A collection of fictional short stories based in the small town of Cardinal City.
©2011 Aaron M. Fugate

Wednesday, March 23, 2011



When Danielle Gutzman pulled into the Best Burger Restaurant Thursday morning, she was in a quite pleasant mood on a bright winter day in Cardinal City. It wasn’t very long, however, before she was quite disgusted. She had been employed at Best Burger for a year and a half and was very disappointed by the lack of hours which she was scheduled to work. This was the first day that she had worked in the week, and when she saw her schedule on the bulletin board, she realized that Saturday was the only other day that she would work in the week. After serving her first customer, she decided to ask her boss why her hours were so few.
“Virgil, why haven’t you scheduled me for any more hours this week?” she questioned her middle-aged African-American boss.
“Now, Danielle, ya know how business gets around here in the winter. Slow’r’n molasses in Janyary, if yu’ll pardon mah cliché. I simply cain’t afford to pay ya to work any more than that.”
“Well, yeah, but you know I’m trying to save up for college. I’ll never have enough for Loganston State at this rate.”
Virgil shrugged his shoulders. “Danielle, we’ve been through all this before. If you want to quit and get another job, that’s okay, but it’ll shore make things hard on us come summer. And I’m not firin’ you unless you practically force me to.”
The workday passed slowly, with a small amount of customers. Danielle drove home quickly, still upset at her boss’s seeming indifference to her situation. Since she worked after school, she usually arrived home after her family had eaten supper, so she ate by herself. After greeting her dad, mom, and two little sisters, she went to her changed out of her Best Burger uniform and prepared for supper. Her dad had cooked up a quick skillet dish after getting home from work. Her mother had to work late, so it looked like Danielle wouldn’t eat alone after all.
“How was your day at work, sweetie?” asked Mr. Gutzman.
“It was okay,” Danielle murmured.
“What’s wrong, Danielle? Did you have a rude customer like you did last week?” Mr. Gutzman queried.
“No, I’m just not getting any hours anymore. I wish I could find another job, but there’s no way I’m quitting. Virgil could never get a replacement for me.”
“No, Danielle, you’re not quitting. It’s not fair to your employer, and you know business will pick up in the summer. And I won’t have my daughter growing up to be a quitter. Look, there’s your mom. Would you open the door for her, please?” Mr. Gutzman said as he served Danielle her meal.
As Danielle related her predicament to her mother over dinner, she was formulating a plan. It may be my only chance to get more hours without quitting, she told herself. I’ll see what I can do on Saturday.


On Saturday morning, Danielle got to work right on time at eleven o’clock. She had a plan. It wasn’t really a good plan, but as far as she was concerned it was the best she could devise.
“Danielle, can you get a bucket of water ready and wipe off all the tables?” requested Virgil.
“All right,” Danielle answered. Perfect, she thought. Here we go.
It wasn’t a long while before Virgil confronted her. “Danielle, why are there suds in your water? You know we use sanitizer water in the bucket now, not soap and water.”
“Oh, that’s right! Whoops! Should I change it?”
“No, you can use it just this once. But next time, use the sanitizer water.”
“Okay,” Danielle replied. Her scheme was working perfectly so far, so she wasn’t really discouraged.
The Saturday lunch rush went very poorly, due to Danielle’s scheme. She purposely made mistakes and even ended up arguing with Carly, the cook. She was sure to show Virgil she was obviously doing a very careless job. This went on the whole day, but Danielle didn’t stop there. She continued on Wednesday, the day she worked next, and also on the next Friday and Saturday. Finally, Danielle thought it must be enough after work on Saturday. I’m going to go to Virgil and tell him I’m making all these mistakes because I’m rusty from not working enough. Surely he’ll give me some more hours now.
Danielle knocked on the door of Virgil’s office, even though it was open. “Virgil,” she addressed her boss, “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“I’ve been wantin’ to talk to you about something, too, young lady; yer unsatisfactory job performance. For two weeks, you’ve been working lahk a new trainee, and it’s jist gone on too long.
                “You’re right, and I’m sorry. I haven’t been myself lately; I’ve been rusty. I’m afraid there’s only one thing to do: you’ll have to give me some more-”
“That’s right,” Virgil interrupted, “There’s only one thing to do. I’m sorry to say this, Danielle, but I’ll have to terminate ya.”
Danielle was shocked. “You mean – you mean, fire me?”
“That’s exactly what ah mean, Danielle. If you were trahn to git yerself fahred, you did a fine job of it these past few weeks. You’ve left me with no choice. With finances this tight, ah cain’t afford to pay ya if yer not doin’ any good. Ah’d ruther pay somebody ah kin train in.”
“But Virgil!” Danielle was on the verge of tears. “Don’t I get two weeks or something?”
“Nah, I won’t need ya much over the next two weeks anyways. You kin use the time to look for a new job, and ah’ll use it to train somebody new in. Lahk ah said, Danielle, ah’m sorry it has to be this way. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Danielle said vaguely. The rapid change of events had nearly paralyzed her, and she walked numbly out the Best Burger door, and into her car, where she let all the tears and sobs out on the obliging steering wheel.
Now she had to determine what to do. She briefly considered taking the car and running away from home, but knew better than to escape a loving family. She finally made the difficult decision to go back home and tell her dad and mom, who would be home, all that had happened.
When Danielle walked in the door of her home, she knew her dad would be able to tell she had been crying. Somehow, he always could. Her mom would ask what was wrong and whether or not she wanted to talk about it. There was no use hiding it, and in this particular instance, she was not surprised. She told her parents everything, starting at the beginning. Mr. Gutzman, whose expression had scarcely changed through the conversation, told her what she needed to do. “Young lady, you’re going to go right back to Virgil, and confess what you did. You also never should have taken matters into your own hands that way. Didn’t you even pray about it? I didn’t think so. You’re going to tell him everything you told us now.”
“Right now?” Danielle asked.
Mr. Gutzman took a deep breath. “No. Monday.”
Mrs. Gutzman agreed. “That’ll give him a chance to realize how important you are to his restaurant.”


Monday came far too soon for Danielle. However, after school, she drove to Best Burger, parked, and hesitantly got out of her car. She would meet her dad there so that they could talk to him together, they had determined. However, Mr. Gutzman had made it quite clear that Danielle would take all the responsibility for her own actions.
Mr. Gutzman arrived soon, and he and Danielle went in at the same time.
Virgil had news for her, though, after accepting Danielle’s apology, and asking forgiveness for his perceived rashness. “Ah’m afraid ya cain’t have yer old job back.”
“What?! Did you already get someone new?” Danielle asked, surprised again.
“Yup. Had an interview this morning. He’s out there shovelin’ the snow as we speak. Real nice boy. I cain’t pay ya both, and he needs the job desperately for his family. Danielle, maybe this’ll work out fer the both of us. I’m sure a nice, honest young lady lahk yerself can find a job real quick in this town. I’m sorry, but yer days at Best Burger are over fer now.”
“No!” Danielle cried. “I love it here. There’s just no other job like this. Not even in the whole state.”
“Danielle, you’ll have to move on,” Mr. Gutzman insisted. “This job couldn’t supply the money that you need to make anyway. I promise we’ll still eat here often.”
                “You’re right, Dad,” Danielle sighed. “I guess there’s no sense wishing for something I can’t have.”

                Virgil was right. Danielle did find another job soon, working a job five days a week, four and one-half hours a day. She also got into Loganston State University the next fall, and graduated with minimal college debt. She also was employed near the Loganston campus. It may not be worth mentioning that she was very up front with her employers about her jobs from then on.

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