Jake went up to work to get his stuff out of the office and to tell Scooter he was leaving. Mostly he was looking for some CDs and a flyswatter he had bought for summertime when the bugs hover inches from the food, never quite settling on anything long enough to swat. He didn’t really need it, but he didn’t want to leave behind a trace of himself at Fargo’s.
He saw Meyer’s car when he pulled up and instantly his stomach turned. For once it wasn’t alcohol or the buttershits. Normally he shrank from a situation like this, and he was tempted to wait it out across the street. The dickhead had to go home sometime. How else would he enjoy the fruits of our labor?
But he was pushed by a bigger desire to leave this place behind forever. Maybe it was the lesser of two cowardices. He turned off the engine and got out of the car. Slowly and surely he started walking across the parking lot to Fargo’s Subs, making sure to look straight ahead. He was a point on a line to the office door.
Meyer saw him in the parking lot and got up from the table he had been sitting at all day with Chris, the GM. Chris, the GM, stayed seated but stared openly with a mix of amazement and horror at what was to come. One of the other managers leaned over to him and said, “That dude is so fucked.”
Meyer was yelling before he got out the door, and Jake was still ten steps from hearing any of it. All he saw was the mouth moving big and wide while Meyer walked toward him. He was introduced to the tirade in the middle as Meyer swung the door open, but he got the gist of it, like a sitcom only seen from the first break on. He’d seen it all before.
“… have you been? You think this job is a fucking joke? You better fucking look at me, you little shit! Are you amused? Why didn’t you answer your damn phone?” He was red and sweaty like Jake had never seen.
Meyer continued toward Jake, and they met three steps from the front door. Jake kept walking and ducked through the door while it was closing again, leaving Meyer behind him. It was almost like he passed right through him. Staring straight ahead, Jake did his best to ignore that this was dog shit ground into the carpet, the kind of mess that can’t ever be undone. He just wanted to be out of there before it hit him that it couldn’t be taken back.
The door was yanked open behind him, and Meyer just kept on yelling. Jake found that by looking straight ahead he could make it a buzzing on his consciousness, like seeing the roaches out of the corner of his eye, or the flies hovering over the food. They were a nuisance, but they sure as hell weren’t a threat.
Scooter watched everything from the griddle with a look of mild interest as Jake passed the table that the managers were sitting at.
“Chris,” Jake said in casual greeting that was the most they had spoken in months, but nobody heard him over shit fuck ass motherfucker doesn’t know what he’s doing. Jake opened the office door and Meyer was right behind him.
Jake found his CDs. The flyswatter was nowhere to be found, so he grabbed something else he’d be needing instead. Then he turned around. Meyer was blocking his path, like a bull about to charge. His nostrils were flaring. This would be harder than Jake had planned.
Then he noticed that Meyer had a booger dangling from his huge nostrils, clinging for dear life as it trembled in the wind. It turns out Meyer was just a caricature, a cliché, laughable and overblown. He’s just a construction, cobbled together from the ugly parts of every job I ever quit. If he wasn’t, we might be stuck here.
Jake couldn’t help but laugh. Thanks to the small kindness of dry mucus, he was empowered, he had free will. If only for a moment, he was visible, alive, and he didn’t even have to use the twelve-inch kitchen knife. Meyer didn’t know what to do about it.
“What the fuck are you laughing at?”
Jake looked Meyer right in the eyes for the first time ever, and suddenly found he wasn’t in control of the situation any more. He had to speak, he had no choice.
“This place is bullshit,” Jake said. “You are bullshit.” He squeezed past him out the door and walked past the manager’s table again. “Chris,” he said, this time as goodbye forever. When he reached the door he put up the sign he had taken from the office.
He turned around to see Meyer standing right where he had left him. He was going to say, “You know, Meyer, you were right. This town is great, there’s always somebody else who’s willing to do my job.” But come on. He shuffled backwards with his lips parted and couldn’t do it. Instead, he waved to Scooter and went out the door. He never looked back. He didn’t see Scooter jump over the food line, take off his apron, and leave it in the lobby without saying a word to anyone.
And that’s how the Help Wanted sign went up.