Jillie couldn't decide if that was an inward sigh or an inward groan that she just heard rattling around in her caffeine-addled brain. Counting slowly to ten, she turned from the espresso machine in mid-polish and regarded the figure before her wearily. Harvey, her old boss from the fish n' chips wagon. In full regalia. Down to the fake hook and eyepatch.
It was far too early for this.
"HARVEY, don't you think 11 am is a little early for the full-on eyepatch routine?" Jillie, unwilling to turn her back on the wannabe pirate she used to call boss--er, "Cap'n"--with the tip jar within easy reach, took a clean rag from the sanitizer bucket and began to clean the already spotless metal counter. "Unless you haven't been to bed yet?"
Harvey drew himself up to his full 5 foot 4 inches, puffed out his chest and huffed, "I'll have ye know I finally gave into the scoundrels and had them make us legal." He looked wounded at the very notion. "So, of course, I had to look me best."
The combination of too little sleep, too many blackberry mochas and the sight of a pirate standing in the middle of Ken's Kafe and BaKery proved just a little more than even she could stand on a Monday morning. The giggles burbled up before she could stop them. "You must be joking. You went to the courthouse....in...wearing...looking like that?" She leaned her head on the counter and laughed until she began to wheeze, digging in her apron pocket for her rescue inhaler.
"Lass, this is serious."
"And...and you voluntarily gave them money?" She took a deep drag of Albeuterol before trying to speak again. "Did you hit your head or something?"
"Seriously, Jillie, I gave them money. We're actually legal." Harvey flipped up his eyepatch, staring her straight in the eyes with both of his. "No bullshit. And I was wondering if you'd come back to work for me. I even registered it under the old name. Cap'n Seadog's Authentic Fish n' Chips shall sail again!"
The last time Jillie had been on the truck, they hadn't had a permit and she'd ended up breaking a frightening number of speed laws running from the cops after Harvey had tried to bribe them to overlook their little illegal enterprise...with the promise of half-price food, his idea of a "gentleman's discount." After that night, she threw him the keys and walked away. Over her roommate's protest, she jumped at the chance to take the barista job at his ex-boyfriend's coffee shop. The hours were normal, the pay was decent, the tips--albeit skimpy--didn't strangely disappear from time to time. And coming home reeking of coffee grounds and steamed milk wasn't nearly as bad as smelling like week-old fryer grease. "You have got to be joking." She turned back to polishing the espresso machine with a vengeance.
"No, I told you I was serious. I miss having you on the truck. The customers miss you. Our late night bums and drunks are always asking after you."
Jillie rolled her eyes. "You sure to know how to flatter a girl." She turned to face him again. "You honestly think I would give up this job to go back to late night clam specials and drunk frat boys?"
Harvey flipped the eyepatch back down. "You miss it. You do. And besides, what is all this" he swept a disparaging if lopsided look around the room, sneering at the gleaming chrome and pale wood "compared to a life of a pirate?"
"Um...stability, working in daylight, not running from cops, meeting customers that might be a potential boyfriend instead of being someone I might potentially have to pick out of a lineup....?" Jillie let the question hang in the air as Harvey made a rude noise, causing several customers glare at him over their soy lattes and copies of The Wall Street Journal. "It's kind of nice being normal. You ought to try it."
"Normal is for scalliwags and landlubbers!"
Sensing this was about to take a turn for the worse, Jillie called over her shoulder "Ken, I'm taking my 15! Cover for me!" Ducking around the counter, she threw her coffee stained apron over her shoudlder as an afterthought. Grabbing Harvey by the collar of his ruffled shirt, she hauled him outside. "You DO realize that I need this job, right?" she hissed through her teeth. "With Sean out of work and his band not getting any gigs, I am the only one in the house paying rent! And I kind of like to eat more than the one employee meal a day I get here!"
Harvey flipped up the eyepatch again. "Sean lost his job? How do you lose a job as a pizza delivery driver?"
"The same way you almost ended our asses in jail, Cap'n: gross stupidity, no respect for the laws governing most of society and a seriously shaky grasp on reality."
Eyepatch flipped down again, he beamed. "Sounds like our kind of man. Should we take him on board, lass? He'd have to work to earn his keep....and of course he'd never outrank you....but we could use a cabin boy..."
Jillie tried to shut that image out of her mind and sagged against the railing. Back on the truck. Back to late nights, frozen fish and some of the town's more colorful inhabitants making conversation and marriage proposals. However, this was the one job Sean couldn't possibly get fired from. Which would mean two paychecks splitting rent for the first time in months. And not depending on some rathole club dumb enough to hire Chrystopher Robyn and the Exploding Cholostomy Bags to pay for groceries, providing they didn't have a bar tab bigger than their cut of the door. It was sadly tempting. "Um..."
"Besides, lass, these scumbags be lousy tippers. How long have ye been on yer feet today? And for what? This?"
Harvey produced the tip jar from the moth-eaten folds of his velvet greatcoat.
She sighed. "Cap'n....you didn't."
"Just did a little accountin' when you wasn't lookin' Seems outright piracy to tip a quarter on a five dollar cup of joe that looks like some elf splooged on it."
The giggles started again before Jillie could help herself. "Go put it back."
"I will if you say yes."
"And if I say no?"
"Then I run off with a princely booty of $4.25, hitting the high seas, never to be seen or heard from again." He sighed melodramatically. "T'would be a pity."
Her resolve was slipping and Jillie knew it. "Fine. Okay. Fine...IF you show me those papers and IF you give Sean a job...you've got your first mate back."
"I knew ye'd come to yer senses, Jillie me lass! Now, let's away!"
"I can't quit in the middle of a shift."
"Oh, lass, they have caffeinated the pirate right out of ye. This be Cap'n's orders! Now move!"
Jillie took the tip jar from Harvey, turning while a smile slowly spread across her face.
Oh, Sean was going to love this. She took the tip jar back inside, placing it on the counter and scribbling a note to Ken that echoed the one he had left for Sean on their kitchen counter two weeks ago. "Ken, this just isn't working out. I've decided to move on. All the best, Jillie."
Joining Cap'n Harvey back on the sidewalk, she grinned and said, "Well, let's go wake Sean up and tell him the good news. He might actually be happy to be up before noon for once."
"Since I just frivolously just blew my last paycheck on rent, I'm afraid I'll have to say no. I'm broke."
Harvey grinned at her sideways. "No, ye're not."
"Um...re-signing bonus? I'll take it."
Harvey handed her a fistful of wadded bills and coins. "Nay, lass. I just liberated what was rightfully yours."
Jillie had thought that tip jar had looked a little emptier than she'd remembered. Laughing in earnest now, she shoved the money deep into the pocket of her jeans and sprinted away. "Last one to the liquor store swabs the deck!"
[Ed note: This was inspired by a piece I wrote for LJ Idol Season 8 which is currently trying to become a novel. You can read the original piece here: http://mac-arthur-park.livejournal.com/2012/02/06/ Oh, and they HAVE since lowered the rate to make food trucks legal in Chapel Hill, so you never know where Jillie and the Cap'n may show up]