English mini fiction—“The Waiter”

It’s dark outside, maybe 10:30. He’s on his bike, on the way home from work. Work is the 10-10 grind in a restaurant in this mid-western town. 12 hours a day 7 days a week.

“It’s hard,” he tells himself as he pedals on, “but I’m lucky to have a job without a car or any skills.”

The street is pitch black except for the moonlight from above, and a few dimly lit houses. It’s also quiet. He can hear the squeaky noise from his bicycle tires among crickets chirping in the distance. In the darkness he smells grass and trees with the damp midwestern air in between.

He also feels the fullness of his pocket in the back of his pants. He smiles as he pushes the pedals: “Not a bad day I suppose, maybe I did over $100 dollars.”

As the air whistles by his ears and the smell of grass fills his nose, he reminds himself that in 2 months all will change. He will be in California, maybe joined by his girlfriend. A trace of sadness creeps up, however, as he thinks of her: “Didn’t she say she was unsure about going?”

Just then a beam of lights shoots up from behind. A car is coming. He stops thinking about California or the girl and focuses his attention back on the road until he gets home.

Home is a tiny studio on the second floor of a 4-story building. He drags his bike to the apartment. As soon as he puts it down, he goes straight to the bathroom and turns on the water over the bathtub.

He watches the water rise in the tub, undresses and jumps in. “It feels so good.” He murmurs to himself and closes his eyes as the hot water warms and relaxes his muscles.

Only now he realizes he’s sore all over, and tired, really tired, having stood and ran around on his feet for 12 hours straight in the restaurant, plus the 45-minute bike rides each way to and from work.

But then he thinks of something, sits up from the tub and reaches for his pant pocket. He grabs the stack of dollar bills and begins to count. He is almost too tired to keep his eyes open when he counts to 80 dollars.

He struggles to stay awake to finish counting. It’s over 90 dollars but not quite 100, he concludes. A little disappointed but too tired to care anymore, he falls asleep right in the bathtub.


(c) pilingjushi May 2021