Read or listen to the audio, narrated by the author herself…


1. The waiter with the enormous aborted fetus head and thin orange hair who picked fries off the plates under the warmer and sunk them into the mayo vat down to his grubby fin­gertips and then lowered them into his mouth while maintaining direct suggestive eye contact with me, often, while we waited on our orders.


2. The frequent huge tables of early twenties fresh-shaved, fresh-indoctrinated missionary Christians who started off their Bennigan’s experience with an involved hand-to-God-He-is-good-eyes-shut prayer while I stood, pen poised—which is fine, to each their own, but at some point in this convo could you check whether the Lord wants you to have chips and salsa or loaded potato skins or something because I got shit to do?


3. The guy who brought in a woman on his depressing office lunch break and ordered gin and sevens for both of them without asking her and tossed the wrinkled damp dollar bills down on the table like a boss and said to me with gravity and significance, like he didn’t have wicked Texas summer suit-jacket BO, like you couldn’t hear the spit in his mouth when he talked, “Keep the change,” and the change was seventeen cents.


4. The time a hot glass freshly filled with ice water exploded in my hand so chunks of strangely square glass like the safety glass windshields are made of hit my face and stuck in my hair and landed in the other ice waters lined up on the counter and the manager left them, saying, “Whatever, they’ll think it’s ice,” and I looked over and there was that big-ass baby-head fucker dangling a fry covered with what looked like STD jizz down into his mouth with his eyes locked on mine.


5. The roach that crawled up my leg while I was taking an order—not just in the kitchen where all the food is and where anyone who has ever worked food service knows there are roaches and rats and mice and all manner of vermin that thrive on filth—but out in the restaurant, crawling lazy and slow up my leg like a fat, tame petting zoo animal I had to frantically crush against my ankle with my foot while asking my table if they wanted peach-passion-fizz-pomegranate-what-the-fuck-ever tea instead of screaming, “RUN RUN FROM THIS PLACE OF DISEASE AND GARBAGE THERE ARE BUGS CRAWLING ON ME AND YOUR WATER IS FILLED WITH GLASS SHARDS AND THE COOK NEVER STOPS SCRATCHING HIS BALLS RUN SAVE YOURSELVES OH GOD THERE’S A CHILI’S ACROSS THE INTERSTATE!”


6. The two women who told me it was one of their birthdays and was it possible to get the free brownie sundae without the song and all the attention, so I begged it from the cooks and snuck it to the table and the women thanked me and told me how amazing I was and I was high for a little while to have waited on people who weren’t mad about what kind of cheese is this or why are there so many seeds on this bun or other inscrutable food issues that were my responsibility to control somehow in my god-like position of waitress, and then they walked the check and left me nothing.


7. The time I ate it hard as fuck on the slime-thick kitchen floor in front of all the cooks who fell down laughing while I tried to get up, and how my legs were coated with that soapy, phlegmy grey matter shit for the remainder of my shift until it dried and cracked like a cum stain, and then every time I went back into the kitchen for my order the cooks all said at once, “CUIDADO CUIDADO CUIDADO GORDITA,” and not just that day, but all the days, until I quit.


8. The fact that I smelled like sizzling fajitas, always, and I mean always, and I mean perva­sively, in my hair like an alluring beef and onion perfume, gusting loose from me in the steam of the shower and not receding but rather gathering strength from the heat and soaking into my pores and taking possession like that demon in The Exorcist who shouts, “THE SOW IS MINE!”


9. The time I split a thirty top in the smoking section with the big baby-headed fucker and he called me sweetheart and winked at one of the men with his creepy as fuck pale orange eyelashes and then when we cleared the plates away he stood too close to me in the kitchen and ate the bite-marked, spit-damp rind of a hamburger from a plate someone had heavily ashed their Kool onto and told me with his mouth full that the previous night he’d gotten the high school-age weekend waitress drunk on Zima and fucked her up the ass.


10. And maybe, more than anything, the birthday song, which entailed standing on a chair with my dead-eyed co-waiters around the table of the birthday victim and singing, “HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” in a frantic, tuneless manner while engaging in half-hearted dance moves that felt like a death rictus inside my soul and thinking of jobs that would be better than waiting tables at Bennigan’s, like unclogging rest stop toilets with my bare hands or assisting with circus elephant vaginal exams or sucking dick for quarters, anything, anything, holy shit anything but this.





Chelsea Laine Wells’s work has been published in Hobart, The Other Stories, Change Seven, Corium, The Collapsar, Knee-Jerk, Hippoocampus, The Butter, Third Point Press, wigleaf, and Heavy Feather Review, among others, and is forthcoming from New South, Paper Darts, and Black Candies. Winner of a 2015 Best of the Net award, Wells teaches high school creative writing and is managing and fiction editor for Hypertext Magazine and founding editor of Hypernova Lit.