Escalation: Part 4

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Work sucks.  Which is, for once, a specific complaint about my day, and not just a general observation about the world in general.  I’ve actually been quite enjoying my job at Børger overall, despite its wage-slave nature.  I don’t think I’ve found my calling at the grill of a fast food chain or anything, but it’s really been pretty tolerable, even the days with B-Rock.

This, naturally, is one of those days, because that’s just the way the universe is organized.  I know I’m going to have to deal with B-Rock’s comments all day, but I console myself on the walk to work with the knowledge that at least I won’t have to face Matt after I literally ran out on him yesterday.  It’s a small comfort, but I’ll take what I can get.

So when I arrive at work, it’s a bit of an unpleasant shock to hear Matt’s voice call out, “Dan?  Can I see you for a minute before you get ready?”

I sigh.  No little mercies today.

I trudge into Matt’s tiny office, ready to face the music.  His eyes widen when he sees me.  “Good grief, Dan!”

My nose is covered in a bandage to help keep the swelling down, but this does nothing to hide the two black eyes I have or the large bruise emerging from my hairline and running down one cheek.  I gesture at my face and say, “It looks worse than it is,” but since the hand I use to point has the pinkie in a splint, I don’t know that that really helps.

I stand there for an awkward pause while Matt visibly shifts the tone of the speech he was about to deliver.

“Dan,” he starts out, “Are you in trouble?  Do you owe money?”

I laugh, which makes my nose and my ribs hurt.  “Not even student loans.  Don’t worry about this.”

“I can’t not worry about it, Dan, not if it’s something that’s going to cause you to declare a family emergency and split in the middle of your shift.”

Man, that was a good segue.  He’s still sounding concerned, while also managing to give me the “If you keep this up, you’re fired” speech.  It’s like that thing where your parents tell you that they’re not mad, just disappointed.  It’s a pretty impressive trick for a kid a half-dozen years younger than me.

“Matt, I’m super sorry about that.  I really don’t think it’s going to happen again, though.  The problem’s all fixed.”  That’s a pretty gigantic overstatement, but Brian’s obviously going to be on the lookout from now on, so Vince won’t be able to get the drop on him.  My folks live out of town, and I really don’t have anyone else around that I’d be worried about.  I’m building kind of a rapport with Doc Simmons, but I can’t imagine being concerned for her.  If anything, I’d be concerned for Vince.  She’d stick a syringe in him and bleed him dry to find out how he worked.

Honestly, the only other person I can think of who might be hurt to get to me is Matt.  I’m absolutely not bringing him in on the whole story, but I can give him enough to be on guard, I think.

“Hey, though, you know that guy the cops sent you a picture of yesterday morning?”

“Dan, is this relevant?”

“Yeah, no, it’s sort of what happened yesterday.  He — guys working for him came after my, my family.”

Matt’s eyebrows shoot up, and I continue quickly, “Just watch your back, okay?  This guy’s crazy.  Keep an eye out for him.”

Matt shakes his head slowly, trying to decide if he believes me or not.  “I — check, Dan.”  He gives his head a more vigorous shake and gets back on track.

“I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m putting a written reprimand in your folder.  If you’d like to explain the extenuating circumstances, you’re welcome to type that up and I’ll attach it as a note.”

“No, I mean, this is only a problem if it happens a bunch, right?  I like working here, and I’m not planning on making it a habit of this.  It’s all good.”

“Okay.  Go ahead and clock in, Dan.”

B-Rock, of course, does what he can to needle me all day long.  It starts right after Matt leaves, not too long after I get to the grill.  The first chance he has to come back there, he says, “So, someone had to talk to the manager, eh?  I heard you ditched mid-shift yesterday.”

I’m trying to focus on the grill and ignore him, but he comes around to my side and sees my face.  He lets out a low whistle.  “Wow!  Did your boyfriend beat you up?”

“Har har,” I say, pretending to be engrossed in the burgers in front of me.  B-Rock wanders off, laughing at his own wit.

This is pretty much the pattern for the entire day.  B-Rock will cook up something that he thinks can get under my skin, meander by and deliver the line, then head back to the register to continue the cycle.  I try to ignore it by pretending that he’s Jabba the Hut, which actually does help.  It’s pretty funny to envision him squeezing down the narrow aisles in the Børger kitchen, then leaning over me to say, “Ha nuu so va, coh ra se ma, Dan?  Haaa hah hah hah!”

After a while, B-Rock evidently notices that his barbs have stopped finding their target.  He ups his game by punctuating his next drive-by insult with a faux-friendly clap on the shoulder.  On another day, I might have let it go, but today in addition to being irritating, it also jars my broken ribs, and I spin around in fury.

“Keep your meathooks off of me, B-Rock!” I snarl, waving a greasy spatula at him.  It’s not particularly menacing, but it’s what I was holding at the time.  He backs up a step, hands up in mock surrender.

“Whoa, didn’t know it was your time of the month, Danielle.  Put the tissues away.  I’m minding my own business over here.”  He lumbers off, laughing about “meathooks.”  I’m about to shout something snappy and probably ill-advised at him, when a wisp of smoke from one of B-Rock’s shoes catches my eye.  He hasn’t noticed, but I can see a long strand connecting the sole to the floor where the rubber has melted.

I take several deep breaths and focus hard on calming down.  This is not the way I want to escalate the situation.  I’m not positive exactly what rule it violates, but I’m pretty certain that setting your coworkers on fire is against the Børger attitude, at the very least.  Strangely, the training videos didn’t cover that.  They covered stealing, so it’s not like they made a blanket assumption that I was going to follow laws.  I guess you can’t cover every eventuality.  Which is too bad; you could do a pretty great “Now, that was the wrong way to handle the situation!” video about murdering your coworkers.

Even without knowing how close he came to getting a hotfoot, B-Rock seems to have figured out that he’s pushed me about as far as he can for the day, as that’s our last encounter.  I put in the rest of my hours and clock out.  As I retrieve my phone from the break room, I see that I have texts from an unknown number.  They read:

You don’t seem real clear on “don’t do anything stupid”
hope you’re protected

So apparently Vince copied my number out of Brian’s phone when he had it.  I assume this is meant to be intimidating, but honestly I’m just sort of exasperated by it.  The guy’s robbed me at gunpoint, run me over with a car, kidnapped my friend and beaten us both badly enough to put us in the hospital — and now he’s harassing me by text?  That seems like a giant step backwards.

I’m not saying that I respected the guy before, but I held a measure of fear for him.  He was monstrous.  This is just petty, and sort of embarrassing.

On the walk home, I picture Vince sitting on a bus somewhere, scowling furiously at his phone as he texts impotent threats at me.  I smile at his imagined rage.  It’s not exactly great vengeance; he’s tried to kill me, and I’ve made him vaguely angry.  But it’s something, at least.  And he’s clearly knocked back on his heels, because if there were anything he could do to me right now, he’d be doing it.

So goes my thought process as I enter my house.  I throw my nametag on the kitchen table, pour myself a Coke and head downstairs to kick back, lounge on my couch and eat my Børger Bøx.  Which is why it’s a fairly unpleasant surprise to come down the short flight of stairs and discover that the couch is already occupied.

“Dan, you disgusting lump,” says Vince.  “I thought it was about time we met.”

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