ZACK WENTZOrders a side of sausage with tomatoes. Cold tomatoes, raw. Not a problem. This isn’t a problem at all. People order stranger things, especially nights, but this is morning and it’s not really that unusual. I mean, these things are actually on the menu. There is no “side of tomatoes” on there, of course, but it isn’t hard to take the tomatoes out of their ordinary context and serve them by themselves. Only there really isn’t a precedent for how much to charge. How much would you charge? It’s not quite a side salad. It costs forty-nine cents to add them to a burger, but no burger was ordered. Just a side of sausage, which costs $2.49. Much less than a burger. Our cheapest burger costs $4.99 and comes with one tomato. Sometimes people want more than one, so that costs them forty-nine cents each extra slice of tomato (these are slices of tomato I’m talking about here; when I say “tomato” I don’t mean a whole tomato). A side of sausage with tomatoes. I don’t even skip a beat. No questions necessary. Of course we can do that. I don’t even need to say, “of course we can do that” because I know very well that we can. Not a problem. I don’t even need to say “not a problem” either, because that’s how little of a problem it is. I just nod and smile and write it down and it is as good as done. The order will be filled easily and well. The cook will see the order, see this ticket I’ve written up, and he’ll nod and think to himself, “fine, I can do that,” and he’ll cook up a side of sausage, just like he usually does, just like he’s used to doing, and then he’ll take care of the tomatoes. Does he want them on the same plate, or on the side? Should the tomatoes have their own little plate, I mean? Or a bowl, even? He doesn’t need to ask. He won’t even ask. He knows what he’s doing and with this order he’ll simply do what he thinks best. After all, he is a cook and this is what he does. Sometimes you have to make decisions. You have to use your own personal judgment. You have to go with the flow. Roll with the punches. Show some initiative. Be creative. Live a little. Take a chance. Call the shots. Face the music. Keep your shit together. Try not to fuck up. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t be an asshole. Watch your back. Cover your ass. Be brave. Keep a stiff upper lip. Choose your battles. Talk softly, but carry a big stick. Say thank you to God. Say, thank God, and maybe their own plate. The tomatoes on their own little plate in case sausage grease isn’t supposed to get on them, and use nice red ones. These won’t be hidden in a burger, but just sitting right out there where everyone can see them, so make sure they’re nice and red. Maybe even put them on a piece of lettuce. That would look nice. Just one leaf. That would look nice and bring out the redness more too. Make them look more red. Like Christmas. The red and green. Like Christmas. And how much to charge? How much to charge for these? Fuck it. Nothing. These are free. Free. On the house. It was no big deal. No problem at all, and the important thing is how neatly and smoothly this all happens. How well everything goes. The way we all work together and do our part and how everything goes along as planned. And how it isn’t planned too. No problem. No problem at all. It’s fine. It’s free. These are free. A gift. Like a gift from us. Red and green. Like Christmas. Like Christmas. Like Christmas.
Zack Wentz’s writing has appeared in Fiction International, Tape Op, Modern Fix and other places. His novel “The Garbageman and the Prostitute” is forthcoming from Chiasmus Press early 2005. He is a founding member of the band Kill Me Tomorrow, who released a musical version of the novel via Gold Standard Laboratories in 2004.