Thursday, May 25, 2006

Coworkers: Part 76 - Free Steaks!

   Who knows? Maybe Pat was just lonely. Desired an unending crowd.
   The party cranked non stop, and guests flocked, maggots to meat.
   Unlike clubs, however, Pat didn't have a bouncer. Or security. The guest list was not set to "exclusive." Consequently, the guests were not, either.
   How did that happen?
   Pat's place, Pat's shack, Pat's house was always the preferred place for parties. She never groaned about cleanup, complained about damages, or urged revelers to keep noise down for neighbors. Nope. Full blast. P-A-R-T-Y ! ! Back in the day, they were frequent and loud. Some were infamous.
   During the Blockbuster period, Pat bought the small home. Mortgage, car payments, credit cards, bills were crippling. She took a part time job with a major package delivery outfit to supplement income. Second job was 2:00 AM until 10:00 AM ... sometimes a bit longer. Still kept her music store duties.
   How'd she sleep? Catnaps.
   Parties stopped completely. There was no free time, other than sleep time.
   All changed when she bought the pool table.
   After that time, the little house exploded, and she lost the evening cat nap.
   Guys showed up in packs and stayed for hours. They waited outside until she clocked out of the music store and had to be pushed out the door before her 2:00 AM job. Guys, their girlfriends, their kids. Pat's Shack was the number one place.
   Billiards and free food.
   Princess Pat was the Cowtown hostess.
   When her parties began in the Sound Warehouse era, everyone pitched in. Brought chips, bread, beer, salsa, fajitas, cookies, soft drinks, whatever was needed. By mid Blockbuster, those times were gone. So were those employees. So were most coworkers. Guys who appeared now were friends of friends. Moochers and leeches. Brought nothing. Never even considered bringing anything. Food was free at the Shack! Plus, they were entitled.
   They were also loud, argumentative, destructive, and confrontational.
   The Shack became a pool hall for sullen losers who raided her refrigerator, crashed in front of her television, borrowed CDs. Most of movies were on the unstealable Laserdisc format, or those would have been borrowed as well. Plenty of old friends visited, only to leave because of the ugly vibe. Stacey complained the boasting was all "My Plans - My Balls." Both eclipsed reality.
   Of her music coworkers, only Stacey, Joe and Winston were regulars. By now, Winston's descent was pronounced. He also arrived with friends, whose eyes darted across everything in the room like kids in a candy store.
   More and more, visitors arrived simply to eat. On Pat's day off, they dropped by at 5:00. Hot dogs, hamburgers. Of course, girlfriends were delighted to meet her. Especially if Pat fed her, and the three kids. Which Pat did. She had somehow wandered into a trap. The Shack was food kitchen and halfway house. Every time groceries were bought, they were consumed within a day or two.
   More moochers arrived. Pat couldn't say, "Enough already! Go home." She didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. She wanted everyone to like her. This scene had not happened overnight, but she couldn't find her way out. Financially, she was going broke.
   One of the diners sat down at 7:45, brought woman and kids. Flagged down Waitress Pat and told her he wanted dinner. Pat was about to explain that it was late, most of the food was gone. Devoured by ten other tables. The kids interrupted her, acting like kids. He threatened them. When their mother protested, he shoved her out of her chair, onto the floor. Told his current girlfriend and her two brats to shut the fuck up. Pat searched her fridge.
   "What the hell is this?" he demanded fifteen minutes later.
   "Hamburgers," Pat said. "Potato sticks. Pop Tarts. All I have. That was my dinner, and my breakfast for tomorrow. I don't have any more food in the house."
   The girlfriend and kids wolfed their meals hungrily.
   The guy ate one bite, dropped the hamburger onto the floor.
   "Do I look like a piece of shit to you?"
   "That's all -- "
   "Don't interrupt me,"
he waved a fork casually in the air. "I came in here, sat down, and I expected steak."
   Pat opened her mouth, said nothing. Six or seven other moochers stood quietly in her kitchen, tantalized by the prospect of free steaks. These were her friends.
   "I'm not eating this shit." He stood up and stepped on the burger. "Next time I'm here, you better serve steak. If I bring friends, there better be steaks for them, too."
   He walked out slow, girlfriend and children in tow.
   Across the kitchen, eyes glittered. The menu would now feature steak every night. Free steaks!
   Pat was living a nightmare. She hated going to her own home. And she was frightened.
   Joe delivered a fix to her agony. Wasn't the best fix, but it worked short term.
   Introduced her to boyfriend number ... dunno.
   Joe had an ex, the ex had a brother. Brother was fairly large, stocky, strong. He and Pat ...
   Within two months, he chased off all the leeches.
   Lot of my coworkers didn't like this guy. He had a pile of problems: financial, emotional, substance. Kind of a one man trainwreck.
   Yet, the food kitchen was closed. Pat had time for her real friends again.
   The bad boy would hurt her, but he wouldn't last.

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