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Excerpt for Burger City Blues by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

ISBN-13: 978-0-9993518-3-3



Copyright 2018 by M. Dubrow.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or have been used fictionally and are not construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. All characters in this story are over the age of eighteen.


No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the author.




Also by Allan Kemp


The Black Phoenix

Hagar's Tears

Tales of the Black Phoenix: The Bitter Pill

Tales of the Black Phoenix: Panty Man

Tales of the Black Phoenix: Loopy in Love


You can follow Allan Kemp on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Twitter:

@theallankemp


Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard


Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/theallankemp/



BURGER CITY BLUES

By

Allan Kemp

Chapter One

The music is too loud, the air is too full of cigarette smoke and the temperature is too low, even considering what a sweltering July day it is outside. I suppose the titty bar keeps the place cold so the girls' nipples will stay at attention. Referring to these strippers as "girls" is a stretch. There aren't just mothers dancing on stage, but grandmothers as well.

You'd think I'd be grateful to have a boss who insists on having our monthly business meetings at a strip club. So, call me ungrateful. This place stinks of stale beer and perfumed sweat. On the other hand, it's the one time I get to talk to my boss, Mr. Earl Bottenberg, alone. Well, as alone as you can talk to someone who's got a beer in one hand, a raunchy cigar in the other, and his nose inches away from a naked woman's ass. It doesn't do much for his appearance, but he quit caring about that some time ago. He was football star handsome until he got what he needed out of life.

I aspire to have what Mr. Bottenberg has and what he has is four Burger City franchises. I don't need four. Not right away. One would do me just fine and then I can grow from there. I understand what it takes to make a Burger City franchise grow and prosper because I've been working for the same Burger City since I was fifteen years old. It's Mr. Bottenberg's first Burger City and still his most profitable. I'm not his first employee, but I'm his only long-standing employee. After fourteen years together, I feel like we're almost business partners.

I would gladly pay to be part owner of the Burger City that I manage for him. It’s a position I deserve after fourteen years of working up from scrubbing the toilets to running the restaurant and doing the books for all four. But I can never be Mr. Bottenberg's business partner because his wife would never allow it.

Ah, the vastly strange Mrs. Bottenberg. The strangely vast Mrs. Bottenberg. She who makes these old hag strippers look like supermodels. She's the reason I put up with this monthly headache with Mr. Bottenberg.

She makes his life a living hell, but he doesn't dare leave her. It was her rich daddy's money that paid for that first Burger City franchise. And daddy made sure that his precious daughter had equal ownership. So, you see, Mr. Bottenberg already has a business partner.

Mrs. Bottenberg has stepped foot in any of Earl's four Burger Cities for years. They made a deal early on. She'd get him the money to start his own business and he could run it any way he saw fit. She knew he had the stuff to be successful if he could only get that first big chunk of change. But he was poor and she was ugly. And the one thing in life she truly desired was to be a mommy. Lucky for Mr. Bottenberg, she got pregnant on their honeymoon. He claims he was too drunk to remember it, but I'm not so sure. Every once in a while, he gets this queer look in his eyes, like he's remembering something truly horrifying. Then his whole body convulses violently once, twice, thrice, and then it's over. Until the next time he remembers.

I look up from my seltzer water just in time to see him going through his latest visitation of his honeymoon. The stripper feels his nose making an unexpected lunge to where the sun don't shine and cries out like a kitten in a blender. But then, she quickly regains her composure. Mr. Bottenberg is a regular here at the Feeler's Saloon (their motto is "Feeler? I don't even know her!"). Instead of slapping him silly for touching the merchandise, like she would have done if I'd stuck my nose into her privates, she climbs down off the table and attempts to calm him down. His condition is something the ladies here have been trying to cure for years.

"It's okay, Earl," she coos as she presses his face into her damp cleavage, "It can't hurt you now."

"Thank you, Imogene," Earl replies as he peels his face from her overripe breasts. "I seem to have spilled my beer. Would you be a dear and get me a refill? Besides, me and Randy still have some official business to discuss."

"Sure thing, hon." Imogene chirps as she grabs her skimpy costume and heads for the bar.

Actually, we had already completed our business. I was just waiting for Imogene to finish her table dance before I excused myself to leave.

"Sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral," Earl says. "I had some other pressing matters, you know, that I had to take care of."

"Hey, no big deal." I reply, " Well, I mean, yeah, a funeral is a big deal, but you didn't know Duane that well. Do you even remember him?"

"Sure, I hired him the same day I hired you. You two were quite a team back then. Kept that fry cooker cleaner than anybody ever did and ever has since."

I try to remember that time in my life. Were Duane and I really a team, or even really friends?

"It's funny, the only time we ever talked was when he stopped in at the restaurant. I'm still not sure why Connie asked me to be a pallbearer."

"Connie?"

"Duane's wife."

" Oh yeah, Connie. Well, it's just like I always I told you. Be loyal to your customers and they'll be loyal to you."

What he said was true. The only reason I took the time to talk to Duane was because of this advice Mr. Bottenberg had drilled into me. Be loyal to your customer. Make him feel welcome. Make him feel at home. Make him want to come back and spend more money. My loyalty to Duane was just good business.

"Well, speaking of customers, I'd better be getting back. I'll talk you later, Mr. Bottenberg."

"Damnit, Randy. When you going to start calling me Earl. It's been, what, I don't know how many years now."

" Sorry, Mr. Bottenberg. I'll work on it."

As I pass by the bar on my way to the front door, I stop next to Imogene. Compared to the rest of the girls here, she looks pretty good. Maybe because instead of hiding her age, she wears it proudly like a badge of honor. Must be a country girl thing. It makes you overlook the few strands of gray in her mane of red hair and that her naturally large breasts are starting to sag.

She's being hit on in a very unsubtle way by a cute brunette girl with bright hazel eyes. The brunette is dressed like a construction worker and flirting like one too. I remind Imogene that Earl is still waiting on that beer she promised to bring him.

"And besides," I add, "you don't want to get mixed up with this one. She's nothing but trouble."

"Fuck you, Randy!" says the brunette. "Now give me a hug."

I stoop over and wrap my arms around the petite woman. Kimmie Horenstein is her name and she is one of my closest friends. Hell, she's one of my only friends, since most of my life is tied up working in Burger City.

Many strip clubs in this town don't admit unescorted women; even lesbians usually come in groups, but Kimmie's the exception. She makes a point of being the exception. Whenever I see her, that old David Bowie song, "Rebel, Rebel", goes through my head. Her constant state of rebellion makes her annoying to most people. Feeler's lets her break the rules because it's too much of a headache to stop her.

"Really, Kimmie, you should leave Imogene alone. Aren't you dating Dixie?"

At the mention of Dixie's name, Imogene curses under her breath and hightails it back to Mr. Bottenberg's table with his beer.

"Damn you, Randy!" Kimmie barks as she watches her prey escape. "You scared her off. I was about to get me some fresh poontang."

I know Kimmie likes to say words like poontang, to get a rise out of me and to remind me of what a master horndog she fancies herself to be.

"And besides, I broke up with Dixie last week!"

"Yeah, and you broke up with Willadean the week before," I say. "You need to stop dating strippers who work for the same club, Kimmie. It's bad for your health."

As Kimmie chews my advice over in her head, I make my exit. In the end, I know she won't follow my advice. She wouldn't be a rebel if she did something sensible.


Chapter Two

As I pull into the parking lot of the restaurant, oily smoke is billowing out of the dumpster. Damn punk kids! This happens so often, I don't even bother to try and put it out anymore. The dumpster is far enough away from the restaurant and the customers cars that I can let it just burn itself out. Still, why can't they wait until the weather gets cooler? Why now, when it's already too hot to breath. I let myself in the back door to the restaurant and feel a wave of heat that matches the one I just left outside. The front end of the restaurant is air cooled for our customer's comfort, but back here in the tight maze of high speed cooking machines, there is no relief. It's not the stench of burning grease and overcooked hamburger meat that stops me in my tracks. It's the angry shouting I hear coming from the front counter.

I stride quickly but quietly to the source of the noise. Experience has taught me that rushing frantically into a situation like this only makes it worse. When I reach the counter, a customer is about to explode from righteous indignation.

"What the hell are you people trying to pull here anyway? I paid good money-money I worked my ass for all day in a tight cubicle just so you assholes can rip me off!" he shouts into the face of the young girl at the cash register.

I size him and the situation up quickly. He's short, medium build, thick glasses, crewcut and is wearing a wrinkled blue suit. He looks about my age. Yeah, I know just what he's feeling. The world has kicked him in the nuts and the last thing he needs is a fast food joint to disrespect him by not paying close enough attention to what he ordered.

Then I look at my employee. Her name's Felicia. She's a seventeen-year-old African-American girl who is also my star employee. Her eyes are popping out and she's standing very still. She's a tough kid with lots of street smarts, but this guy has really rattled her.

Last, I take a short tour of my own condition. Standing next to Felicia at the cash register, I can feel some of the draft of the air conditioning. That's good. My car's air conditioning died about five minutes after I bought it. My shirt is sticking to my body from the ride back here and my head is pounding from all the smoke and loud noise I endured at Feeler's Saloon. That little stream of cool air helps me fight down the wave of nausea that I've been feeling since I first stepped inside the building.

"What seems to be the problem, sir?" I say in my best calm efficient manager voice.

Felicia and the customer both turn and notice me at the same time. I can see Felicia's expression soften immediately. Mr. Crewcut is too full of steam to slow down just yet.

"Are you the manager of this stinking grease pit?" He yells in my face.

"Yes, I am, sir." I reply, "We obviously have done something wrong. What can I do to correct the situation?"

He hesitates for a moment. He's trying to decide whether he can get more mileage out of bitching about our incompetence in general or by pointing out what he feels we did wrong in such a way that we couldn't possibly solve the problem without him giving us yards of more shit. Logic dictates that you choose the latter approach. To carry on without specifics now just makes you look like an ass.

"I asked for no cheese on my burger and a regular soda. I got cheese and a diet soda. I'm lactose intolerant and I'm allergic to NutraSweet. This food could put me in the hospital. That wouldn't look too good, would it? A customer falling dead in your grimy little establishment here, huh? Huh?"

"No, sir, it surely wouldn't," I agree with respectful dismay, "That would not be a good thing at all. Our goal is to make our customer's experience here enjoyable both aesthetically and nutritionally. Obviously, we have failed you miserably."

He can tell I'm laying the bullshit on thick, but he still likes the sound of it. He lets go a little nervous smile and right away feels embarrassed by it. All three of us can feel the tension leaving the room.

"First, may I offer to personally make sure you get exactly what you ordered, sir?" I plead, "And then perhaps you'd be willing to accept a stack of our coupons for free soft drink and an order of regular fries with your next purchase of any of our sandwiches?"

I let him ponder the peace offering. It's the best deal he's going to get from us and he knows it. He shrugs his shoulders and stares at his shoes. I grab his new order and stuff it in a paper sack along with a big handful of coupons. I give him one more apology for the road as he snatches the bag of food and heads out the door.

"Well, there goes another satisfied customer." I said, which makes Felicia giggle.

I think about retreating to my office, but I can feel that someone is watching me. I hope it's not another lactose intolerant customer choking on a cheeseburger and pointing an accusing finger in my direction. Instead, I see that it's Connie sitting patiently at one of the tables. I always took the time to talk to her husband when he was alive. It looks like the tradition will live on with the widow.

"Connie! What a pleasant surprise."

"Hello, Randy," she says in her little girl voice, "you got time to sit and chat or are you too busy?"

"Never too busy for you, Connie. You know that."

I slide into the other side of the stiff plastic booth so that we're facing each other. We wait until a group of sweaty kids on a sugar buzz race screaming past us and into the attached concrete playground before we try to start a conversation.

"You want some of my fries?" she asks, "I can never finish them."

In front of her are the remains of a City Block. That's what Burger City calls its value meal. It consists of one of our signature Skyscraper Burgers (with or without cheese, depending on your lactose tolerance), industrial size fries and a medium soft drink. It's served in a cardboard box with graphics on the outside that depict a real downtown city block. Our TV ads encourage customers to come in and exclaim, "Gimme a 'Block'!"

"No thanks," I reply as I scan the cold leftover fries, "I had a big lunch."

Connie shyly looks at me with the palest blue eyes I've ever seen on a human being. I would consider them beautiful if she weren't so bland. Her hair is the color and consistency of dry straw, her complexion is as pale as oatmeal, and her features are decidedly plain. Her wardrobe is so rumpled and drab, you can't tell what kind of body she's hiding.

"Thank you for coming to the funeral."

"Thank you for including me. It was an honor."

"Duane didn't have, you know...," she begins, though I'm not sure what he didn't have. Common sense? Good taste? A penis? "...a lot of really close friends...like you."

Ouch. Now, I have to say something personal. I desperately search my memory banks on everything I have on one Duane Schmidt, now deceased. I sat in this booth ("our booth", as the Schmidts put it) with Duane and Connie at least once a month for the past five years while he droned on about their boring lives, but I never retained a word he said.

I searched back earlier to when Duane and I were both fat losers coming here to work after school. And that's when I remembered. The one thing Duane loved back then more than anything else in the world.

"I remember Duane was a huge fan of those Ray Gun Ray movies. You know, those movies about the space cowboy traveling the galaxy fighting alien bad guys and rescuing space maidens in distress?"

"Yes," Connie said. "I know them well."

"Duane had like every Ray Gun Ray action figure and God knows what else. I wonder what became of all that stuff?"

"Oh, he kept them." she replies with undisguised bitterness in her voice. "He kept everything."

"Hey, Connie, I'm sorry if I brought up something I shouldn't have."

"Oh, it's all right," she sniffs, holding back angry tears, "You didn't know. Though, I'm a little surprised. I really thought you and Duane were close."

I don't appreciate her reproachful tone, but I don't show it because I'm the calm efficient manager. Keep the customer happy.

"I'm really sorry, Connie. I thought so too. Obviously, I was wrong."

Connie daps her eyes with napkin. I fight the urge to check my watch.

"I shouldn't have snapped at you," she said. "Maybe I was the only one he shared that part of his life with. He was obsessed with the Ray Gun Ray movies. Whenever a new movie came out, he'd run out and buy all the latest toys. Whatever he could get his hands on. He was a very serious collector. Only the best quality. Had to be in its original box. Unopened. Mint in box. Everything he had. Why would he never open any of it? What was the point? If he loved it so much, why didn't he ever open it?"

She can't hold back the tears any longer. I pull a handful of napkins out of the dispenser on the table and hand them to her. As she cries, I realize she isn't crying about Duane's Ray Gun Ray toys.


Chapter Three

It takes a pile of napkins and repeated promises to come to her house to visit later in the week before I finally get Connie calm enough for her to leave. Meanwhile, my headache grows worse and worse and I can feel the stack of work in my office growing larger and larger. As soon as I see her car leave the parking lot, I dash for the door in the back marked "Private", unlock it, and slip inside.

I sit down in my swivel chair and scan the piles of paper on my desk. Should I first retrieve the large bottle of aspirins I keep in my top drawer or obey the red blinking light demanding that I check my phone messages? Before I can decide, the office door opens. The word "Private" applies to everyone but Mr. Bottenberg and myself. All others must knock first before entering. However, it's Felicia, so I make an exception.

Since fast food server is usually a short stopover in most people's career, I'm very appreciative of the more exceptional workers that come through here. Felicia is one of the best I've ever seen. She’s also stunningly beautiful. Tall and athletic with golden brown skin. As good as she looks now at seventeen, you can tell that in a few years she's going be truly magnificent. Right now, the legs are still in that long awkward stage and some of her curves haven't finished rounding out. She reminds me of a young filly that's about to grow into a powerful racehorse. In my mind, I've shortened Felicia to Filly. But I would never call her that to her face because she might find it offensive.

And I would never ever let her know about some of the nifty daydreams I've had of what it would be like to ride this young racehorse. Felicia is one of my employees and she is under eighteen. Sexual harassment and statutory rape are nothing to play with.

"I'm sorry to barge in on you, Mr. Crust." she stammers.

"That's okay, Felicia. What can I do for you?"

I don't ask her to call me by my first name. I prefer formal relations with my employees. Keeps everything in its proper place.

"It's just...it's just..."

"Take your time, Felicia," I say since looking at her is not a crime.

"It's just... I wanted to thank you for what you did for me earlier. You know, with that guy who was so pissed off."

Lately, I've been feeling a real emotional bond developing between us and it scares the hell out of me. It's okay for me to I admire her for her hard work since it's professional respect. But this is bordering on friendship. Nothing bad about that, but I know deep down that my buried lust for her would use this situation to seek something more. I even feel an involuntary stirring in my groin. Maybe if I had some kind of sex life, then this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

"No need to thank me, Felicia. We're a team here at Burger City. We got each other's back. Besides, he wasn't angry at you. He was pissed at the world and we were an easy target."

"Yeah, maybe," she said with a big open smile that sends shivers to places I don't want to be having shivers. "But that's what makes you special, Mr. Crust. You really seem to understand people."

I feel my face getting hot. She edges closer to my desk and my face isn't the only place I feel hot.

"Do this job as long as I have and it becomes second nature."

"You're too modest, Mr. Crust."

To distract myself, I unlock my top desk drawer and start to rummage for the aspirin bottle. There it is, two weeks old and already more than half empty. Beside the bottle is a heavy shiny metal object. Normally, I don't even notice it, but I can tell by the way Felicia leans in and sucks in her breath, it has captured her full attention.

"Is that your gun?"

Now my face is really hot, but more out of embarrassment.

"Yeah. Mr. Bottenberg gave it to me. He bought handguns for all the managers. Gave us nice leather holsters to go with it. I'm supposed to have it on me all the time, but I don't know. I don't feel like I need to carry it around."

She crosses her arms under her breasts. Her perky almost legal breasts.

"Have you ever fired it?"

"Yeah. Along with providing the gun, Mr. Bottenberg made sure I learned to use it and that I got a concealed carry license."

"Can I see it?"

She can see it fine from where she's standing, but I know that's not what she means. She wants to know if she can touch it. The symbolism of letting her touch my gun is not lost on me, but I put my dirty thoughts aside. I can't see any harm in letting her hold the gun. I take it out of the drawer, remove the bullets, and hand it to her properly.

Felicia grins as she holds the gun. I explain basic gun safety. Don't point it at anyone. Don't put her finger on the trigger. But I can tell from the way she handles the weapon, that this isn't her first gun. In fact, I get the feeling she's been around guns a lot more than me.

I don't know why, but a shiver runs down my back and I think of that old saying that someone just walked across my grave.

She gives me back the gun and I put it away. I wait until she leaves before I lock the drawer.



Chapter Four

I make it through the rest of the day without any major incidents. I return to the cramped rectangular trailer I call home and do what I do most nights. I surf the net. It helps me think. One part of my brain absorbs assorted bits of information as I wander from website to website. The other part of my brain just wanders.

I admit. My life is pathetic. But things are actually much better than they used to be. My family was poor and lazy. In the hope that I wouldn't be completely useless, my mom made me sign up for my high school's after school work program. She didn't care about the extra credit I earned for experiencing a real job. She knew damn good and well that the program was actually for kids who lived in homes on the poverty line. The money the kids were paid helped their families make ends meet.

Duane was in the program with me, so that's how we ended up applying at Burger City the same day. He wasn't from a poor home. His parents just wanted him out of the house.

Duane and I did hang together back then because nobody else would have anything to do with us. However, shortly after we started working at Burger City, we began to drift apart. For me, it happened one day when we were taking a lunch break.

We were allowed to eat whatever we wanted for free (within reason). We'd both grab two or three Skyscraper burgers and as many industrial fries and then gobble it all down. I was stuffing one of the burgers in my face, feeling the sticky mix of condiments and animal fat ooze down my fingers, when it dawned on me. These burgers were disgusting. They were killing me. Why was I putting them in my system?

I swore off red meat and then anything with a face. I've been a vegetarian long enough now that if I tried to eat meat it would probably make me puke. Duane, on the other hand, stayed exactly as he was; a fast food junkie.


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