Short story: Dirty Dishes

Bruce cringed. His café was pure chaos. The stainless steel swinging doors veiled the madness in the kitchen from the eyes of the patrons. To them, the café appeared full of life. But behind the doors existed another world. Dirty dishes lined every bench top, stacked higher than gravity ought to allow. Overheated staff kept clashing and cursing, amid the steam and sizzling and spitting cooking fat. Rachel scurried through the swinging doors, cradling another stack of intricately balanced dishes against her chest. “Quickly Rachel! Runners are to run orders to the tables, not stroll to them,” Bruce hissed. “I’m sorry, I’m trying. There are just so many people and I don’t want to push past them and be rude and…” her excuses bitterly dissipated with the steam from the industrial dishwasher.

***

By the time Rachel’s shift ended, the sun mustered only a fading glow on the emptying streets outside, replaced instead with an unfriendly draft. She sat on the gutter two blocks from the café and pressed the heels of her palms hard against her eyes. Awash with relief and utter exhaustion, she willed herself not to shed a single tear. Removing her hands from her face, Rachel focused down on her worn, faux leather lace-ups, covered in dried food scraps. Each step home, painfully reminding her of the sizable holes in the soles.

***

Shortly after, Rachel stopped bring offered shifts at the cafe and never worked in hospitality again.

Based on a true story. The end.

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