“Put ’em glasses in that tub and bring it behind the bar,” Granma says. “Mind you don’ drop it, now.” I don’t answer. It’s early. I’m tired. And I know the job. You can keep all the money you find. “Theys loads of money down the seats, there, say huh?” I nod. I know that routine, too.
The Old Man had laughed the first time he saw me running my hands behind the back of the seats, tracing my fingers over the red plastic seams, dragging up sticky quarters and damp five dollar bills. And other things, too. “Ho, yeah,” he said. “Digging for a little something extra, ain’t ya?”
I stack the glasses in the gray bus tub. Ashtrays, too. They all go in the same dishwasher. No one cares. There’s no spoons or forks or knives to add. No one eats in this place. No one but me. I slap a rag over the top of a table and drag it around, chewing on an orange slice I grabbed from a tray on the bar. I move to the next table and the next. I’m wiping the rag in big circles, and I have to stand on tiptoe to get the middle of the table. While I’m stretching my butt squeezes between the table I’m wiping and the one behind me.
When I look over my shoulder to the sound of hot breaths behind me, I see the Old Man’s hand is inside his pants, but the top of his dick is outside, squeezing past his zipper. Gross. But I seen gross-er.
After everything, Granma tosses a knife with a weird white blade in the tub I’m still holding. “They’ll find it, you leave that there,” I say softly.
“Thas the point, say huh.”
I’m not scared or sick, I just don’t like this part. But Granma’s in no rush, gumming out words to herself, tossing the green zippered bank bag into her bucket, grabbing a tall bottle from a high-up shelf to put in, too, dropping her rags and yellow rubber gloves on top. I walk out behind her, climb into the front seat, even though I’m not s’posed to.
Granma’s gray hand pushes her gray hair off her forehead until it stands up straight. The gray road stretches out ahead until it touches the gray sky. I remember the Old Man moving his hand under the table when I bent over to pick up a dime he flipped on to the sticky floor in front of me. Remember his dumb open mouth with the knife sticking out of it after Granma finished, “Here’s sumpin extra for ya, say huh.” Then I remember something else. The long knife with a white blade that Mancy yelled about when I put it in the tub at the M&H Chop House yesterday morning. We clean the Chop House on Fridays and Saturdays and this place on Sundays. Or did. Mancy’s big red mouth saying, “Don’t wash this knife. Don’t pick up this knife. Don’t touch this knife.” Something else to remember: Mancy’s big feet sticking out from under the table one Sunday morning. And the look on his face when he crawled out and the Old Man opened up the green bag with the zipper. Flicked a stack of bills across the table at him. The way Mancy’s eyes stayed on the floor when he pushed the money in his front pocket.
I look over at Granma. “I left my Rainbow Pony notebook in my locker at school,” I say. “I really liked that one.”
She grins that gummy grin at me, pulls the rubber gloves out of the bucket at my feet, still dripping soapy suds off the fingertips, and—driving with one three fingered hand—digs around in the bucket some more and pulls out a tall glass full of bright red, long-stemmed cherries. Tucking it between my legs, she grabs three, shoving them into her mouth straight away. Sometimes all we walk out with is a drip tray of orange triangles. Or popcorn.
“That one where we got those cinnamon sugar almonds,” I say, picking up a cherry, “that one was the best.”
“Yeah, the best,” she says. “We’ll look for another place like that, say huh? Get us some pancakes in a few miles. Be like you don’t even miss that Rainbow Pony thing.”
I roll another cherry around on my tongue. “These cherries’ll probl’y taste really good on some pancakes, say huh?”
Granma laughs. “Mmm-hmm. Little sumpin extra.”
About the author:
Carman C. Curton consumes caffeine while writing a series of microstories called QuickFics, which she leaves in random places for people to find. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook @CarmanCCurton.
Free flash fiction on the first and third weeks of the month.