Mel stood in his greasy white shirt over the prep-tabel rife with cross-contamination,(It was a miracle he was ever ServSafe certified) cursing as he made his 'world-famous chilli' known statewide across Arizona. He was frustrated his 'favorite' waitress Flo was not waiting on customers.
"Alice, where's Flo!?" Mel shouted from the back room.
"She's in the lady's room Mel! - oh sorry, Henry." Alice answered back, startled by the outburst she almost spilled Henry's coffee all over his uniform.
It's the third time this week Flo has been taking her sweet time in the restroom. It's really getting in the way of business! And worse yet - she's beem late three days for her shift. Time is money! '. Mel thought to himself, as sweat dripped from the tip of his nose into chopped beef - already two days past 'use by date'.
"I don't know Vera. Flo hasn't been on her best game lately. Do you think something is wrong? I mean, she's always coming in late with a headache - and mid-shift she seems to be ignoring customers to spend a lot if time in the restroom."
"Maybe she's been eating a lot of prunes to stay regular, Alice." Vera replied in her usual air-headed style. If there had been an audience, it would've broke out in laughter.
Hearing the two waitress chit-chatting out in the lobby only pissed Mel off more, as he chopped the onions without Ambidex food-service gloves.
"Enough talking girls! Vera! take over Flo's section - and when you see her tell her to come see me...It's time I gave her a piece of my fucking mind!"
Hearing that made Vera put her fingers in her ears; causing Alice to jump in and save the day.
"Mel, would you please not use that type of language in front of our 'guest'?" Alice said in a polite yet stern voice.
"It's my damn diner! If they don't like it - they can hit the door!" Mel shouted with an devilish grin on his face.
A few minutes passed and Henry left. The three truckers from Flagstaff, were antsy and kept asking Alice and Vera where Florence Jean Casselberry was, they were wondering what time to meet her at the trailer park where she lived. Some of the comments were so blue, the innocent Vera wanted to wash their mouths out with power-wash soap and clean her ears with sanitizer water.
You see, Flo had a well earned reputation around town and the truck-stops for her friendliness, and Flo and the truckers were very vocal about it. It was no secret.
Alice walks over to the restroom door and knocks. "Flo honey, you ok in there? Your 'friends' are askin' about you."
The knock at the door startled Flo, as she tried to put her bottle of Jack Daniel's back in her hiding place. In the trash can beneath the wadded up toilet paper, bloody Tampons and Maxi-Pads. She tried to fix her high hair after splashing some water on her face.
"Alright honey, just give me a moment doll." Flo said as she tried to straighten her composure in the mirror - after popping a stick of Big Red chewing gum in her mouth to mask the smell of liquor.
Flo finally comes out and joins the girls, Alice notices she's stumbling a bit, but doesn't think too much about it.
"Thanks Vera, I'll take these boys now." Flo said while chewing on her gum. Viera was happy she no longer had to listen to the truckers. If she had to listen to it a moment longer, she would have ran right out to the nearest Pentecostal church to cleanse her soul...there was no sanitizer solution strong enough at Mel's Diner to do that.
The truckers were grabbing and swatting at Flo wondering if she was still on for the night. She just laughed and said: don't you worry boys, ol' Flo'll be good and ready aftet I get off shift...and I'll have them BLTs in a moment Y'all.
"Oh Flo, Mel wants to see you - he seems kind of ticked. so you might want to put on a smile. I get your BLTs." Alice said as she looked over orders on her note pad.
"Oh please Alice, I know how to handle ol' tubby - don't you worry."
Flo walks back to the prep area and finds Mel using a filthy butcher's knife chopping wilted celery, with a sinister scowl on his face. Alright Flo, it's time to lay some Texas charm on fat boy. Flo thought to herself as she dances over to the table.
"Alice said you wanted to talk to me Mel."
"Yeah! whats up with this recent attitude lately? you're late for your shift and you've been taking too much me time in the restroom! You gotta problem or something?!" Mel growled out.
Flo didn't know what to say, maybe he knew she's been hittin' the sauce a little too much.
"FLO! are you listening to me!? What are you drunk or something?!" Mel grunted as he dumped some crushed (by hand) tomatoes into the chilli pot.
"No Mel, I've just been really overbooked at the truck stop lately - if you catch my drift." Flo replied while smacking her gum.
"Flo! what did I tell you about smackin' your gum in fron of the customers?"
"Oh Mel, them boys don't care about that! Now I gotta get back to my tables. Saint Vera doesn't know how to handle my rowdy truckers."
Mel looks into Flo's eyes, and can see she'd been boozin' it up on the job, he's been around the block a few times in his life and saw all signs of a boozer. Mel then decided to give her a warning - knowing it might just work out in his favor.
"Hey Flo, if you come in late one more time, you're fired! And I can tell by your eyes and slurred voice you've been drinkin' on the job." Mel chuckled as he slowly chopped the slimy celery.
Flo stopped in her tracks, she knew she couldn't lose her job, and would do anything to keep it.
"Don't worry Sweet-cheeks, ol' Flo'll watch her meter for ya, it won't happen again."
"Oh, and one more thing Flo."
"What's that Mel?"
"You want some company tonight doll?" Mel asked with a leering grin on his face, while wiping his hands on his stained white shirt.
"I'm sorry sugar, I already have some company over tonight. I'll have you over for poker tomorrow, I swear." Flo said as she fixed her hair.
Mel walks over to Flo and grabs her by the shoulder.
"Then I'll stop by after they finish up - and I'm not wanting to come over for poker Flo, if you catch my drift." Mel purred in a hushed voice.
"In your dreams Mel!"
"Anyways Flo, you heard me. If your late or drunk again...You're fired!"
"Yes Flo darling?" Mel says with folded arms and a smirk.
"Kiss my grits!"
Flo runs out to the lobby, she couldn't believe Mel would say such a thing. Of course he was sort of a sleaze-ball and a womanizer; but to be so bold as for a late night roll in the hay, was just unbelievable.
"What's wrong Flo, did Mel say something?" A concerned Alice asked, as she served one of Mel's famous burnt burgers to an elderly bag-lady.
"Alice, you won't believe the nerve that Mel Sharples has, I'm so embarrassed I can't even say it."
Alice just smiles and tells her he didn't mean it, and not to take him too seriously. She then starts to wipe down the counter with a sanitized towel, when Viera comes up and tries to get the scoop.
"What did Mel say Flo?"
"Oh pumpkin, you wouldn't understand if I told you. Don't you worry, I got this." Flo says as she pours some decaffeinated Foldgers in a cup for the bag-lady.
"Oh fiddle-sticks, I never get to hear juicy gossip." Vera says after huffing in aggravation.
Flo just chuckles, sways her head and tells her that if she couldn't even handle the language of her trucker friends, how could she handle what she just heard from Mel in the prep-room. Then tells her to run along.
Mel comes out to put the chilli on the stove, then tells the women to get back to work.
"Flo! what did I tell you about the gum?! It looks bad for business!"
Flo spits the gum in the wastebasket, while looking over at Mel leering at her; as he tells her once again in a hushed voice, not to be drunk or late, and that she knew the consequences.
The truckers got up from their table and told Flo they'd get the others on the CB, to tell them to be at her place at 11 pm. To which she replied: She'd be ready for em', and also not to forget to pop their Yellow-Jackets and Mini-Thins if they was gonna dance with ol' Flo. After one gave her a playful pop on the behind; which made Vera blush from across the diner.
"Playtime is over girls! come on - come on get back to work! Time is money! I wanna keep my good reputation in this town...unlike Flo, who's reputation is right up there with a 9-7-6 number. [ding] Order up! Table 6 Alice."
"Did you hear me Alice?! and dingy (Vera) you got time to lean you got time to clean! pick up a rag and start cleaning!"
"Oh Mel, could you please call them towels? Rag just sounds so...so dirty." Vera says as she grabs one out of the sanitizer bucket.
The next morning, Flo comes in late then heads for the restroom.
"Morning Flo! Mels about to blow his top. You're late." Alice says as she serves Henry his burnt bacon and expired eggs.
"I know Alice, just let me freshin' up so I can deal with ol' tub-of-guts. Deep down he's just a big softy.
"Hey Flo, looking for something in there?" Alice said while blocking the door to the ladies room.
"What ever do you mean Alice?" Flo says while fidgeting with her hair and smacking her gum loudly.
Alice takes her to the side and ask her if she'd been drinking. Flo acts offended then tries to push Alice out of the way. Vera walks over to eavesdrop, but Alice tells her to wait on her section.
"Flo, I know what you're about to go in there and do."
"Alice, just quit. You're talkin' ridiculous sweetheart."
"Flo, I found your bottle of booze. You got a problem doll - and you ain't going to find the solution at the bottom of a bottle." Alice says while pushing Flo against the wall.
"Don't you worry about ol' Florence Jean, I know how to take care of myself. I appreciate the concern honey, but I need to take the edge off before I deal with fat-mouth. Now what'd you do with my bottle?" Flo said in a playful tone, while twisting her gum around her index finger.
"I poured it down the drain Flo, you don't need that poison. You're better than that. Now go talk to Mel and act like your life depends on it. I'll watch your tables. Now be a big girl and go."
"Alright Alice, but you owe me."
Flo walks into the office, and sees Mel sitting at his desk with a grin on his face. Flo is dreading the words that might come next.
"Flo! you're late! what did I tell you? And are you hungover...partied too hard with those Flagstaff truckers last night?"
"Well Mel, something like that."
"Clean out your locker! You're fired! Hurry up and get out of my sight! maybe one of those truckers can help you out." Mel says with a sneer.
Flo starts to empty her locker when she starts to become overwhelmed with dread.
"Mel, I really need this job. I swear, I won't mess up again."
"Look here toots, you asked me for a job I didn't come looking for you. You should've took into account the consequences of your actions, before you went out and started going hog-wild. Maybe you can get a fresh start back in Cowtown, Texas."
Flo thought for a minute and decided to try one last time with Mel, by laying on some sweet-talk and Texas charm. She knew there was now way she could go back to her old stompin' grounds with her tail tucked between her legs.
"Mel sweety, I'm sorry. Is there anything ol' Flo can do to keep her job?"
"Well Flo, remember what I asked you yesterday? What's your answer?" Mel said as he leaned back in his offce chair.
"Oh alright - shoot! If it means keepin' my job, I guess I'll have to. It's a date Mel."
Mel just smirked and told her to get back to work - time is money.
Flo goes back into the lobby faced by a concerned Alice and Vera. Flo unexpectedly doesn't seem as broke up as they expected her to be. I mean Mel told Alice, Flo was out and he was already looking for a new waitress.
"So Flo, how did it go in there?" Alice asked with a confused look on her face.
"Yeah Flo, is Mel mad? Oh I just hate it when he gets mad." Vera says with a scared look on her mousey face.
Flo shimmy's over to the counter and tops off Henry's decaffeinated Sanka, as the smell of Mel's cigar wafts out from the back room as Flo says to the women.
"Girls, you gotta lot to learn. I told you I'd handle ol' softy. Hell, Florence Jean Casselberry has tubby wrapped around her index finger like chewin' gum. don't you two worry about me - Y'all got some growin' up to do." Flo chuckled as she served some undercooked sausage to the old vagrant (local flasher) in a trench-coat.
Alice runs back to the office and ask Mel what happened and that the customers could smell his cheap Honduran cigar.
"Well Alice,Flo and I worked that out...so to speak. And as for my cigar - doll. My diner, my rules, my cigar...and if they don't like it - they can hit the pavement! No get back to work! time is money."
Alice goes back into the lobby and sees Flo with with a Texas sized grin.
"I don't know what you did in there, but somehow you kept your job. And as for your drinking Flo..."
"Oh hush sweetheart, like I told ya, I can wrap a man around my index finger like some Big Red chewin' gum. Phoenix ain't got nothing on me."
The waitresses all look at each other and all start to laugh. When all of a sudden Henry starts to complain about his stale doughnut. Flo gives him one on the house, which causes Mel to rush out screaming.
"I'll give it to him for half-price Flo! No free food at Mel's Diner! fifteen cents Henry."
"Alright Mel, but you're lucky I'm a regular - otherwise I'd call you a skin flint. See you around ladies...Mel."
Alice laughed then paused, as she was about to bring some dirty dishes back to the wash area - but not before joking with Mel and the girls.
"Oh dear, somebody get President Jimmy Carter on the phone. Mel just gave someone a discount - we might have a national crisis on our hands ladies and gentlemen. I think Mel is going soft." Alice paused for a moment after the joke, as if she was waiting for the sound of 'canned laughter' in response to her genius wit.
Mel just grinned, then slammed his spatula on the griddle after Alice made one of her usual witty remarks, which always seemed to infuriate Mel.
"Get to work! Get to Work girls - Move it move it! Money doesn't grow on trees and neither does your paychecks! Now back to work!" Mel shouts as he cooks up his hash browns on the griddle.
Flo walks up to Mel and ask him to turn around, because she had something to say of big importance.
"What is it Flo!" Mel grunts as he flips his flips his hash browns with his unwashed spatula.
"Yeah Flo! Spit it out!"
"Kiss my grits!" Flo shouts then stomps away.
"I'll hold you to that Sweet-cheeks! you might get what ya ask for." Mel chuckled as he wiped the sweat from his face with his dirty sailor's cap.