Excerpt from rough draft 1st Chapter in its earliest stages:
It was 2008 on a Wednesday in September when I saw her. She pushed open the greasy doors to Sloppy’s. Nothing more beautiful had ever graced this fast-food restaurant. As she strode toward the front counter, the cashier realized he was still helping Old Man Grady. He glanced at the old man who counted coins in his hand, and it looked as if he was going to win another Guinness record and pay for the entire meal with only pennies. The cashier tried to look the old man to see her: the new girl. She was incredible. She had the smile that told you she was always fun to be around. Old Man Grady blocked his view with his wrinkled, liver spotted hands, and began dropping the coins to pay.
The cashier collected the payment and a good amount of lint and dead skin from his hands, and hurriedly stashed it away. He assumed Old Man Grady could still count and he overfilled his cashier with the coin and haphazardly shoved it closed… or enough. He handed him a receipt and begged the old man with his eyes that he’d quickly scurry to let him talk to the girl. By the time he leisurely vacated the cashier line, the girl was already at the desk and Sal was talking to her. Dang. He’d been too slow. He yearned to know what they were chatting about. The only thing he could do to not be too obvious about listening in was to make a milkshake, which just happened to be next to the far side of the front counter where they were chatting.
He tried to move, but he couldn’t. His legs felt like jello. He willed his leg to budge and then it moved as stiffly as Frankenstein. As awkwardly as it probably looked and felt, he had to get over there to hear her voice, so he goose marched to the far side. So uncomfortable. Why was his body shutting down? And then as he was halfway across the front area, he heard them.
“Just swung by. I live really close and just moved in.” She explained to Sal. She had this dirty blonde, wild curly hair that looked so natural and incredible. Her face was dotted with freckles and it suited her. She spoke with animation. She almost seemed to want to work her. What was she thinking? Didn’t she know that Sloppy’s was a greasy, disgusting fast-food restaurant?
“Let me grab you an application and you can fill it out and give it back to me.” Sal explained, and turned around just as the marching cashier passed by. He reached the shake machine without being too obvious. Sal strode by and went into his office to grab the paperwork. She stood at the counter and was looking through a long satchel held around her shoulder. Man, he had never seen a more easy-going girl before. Most of the girls he interacted with were surrounded by a mob of friends and seemed to be so caked with makeup he couldn’t tell who they actually were. She seemed natural.
He placed a shake cup under the machine and yanked it up to turn it on. No ice cream came out of the machine. Classic. He banged his hand against the shake machine like he did his old television set and it spewed out vanilla ice cream. He mumbled something about this place being full of the cheapest things. The cup filled up with soft serve as Sal came back to the counter.
“Here you go. Would you like to fill this application out here or bring it back later?” Sal explained.
She confidently replied, “I’ll just fill it out now if that’s okay. I’ve got a pen here!” She pulled out a gel pen and took the application and began scratching it out as Sal continued explaining.
“We’ve got one night shift open and we’ve actually got about four other applicants in this past week from our ‘Help Wanted’ sign.” Four! He had to get to these applications and dispose of them! As he plotted their eradication, he realized his hand felt cold. He peered down and gasped as the shake machine was coating his hand, and the ice cream was two times as high as the cup he held onto. He’d been spellbound by the new girl and embarrassingly left the machine on too long! He lifted it up, and ice cream fell all over the place. The new girl amusingly peered at him as she scratched out the application. He quickly licked the top and sides of the cup clean, capped it with a lid, and handed it to the car waiting in the drive through line. They thanked him and drove off. Oh my gosh, she’d seen you make such a bonehead mistake!
He couldn’t face her anymore. He hid behind the wall, and slowly peered around the edge. She was still filling out the application and then stood up and handed it to Sal. Now was his chance to get back over to his station without Sal realizing he had caused the shake explosion. He grabbed a few menu items ready for Old Man Grady as he continued to listen in on their conversation and continued onto his post.
“Thank you. May I ask your name?” Sal inquired.
“Scotland.” Sal smiled and held out his hand. She firmly shook it. He knew that impressed Sal. Once a guy had applied for a job and just the handshake alone had caused him not to interview him!
Scotland. A pretty name. He wondered what the story behind that name was as he handed the food to Old Man Grady.
“That took way too long!” He bemoaned the cashier, who just shrugged their shoulders, and they took the bagged food, and turned away with slothlike speed.
“I will be in touch. Maybe we can do an interview later this week and a test hour to see how you do. How does that sound?” Sal finished and asked.
“Sounds great. If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll come in on Monday to check on things!” She smiled, waved, and left, leaving the lobby looking a whole less bright. It was in that moment that Jaden realized he hadn’t lived until Scotland walked in. He was going to get to know her when he got her a job at Sloppy’s and then ask her to prom! Nothing else mattered.
“Jaden, you can clean up your station and go home early tonight!” And well… going home early mattered too. Sometimes Jaden wasn’t even sure why he worked at Sloppy’s, because he was happiest when he was let off early anyways. He did however enjoy his co-workers, no matter how weird they were.
Sal was the manager, and had a heart of gold. He actually cared about Sloppy’s and had been scammed out of being part-owner from his best friend. Even though Jaden was sure that the recipes and store concept were all his idea. No offense to Sal, the restaurant was a dirthole. Maybe it was because the store was surrounded by an apartment complex and a Motel 6, or the interstate exit on between Southern Utah and Las Vegas, but it was a sketchy place. The name even, Sloppy’s, didn’t make Jaden want to eat there. Sal was probably the only reason Jaden stuck around at Sloppy’s.
Jose was the chef in the back who made the meat and slid it down chutes to where Jaden worked. He didn’t speak much English besides the occasional curse word or inappropriate comment towards women. He worked most nights but had two nieces who worked at Sloppy’s as well: Maria and Concepcion. Jaden couldn’t figure out why you would name a child Concepcion, but it happened… so…
Leonard was a chill college-aged drive through worker who listened to music all shift and probably smoked marijuana in the bathrooms. He sometimes disappeared for hours in the bathroom and Jaden didn’t understand how he could do it because the bathrooms were nicknamed Dookie Castle and Butt Burrito because they smelt so terrible and no one ever wanted to go in there.
Sheila was the oldest human he’d ever met and he knew she didn’t actually work at Sloppy’s. Sal explained what she did there as a misunderstanding and somehow service. She had supposedly worked at the previous fast-food store before Sloppy’s opened about ten years ago and just came in daily for work. Sal couldn’t get her to leave or communicate with her in the slightest. So, she just swept the floors, refilled the fries, and did other various jobs which made Jaden’s somewhat easier. She kind of reminded him of Ezma from New Emperor’s Groove.
Jaden didn’t know the morning crew very well but always ran into Lacie when they changed shifts. She was a total flirt but recently graduated and was at least two years older than him, so basically off limits.
Jaden strode out in the lobby to finish up his task and realized that Sloppy’s was never busy. He had no idea who they paid for him and his co-workers to all work at the same time. How were they actually hiring someone new!? Oh well, he was ecstatic and envisioned working with Scotland. He peered into the trash can to see if he needed to empty it out and something instead exploded out of it and caused him to jump and scream. Leonard! He had hidden himself in the trash container and had been there awhile because he had some ketchup and a pile of sloppy joe in his hair.
“Worth the stench to scare you, bro!” He chortled as he struggled to climb out of the trash container. Jaden wasn’t upset, on the other hand, he was amused.
“Good one, Leonard. I’ll get you back!” Jaden challenged. They had begun the prank wars a few months back and had recently been sabotaging each other’s customer’s orders and this prank had been well thought out. No wonder he hadn’t seen Leonard for hours at his post. He had thought he was busy in Dookie Castle smoking some pot. Sloppy’s was really slow and they basically got away with whatever they wanted. Sometimes work didn’t seem like work, but instead it felt like play. Jaden opened up the door to access the trash cans as Leonard tried to get out through the top. He yanked the container, causing Leonard and the contents of the trash to spill out all over the lobby floor. Leonard and Jaden broke out in laughter. If he just took out the trash he could go home! Leonard strode away covered in an assortment as Jaden brushed a few items into a pile, broomed it up, and emptied it into the can and tied off the bag and took it out back.
He heaved the bag over shoulder and managed to get outside with it and stumbled towards the outside garbage. As he crossed the parking lot to where the garbage was located, he noticed someone sitting on the curb outside the store. It was Scotland! Should he go talk to her? He mentally noted to muster up the courage to approach her after taking out the garbage. And then he felt the bag rip behind him and the garbage poured down his back. Disgusting. Part of it felt warm. He looked over at Scotland. She had clearly seen him. She quickly bolted up and headed his way.
“You are just full of it today, aren’t you?” She chuckled. “What can I do to help?” She genuinely wanted to help. Why was she still there? He knew he smelt like garbage and he’d rather be 1000 miles away from this situation, but she was actually interested to help him.
Jaden turned towards Scotland and motioned back to the restaurant, “My co-worked Leonard must’ve set this trap for me. Would you mind going into Sloppy’s and asking Sal, the manager, for some cleaning supplies. I don’t think I can move or I’ll drop gunk all over the place. And then… pull that hose from the back of the store over here and hose me down.” She smiled. She was excited to hose him down.
She eagerly commented, “And I’ll help you get Leonard back for this. I might of saw him scare you from the trash can while I was sitting outside.” More embarrassment. He was a joke. She spun around and hurried into Sloppy’s.
He had to stand there for a time. The worse part was the stench. Sloppy Joe meat thrown away around 10 am started to smell bad. Especially meat that was mixed with all sorts of other half eaten menu food and a combination of sodas. Jaden didn’t even drink soda and now he was drenched in it. Oh, he was going to get Leonard back. It had been an exciting time at Sloppy’s thus far and the prank war began from day one. He learned that he was in for it the moment he put on his uniform and donned himself with his Sloppy’s hat and realized it was lined with whip crème. Sal had hosed his head off that first day and now here he was waiting for another hosing. What a cycle. Jaden wasn’t opposed to the prank war but sometimes, like right now with Scotland, he really wished he wasn’t covered in waste. The problem was that Sal wasn’t a stickler on the rules and could be convinced to do anything. He was just too nice.
Only minutes later he was against the wall getting drenched from the hosing. Scotland seemed to be enjoying herself. She was also the sweetest person he’d ever met. Even Sal wouldn’t come close to the stench and told her he’d highly consider her for the job if she took care of him. She didn’t even mention the job and swept up garbage and junk and helped get him against the wall. Maybe she just wanted to blast him with the hose. Whatever the reason, he was indebted. And she did it all so cutely. She brushed her curled mess over her ear and she examined his mess to analyze how she could best tackle the mess. A few minutes later he was clean, but soaking. Scotland continued to spray him down even after he said he was good.
He raced forward, while getting blasted in the face and all over to get to the hose and they began a tug of war competition. He eventually commandeered the hose and let her have it. She screamed when he sprayed her in the back as she sprinted away when he confiscated the hose from her. She finally returned back from behind a parked car when he turned off the hose.
“It’s off! I promise!” He called out.
“I’ll never trust you again!” She shouted from behind the car. She was obviously shivering now. Oh no, had he messed up all of his chances with her? He didn’t know her well enough to comprehend if she was joking or not.
Someone opened Sloppy’s lobby door and called out, “You were off the clock a half hour ago, Jaden, have a good night. I’m glad you’re cleaned up.” It was Sal. Thanks Sal. He closed the door and he heard the door lock. Closing time. Leonard must have been inside snorting himself to death. Literally.
Slowly Scotland left her safe location and paced towards Jaden’s dripping frame. “Okay, I believe you. I’m just so-so co-cold now!” She was clutching herself and shivering. She was slim just like he was, and now that the sun was down, the cold cut right through them. That’s how a desert worked.
“Do you want me to drive you a few blocks over to your place? You said you were from the apartments nearby, right? Or did you drive?” Jaden inquired.
“That’s why I was sitting out in your pa-parking lot waiting. I locked myself out when I went applying for jobs at Sloppy’s, the gas station, and a few others places around. My brother was going to get back at midnight so I was going to wait for him. I didn’t want to be near the apartments because there’s some crazy neighbors.” She said through chattering teeth.
“Oh, girl, I’m so sorry!” Jaden reddened again. He called her girl. That was what his dad called his mom. And what he called his golden retriever, Loni. “Is there any way I can reach him? I have a cell, I can’t try.”
“I don’t have a cell, but if you’d text him for me that would be gr-great.” She replied.
“If you’re locked out and no one’s home, can I take you back to my house for a couple hours to warm up and I bet you can stay for dinner!” Oh my gosh. He was asking her to meet his family the first night he met her. He didn’t have any other solutions. He didn’t have a blanket in his car, or a way into her house unless her brother text about a key being hidden. But where would you store a key outside an apartment complex? And he couldn’t give her warm clothes because he was even colder.
“Yeah, that sounds great. I guess you owe me.” She grinned. Every time she smiled her eyes sparkled. He motioned to his old red Jeep Cherokee parked nearby. Should he open her door? She beat him to his jeep, and got in herself. He flipped on the heat. Good thing it was fall and not summer, because his AC was broken and they desperately needed heat now. She rubbed her hands in front of the vent and Jaden turned around to back up and began driving home. He couldn’t help grinning when he looked the other way. He had to contain his excitement.