Emolument

breakfast_emolument.jpg

emolument

  1. profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services: Tips are an emolument in addition to wages.

There were too many customers.

It wasn’t even lunchtime and already the small  alcove bustled with patrons, obscuring the tiny doorway that was seemed to be spewing hungry people into the dining area.

Patti scanned the small eatery while ringing up the mismatched couple with eggs benedict and waffles with the bow tie and the shrimp and grits with the pink buzz cut. The wait time was climbing to around 40 minutes–a first for their small eatery.

“Thank you and come again,” Patti said, with a smile. Secretly she cringed inside.

The hum of conversation was distracting. Parties of threes, fours, and fives huddled together over drinks, some over food, straining to hear each other.

Patti shook her head slightly, ringing up the yogi with the egg whites and gluten-free pancakes.  She silently chastised herself, knowing she should’ve never agreed to allow for a feature on their restaurant. Why had she ever wanted the publicity anyway?

Images of numbers that didn’t add up were retrieved from her short-term memory banks and emblazoned before her eyes.

They needed the money. Desperately.

Everyone seemed to be calm except for the staff, which worried Patti more than the unexpected influx of hungry mouths.

Impatient customers took their money and left. A tired staff could sink a business and ruin popular perception.

If another person showed up, Patti was concerned the fire marshall would have to shut them down. Their only saving grace was that he seemed too absorbed in his platter of bacon, scrambled eggs, and her Grandma Abernathy’s blueberry pancakes, which he was voraciously consuming.

The high-pitched chime of the small lunch bell caught Patti’s well-trained ear. She left the register and grabbed a pitcher of water  to refill glasses.

“LL’s omelettes are up and ready, like a–”

“Agnes!” Patti’s tone halted Agnes from finishing her thought.

“You know Linda Lells doesn’t need all this food,” Agnes said, lowering her tone. “She’s eating the way you need to, honey. You could afford to put some meat on you.”

Agnes doled out advice, as if the unsolicited comments were a standard emolument to the job.

“Just keep the food coming, Agnes. We’ve got too many hungry people out here.”

Patti circled tables, weaving between people coming and mostly returning to tables, as she refreshed drinks. It didn’t seem like anyone was leaving. She returned for the carafe of coffee, filling a few mugs before seeing a table of seven slowly rising to leave.

She quickly dropped off the carafe at the drink station.

“Turn over this table quickly,” she mouthed to Dianna, their veteran employee whose  eyes were widened by the unusual scene of activity. “When this group leaves we need to move in another chair for a party of eight.” Dianna nodded despite the stunned expression that matched Patti’s own feelings.

The bell over the door chimed. Patti wasn’t sure if people were coming in or leaving until the birth of people gathered in the doorway parted for someone else to grab four menus  and toss his name onto the waiting list without asking for the wait time.

Patti held her breath and smiled a welcome at the eight as she waved goodbye to the three french toast specials, the lox and bagels, the two seafood samplers, and the works with turkey bacon.

The thought of actually being in the black this month was exciting, but she wondered if she was ready for a month of stressful days in order to make that happen. She reassured herself with the obvious: Things wouldn’t always be like this. The buzz would have to die down.

“Patti!” Miguel’s booming voice interrupted her thoughts, breaking her fixed smile.

His face was a mix between panic, delight, and sheer terror. A crazy grin crossed his face as he pulled their business phone away from his chest and thrust it in her direction.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he hissed. “Guy Fieri’s assistant is on the phone! I think they want to come visit us. I think they want us on their show!”

Time seemed to slow diminishing the motion of her own body. Her own arm seemed to freeze in place as the perpetual hum of noise was replaced by her own throbbing heartbeat. It wasn’t until Patti felt the cool surface of the wall against her sweat-soaked shirt that she realized panic had set in, halting her ability to see or respond.

“Don’t worry, Patti,” she heard Miguel yell toward her from someplace in the distance. “I’ll take care of it.”

The clanking of the cash register reassured her that business was continuing despite her inability to help, but Miguel’s words seemed to be sucking the oxygen from her lungs.

“Tomorrow…”

Receipts were being printed.

“That’s fine…”

More cards were being swiped.

“Yes, we’ll see you then… ”

It was over. Done.

“Party of nine? That’ll be at least an hour…”

Patti wanted to scream no, but she couldn’t breathe or see or feel her fingers. Her body wasn’t working and the worst thing possible had just happened right in front of her, and she hadn’t made one move to stop it.

And now she would have to deal with the fall out.  Tomorrow would be D-Day, unless she could find some way to reverse this madness. She was sure the assistant was a rational person. Maybe s e could just call them back and suggest they find someone else to visit. But first, she’d have to regain feeling in her body and move her hands. Being able to see would help too…

 

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