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Wednesday. 6:16 AM.

Wednesday. 6:16 AM.
by Rebecca Buchanan

You all done, hon? Finish up the training videos? Okay, good. Grab your bag. Uniform fit good? Hey, don’t forget your pad and — yeah, the pen, too. Always carry a few extras on you. Can never have too many pens.

Okay, come on. We only got — damn, less than an hour now. This way. Okay, first thing you need to do is forget everything you learned in those dumb-ass training videos. Yes, everything. They were dreamed up by some dumb-ass corporate exec sitting in some office someplace who has never waited a table in his whole dumb-ass life. I’ve been doing this for twenty-three years. Count ‘em. Twenty-three years. I know what I’m talking about.

Good girl. Get your apron on.

Okay. First thing, floor’s divided up into six sections. We each get one, and it changes day to day, so always check the schedule right away when you come in.

Now Dorrie — you met her, right? The hostess? Good. She’s been here almost as long as I have. Okay, she seats ‘em and she tries to make sure that we all get our fair share, but it don’t always work out. Section five, for example, is the only place the dragons can sit. Bernie’s such a cheap-ass that was the only place he put in all the plasma-proof flooring and benches and ceiling tiles and stuff.

Oh, and if we get any Caith Sidhe and Cù-Sìth in here —

— what? Oh, honey. Cat fairies and dog fairies. They hate each other. Capital H hate. The diner’s neutral territory — capital N, capital T, accorded and accredited and signed and all that, there’s even a sign on the door — so they ain’t supposed to start nothing, but you never know. Best not to risk it, so Dorrie sits ‘em on opposite sides. Might end up with more of one than the other, though, so whichever girl’s working that section might end up with more tips. Just happens that way, sometimes.

Oh, speaking of. Tips. Watch yourself. Most of the folks who come in are pretty honorable. They’ll pay you what’s due, and then some. But some of them are tricksters, too. You gotta be careful that they’re paying in real coin, or with a real card, and not that fae gold that’ll melt or some dead guy’s card that they lifted after escorting him to whichever afterlife.

You’re using a nickname, too, right? Not your real name? Good girl.

Okay, now back we go. Back here we got the salad station, coffee and tea and drinks and such, and dessert cooler.

A few pointers. Never put tomatoes in a Caith Sidhe salad, but load up on the tuna.

Dragons — especially the Slavic ones — they like their beets, and the Pakhangba, they love their black cardamom and black pepper. Lots of it. But watch their antlers; they get ticked off about anything, they’ll try’n gouge out your eyes or take a good shot at your kidneys.

Never ever — and I mean never— give a swan maiden caffeine; gotta be caffeine-free all the way. But, you gotta cut the dwarves off at one pot or they’ll drink us dry.

Oh, yeah, and the gorgons they love love love their honey-dipped strawberries. So do the valkyries, and we get lots of both in here all the time, so make sure we stay fully stocked, all the time.

Oh, speaking of valkyries. Sometimes they stop in on their way back to Asgard and they got … um … yeah, that’s a good way to put it. A recently deceased with ‘em. Some of the recently deceased take it well, others not so much. If they start to freak out, just sit ‘em down in a corner booth and give ‘em a cookie and some milk and take it outta the community jar. That’s it, right over there, the old coffee can.

Don’t tell Bernie.

Now, back this way.

Kitchen here.

Say hi.

Everybody, this is Trish, the new girl. Trish, that’s Melvin our head chef, Marnie our other head chef, and Bob and George and Tina, who do whatever needs doing.

Oh, if you get the chance, Tina’s salted caramel brownies are to die for. Figuratively speaking.

Unless you’re a manananggal. Then literally. Yeah, we get those in here, too. Like I said, neutral territory.

Passed the kitchens, we’ve got the employee break room. Technically, you get two fifteen minutes breaks on the clock and one half-hour break off the clock. At least, according to the dumb-asses at corporate. Technically doesn’t mean in reality, ‘cause in reality, come the weekend, you’ll be lucky to get five minutes to go potty.

Don’t worry, you’ll learn to eat on your feet, and you make more tips that way, anyway.

Next up is Bernie’s office. If we’re lucky, that door won’t open. Bernie’s in at six, maybe six fifteen, maybe six thirty. He grabs a slice of lemon meringue, goes in his office, closes the door, and doesn’t come out again until lunch to grab his grilled cheese. He goes back in again. If the situation, whatever it is, is bad enough that he has to haul his cheap ass out of his chair and actually come out here?

Yeah, it’s bad.

What’s that? Oh, yeah … let me think …. Yeah, three years ago. A satyr went into rut and started … um, no polite way to put that. Let’s just say the kitsune wasn’t having any of it and she … um, dealt with the situation.

The gorgons thought it was hilarious.

Bernie, not so much.

Cops gave her a pass ‘cause it was self-defense, but we had to shut down for a whole day while the mess got cleaned up.

Okay, moving on. Passed Bernie’s office we got the employee potty. First come, first serve. You need to hide out for a few minutes and decompress, that’s fine. Just don’t take too long.

Then we got the supply closet. Mop, rolling bucket, various cleaners, paper towels, et cetera and so forth. Just pay attention to the labels, and always wear gloves. The kind of cleaner needed to clean up after a baby goblin makes a mess in the bathroom will strip you down to the bone, and then dissolve your bones.

So, gloves, mask, and read the label.

And, finally, last but not least, food storage. Freezers on the left, coolers ahead, dry goods on the right. What’d I say about the cleaners? Right. That goes double, triple, and quadruple for the food.

Read the damn labels.

Last thing we want is some minotaur going into anaphylaxis because you mistook the dried garlic for the dried onion. We clear? Repeat after me: read the damn labels.

Good girl.

Oh, yeah, last thing, I promise. The emergency exit here leads out to the employee parking lot. Least, that’s what Bernie calls it. It’s a mud patch.

You got a car?

No kidding? Yeah, carpets are cool. ‘Cept during the winter, when you’ll freeze your fool ass off. Might wanna get a bus schedule.

Me? Honey, what do you think these wings are for?

Crap! Is that the time? Got your pad and pen? Okay, doors are opening. Remember what I said, and you’ll do just fine.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the basilisk!

* * *
Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been published in a variety of venues, including Bards and Sages Quarterly, The Future Fire, Gingerbread House, Luna Station Quarterly, Nebula Rift, and New Realm, among others. She recently released her first short story collection, A Witch Among Wolves, and Other Pagan Tales (Asphodel Press).

Where do you get the ideas for your stories? 

Everywhere! Really. Anything can inspire a story. I have based poems, short stories, and novellas on (random examples) a BBC conspiracy series about the space race, an old episode of Alice, an NPR story on military dogs, an article on witchcraft in medieval Finland, and a fragment of a line from the Norse Eddas.