I work at a seafood restaurant called Pirate Cove, as a waiter/pirate impersonator.
The restaurant’s built to look like a ship, with oars, sails, and anchors hanging from the walls.
When I get there, I change into my costume, which includes a shirt with an built-in vest, a sash, a belt with a buckle, puffy pants, a bandana with fake braids attached, and of course, a pirate hat.
I walk out of the bathroom and greet my first set of customers, a family of four.
“Ahoy ye scurvy sea dogs,” I say. “Welcome to ye Pirate Cove, this way to your table.”
The family follows me at a distance.
The kids hold their noses and make ugly faces at me.
I haven’t showered in a week.
My hair smells terrible.
I’ve just been wetting a cloth and rubbing down the creases on my body.
I smell like straight up trash.
I figure it makes me seem like a more authentic pirate, one that has no access to a shower and has stood on the deck of his ship with the hot sun beating down upon his body for days.
I seat the family at their table and hand them their menus.
“Two for the shipmates,” I say handing the adults theirs first. “And two for the little buccaneers.”
The menus come with cardboard pirate hats that the kids put on and that the adults wear begrudgingly.
As I take their order, I notice my coworker Charlotte coming through the entrance, late as usual.
Charlotte plays by her own rules.
She wears an eyepatch and often knocks into customers when bringing them their food.
Whenever anyone — the boss, a customer — gives her shit, she tells them that she’s sorry and that she’s distracted because her father is dying.
When I asked her about it, she said she never had a father.
He ran out on her and her mom when she was just a baby.
According to Charlotte, he owes her something, and an excuse at work is the least he can do.
I’m jealous of her tenacity.
Charlotte knows what she wants, and she takes it.
After taking my table’s order, I stand next to her by the bussing station.
She looks around to see if our boss Dave is around then takes a quick hit off her vape.
And even when Dave does catch her, she just rolls her eyes and excuses herself to use the bathroom where she keeps on smoking.
She spends more time in the bathroom than she does in the dining room.
Sometimes she dares me to see how long I can pretend to take a dump before Dave comes in and orders me to finish.
“Shit or get off the pot.”
Dave’s the type of boss that makes everyone who works for him feel tense and uncomfortable.
He always looks like he just stepped on a Lego.
He thinks it’s okay that he wears jean shorts and a beater while the rest of us dress like pirates.
He ruins the experience for the customers.
I can see it on their faces.
He asks in his Philadelphia accent, “Yous enjoyin’ yourselves?”
Another table comes in, and Dave tells me to take it.
It’s a group of teenagers who are clearly drunk.
I’m used to this.
Teenagers come to the restaurant all the time to make fun of the staff.
It’s part of the unfortunate reality that comes with impersonating a pirate.
I don’t expect a tip.
They may not even pay.
There’s clearly a leader to this pack of teenagers.
He’s an ugly kid with a snaggletooth and eye boogers.
“Welcome to ye Pirate Cove,” I say.
The teen with the snaggletooth farts and says, “Excuse me.”
He orders for the entire table.
His breath smells like vomit.
For himself, he gets The Treasure Trove, a delicious platter of King Neptune’s favorites from the bottom of the sea.
It costs twenty-eight dollars.
I don’t expect to see a dime of it, but neither will Dave, and that’s enough for me.
While I’m giving their order to the chef, I see Charlotte bring the teenagers drinks.
Eight beers, two for each.
Charlotte doesn’t give a fuck.
The teenagers drink and start making a mess.
Shrimp shells and empty clams all over the floor.
As I watch them, I get more and more tired.
Wearing a fake peg leg makes it hard to work somewhere that requires employees to stand for long periods of time.
As the shift goes on, the rigid edges of the peg leg digs deeper into my membrane, causing a dull, throbbing pain to pulse throughout the entire left side of my body.
As I massage myself, I see Dave over by the busser’s station flirting with Charlotte.
He taps his sausage fingers against the hairy rim of his gut.
I want to pull his shirt over his head, hockey fight style, and drag his fat torso around the room so that everyone gets a turn slapping his belly.
Dave always tries to take a waitress home at the end of his shift.
Like the privilege of getting off early is worth getting him off.
Once, when he got turned down by Brooke, a tall blonde waitress with scoliosis, whose boney ass Dave always stared at, I asked him if he ever worried about being sued for sexual harassment.
He says that charges are already pending, which is why he doesn’t hold back.
Free as a bird with a penchant for sexual harassment.
It’s amazing to watch Charlotte navigate his advances.
The way she escapes to the bathroom makes me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to.
I want to quit this bullshit job.
Near the end of my shift, Dave tells me to sweep up.
I wait for him to walk away, and then start.
I treat the broom like a golf club, raising it high over my shoulder before swinging down and sweeping the dirt toward the ceiling, watching it fly.
The drunk teenagers clap and whistle for me and I imagine using a giant bionic broom with rotating bristles to create a dust storm that coats the entire restaurant in tiny crumbs.
“Seek and destroy,” one of the teenagers says.
“I’ve got an appetite for destruction,” I say.
On the floor by their table, I see all the trash.
The empty shells, the fish scraps.
I ask if they mind if I sweep it up.
“We can give you some help,” the snaggletooth teenager says.
He sweeps his forearm across the table in a karate chop motion and knocks the rest of their food onto the floor.
While chopping, he keeps his mouth wrinkled in the shape of a butthole.
Plates smash against the floor, and the teenagers seem to be clenching their jaws to keep from laughing.
“But now I have to mop, not just sweep.”
Then feeling a sudden burst of confidence, I say “Hey, do you guys want to pay now? I think you should pay.”
“I don’t know, can you bring our check first,” the snaggletooth teenager says. “We need our check if we’re going to pay. And we need it divided between the four of us.”
I look at their mess and then open my eyes wide.
“Shit,” I say. “The check.”
“Take your time,” says the snaggletooth teenager. “And grab that mop while you’re at it.”
The teenagers are winning, but I’m not ready to give up.
“Wait, no,” I say.
My arms are crossed, in some sort of defensive posture, though I’m trying to be assertive.
“I mean please, it’s already past closing time and I need to get home.”
“Come on man,” the snaggletooth teenager says, hitting the table with his knuckles.
Then he punches the table six more times.
He says, “Just bring us the bill, dude,” and punches the table for each syllable.
Then I say, “How about this, how about you give me forty doubloons and we’ll call it even. I’ll give ye swabs the group discount.”
“Damn, that’s a great deal,” he says, looking at a sail on the wall like he is analyzing its height and width.
He coughs while gesturing for his friends to move toward the door.
He says, “I want to hook these parts up to my father’s cruise liner and take it out fishing in the ocean. We could catch a bunch of fish and start our own restaurant, and it’d be way better than this one.”
I wonder if he plans on stripping the walls and robbing the restaurant before he leaves.
He looks at me and smiles.
There’s shrimp stuck between his teeth.
I say, “Hook those fish in their fuckin’ mouths and hold them above the water until they suffocate.”
“That’s right brother,” he says loudly, reaching into his pocket.
“Alright forty bucks, but don’t get cocky, we’ll be back and we’ll feast on the bones of every fish you have.”
The transaction is complete.
I grab the broom and sweep shells and scraps at their legs.
“What the shit,” says one of the other teenagers. “You’re insane.”
She jumps up and down and tries to take a video on her phone.
“I think it’s about time you pilgrims move on,” I say like a cowboy in an old western, not a pirate.
Looking past me at the exit in the back, she says, “Let’s get out of here.”
They shimmy around the table and move quickly toward the door.
They trip over chairs, keeping their balance by pressing into tables which nearly fall over against their weight.
They open the door and file out.
The door locks behind them.
I’m the winner.
I look around the dining room, completely empty.
“Victory,” I yell.
My voice echoes.
Charlotte, who has been in the bathroom this whole time, comes out and says, “You’re a god amongst men.” She picks up a chair one of the teenagers knocked over and throws it.
I imagine running around the dining room and flipping every table, chair, and booth, like a powerlifter in the world’s strongest man competition.
Just digging my forearms into the leather and tossing them as hard as I can into the wood-panelled walls.
No, I’d only flip the furniture if I had another job lined up, one whose uniform didn’t revolve around my prosthetic.
That’ss the promise I make to myself as Charlotte clocks out for the night.
I’ll get a real job that people without peg legs can do.
Charlotte says something about stopping for a burger on her way home, but I’m too focused on trying to imagine Dave’s face upon seeing the wreckage of his destroyed restaurant, unable to verbalize his anger.
What would he do?
What if he just kept mouthing the words, “What the fuck,” over and over again.
What if everyone’s secretly hoping the most fucked up thing will happen, with all of its repercussions, just so that they have an excuse to go insane.
I imagine the sight of a destroyed dining room, and it’s beautiful and inspiring to me.
It makes me feel at ease.
I sweep then mop then put the cleaning supplies away.
“It’s finished,” I say, then I go to high-five Charlotte.
But she’salready gone.
And I’m alone in the hollow vessel of a pirate ship.
Benjamin DeVos is the head editor of Apocalypse Party. He is the author of the forthcoming novella The Bar Is Low (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018) among others.