The White King Enters
Start Chapter 2:
One night at work was much like any other. Elizabeth spent most of her evenings amongst the more family-unfriendly patrons of the restaurant at which she waited. Walking in through the front, she greeted her friend Dana briefly as she arrived at the "Greasy Fork", a place that held delusions of being a family cafe during the day, but quickly slid into the Hyde of the night. Elizabeth quickly made her way to the back room to prepare for her shift, trying not to trip over the many holes in the flooring. She was wearing inch-high heels-- part of the uniform-- but found it difficult to balance when already woozy from the smoky air and her own hunger. She knew at that moment that it was going to be a long, difficult night. Elizabeth put her few possessions on her shelf, punched in onto the clock, and, smoothing back her hair one last time, she plunged into the drunken revelers. They were besieged that night, as they were every night, by unemployed loggers, alcoholics, potheads, druggies, and other dregs of society, each clamouring for a cheap meal, a cheap drink, a cheap grope of a waitress. It was really Dana who had to bear that affront; Elizabeth had no chest nor bottom, nor was she attractive outside of her hair. Once, a man had grabbed her and spent a good few minutes fondling and sniffing her hair, and her complaints to the Fork's owner had fallen on deaf ears. Dana had it worse, and Elizabeth knew it, but neither of them should have to go through that amount of humiliation.
Nevertheless, there was no way out for either of them. Elizabeth didn't have enough money to do anything outside of keeping her son happy and well, and Dana herself was supporting her senile old father. The women were trapped in an unfair, unjust situation of which there was no way out. Elizabeth grumbled to herself over the unfairness of it all, as she stumbled through the tables, carrying order after order, drink after drink. The chef, a middle aged man with a gut the size of a barrel, who chain smoked into the food, giggled, his belly wiggling like jelly, as Elizabeth's face turned from a perfect mask of a smile to a frown of hatred and discontent. She glared at him-- he had no family himself, and spent all his money on alcohol. She didn't know about his past, but judged him all she could. She hated him at that moment, as the ash from his cigarettes made its way into the food, and stained the stove-top he worked at. Dana stumbled into the kitchen, the skin at her collarbone bruised a little, a clear sign of calloused, filthy, grabbing fingers.
Dana and Elizabeth worked in the innards of the Fork's sweating hog of a body until four in the morning. They dashed from table to table, taking order after order, feeding the filthy maggots that sucked at the grease and pus that coated the insides of the restaurant. It was a villainous thing, a monstrous thing, but it was the only work the poor logging town could afford the two women. They worked until morning, for the patrons refused to go home even after the drinks stopped flowing, and sweat ran down their faces and mussed their hair. Finally, at four in the morning, the last of the dregs slipped out of the cafe, and Dana and Elizabeth could work on cleaning up. Elizabeth mopped the floor; though she was the older worker, Dana had diagnosed back problems that severely limited her ability to mop. Instead, Dana wiped the tables down, and stacked chairs. It took three hours of work to clean the bar ready for the morning. They finished the night by carefully registering half the tips they had earned, and pocketing the rest. It was unlawful, but they didn't have enough to pay the taxes they owed, not if they wanted to eat. Then, nodding to each other, they left the restaurant just as the morning crew arrived, ready to take on the rush of truckers coming in for a cup of coffee.
Elizabeth staggered home, her heels in her hand, utterly exhausted. She didn't have a car, nor were there buses or cabs in the town. Instead she walked the six blocks, blinking the dark spots out of her eyes. She saw a strange figure out of the corner of her eye, but dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. She climbed the three sets of stairs to her apartment, and wobbled into the bedroom to wake up Michael for his day of school. Rebecca awoke from the couch, and quickly excused herself, after Elizabeth pressed the babysitter's pay into her hand. Elizabeth made Michael a quick breakfast-- Lucky Charms cereal, she knew it was bad for him, but they couldn't afford much better, and it was easier than arguing for a healthier option-- got him dressed, and rushed him out to the school bus. She watched drowsily as he clambered on, and the bus pulled away. Then she climbed back up the stairs to her apartment, and collapsed onto her bed, dead to the world.
End of Chapter Two.
The White King Exits.