Strange currents from distant shores, the tremble of change on the horizon. Upheaval and horror, upset and the quaking ground. I had experienced a variety of semi-lucid regimes at the golf course and had weathered them the way one does any particularly long, arduous storm of nonsense—with pluck, beer, and a heaping serving of not giving a crap. There was very little, I felt, that could damage my calm serenity, that could shake me from the peace I had made with this ridiculous job that I had. The golf course was my Bodhi tree, and under its boughs I would find the secrets of the universe. I would know enlightenment, and nothing the world did could possibly distract me from my journey.
This was because I could not fathom Rita.
Rita was Greek and cresting the latter days of her fifties, a shock of white forging through her bushel of dark hair. She looked the way a toad might look after it had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. Also, it was an ugly toad to start with. She spoke with unearned grandeur, and an implacable Eastern-European accent despite her constantly heralded roots. She was one of the most officious, unpleasant people I have ever met in my life; my coworkers on the golf cart, who would regularly come to the clubhouse to join me in the Simpsons or have a beer after work, now regularly fled when they spotted her black corvette approaching, as though the leitmotif of the Wicked Witch of the West was suddenly piped in over loudspeaker.
She and her daughters had purchased the license for the snack bar at this and several other golf courses, subletting it from my previous, beloved incompetent overlords. Like most people who walked in, they saw dollar signs everywhere, bills and coins stuffed under chairs and around corners, waiting to be scooped up by those just gung-ho enough to do it. There would be change for the better, they said. They ran a tight ship, made of the finest oak, and all those lucky enough to be on board would be sailing directly to prosperity island, which was made of loonies and moderately priced cups of coffee.
As it turned out, most of the lucre they saw came from absurd amounts of penny pinching. Exactly how long could a tuna sandwich last in our high-powered fridges? Until our sun burned out and swallowed the planet, they felt. Could the hot dogs unsold at the end of the night be re-frozen and then thawed again the next day, in some act of culinary necromancy? Sure they could! The putrid green shellack that coated their mottled casings could just be called an exotic relish, and we could charge double. “Everyone will love it, Michael.”
“Everyone will love it.” This refrain haunts my soul to this day, it causes my fingers to tremble as I write these words. Everyone will love it: single serve cups of rice pudding—discarded only weeks later, and with enormous umbrage and blame thrown around. Everyone will love it: tasteless cheap beer, different than the preferred brand of every customer I had met in the previous years at the course. Everyone will love it: egg and cheese bagels, except there were no frying pan, and thus the eggs had to be scrambled and cooked in the microwave, except also there were no forks, so I had to scramble them with coffee stirrers, which I was asked to wash and re-use. Once while I was smithing one of these breakfast monstrosities, Rita’s daughter Paula expressed horror that I was using a full slice of processed, baby-vomit-orange cheese. “Cut the slice in half, Michael. This is how we will make money!”
Advice handed down to me, as though from a cloud. I was told constantly that should I one day seek to open my own business, their tutelage would be invaluable, a golden jewel more priceless than any paycheque they could bestow upon me. Which made sense, because they did all they could to play with my money. You will only be paid from 6 a.m., Michael, though you must necessarily be here earlier in order to open on time. If I was caught reading a book or sitting down during the long, peopleless minutes of the day, I was in for a heckling and a threat to the security of my cruddy job. By law we must deduct breaks from your cheque, Michael, even though you are not allowed to take any and it would be impossible to do so. A break was once offered to me, but it was premised that my tips could be in jeopardy, that I would lose out on too much of a chance to earn. An elderly woman once took them up on the proffered ten minutes of sitting, and returned to her station to find that the bosses had cleared out her tip jar, claiming to have made all of it in the moments she was gone.
These were the darkest days of my soul, my sanity, my decency towards mankind. I fantasized regularly about Rita and her rancid offspring slipping on a pool of tepid beer, crashing dramatically into the display of condiments and sharp objects. I imagined her being rushed to the hospital, being declared a vegetable, or at the very least incapable of maintaining her duties. I dreamt of her snacking on one of the rotting industrial-waste-hotdogs and succumbing to the plague or whatever else it probably contained. I dreamt of her getting caught on the jagged motor jutting from our deep freezer which she refused to fix, developing a nasty case of tetanus and being unable to speak for time immemorial. I dreamt of federal investigations, of health complaints, of calling the labour board on her. Every day I sought out new laws and statutes to find out what parts of the labour code she was circumventing, to find out just how badly I could crush her if the need ever came.
How sweet the day would be when I could finally throw all of it in her face, the myriad complaints, the high-lighted print-outs from government websites outlining my rights as an employee. I dreamt of the look on her wide, cow-eyed face, the angry tremble in her eyebrow as she considered how she had crossed the wrong teenager. I could taste it rolling across my tongue.
In the end there was no grand finale, no enormous confrontation between the two of us. There was no joyous crowd of onlookers watching her downfall, watching as the cuffs were slipped around her flailing wrists and she was carried off to prison. I was never able to personally spit in something she was about to consume. I gave her my two weeks notice before the end of the summer, when I was preparing to return to school. And I never returned.
I think about Rita sometimes, the evil queen of a demented, six-week-old sticky bun fiefdom. I wonder if she is still there, high upon her rotten throne, her hair completely white. Her fingers, palsied and curled, clutching at a few dollars and a poorly-understood copy of relevant labour codes. She is looking across the golf course through the glass of the nineteenth hole, her fetid breath wet against the window, and she is muttering to herself over and over. “Everyone will love it. Everyone will love it.”