Sunday, July 30, 2017
Just like flesh, people's thoughts and memories can be injured. And just like flesh, they can leave a scar when they heal. For the people of a small town in Oregon, the names Elias Conner and Butch Elliott/Conner were just blurbs that occupied the news for a week before the people forgot and continued like nothing happened before.
For certain individuals, the memories and the scar lasted much longer and although a year and a half has passed, some of them were still healing.
"Crap, crap, CRAP!"
A fifteen-year-old boy dressed in a nice shirt found himself dashing down Panther street. He pulled out his smartphone and picked up his pace when he saw that there was less than a minute from the start of his shift. As he approached his place of employment, he hoped that the two satisfied patrons that were leaving the premises didn't see him as he pivoted down the alleyway and to the service door. He felt relieved as he closed the door quietly and went to the timeclock in hopes that the manager on duty wouldn't see notice the fact that he was clocking two minutes late.
"Cameron, you're late!"
"CRAP!" Cameron said quietly to himself as he replied "Sorry!"
Before he could give his boss a chance to reprimand him, he grabbed an apron and tied it on as he walked out to the dining room to take orders.
"Good afternoon!" he cheerfully said as he greeted an older couple that found a seat at their usual booth in front of the window. They were regulars and they could be found at the exact same booth in front of the exact same window at roughly the same time every Friday afternoon.
"Boy, have you been smoking? You smell like smoke!" the old man said as Cameron found himself nervously scratching his head. He wouldn't be wrong as the reason why the teenager was indeed late because he was casually having a smoke while he was walking to work and lost track of time.
"Now, dear. Be nice!" the old lady added as she playfully smacked her husband.
"See what she does to me! When you get to be my age, you earn the right to smoke because you have to live with a ball and chain like this!"
"What do you mean by that?!"
Cameron couldn't help but give a small laugh. He could only hope that he would be just like that old man and have a wonderful person to go with him during his sunset years.
"It'll be the usual for me." The old lady said with a wink. Cameron nodded and scribbled something down on his notepad.
"I'll have the eggs. On a pizza. With pineapple and anchovies. Yes."
"Don't be stupid, dear. He'll have the usual, too."
Cameron gave a bigger laugh as he wrote down something entirely different on the pad. He could've been entirely tuned out and still get everything correct as this was the Sunday afternoon routine.
"The gomers want their usual crap!" Cameron called out to the kitchen as he walked into the back. The cook smiled and nodded and began on the order. After ripping the order off his notepad, he ripped the page off the notepad and chucked it behind him with the hope that it would land in the trash can. When he didn't hear the rustle of the can liner, he sighed and turned around to see the manager standing there with the wadded-up order in his hand.
"Cameron, care to step into my office for a second?"
Cameron nodded and followed him into the back office. The cook looked at the dishwasher and said "Yeah, we know that he's going to get away with whatever he's done. He always does."
Inside the office, the manager sat down behind his desk and motioned for Cameron to take a seat across from him. This entire situation was just odd to him, considering who the manager is.
"Yeah, what is it, Kenton?"
Kenton sighed and straightened out the wadded-up order and looked at it. The elderly couple's order was such a tradition for them that Charmaine always joked that she was going to name the dishes after then when they pass away.
"Cameron, you know the proper procedure for orders."
"Oh, come on. These gomers come in here every week! I could tell their orders from memory if I had to!"
"That's not the point. The point is that we need to keep some level of professionalism. Mom… err… Mrs. Hayes has always said that the more we slip, the harder we have to work to get back."
"Huh? They aren't going to know!"
"What if they would have changed their order? What if he had a heart attack and had to change his diet!"
Kenton reached behind him and knocked on the large wooden chair. This entire situation was quite awkward for both of them. Cameron found it a little hard to believe that the guy that he was shooting hoops with just yesterday was reaming him a new one.
"I guess you're right…"
"Yeah. And while we're at it, I would really appreciate it if you didn't refer to them as gomers. They're customers. They're why we're here."
"True. The only things gomers give a reason to are nursing homes and emergency rooms. Right?"
The fact that Kenton didn't even crack a smile at Cameron's joke said it all. Cameron had been working for Charmaine's restaurant for about a month and it felt like he lost his best friend the moment he put that apron on.
"So, we need to work on that. Also, I need you to stop coming in late. And while we're at it, can you please stop smoking before your shift and during your breaks? I'm getting a few comments about you smelling like smoke when you wait on the diners."
"Are you serious?"
"Why wouldn't I be, Cameron?"
"You can't do anything about what I do during my breaks or off of the clock!"
Cameron was indeed right. Kenton threw that last one in there in the hopes that he could get his friend out of this habit.
"That's enough. You've lost it." Cameron replied as he shook his head.
"What? Are you expecting me to go easy on you because you're my friend?"
"No, it sounds like you think you can get away with it because you're my friend and you think that I'm going to look the other way!"
"Now are YOU serious?" Kenton replied. It was at this point that this conversation evolved from a boss-employee consultation to an argument between friends.
"Yeah, and you know what? I'm serious about this." Cameron got up and untied his apron. Kenton sighed. He knew that this working arrangement wasn't going to last, but he honestly didn't expect this.
"Cameron, don't do this."
Cameron didn't respond as he took off his apron and left it on his desk before walking out of the room. Kenton shook his head as he picked it up and folded it nice and neat. Instead of putting it back in the common area, he set it off to the side in the hopes that maybe Cameron will put it back on sooner than later.
Kenton poked his head out of the open door to see that Cameron was already gone. With another sigh he closed the door and looked up at the ceiling of the small office.
"First Elias. Then Olivia. And now Cameron. Why do you hate me?" Kenton said as he continued to look up.
After a shameful walk, Cameron sighed as he dug out the key to his house and opened the front door. He just wanted to make it up to his room without any interrogation or incident. He quietly tiptoed into the foyer and was about to make it around the corner.
"Why are you home so soon? Are you sick?"
He turned around to see his mother standing there with her arms crossed and scowling.
"Uh… no, I mean, yeah!"
Cameron tried to make two fake coughs, but Ms. Elder was not one to be fooled. She reached into the pocket of his red polo shirt and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and said "Yeah. Right. And I'm sure these are really helping you."
There was no response to that. He was now guilty of three "crimes": leaving his responsibility at the restaurant, smoking, and now lying to his own mother.
"I'm sorry…" Cameron said as he looked down like a puppy being scolded. If there was a redeeming feature to this, it was the fact that he could put on the best damn puppy-dog eyes in the whole state. Ms. Elder sighed and said "Get up to your room. I'm going to get rid of these and then we're going to talk."
He walked up the stairs and noticed that something was a bit off. The door to the first bedroom just past the stairs was open. The room used to belong to his brother, William. He shuddered as he knew for years that the door being open was a gateway to trouble. But why was it open today? It was typically closed to keep Ms. Elder from being reminded that her first-born son was dead and gone.
Cameron poked his head into the room and was surprised to see someone putting stuff away into his brother's old dresser. It didn't take long for him to recognize the face from various family gatherings and functions. He turned around to see his mother standing there.
"You know who that is, right?"
"Yeah, I do."