AVANTI'S GOURMET RESTAURANT seeks to staff dishwasher position. Successful applicant will be punctual and able to work in fast paced environment. Apply in person.

I was qualified for this.

Punctual? From a very early age Mother had drummed into me the importance of being on time. On the rare occasion she was late for something, it was a big deal and there was much tumult, finger pointing, some swearing, even tears.

Fast paced environment? I wonder how fast? I tried to picture it. I saw people moving so quickly they were just a blur. That was too fast. There was a limit on how fast paced environments could get.

The next afternoon, as soon as school let out, I pedalled my ten-speed to the address provided in the ad. I found Avanti’s beside a shopping mall. I’d never noticed it before even though I went to the mall regularly.

“Table for one?” asked a woman in a black dress. Her eyes caught mine as she smiled. She was so attractive I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of myself—my running shoes, my jeans, my haircut, everything.

“Um… no… I’m here to apply for the job… uh… dishwasher? I’m punctual and can work in a fast paced environment… How fast is it? Do you know?”

“Okay, just have a seat,” she gestured to a bank of chairs. “Someone will be with you shortly.”

“Uh-huh… yes… thank you.”

Sitting in a plush velvet chair, I took a good look around. This place was nicer than anywhere I’ve ever eaten, I thought. The patterned red and gold carpeting looked expensive and the cutlery and glassware glinted atop crisp white tablecloths. I felt the plant beside my chair. It was real.

“You’re applying for…”

I was startled by a man in a dark suit standing twenty or so feet distant. It seemed like a long way away to be speaking from, especially in the conversational tone he was using. His haircut looked expensive, as did his suit. A cigarette smoldered between his fingers.

“Dishwashing job?” I answered like a question.

“Mm-hmm,” he said. He didn’t seem at all happy about it. His thick dark eyebrows went up as he dragged from the cigarette. “Okay,” he said, exhaling blue smoke. “Come on.” He turned and walked around a corner. I had to run to catch up with him.

I followed him down a hall and through a door that said Employees Only and into an office. The office wasn’t nearly so nice as the restaurant, obviously passed over during the last renovations. The walls were a faded toothpaste green covered in a coating of nicotine. The man sat behind a desk and I pulled up a ripped leatherette chair with chrome frame. A layer of dust and ash covered everything including the papers and ledgers cluttering the desk. The man fixed his eyes on me. He didn’t say anything for a long time and we sat there in silence.

“I’m the general manager, Paul,” he said at last.

“I’m Jack.”

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About Jack Isaak

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Jack Isaak works nights as a janitor. He doesn't sleep well and worries about this as he read it can lead to a stroke. The doctor gave him pills for it but he doesn't want to become addicted to them so hasn't taken even one--they just sit in a drawer.
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