Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 22 Feb 2018
What kind of burger can I get you? sighed Justin, propping his head up on the desk.The customer
stared chirpily at the overhead menu, scrolling his eyes down over the selection.
How’s the Hawaii
fresh cheeseburger? he asked.
Justin glanced down at the screen in front of him. It had a variety of little pictures on it, one
of which indicated a Hawaii fresh cheeseburger.
It’s... tikki-riffic grumbled the wolf.
What he wanted to say was
It’s just like any other burger, but with a slice of pineapple in it,
but tikki-riffic was the answer that Justin’s boss insisted they give. Justin yawned, and wished he’d
taken another job.
For the last three weeks, Justin had spent his weekends, and several hours after work, turning burgers at the local fast food bar. Ol’ Tony’s Good Time Burgers was a familiar face in town, and had been for over 30 years now. It was also one of the busiest, and promised service with a smile every time.
Justin was not smiling.
The entire silly, contrived plot was his father’s idea. Justin’s sire, the paternal force of nature that was Gregory, had decided that additional education was required due to his son’s reckless nature. Specifically, Justin’s enraged handling of a situation in the local cinema. A situation that had ended with one of the neighbourhood tuffs, a Doberman who had picked a fight with Justin, being dragged into the shadow realm by the wolf’s unrefined and instinctive vampiric powers.
Gregory had stepped in, deploying his own expert skill to recover the Doberman from the pits of the
nether-realm, and wiping the poor victim’s mind of the entire unfortunate event. It was then that his
father, with stern and long steps, marched his son into the burger joint and asked to see the manager.
You want to give my son a job Gregory had insisted, with no small amount of mind control,
make sure he keeps it for the next three weeks.
Justin had pouted. He had folded his arms and refused.
You need to learn how better to deal with
people instructed his father.
And you are not being given a choice in the matter. Working here,
among everyone else, will teach you very useful skills.
So far, all it meant to Justin was that he was falling behind in his video games.
Justin pushed the burger across to the customer and mumbled a
Have a pleasant day, before
digging into his back pocket to recover a well-thumbed paperback.
Justin! barked his manager. Rusty was seventeen, and had only recently been made a floor manager.
It was a dogs-body job, but for a young panther like Rusty, it was his first job and he wanted to make
a good impression. He marched over to Justin and folded his arms.
What are you doing?
The wolf peered up from behind the book.
Reading he replied.
Not when you’re on duty replied Rusty.
Come on. I’m doing really well at this one. He lowered his eyes to the book,
and skimmed the text. He decided, from the options listed in the book, that he did not want to fight the
goblins and turn to page 17. Instead he would sneak past their foul-smelling lair, by turning to page
64. Justin began to flick to page 64.
Rusty gave Justin a foul glare.
Put the book away, Justin, and grab a mop. Someone’s thrown up
in the ladies toilet and you’re on cleaning duty.
Justin hammered the book shut.
No way. Not in a million years. Not after last time. I don’t know
what they put in the hot sauce, but it was eating through the floor last time someone threw it up.
The panther put his hands square and sternly on his hips.
It’s your job, and I’m your manager,
and I’m telling you to clean up the vomit.
Justin slid his book into his back pocket, and glowered at Rusty. Justin wasn’t intimidated by the
panther. As well as being an inhuman bloodsucking fiend, Justin was about the same height and build as
the panther; Rusty was certainly small for his age, the two coming up to roughly the same height.
not doing it, and you can’t make me. You know you can’t fire me, so I refuse!
Rusty bit his lip. The wolf was right. The store manager himself, Ol’ Tony, had specified quite clearly that Justin’s job was safe and secure for the full three weeks. Although, now that Rusty thought about it, Ol’ Tony’s voice when he mentioned it was very monotone, almost mechanical, as if the instructions had been programmed into him under hypnosis or something. Either way, Rusty was stuck with Justin, the slovenly and lazy brat that he was.
The panther tried another method.
Get the mop and get into the toilet and start cleaning, or I’m
calling your father.
Justin’s glare vanished. A look of subdued resignation crossed over his face. His shoulders slumped.
He trudged across the kitchen, unlocked the cleaner’s cupboard, and retrieved the mop.
You’re crushing those burgers said Kero.
Justin tugged one of his earphones out of his large, floppy lupine ears. The sound of indistinguishable
metal filled the kitchen.
What? asked the wolf.
Kero pointed to the burger. Justin was holding the spatula down on the meat, squishing it to a wafer-thin slice.
Oh, right replied Justin, and pressed down harder on the burger. The meat smeared out wider
and splattered across the grill, sending chunks of half-cooked meat over the work surface. Kero clutched
his sides, laughing.
Justin liked Kero. A young tabby cat with a series of piercings not unlike Justin’s own, the wolf recognised Kero from school. The cat was a year below Justin, and had been working in the restaurant for most of the year. Most importantly for Justin, the cat admired him. It struck Justin that few things really appealed to him as much as being admired. It made him feel cool. A trendsetter. A centre of attention.
If Justin could, he would have his own Kero to follow him around and declare
Wow Justin, you’re
so cool! at random intervals.
Hey chirped Justin,
Wanna see what stuff we can dip in the fryer again?
Kero beamed at the idea. On quiet afternoons, this had become the pair’s most enjoyable game to pass the time. In the preceding weeks they had managed to flash fry Kero’s mp3 player (which the cat had found hilarious, although he wondered why it was his mp3 player that had needed to be scarified and not Justin’s), a variety of plastic sporks, an entire roll of paper napkins, a purse that a customer had carelessly left behind, a set of keys to the emergency supplies cabinet, and the store’s first aid kit.
In the back of his mind, Justin had a sneaking suspicion that the restaurant was probably close to being considered a health and safety risk due to his little game. But he was bored. No, more than bored. He was super bored.
Let me borrow your watch said Justin.
The cat gave a wilted expression.
Why my watch? he whined.
I don’t have one retorted Justin.
C’mon, before Rusty gets back.
With some hesitation, Kero slid his watch from his wrist. It was a cheap, plastic little device, which hadn’t worked for the last five years. On the watch’s face, Mickey Mouse’s hands no longer moved around to indicate the time.
Justin snapped a military salute.
Cap’n Mickey, we salute your sacrifice to the greater good.
he said. Kero snapped a salute as well, as slowly the watch dipped below the fryer’s bubbling surface.
Justin winced and pulled his fingers back, letting the watch vanish into the murky gloom.
When do you think we’ll see it again? asked Kero.
I wouldn’t hold your breath answered Justin.
Justin sighed and reached for the bottle of bath time fun bubbles.
He tipped it into the tub with him, shaking the water around to make the liquid froth and foam. He sniffed at his arm, and still smelled strangely of meat products.
Perhaps the smell wouldn’t come out, he thought. Perhaps he’d smell like burger forever. The amazing chemical-packed meat-scented wolf.
He took a deep breath and sunk his head down beneath the surface of the water.
The loop-o-happy chocolate glazed doughnut struck against the side of the mop’s handle and fell to the floor. Justin scooped it back up, depositing it back on the baking tray. He grabbed another three freshly warmed doughnuts, and walked back over to Kero.
The pair had set the mops upturned in their buckets, the end of the handles jutting upwards in an evenly spaced pattern across the kitchen, three targets in total. Justin hurtled a doughnut towards one of the targets, missed it, and watched the doughnut bounce and skid across the floor until it struck the wall and came to a halt.
Your turn said Justin.
A loud cough came from the counter. Justin glanced around.
It was a customer. He looked at Justin impatiently, as if he wanted Justin to actually stop playing games and actually do some work. This did not impress Justin one bit. Didn’t these customers realise how annoying they were?
He called to the customer,
The customer blinked a few times, and folded his arms.
Could you come over here and serve some
Justin rolled his eyes,
It’s nine in the evening, you really want food now?
Do I have to speak to your manager? snapped the customer. Justin sighed, hurtled the last
doughnut towards the mop, and trudged over towards the counter.
Slowly he tapped the checkout screen on, and looked at the customer.
Right, what do you wa—
Standing before him, every seven foot of sports jumper and baseball cap, was a very familiar looking Doberman.
Do I know you from somewhere? asked the Doberman.
Justin quickly tugged his crumpled paper hat down low over his ears.
No, definitely not. I’ve
never seen you before, especially at the cinema, and definitely never made shadow tentacles drag you into
the depths of the abyss, no. Would you like fries?
The Doberman blinked a few times in confusion.
With your meal. What are you having? stuttered Justin.
Oh, right replied the Doberman.
Uhh... what are you doing with those doughnuts?
Justin shrugged nonchalantly.
Just playing around. Want one?
Are you seriously asking if I want to eat one of those doughnuts that you’ve been throwing across
the floor and are now covered in muck?
Shaking his head, Justin replied
To be honest, you wouldn’t taste the difference.
I’ll just take a burger, then explained the Doberman with a sense of resignation. Justin shrugged,
plucked one readily-wrapped burger from the heating trays, dumped it unceremoniously in front of the customer,
Have a lovely meal and please come again, blah blah whatever.
Justin didn’t see Rusty walking through the office door and into the kitchen. His manager took a look over the kitchen floor, decked with doughnut crumbs, and tapped on Justin’s shoulder.
I don’t think the proper wording ends with ’blah blah whatever’ he announced.
is a mess.
That’s what I’ve been saying all along replied Justin sarcastically.
Clean it up snapped Rusty.
And throw out those doughnuts. They’re not fit for sale.
Justin gave the panther a petulant sneer.
They’re not fit for eating either.
The panther stepped back up to the counter, his face grim and angry.
Excuse me! Why is there a
Mickey Mouse watch in my burger?
Kero chirped loudly and happily,
You found my watch! He sprinted over, and grabbed the wristwatch
from the Doberman’s bewildered hands.
Taking one look from the half-chewed burger to the assembled staff, the customer released a defeated sigh. He threw the remains of his meal down on the counter, turned on his heel, and stormed from the restaurant, slamming the door behind him. The door’s bell gave a cheerful ring as the door shut.
Rusty fixed Justin with a stern glare.
You’re in a lot of trouble, mister.
Justin gave a brattish, mean-spirited laugh.
Hah. And just what will you do? Remember, you can’t
fire me. You’re stuck with me until the end of the week.
Rusty felt his anger bubbling up inside him. He was, however, not the most naturally angry of people.
He didn’t seethe, he didn’t shout. Instead, he began to pace. He clicked his fingers together, trying
to think of something, anything, he could do.
No, no I can’t, no.. he stuttered. Then he paused,
turning to levy his pointing finger at Justin,
But I can call your father!
Justin tore the hat from his head impetuously
A smile crossed across Rusty’s face, as if he had just solved an especially challenging puzzle.
We can’t fire you because of that deal the boss made with your father. So all I have to do is call your
father, and he’ll...
You can’t do that barked Justin.
Why not? asked Rusty.
Justin glanced around. Kero was standing close. Too close. Justin flushed. One thing he certainly did not, could not, do was to display weakness in front of his earnest admirer.
Let’s... discuss this in the office? asked Justin.
Rusty closed the office door. It was a small office, not much bigger than a hotel bathroom, and it was dominated by a large faux-wooden plastic desk. Shelves were packed with files and assorted knickknacks.
Almost as soon as the door was closed, Justin turned to Rusty and pleased
Please don’t call my
dad, please! Please don’t! Please please please! Any level of pretence to coolness was gone, now that
the two teens were alone.
Giving a resigned sigh, Rusty paced over to the opposite side of the desk,
I don’t really know
what else to do, Justin. I’m new to this position, and you just don’t seem to want to be here...
Exactly! replied the wolf, stamping his foot,
I really DON’T want to be here! This is just
my dad’s way of punishing me. Or teaching me some kind of stupid lesson about not scaring morta-erm, not
scaring people and stuff.
Rusty stifled a chuckle, and straightened his face. Justin felt put out, and a little offended.
not funny! barked the wolf.
He should have just spanked you and got it over with then! joked Rusty.
That’s why you shouldn’t call him! snapped Justin back immediately, without thinking. The
moment the words had left his mouth, he blushed beet red, and clasped his hands over his lips.
Rusty stopped laughing and raised his eyebrows.
He’d SPANK you? he asked in disbelief.
are you? Ten?
Shut up! shouted Justin, and stamped his foot.
Rusty was silent for a few moments, deep in thought. The air in the office was tense, Justin blushing
terribly at the revelation.
Well... said Rusty slowly,
I suppose... you could say... that this
gives me an alternative.
What are you talking about? asked the wolf.
You can’t call my dad!
No replied the panther,
But there DOES need to be disciplinary action taken. And, now that
I know how you’re normally punished... he paused,
Maybe I can punish you in kind.
Justin stared at his manager, wide-eyed.
You are NOT going to spank me, dude! No way.
I could call your dad then, if you prefer said Rusty in a cool, calm voice.
Hear me out
on this, Justin. Does it really matter WHO spanks you in this situation?
And why should it be you? growled Justin.
And you’re only a year older than me! Isn’t that
too young for you to be a dirty old man?
I’m not. But let’s look at it like this. I’m sure your dad can spank a whole lot
harder than me, right?
Justin looked the panther up and down. He had lanky, scrawny arms and a flat teenager’s chest, no
real muscle on him.
You’ve got a point.
The panther nodded, hopping up to sit on the side of the desk.
And anyway, I got spanked too when
I was a kid. So I’ve never really been on the giving end, you see.
Justin peered cautiously at the panther. He felt the hairs on his neck rise, and thought of lashing out at the figure before him with fangs and shadows, as he had done with others who had tried to push the same thing. Something about Rusty, perhaps the way the panther had approached Justin with reasoning and calm discussion, had won him over.
Alright said Justin slowly,
But only if you promise not to call my dad?
Promise replied Rusty.