Nothing Personal

Carey squeezed the handle of the spray nozzle, blasting wet flakes of romaine from the chef knife. He watched the lettuce float away on a stream of frothy water disappear to the catch below the whirring dish machine. He placed the knife on the flat dish rack, right next to the green cutting board.

“Green is for produce, and produce only,” he mused aloud. “Ain’t that something.”

His boots squished on the rubber mat and he thought of the young man who worked the dishwasher. How long could he stand here and do this for? My back is sore after five minutes. Did he ever get a break? He chuckled at this. He sure did, didn’t he? And I gave it to him. Carey never did catch his name nor did he thank him for taking the time to explain how to run everything else in the kitchen. I ought to send his family a proper condolence for raising such a fine boy. He did what was asked, even under duress.

He visualized the range crammed with stockpots and pans that simmered and stewed above raging fires. Must be where they made those sauces. Damn those were good. And over here must been for the Grilled Chicken Parmesan. That was Carey’s favorite. The center rails of the mini char are white and something crackled underneath the flash guards. Heat radiated from the line’s collective equipment like a blacksmith’s overworked forge. It was too intense and Carey’s bowels shuddered with mild discomfort. That smell is something bad. Foul wisps of smoke waltzed from the seasoned surface of the sleek flat top to the silenced hoods above. Must’ve used that for the pub menu.

It never made sense to Carey why Perlino’s offered casual fare. Marty Parsons told him once that management capitalized on demographic availability. College town and all, makes sense. But it could have been so much more.

He had dined here week after week for the past four years and never once seen the kitchen, let alone work in one. Boiling oils from the fryer lashed out like an aggravated well of acid, splashing Carey’s forearm. He acknowledges the splatter and ignores the pain. Can’t be worse than what I already have. He spits into the fryer and the oil rages with a low growl, spraying over his offered arms.

“If I can’t have any of this, no one will.”

Carey admires the sheen of glossy flesh bubbling to a blistered red like a boiled lobster. That’d be quite the way to go, huh? Deep fried like chicken.

The bodies lay just as he left them, partially naked and staged mid coitus on the floor of dry storage. In some existence I imagine these two could’ve been a match, he thought. A woman he only knew as Rebecca was older and mildly attractive even in post-life. Carey’s fingers traced the scratches on his face. Tough as nails, that one. Rebecca’s corpse sprawled atop the young dishwasher’s, who was tall and surprisingly well-endowed below. Kid could’ve been a porn star if he had any muscle. Boy that neck sure did snap easy, huh?

Good thing they’re already dead and won’t need to suffer.

“Even if they do figure this all out, I don’t think they’d charge me, seeing as I have stage four stomach cancer,” he stood tall in the pantry doorway with his hands behind the small of his back. “It’s nothing personal and all. It’s just… well, I don’t want you in the afterlife with no negative thoughts, so I’ll stop with that. I know you were good people and if what they say about Heaven is true, well, I’d hate to sully that experience for you two, cause I reckon you’d be the types to pass them gates. Who knows? Maybe will be seeing each other real soon. Either way, you take care now. Goodbye.”

His fingertips tapped along the shiny metal table that was opposite the cooks line. Expo side: Where everything comes together. He pictured Marty Parsons sliding down the length of this table in his whites to inspect every single dish that was presented. He must’ve garnished right here. That man is magic and I wish him the best. Sweat poured from his drained body and plagued guts cried in agony. Carey braced himself to let the flare pass. Is it time? The digital clock showed that it was. He grabbed his trophies from the dish machine and stuck them in his backpack still wet. Maybe the smell of detergent will linger in the bag. I’ll have to ditch that later, just in case. With his supper in hand, Carey turned for one final visual, searing it into his memories like a hunk of meta, browned to perfection.

If I can’t eat here anymore, then no one will.

The propane tank rolled towards the line and Carey closed Perlino’s backdoor behind him. He had more than enough time to drive up the hill and get himself situated with his meal before the show started. The salad crunched in his mouth as the explosions began and he thought of his father and what he taught Carey when he was young—younger maybe than the dishwasher who was now reduced to ashes and teeth.

“A farewell is a gesture meant with finality where a goodbye was something that could be forgiven, if needed. I hope you’re right, Pa.”

©  Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017


Red sauce is my new enemy. Along with greasy foods. Pizza and Spaghetti with Meatballs is a synergistic terror that melts my innards.

I recently spent two days recovering from a meal of Lasagna at my in-law’s house. I suspected the outcomes to be dire at first bite. My father in-law makes it mean. Sausage crisp and cheese overflowing. My wife and I we’re reassured at the time that it would be light on the sauce. It was.

Two days, though. I spent this time catching up with some horror movies and playing with my daughter a lot. She is eight months and a real treat. Her smile almost made the pain fade. 

My doctor has thrown out terms like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), possible Ulcer, and even Gastritis, since I get bloated easily and find myself in a burping and/or farting fit after certain meals.

Disgusting, I know.

I do find it frustrating that I can’t enjoy a slab of Pizza without having to eat a roll of antacids. I have had to change my diet in the last six months as a way to manage the workings of my gut. Things like coffee and soda are now out of the window, replaced by tea and seltzer water; the latter of the two is absolutely horrible, just so we’re clear. I eat red meat once a week; if that. Greek Yogurt, fruits, raw or cooked veggies, and rice cakes have taken over the role of traditional munchies in my life.

I miss you, potato chips.

Where am I going with all of this?

I don’t know. I just write what comes to mind. I am as indecisive and spontaneous as they come.

Maybe my stomach is damaged by years of drinking? I did—and this was at my lowest—drink close to a fifth (750ml) of hard liquor a day. It was cheap stuff, too. Rot gut, as some older people I know would say. I always leaned towards whiskey. That and a dark chaser–like Coke, Moxie, or Pepsi. Yes, I said Moxie. It is a stout soda that instantly killed the straight haul off the bottle. I never really mixed (unless it was beer and liquor). I drank to get drunk, not to enjoy the pleasantries surrounding a social atmosphere.

I think there is part inside of me that still lingers from my drinking days. That envious, miserable, spiteful bit that wants to take away what he can’t have. I usually shut that fucker up by taking those silly thoughts and spinning them into a story like this. I’d never burn down an Italian Eatery (unless they deserve it… hah! I jest.) or lash out at others who eat only Marinara Sauce and Fried Cheese for breakfast. But I am human. I get jealous. My stomach is—in some respect—weak, and I miss the days that I could eat a Calzone without the fear of taking the next week off to recover.

If you’re ever alarmed that I staring with hateful eyes while you’re eating Stromboli, know that I am not mad at you. I am just having a difficult time processing the fact that my stomach ain’t what it use to be.

There really is no lesson learned or moral from that afterthought. Like I said earlier: I am indecisive and spontaneous.

Let’s do one more of those! This time, with some meaning.

Running With Prideor rather, Run with Pride—was a motto used at a former employer, a facility that that once housed violent individuals who either had severe brain injuries, outrageous personality disorders, or were high on the Autism spectrum. I worked as Direct Care with the residents who did have the occasional (or daily) outburst of ultra-violent acts. I won’t be descriptive, so I’ll just say that I was only hit with a shovel once and was lucky to have poop thrown at me but never land on me.

The facility itself is on a mountain side between three lengths of apple orchards that overlooked lakes and streams and rivers. It was beautiful throughout every season. Sadly, that was the extent of aesthetic value. The buildings themselves were old and neglected. Repairs were at a must-need basis only. Morale was overall, poor. Staff at all levels became sour. Employees either slacked on duties, outright quit, or verbally expressed malcontent without much care of who would be listening.

The residents knew the company was closing. Some found elation with this fact, while others, feared. Aggressive behaviors were common. And so was the motto.

“Just make sure you run with pride. It is easier to do that then it is to restrain someone,” one of the managers would say.

His name is Mark. Good man. Honest and thoughtful. One of the very few who actually cared for the clients and staff development. If you have ever worked in that field, then you know exactly who they are. Me? I had my days when I cared and my days when the money (which was really good) was all I thought of.

But I always tried to remember that motto. The grounds of the facility itself are immense. Running was all I did some days. I worked overtime as much as I could and would go in early to be a designated staff to crisis situations before my actual shift started. I would run and defuse this situation just so I could await another call over the radio.

A monotonous necessity.

I picture Hell (if it truly exists) as such a place. The runner in this story finds torment with a monotony that reminds him of how he ended up there. I thought of my job in this light. I ran with pride so I could go back with head held high, proclaiming that the right thing was done.

But was the right thing done?

Most of the time, absolutely.

One night I saw a client destroy a vehicle. It was a company van and the insurance probably covered the damages done. I bet there was ten staff observing a grown man—who was capable and somewhat higher-function—pick up giant rocks and smash out every single window in this van. Then he proceeded to the side mirrors, headlights, and tail lights. Once those were finished, he simply turned to us all and stated,

“Well that was fun. I am ready for my meds now.”

What does that individual learn from this? What do we—the observers—learn from this? What insanity brought us all to not ignore our supervisors judgement and bring him down to the ground?

“Technically, there is room for a lawsuit here if we go hands-on. Can’t risk it,” was the answer given.

Baffling. In the end, no one was hurt, but what if? What if that client spun around and launched those watermelon-sized rocks at a nearby observer? That’s the risk that the Direct Care industry takes, but does it have to come to questioning a potential lawsuit over a possible concern of bodily safety?

Baffling.

Maybe the van should have just ran with pride. That’s what it gets for being a machine, I guess. 

Happy Holidays,

John Potts Jr

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