Jack in the Box
I worked the 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift. At 9 p.m., the night manager would come in. He was in his late twenties and would bring weed and beer for all us high school employees to enjoy. He sold pills out of the drive-thru. We thought he was cool. We’d get the munchies, and he’d let us eat whatever we wanted. I’d usually slam some egg rolls, curly fries, french toast sticks, and a strawberry-chocolate shake. It was fun, but it got really stressful really fast when the DWI rush came after the bars closed and I had to make fifty tacos and twenty stuffed jalapeños while incredibly stoned.
The food at Wendy’s wasn’t free for employees. They just gave us a discount. I’d show up twenty minutes before my shift and make quick work of two junior bacon cheeseburgers, nuggets, fries, and a Frosty. I’d want to take a nap after, but they’d put me to work on the fryers. I liked to take the trash out to the dumpster so I could smoke cigarettes. I was a shitty worker. While I wasn’t technically fired, they eventually just stopped putting me on the schedule.
At first they put me up front, but I couldn’t pull off the eerily-happy-to-serve-you attitude expected of Chick-fil-A cashiers, so they moved me to the back. There was a strict no eating on the clock policy, but the food was so fucking good. I was questioned after an empty cheesecake container was found on the fridge floor. They knew it was me, but I denied, denied, denied. They couldn’t connect it to me.
I carried on like this for months undeterred, sneaking waffle fries and nuggets when I could. I got too comfortable though, and one day I was caught red-handed with a chicken strip in my mouth. My manager said he didn’t know what to do with me. “There is one thing,” he said. He led me to the back storage closet. I was confused. He dug around until he finally pulled it out—the dusty cow suit. “No way!” I said, but it was the end of the road for me. I tried on the head, and it reeked of old sweat. I stepped into the suit, and my manager zipped up the back. I stepped out into the dank Texas evening and waved cars into the drive-thru. It was fine until about 8:30 p.m., when the teenagers came out. They honked at me. They shouted foul things and threw various objects, but they couldn’t hurt me. I was protected by my suit. For weeks I danced on the side of Blanco Road and withstood the abuse until one night a car pulled up and a guy yelled something that cut me deep. He said, “Go home, you bovine scum.” Over those weeks, that cowsuit had begun to seep into my bones and become part of me. Though technically I couldn’t flip him off with my cloven hoof, I made the gesture as he drove off. My manager happened to be watching from inside. He came out and told me I was done. I never worked fast food in that town again.
Drew Buxton is a writer and social worker from San Antonio, Texas. His writing has appeared in, among others, Joyland, The Drift, Electric Literature, Vice, Ninth Letter, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. You can find him online at drewbuxton.com and on Instagram @drew.buxton.
image: MM Kaufman