Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cookie Cutter

This story is fictional, it does not represent the views of Carl's Jr. Inc or any of it's subsidiaries. My agenda is also, in no way, to promote any animal rights interests or anything like that. It's just a story.

Sitting at a Carl's Jr table--moodily observing the costumers that I would be cleaning up after when I returned from my thirty minute lunch break--a boy of about seven to nine caught my eye. He was keeping a prudent distance from his party (a small family consisting of himself, two parents and a baby) and sporting a bright blue beanie, an over sized dark green long sleeved tee--with the sleeves pushed up past the elbows, and light tan shorts; his wardrobe was obviously of his own design and he seemed to have a damned high opinion of it (in spite of what his mother may have said before they left the house). He was staring at me with his mouth slightly ajar (as only boys of seven to nine who dress themselves can stare at seventeen to twenty year old boys) and continued to do so for a few moments after I started watching him. Realizing I was returning his stare, he hurriedly looked away, straighted his posture (and his dignity), and silently told me with an offended sideways glance that he could not help his being seven to nine and that any judgements I passed on his age and lack of facial hair would only result in loss on my part.
Losing interest for the moment--and not wanting to injure the pride of any more pre-pubescent adolescents--I began staring out the window and contemplating more global issues--such as how one might elude washing the lunch dishes. I was interrupted in the middle of a scheme--which included faking some sort of skin disorder--by a loud and embarrassed reply by the afore mentioned boy to his mother's question as to whether he'd like chicken stars,
"No I don't want any stars!"
"Well would you like a hamburger?"
"No! I'll just have some fries." and with that the boy moodily stomped off to the farthest table from any of the resaraunts other inhabitants.
I promptly forgot about the incident, finished my modest lunch, and returned from break.
About half an hour later--after having failed in eluding the dishes--I was pointed, broom in hand, toward the lobby, and sent on my way. I marched to my usual starting point for this chore--the children's playland--and began my task. I was going about my business under the impression that I was alone in the room--a fact with which I was mildly pleased--so I was startled, and slightly put off, when I heard a sigh emmiting from the other side of the play structure. I shifted my thoughts to more "others-are-in-the-room" topics and continued my sweeping. Upon reaching the inhabited end of the room, I saw that the occupying individual was none other than the seven-to-nine year old boy, looking sullenly out the window into the parking lot. However I did my best to ignore his presence and went about my business. When I breached a seven foot proximity to the boy, he looked up at me, slightly surprised to see me there. I gave him a nod, and, after a few moments, added a how's-it-going. He grunted in reply and returned looking out the window, then he added--not as one who wishes to criticize, but as someone who wishes to make up for a grunt of a reply with some offhand observation--"Your guy-ses fries aren't very salty."
I stopped sweeping and leaned on the broom (in a manner that has, no doubt, ruined many a good broom at restaurants all over the globe). I told him that I was aware of the fact and that I shared his distaste for under salted fast food. I also added--this being something that I had actually spent some time thinking about--that when I was cooking fries, there was, by no means, any shortage of salt on them. He broke a small smile and asked me if I cooked often.
I explained to him that I was being trained to become a shift leader and I cooked once or twice a week, I was also about to divulge to him the ruthless manner in which certain people were prone to take advantage of shift-leaders-in-training, but, remembering his age, I spared him the ramblings of an angst-riddled employee.
He was silent for a moment, then as if he had remembered something, his face turned into a scowl and he looked out the window. I awkwardly resumed sweeping.
The boy suddenly exclaimed, without turning his head, in a high voice, "How come you cut the chicken into stars!?"
His sudden outburst caught me off-guard and I fumbled out an explanation about our lack of control concerning how chicken nuggets arrived to us. The boy continued to look out the window, obviously absorbed in his own thoughts. He then quietly explained, more to himself than to me,
"I mean, I like chicken, I always get the chicken nuggets at other places, but they don't really have a shape, you know? It's like, when they're stars, they're cookies or something, but it was a chicken once, you know? Cutting its body into some cutesy shape just freaks me out a little, is all..."
I was about to mumble some reply, but was cut short by the boy's mother entering the play place.
"Come on now, it's time to go, let's let the nice sir finish sweeping."
The boy got up from his perch, and began walking out, head down and hands in pockets, but before he was able to leave the room I called after him, "Hey, kid!"
The boy looked back at me surprised and almost frightened looking.
"I'm with you, man." I finished.
The mother looked at me awkwardly as she left the room, but the boy laughed and ran out of the building, beaming.
The sun shone through the window, revealing a few fries scattered around the window area. I swept them into the dustpan and moved on.

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