Lenny sat in his office in the back room pouring over the night’s receipts. Thursdays were slow. They were always slow. Fast food was cyclical: Friday nights, Saturdays at 11:30 pm, Sundays after church, like precision movements of a German clock, Lenny knew his customers inside and out.
Lenny knew people, after 25 years in the city he could smell you coming a block away. He could see beyond the masks we try to hide behind. He wasn’t impressed by silk suits, or fancy cars, nor was he fooled by those who walled themselves in with tattoos or black shirts. Lenny always used to say, “Doesn’t matter how fancy you dress up a pile of shit, it still stinks,” but he’d also add, “Don’t matter how dirty the window is, the sun will always find a way to shine through.” Lenny knew people and he knew his employees best of all, which was why he felt so bad.
Lenny knew that he had hurt Tim with his words; that he had insulted him with the crappy raise he had given him, but he also knew that Tim was better than this place. He could see that faint glow of passion just beyond the dull surface of his hazel eyes, Tim just needed something to come along and kick him hard in the ass to make him move.
There are times in a man’s life that define him, crossroads that loom before him that will drastically alter the course of his life. Tim was at one of those now. Either he’d break out of this hole he was hiding in, or he’d resign himself to become nothing more than what he already was… which wasn’t much.
As the large black hand of the time clock THUNKED onto the 6, Lenny started to worry. Tim’s shift ended in half an hour.
God puts his people in interesting places. Some he sets high in the pulpits saying pretty things to all the pretty people. Their teeth sparkle white, their BMWs glow. They are clean on the outside, but dark on the inside. The pressure for perfection is so much that their fake smiles are permanently plastered on their plastic faces. There hearts are good, down deep, down in the core of who a man really is, but sometimes they get buried by wrong things, sometimes they forget who they really are.
Sometimes God puts his people in low places too. He hides them away in dark holes in the dirty city, down with the “sinners”. They are grimy on the outside, stone faced, and keen eyed. They don’t look like much, and their words are sometimes as harsh as the environment that they live in, but their hearts are crystal and the light that burns in them shines through the dirt. Lenny was one of those people.
He didn’t know why God put him there, but he knew that he did. At times it didn’t seem fair that some people had all the blessings of this life, while others didn’t, but Lenny had to believe that in the end they were just things; that he’d rather have the blessings of the next life than this one.
“They’re called ‘trappings’ of success for a reason,” he’d remind himself, but in the inside… the inside he wondered if it was just another lie he told himself to make his life seem bearable. 50 years old and nothing more than a manager at a fast food hole.
“I’m kidding myself.”
Doubt and regret are heavy burdens to carry, they will snap the bones in your legs and drop you to your knees quicker than an angry woman with steel toed boats on.
The black hand THUNKED to the 12.
Lenny gathered the papers on his desk with a sigh.
“What a waste.” He didn’t know if that was meant more for him, than it was for Tim.
“I’ll tell you what’s a waste,” the door burst open with a red faced Tim grabbing the knob so tight the blood had drained from his knuckles, “you’re waste, this stupid job is waste, this whole freaking town is waste.”
“Oh really? And just what do you intend to do about it taco boy? I’ll tell you what you’re going to do, nothing. Just like I said before, you ain’t nothing and you ain’t gonna be nothing.”
“I’ll show you.”
“You’ll show me what?”
“I… I quit.”
“Oh, you’re gonna quit huh?”
“Yeah, that’s right. I quit. I’ll show you who’s nothing.”
The door slammed shut, the sound of metal bins hitting the floor followed Tim as he stormed about the back door. “Show me Tim, show me how nothing you really are.”
How much is a man worth?