There was a time when Kenma could walk into the Chicken Dip and not immediately want to die.
When he had first moved to Tokyo for university, the fast food joint was his go-to for dinner almost every single night. It was healthy, sort of, and close to his dorm room, not to mention his classmate Kenji worked there as a manager, so he always got discounts on his food. However, college was expensive, and all the money Kenma had saved up ran out in the first two months ran out.
Tuition wasn’t the scam, he realized, it was the supplemental materials. His theory was that, once a year, all of the professors met in an underground lair to discuss how they could get all of their students to waste even more money.
As a solution to his financial troubles, Kenji had suggested that he work at the Chicken Dip. At first, it seemed like a great idea. The walking distance from room to work, the even more discounted food, it all seemed perfect for him.
“You’re always cooped up in your room,” Kenji had told him during the interview. “This will be a good opportunity for you to socialize outside of class.”
It had been almost a year since then, and he cursed his decision to listen to Kenji. Kenma, with the utmost sincerity, hated his job. He would soon learn that his boss had no regard for him as a working student, much less a human being, and his coworkers, with the exception of Kenji, were all complete and utter morons.
Kenma sighed. The pungent smell of chicken and oil overtook his senses, and the happy mood he had been in five minutes ago completely disappeared from his body. He hung his coat and bag on the small collection of hooks above him, taking a deep breath. He had just come back from his break, the only bit of time the company allotted for their employees so they wouldn’t go completely insane, and the peace he had felt earlier disappeared from his body the moment he stepped back into the locker room. He felt the spirit of customer service possessing his body, its cold, wispy fingers grasping at his neck and digging into his head.
“Good evening, Kenma.”
He hummed softly in response. Kenji smiled at him softly, leaning his forehead against his coat.
“I only showed up because we get paid today,” the taller boy admitted. “I have an exam I need to study for and three essays due by the end of the week.”
“You would think with most of his employees being students that Mizusen would be more lenient with his scheduling,” Kenma said. “I’ve been here since 9 and I’m just barely getting my break.”
“As long as he gets to take his break, he could give a rat’s ass about anyone else.”
The clock above their coat nook made a soft whirring sound. They groaned simultaneously. Kenma put on his nametag (a fake one, obviously, there was no way any of those drunk, abusive customers would ever have the privilege of knowing his real name) and walked into the main kitchen area. He waddled over to the one register on the counter and punched his numbers in, snatching his time-in detail from the receipt printer.
4:00 PM. Only thirty more minutes to go.
Kenma took two headsets from the office and made his way towards the drive-thru area, his designated haunt. “Your humble crown, my liege,” he said as he handed Kenji the other headset. His manager rolled his eyes, slipping the uncomfortable contraption onto his head.
“Iwaizumi, you can go count the morning registers,” Kenji said.
The morning shift manager, a burly young man with wild hair, let out an extremely loud sigh. “Thank the fucking gods,” he muttered. He placed his hands on Kenji’s shoulders. “There is a frat party going on down the street tonight,” he said. “Good fucking luck.”
Kenma watched as his manager walked away. The liberty and salary that Iwaizumi and Akaashi had made it appealing for Kenma to also become a shift manager, but he was reminded of the stress and absolute bullshit their general manager put both of them through, and he quickly put the thought out of his mind. He already had to deal with mountains of homework and extracurriculars as a computer science major, he didn’t want to add any extra workload.
A loud dong snapped him out of his reverie. Kenma winced, adjusting the volume on his headset before turning the microphone on. “Thank you for coming to Chicken Dip, what can I get started for you?”
“Can I get a minute please?”
The rude tone of the customer pulled a scowl onto Kenma’s face, and he shot Kenji a dirty look. One thing that had become increasingly evident in the short amount of time was how rude people became the second they stepped into the vicinity of the restaurant. Kenma didn’t know if it was a universal thing, but the people who came to eat at the Chicken Dip were some of the rudest people alive. They were absolutely discourteous, not to mention messy and disgusting, and they had a tendency to yell over the silliest thing. He heard the phrase “Can I please speak to the manager” almost twenty times a day, and he got yelled at over the smallest things. Just a week ago, a customer had left a rather nasty surprise in the bathroom and Kenma had been forced by Misuzen to clean it up, and he swore to God every time he saw a customer walks into the bathroom a piece of him shrivelled up and died.
It hadn’t even been five minutes since he had clocked back in and he was already being screamed at. Kenma pressed the side button on his headset. “Thank you so much for your patience, how may I help you?”
Kenji smacked his shoulder lightly. The company had a “no guest fault” policy, which basically meant that the employees had to bow down and lick the customer’s shoes, but Iwaizumi told Kenma that as long as he was smart about it, he could be as sarcastic as you want.
“They lose all of their brain cells the moment they walk in here,” he had said. “Just don’t get caught.”
Kenma considered himself to be the master of subtle sarcasm, and he used his gift whenever a customer pissed him off. This customer was already getting on his nerves, and he was going to make sure he made their visit as pleasant as possible.
“Yes, hi, can I get a leg lovers?”
Kenma looked to their chicken cook, a tall, stocky man named Takanobu. “Aone-san, do we have a leg lover?” Takanobu looked to his grill and shook his head. “I’m sorry, at the moment we do not have a leg lover.”
“Why is that everytime I come here you guys never have it?”
Oh. They were one of those customers. “Unfortunately, the leg lover is not a menu item. We only sell it when we have extra legs, and at the moment, we do not have extra legs, therefore we can’t sell the leg lover. Can I interest you in our regular chicken meals?”
“I don’t want that, I want the leg lover,” the customer argued.
“I can’t offer you what I don’t have.”
The customer huffed indignantly and pulled away from the speaker. Kenma breathed deeply. Whenever a customer did that, it usually meant they were going to pass by the drive-thru window with their middle finger out the window or they were going to start arguing. Kenma had had a terrible day, so he dared the customer to pull up.
“I swear they get stupider as the days go by,” Kenji murmured. “Oh, here she is. Oh dear, she looks like a Karen if I’ve ever seen one.”
The employees at the Chicken Dip had a codeword for each type of customer. It had started as a joke between Matsukawa and Hanamki, and grew into a storewide thing. They even had a board up on the drive-thru window what kind of customers they got. For the last few months, their leading customers were Karen, Ron Swanson, and Toto; the bitch, the no Mr. Nonsense, and the dog respectively.
Kenma peeked over his screen. The customer, a middle aged woman with a nasty scowl, had pulled up to the window, and boy did this particular Karen look mad.
“Can I speak to the manager?” she asked.
Kenma pulled out a marker from his pocket and marked a tally on the drive-thru board. Kenji resisted the urge to laugh and addressed the woman. “Yes, how may I help you?”
“Are you the manager?”
“This is the dumbest bitch I’ve ever heard,” Kenma whispered into his headset. “Are you the manager? Headass.”
Kenji shot him the finger. “Yes, I’m the manager, how may I help you?”
“Yes, everytime I come here, I ask for the leg lover, but you guys never have it. Whoever was taking my order did nothing to help me, and they were very rude to me, and I want their name and I want your name and I am calling corporate.”
“I’m very sorry about that. My name is Tanjirou and the person who took your order was Eiji. You can find the corporate number on our website,” Kenji said calmly. “Also, I would like to make it known that I was present when my employee took your order, and he was not rude at all. He explained it very well and I stand by him.”
“Excuse me? You can’t speak to me that way.”
“I’m speaking to you politely, ma’am, if you cannot understand that, that is not my fault.”
“Is there another manager I can talk to? You’re an idiot.”
The whole restaurant seemed to stop once those words left her mouth. Kenma covered his mouth, stifling a laugh. Even the cashiers in the front stopped attending their customers. A stiff smile crawled onto Kenji’s face.
“What did you call me?” He asked quietly. “Listen here, you anchovy-looking, long-faced b-”
“Hi, what seems to be the problem here?”
Kenma turned, and inwardly grimaced. Misuzen had lumbered out of his office, sporting the fakest smile he had ever seen on a person. He walked over to the window, all but shoving Kenji out of the way, and began talking to the customer. Kenma pulled Kenji over to his shoulder, arm looping around his supervisor, patting his head. Kenji relaxed in his friend’s arms, but he still had the nastiest look on his face.
“We’ll get that to you right away, ma’am.”
Misuzen pushed past the two and over to the grills, where he began making the woman’s food. It took less than two minutes, and he had the blue car pulling out of the drive-thru in almost no time. When she was gone, he turned to the two glaring at him from the corner.
“How hard is it for you two to follow simple instructions?” Misuzen asked. “You give the customers what they want, and there are no complaints. How hard is that to understand?”
“Even when we give them what they want, they still complain,” Kenji stated.
“When I promoted you, I told you my expectations and everyday, you continue not to meet them, so if this simple job, if making customers happy is not something you can do, then we will be having a separate discussion.” Kenji clenched his fists. Misuzen turned to Kenma. “Kozume, a word.”
Kenma looked to Keiji. Keiji took a deep breath and nodded to him, silently telling him to follow their boss. Kenma squeezed his friend’s arm before following the short man into the office. Misuzen sat down with a groan of his chair.
“What do you need?” Kenma asked quietly.
“Look, I’m going to cut straight to the point. Sena isn’t going to make it in today and I need you to cover her shift, at least until 9.”
Kenma’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry but I’m not going to be able to do that. I have to-”
“I’m not asking you. As your boss, I’m telling you, and if you have a problem with that, you can just hand in your two weeks notice.” Misuzen pointed to the aforementioned slips of paper he kept on the wall. No-one knew why he did that. Kenma figured it was as a reminder that he could break spirits, that everyone was beneath them. Kenma considered many times turning in a note just like that, but he couldn’t afford it.
That didn’t stop him from dreaming about it though.
“Do you have anything to say?” Misuzen asked.
Kenma frowned, but he shook his head. “No, we’re fine.”
“Good. Get out of my office.”
Kenma rolled his eyes and left the cramped room, returning to his station next to Kenji.
“I thought you were going home?” the older questioned.
“Why would anyone ever think they were going to get off at their scheduled time?” Kenma muttered. “That dickhead really cares about no-one but himself.”
“A lot of things that happen here are illegal, but-” Kenma sighed. “As a broke college student in desperate need of money, I can’t really go around turning my nose up at it.”
Kenji pouted, but he didn’t say anything. Deep down, he knew Kenma was right. Everyone knew it, and that was why no-one reported the numerous workers and healthcode violations. It would only screw over everyone who worked there.
It didn’t stop anybody from complaining, though.
The rest of his extra hours passed by in a frantic daze. Misuzen left shortly after breaking the terrible news to Kenma, and the dinner rush had passed by them a few hours after that. Kenma leaned his entire body out of the drive-thru window, wilting against the outside wall and crying silently.
His whole body ached terribly. Kenma wanted to die.
The ping of the headset forced him to lift his head up. “Thank you for coming to the Chicken Dip. What can I get for you today?” He sounded dead and defeated, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home.
“Hi, can I get uh-” The deep voice that greeted him awoke him from his grumpy daze. Kenma pulled his body back into the restaurant, eyebrows shifting at Kenji. “Can I get- Wait... Stop poking me.”
Kenma could hear muffled laughter coming from the other end of the headset, and he rolled his eyes. “I take this last car and I’m done, I cannot deal with these idiots anymore.” He whispered quietly.
“I swear to God if you don’t stop poking me, you’re going to get hurt-” A rather loud slapping sound echoed through the microphone. “What did I just say?”
“You’re so drunk-”
“If I was drunk I wouldn’t be driving, now what the fuck do you want?”
“Lemme get uh-” Kenma winced as loud laughter pierced his ears. “I’m drunk!”
“Fuck it, I’ll order for you. You’re taking too long.” No kidding. “I’m so sorry for that. Uh, can I please get an eight piece? Do you think that’s enough to put a drunk man to sleep?”
“I’m not drunk.”
Kenji snorted. Kenma groaned. “I can’t speak from experience, but I’d say so,” he replied.
“Great! I’ll get that with an order of fries and coleslaw, and… a large Sprite. For me, not for you, you need water. Oh, and a water!”
Kenma shook his fists. “Will that be all for you sir?”
“Yes, that’s it. I’m sorry again, thank you.”
“Please pull forward to the window, sir.” Kenma sighed with relief when he heard the car drive away, only to be filled with dread as he saw it pull up to his window. Iwaizumi had warned both of them about the drunk frat kids that would be stumbling into their restaurant, but Kenma didn’t pay any attention to it, thinking he would have been able to escape before. Oh how wrong he had been. He pulled open the window and peered into the car.
Now, Kenma had been ready to give the customer a good dose of sarcasm. They had been indecisive, they bumped up his timer, and he was pretty sure the customer had vaguely threatening Kenma with bodily harm. However, the moment he had peered out of the window, that need to be a subtle dick flew out the window.
The man in the car was handsome, albeit a little messy, and even from his perch in the drive-thru window, Kenma knew he smelled nice. This customer was a Phillip, a rare gem that looked and smelled and talked nice. It was always a treat when anyone came across a Phillip.
“Oh, hey,” the Phillip spoke. “I’m sorry about that. My friend is really, really drunk and I just wanted to get something for him to eat.”
Nice talking and considerate? Hello Phillip. Kenma shook his head, “No, it’s okay. Um,” he turned to the screen. “Sorry, that’ll be 21.90 please.”
“Yes! Right.” The Phillip ruffled through his coat and pulled out his wallet. He took out a black and orange card and handed it to Kenma. “How’s your day going so far?”
Do you want me to lie or tell you the truth? “It’s, uh, good, so far.” Kenma handed the Phillip back his card. “How is, uh, yours?”
“I have had to look after an oversized baby for the past few hours, but it’s been good.” The Phillip leaned out the window and smiled. “It got better.”
The grin the Phillip sported sent flames running through Kenma’s body. He cleared his throat. “Excuse me for a second.” He shut the window and ducked behind the counter. “Keiji. Keiji!”
“If another customer is yelling at you, I swear to God, I’m going to go off,” the older man said.
“No! No. Listen, this customer is really cute and I think he’s hitting on me and I’m too tired to deal with this.”
“Do you want me to deal with this?”
Kenma thought for a moment. On one hand, cute customer, a nice break from the yelling and being cursed out. On the other hand.. . it was almost nine and Kenma wanted to go home. He nodded vigorously. “Please, I can’t take it. Help me.”
Keiji put down the cleaver and collected the customer’s order. He took it to the drive-thru window and handed it to the young man. “Will you be needing anything else sir?” The man began to speak, but Kenma couldn’t hear over his internal panicking. “Sure, I’ll tell him. Kenma?”
Kenma looked at hm, shaking his head already.
“The customer wants your number.”
Kenma threw his headset and walked out of the restaurant.