed with a goofy grin on his face as he watched her trot off with an arm full of steaming platters. Then he took a moment to look at all that was going on in the busy kitchen. He relished the sound of clanging pots and pans, and the fragile clatter of plates. He mostly admired the precision and efficiency of the food prep line and the work of the cooks bathed in great clouds of steam and smoke. “Wow. Real Red Lobster people hard at work. Right here in front of me. This is great.”
The officious line cook noticed that Truman was still loitering in the kitchen, and he thrust a silver ladle in his direction as an extension of a violent finger. “I thought I told you to get out of here!”
“Yes, yes. Absolutely, sir. I’ll leave right away… I love your work!” Truman called out as he made his exit from the kitchen.
The line cook gritted his teeth and wiggled his stoic black moustache defiantly. He steadied himself with two hands but quickly felt his temper getting away. “Ridiculous!” he yelled out, and he picked up and slammed a metal pot down. “I’m a professional chef and I will not put up with this bullshit! Customers in the kitchen!? I am pissed off!”
Truman noticed the raging chef in white coming in his direction just as he returned to the booth.
“Hey, you!” the cook yelled, pointing an actual angry finger at Truman. “Who do you think you are coming into my kitchen and disrupting my important work!? Huh? I don’t come to your place of employment and trespass and upset the delicate balance of your workflow.”
“Gee whiz, mister. I’m sorry,” Truman said, cowering away some. “I just wanted to talk to Maggie about something very important.”
“Now you hear this. I don’t give one shit about what you wanted. I am a professional chef. I run a professional kitchen. I will not be toyed with! You come into my kitchen again and I’ll shove a lobster straight up your ass! You got it!” The chef pinched at his moustache and gave Truman a final snarl before storming off back to the kitchen just as Maggie the waitress was coming in for a bumpy landing.
“My, my. Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” she said with a playful chuckle. “I got that from a movie… Now. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“It’s Sunday,” Truman informed her. “And why was that guy so mad? I didn’t mean to upset him so much.”
“Oh, don’t mind him,” Maggie said, waving a fat hand. “He’s one of those uptight fancy Frenchie chefs from gay Pair-Ree. He’s always like that.”
“Oh. I seriously thought he was going to kill me,” Truman chuckled. “Wow. Angry much?”
“No, no,” Maggie the waitress reassured him. “His bark is much worse than his bite.”
“Thanks for being so cliché, Maggie… But anyways, Maggie. I just wanted to apologize for my ill behavior during our visit here. And seeing that I may end up being your co-worker, I thought it would be a good idea to mend the fences between us.”
Maggie paused and shifted her head back in shock and surprise. “Oh. I appreciate that. I really do… But what was that about being co-workers? Um. Come again.”
“I didn’t tell you! I’ve decided to apply for employment at your wonderful establishment here. I want to work for Red Lobster!”
Maggie’s face drastically drooped like it often does when she receives unwanted news. “You want to work here?”
“Yes! Isn’t that fantastic?” Truman said.
“Oh, but. No… You don’t want to do that.”
“It’s a terrible place to work. Trust me. You’ll hate it.”
“But you seem to like it here, and that cook is definitely passionate about being here. I don’t understand.”
Maggie sighed loudly and leaned in closer. “Look. The pay is low, and the management is awful, and the hours suck…”
“I don’t care about any of that,” Truman interrupted her. “This is Red Lobster and Red Lobster is bigger than any unpleasant circumstances that are surely temporary. Red Lobster is bigger than all of us. I want to do it for the pride and the prestige of it. All those other things you speak of Maggie, that’s all secondary to me.” He reached out a hand and gently touched her on the arm. “Will you bring me an application and your best pen. Let’s get this party started.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Read the previous parts of this story at cerealaftersex.com.