“Morning, Dan!” Matt greets me. “Glad to see you’re feeling better.”
“Hi, Matt. Yeah, sorry about the other day. I was running a fever, and I really didn’t think it was a good idea for me to come in and spread around whatever I had.” Both true statements. My temperature is well above normal, and spreading fire around at the restaurant was unlikely to be appreciated.
“It’s okay! You might want to wear a jacket on days like today, though, to help stave off those winter colds.”
I eye Matt suspiciously, scanning his face and body language for any sign that he’s being sarcastic or questioning my alleged illness, but he looks open and relaxed.
He notices my stare and laughs. “Sorry, was that too much of a mother comment?”
“Heh. No, it’s fair. It’s just — B-Rock gave me a hard time about calling out, and I sort of expected you to, too.”
Matt shrugs. “If you can’t make it in, you can’t make it in. I don’t love having to juggle the schedule at the last minute, but it’s part of the job. At least you called the day before; morning of, hours or minutes before shift, is the more standard technique. Which I’m not advocating,” he adds hastily.
“No, I got that. Thanks for being understanding, is all.”
“Yeah, no problem. And don’t mind B-Rock. Someone’s got to be the bad cop to my good cop. This way, I get to keep being the good guy all of the time,” says Matt. He pauses to see if I have anything to add, then continues, “So, those burgers! Ready to go make ’em?”
“Børn ready,” I say, and Matt hears my ø and grins.
This guy is hands down the best boss I’ve ever had. I really hope I’m not supposed to stop him with fire.
Most of the day ticks by without incident. People come in to buy food, I sell them food, everyone’s happy. For certain values of happy, anyway. Some of them probably have non-Børger-related issues going on, and I’m kind of bored, but they don’t tell me about their problems and I don’t tell them about mine.
I do try to cook fries faster at one point by pyro-heating the oil — intentionally, this time — but although I manage not to set the oil on fire this time, when I take the fries out, they’re too crispy on the outside and still a bit raw in the center. Next I try heating the fries themselves before they go into the oil, but then they come out too floppy.
Eventually it occurs to me that Børger has a process for a reason, and that I wouldn’t be screwing around trying to improve it if I didn’t have pyrokinesis. When you get right down to it, pyrokinesis is just the ability to produce fire on demand, so I suppose that the fryers are basically pyrokinetic, too. They have less versatility than I do, but they were designed to make fries. So I quit trying to beat the fryers at their own game and just wait for the stupid timer to tell me to pull the fries out.
Over my break, I find a message from Brian on my phone: “Hey Fry Cook. Got results. Meet at hospital?”
After a minute of trying to think of a good comeback for “Fry Cook,” I give up and let him have the point. This would be easier if he had shifting superpowers, too; I’ve run through most of my clever names for his profession and demeanor already. “Working. Late tonight?”
“No go. Tomorrow, maybe?”
“Can do the morning. 8?”
“Seeya at 8, hot stuff.”
I scowl at my phone, but I still don’t have a good rejoinder. I’m going to have to work on these.
The day winds down, and Matt and I are prepping to close up shop. I’m mopping the floor while he swabs down the counters. We’re not technically closed for another five minutes, but the place is empty, and I’m happy to get a jump on things and get out of here sooner.
“Cleaning the store before closing is a time-saver in more ways than one,” says Matt. “Not only does it help us get out of here sooner, it also lets those last-minute customers know that the restaurant’s about to close. We can’t say anything about that out loud, but a mop bucket on the floor and a Windex bottle on the counter have helped many a zero-hour customer spot the time.”
As if on cue, headlights flare in the front window as a car pulls into the parking lot. Matt sets the Windex bottle next to the register, and I put on my customer smile and duck back behind the counter to help him.
My back is still to the door when it swings open, so the first I know that anything is wrong is when I see Matt’s eyes widen and the smile curdle on his face. As I’m turning to face the front, I say, “What’s –”
“Hands up!” barks a voice from the front of the restaurant. My head whips around and I freeze in place as I see three men in ski masks standing in the lobby. Two of them are carrying metal pipes, but the foremost has a gun. It’s pointed at Matt, but as I stand stock-still, it swivels to point at me.
“Hands UP, I said. Are you deaf or just stupid?”
My hands go up. They’re shaking; adrenaline is singing through my veins, insisting that I do something, anything, but there’s nothing I can do here. They’re on the far side of the counter, they outnumber me, and they’re armed — one with a ranged weapon.
The gun goes back to Matt. “You, open the register. Empty it into this bag.” One of the pipe-holders tosses a canvas bag onto the counter. “Do not let your hands go out of my sight. Do not reach behind the counter for anything. Do not try anything stupid.”
The brain’s a funny place. All sorts of weird connections get made. Songs remind you of flavors, smells remind you of emotions — it’s all tangled up like a headphone cable. And when the robber says “do not try anything stupid,” it somehow is the push I need to remind me that I have superpowers, and I can probably stop this without ever lowering my hands.
I could just set the guys on fire, probably, but that seems pretty sadistic. They’re all holding metal objects, though, and I don’t mind giving them a few blisters. Thing is, the guy with the gun has his finger on the trigger, and the gun’s pointed at Matt, so I’m not keen on startling him right now. I need a distraction.
I cast my eyes around the restaurant, which is pretty barren at the moment. The tables are cleared, and the trays are put away. The only thing sitting out is the mop bucket — but I can work with that.
I focus on one spot at the lower corner of the bucket, and think intensity at it. Bombs! Explosions! Nuclear war! And as I do, I very slowly raise my hands even higher in the air, straining at the shoulders, and draw in a breath, whispering quietly, “Uuuuuuuppppp!”
It takes a few seconds, and Matt’s got the drawer open and has half of the money into the bag before suddenly the base of the mop bucket melts apart, and a deluge of soapy water surges out onto the floor.
The closest robber exclaims in surprise and jumps away, and the other two turn to see what the new threat is. As they do, the gun swings away from Matt, and I send a wave of escalation at it as hard as I can.
The gun pings like an aluminum can in a fire, and then there’s a shockingly loud bang as the side of it blossoms open in a vicious metal flower. The gunman cries out and drops the gun from his bleeding hand, staring at it in surprise, but I’m already heating up one of the metal pipes.
That guy drops it an instant later, startling back from it. His foot comes down in the soapy water and skids out from under him, dumping him to the floor. I turn my attention to the other pipe, but that guy’s already dropping it to reach for his friend.
My hands are still in the air, but Matt somehow has his phone out already and is yelling, “I called 911! I called 911! You’d better run!”
The man with the bleeding hand snarls something incoherent, but runs for the door, leaving his bag and his broken gun behind. His friends scramble out after him, and seconds later we hear tires squealing from the parking lot.
I let out a long, shaky breath as I slowly lower my hands. “So, Matt. What’s corporate policy on something like this.”
Matt looks about as steady as I am, but he manages a smile as he ends the call to the police. “Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I can at least keep you on the clock while the police come to check this out.”
I’m serious. This is the best boss ever.