I’m currently polishing the second draft of my first full length novel Project: Christmas, due out later this year. There’s still lots of work to be done, but I wanted to provide a bit of a sneak peek for all the lovely people that come to the blog. Here’s Chapter 1 (as it currently stands!). A note to my American friends that this is written in UK English, so only half the spelling errors you spot are actual mistakes…
Chapter 1: And so it begins…
“Happy New Year!”
The crowd of drunken revellers burst into a spontaneous sing-along and hugged each other with great enthusiasm. Barry found himself shouting over the celebrations to be heard, “Can I help anyone? Who’s next?”
A rotund gentleman made his priorities clear by turning his back on the writhing masses and waddling over to Barry’s counter. He gave Barry the look that customers specially reserve for people working in fast food restaurants, “I want the super mega triple burger meal, make that an extra large, and add a side portion of wedges. Oh and a cheeseburger.”
Barry forced a smile and did his best to convey the fact he was not a complete moron, “What drink would you like with that sir?”
“I’d better make it a Diet Cola, my new year’s resolution is to lose some weight.”
Barry considered pointing out that eating a few thousand calories 12 seconds into the new year was not going to help achieve that particular goal, but he had learned over the last twelve months that customers rarely appreciated his advice. He dragged his feet over to the metal chutes where the ‘fresh’ food was stored and piled the requested items into a flimsy paper bag.
Barry cringed when he realised there were no cheeseburgers left. In his politest voice he leaned towards the kitchen and shouted, “Excuse me kitchen staff.”
A shaved head appeared over the top of the counter and fixed Barry with a menacing stare. This was followed by a muffled grunt, which Barry chose to decipher as, “What do you want. We is celebrating back here.”
“Hi Buzz, I was wondering if you could please make me a cheeseburger, if it isn’t too much trouble.”
There was a lengthy pause while Buzz processed the request. Then he turned back to his sidekick on the grill and shouted, “Oy Griff, looks like genius needs a cheeseburger.”
The short stocky lump of a person slumped against the freezer looked up from his porn mag just long enough to shout, “Tell smart arse there’s a fifteen minute wait on cheeseburgers, I’m swamped back here.” This was followed by a leisurely unfolding of the centrefold.
Barry didn’t have to hide his shock at this blatant display of laziness because there was none, he expected no less from Baldy and Shorty. He also knew that his options were limited; convincing the morons in the kitchen that they should be actually doing what they were paid to do was as likely as convincing a koala to run a marathon. To make things worse the ‘survival of the thickest’ law that governed this place had ensured that the only person dumber, lazier and more aggressive than the kitchen staff was the manager, which meant complaining was a pointless exercise. That only really left asking his customer to sit down and wait, or making a batch of cheeseburgers himself. He rolled up his sleeves in anticipation and was moments away from straying into enemy territory when one of the prettier girls working on the front counter shouted back to the kitchen, “Hey guys, we are out of cheeseburgers.”
Griff sprang to his feet and his movements became a blur. Within thirty seconds a cheeseburger appeared in the hopper. Barry considered snatching it up before the girl could take it, but his conscience would not allow it. Instead he shouted back at Griff, “Was it really that much effort to make two?”
Griff had resumed his position against the freezer, “Yeah sorry mate, I only had time to make one, guess you’ll just have to wait for the next batch.”
The pretty girl listened to this exchange and then handed Barry the cheeseburger. She flashed him a smile and said, “Happy New Year.”
Barry didn’t know how to respond, mostly because his mind went blank whenever an attractive girl spoke to him, which unfortunately was not a common occurrence. He managed to squeak out a “Thanks” as he crammed the burger into the bag and hurried back to his increasingly impatient customer.
The rest of the shift passed in much the same way. There were only two more incidents with Baldy and Shorty, one of which resulted in Barry heading back into the kitchen to try and make his customer a fish fillet and being pelted with pickles for his trouble. Like monkeys flinging turds they had annoyingly good aim and so for the remainder of the night he smelled faintly of vinegar. This at least had the benefit of encouraging customers to get away from him as quickly as they could.
As the clock struck 6 a.m. Barry used his last remaining energy to switch his till off and breath a heavy sigh of relief. As far as eighteen-hour shifts in hell went, this had been one of the less eventful ones. He carefully removed the money tray and carried it to the closet sized office tucked away where the customers couldn’t see in. As he approached he heard a sound resembling a warthog being force fed a hornets nest, which was music to his ears. He quietened his footsteps and slowly pushed open the door to find his circumferencely gifted manager snoring away face down on his desk. Barry seized the opportunity, he held his breath as he carefully placed the tray onto the edge of the table.
As he turned to leave the guttural rumblings ceased. He froze on the spot and willed the terrible noise to start again, but instead he heard a far worse sound.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Barry turned to meet the piggy eyed stare of his manager. He knew it was already too late, but he had to try, “It’s the end of my shift. I’m going home.”
“Not so fast. One of the cleaners has called in sick, you’re going to need to cover for her.”
Barry’s heart sank, “But I’ve just worked an eighteen hour shift! I’m exhausted, can’t you find someone else to cover?”
“I can’t very well go calling staff members at 6 a.m. on New Years day now can I, what kind of manager would that make me?”
A cavalcade of possible answers to this question swarmed through Barry’s mind. Every day the temptation to tell his boss where to shove this job grew a fraction stronger and events like this only helped to speed things along. Unfortunately today was not that day, so Barry said, “I’ll just cover for a few hours until you can find someone else.”
“Yes, yes, whatever. I suggest you start in the bathrooms, I’ve heard reports that some of our customers last night were a bit drunk and as a result there were more than a few accidents. Now off you go, I’m not paying you to stand around.”
Barry had no sooner left the office than the snoring started up again, taking with it any chance of him going home to his bed anytime soon. This was definitely not the start to the New Year he had been hoping for.