“Again??” Patrick stormed into the kitchen, his face a shade brighter than the ketchup he was licking off his thumb, beads of sweat emerging from the pores on his forehead. “Another no call no show? What’s going on? I have never had to deal with turnover like this. Shit. Javi, don’t you have another cousin or something you can call?”
Javier stared at him blankly.
“Artro primero? No tee-en?” He was so angry his sweat was practically steaming up into the vacuum of the hood. “Fuck. I guess I’ll just call the agency.” He didn’t wait for a response.
“No voy a traer a nadie más de mi familia aquí,” Javier muttered to Carlos as the kitchen door swung violently behind Patrick. “No por lo que pagan. Ni siquiera he escuchado de Felipe desde que dejó de aparecer. Probablemente me odia por decirle que viniera a trabajar con nosotros.”
Vivian and Sienna had been polishing glasses, listening to Patrick’s raised voice booming from the kitchen, making sure to look fully immersed in the task as he blew past them, a one-man stampede of fury barreling his way from the kitchen to the dining room.
“Wow. I guess we lost another dishwasher. What is that, like the fourth in four months?” Sienna said as she held another Burgundy glass to the steam.
“Yeah, and Javi said it’s always the same thing. They finish their shift, clean up, lock up, and peace out. Forever. Like total radio silence, they’re that pissed off.”
“Weird. But like, they clean up and everything? If they’re going to just quit without notice never to be heard from again, why do they bother? Do you think it has something to do with the new ownership? I mean, nothing much has changed for us, but maybe they’re fucking with back of house more than we know?”
“These glasses are coming out all streaky. Look— there’s like goop on the rim.” Sienna was happy to change the subject. She knew the dishwasher situation was a little raw for Vivian since Juan dropped off the face of the Earth a few months ago. They had started seeing each other and then one day he just vanished. He stopped coming to work and she never heard from him again. It’s hard not to take things like that personally, getting ghosted on that badly; like just because he quit the job he had to quit her too.
Patrick ended up putting one of the bussers on dish that night, and a few days later he was able to find someone to take the position. His name was Diego and the man was huge. He was so big, he had to crouch under doorways and could barely fit in the walk-in. But he made it work— for someone so monumentally tall and strong, he was equally agile, and a perfect employee. He was glad for the job; he’d had a hard time finding steady work and the position called for six shifts a week, which, even though the pay wasn’t what he’d have wanted, the hours made up for it.
No one was happier than Patrick. “You’re gonna stick around, amigo? Don’t go running away on us, okay?”
“No, sir. I like it here,” he responded. Patrick smiled and left the kitchen.
Vivian and Sienna were back polishing glasses before service, talking about how grateful they were not to have to be scraping little bits off the stemware anymore.
“It’s like every time one of them jumps ship, they deliberately mess up the dishwasher so that it leaves all that crap on everything. Like some kind of final ‘fuck you’ to the job. They clean everything else up on the way out except the machine? And it’s always us who has to deal with it.” She held her glass to the light. “It’s not like Patrick ever sees.”
“Yeah. Patrick’s useless,” Vivian agreed. “But Diego’s great. He got the whole thing working like new again. He said he had to pull out this big wad of hair or something that somehow got stuck in there. It was clogging everything up, but he fixed it.”
“Hair?” Sienna questioned, thoroughly disgusted.
“Well it probably wasn’t hair, it was probably like some scrubber sponge that had been lodged in the machine for months and got all stringy and black from mildew or whatever. But how gross is that? Diego was super weirded out by it.”
“Yeah of course— it sounds disgusting. But, other than that, he likes it here?”
“Yeah,” Vivian said. “He seems really happy.”
“Ugh thank god.”
For the next three weeks everything was perfect. Diego wasn’t just the model employee Patrick had prayed for, he was loved by the entire staff as if he’d been there forever. He would bring in homemade pupusas and share them with everyone for family meal. Since he was always the last one in the restaurant at the end of the night, everyone would grab drinks down the block while they waited for him to finish up so they could all hang out after their shift.. He was just great to be around.
Then, one night, he didn’t show up to the bar. Javier checked the time and saw that it was already 1:00. Way later than Diego usually wrapped up and they had gotten out pretty early that night. They started getting concerned that maybe something happened, so Javier and Carlos headed back over to the restaurant to check up on him.
All the lights were still on and the dishwasher was running. But it sounded all jammed up, like it was choking on something, and Diego was gone. They figured he was probably downstairs checking the plumbing and decided to wait for him by the machine in case it exploded, which it sounded like it might. The noises were getting louder, constant thuds and violent banging, so Carlos decided to lift the door and check what was going on in there.
And he found Diego. It was absolute carnage; blood and guts and bone all stirred up in the Ecolab, the drain struggling to gulp the remains of what once was Diego down the pipes.
Javier and Carlos were so stunned by the mess of viscera—the ribbons of flesh that got twisted around the spray arm, the detached eyeball that bounced around as the spinning slowed, the expression on what remained of his face— that they didn’t hear the footsteps coming up the stairs.
“He was too big.” The voice from behind them jolted them out of their shock. “I told Patrick to keep the dishwashers under 5’10. He broke the machine.” It was the owner. He had come up from the office when he heard the machine stop running.
“What?” Javier had only joked about the picking off of dishwashers as an explanation for the mass disappearances that had occurred. He had never thought it could actually be anything so sinister.
“Coming into our country. No papers. No trail. It’s so easy. None of them want any involvement with law enforcement. You think the cops would even care? A victimless crime, you know?” Without hesitation, the owner of the restaurant produced a gun from his pocket and shot both Javier and Carlos on the spot. The men fell to the floor, dead. “See? No one will miss you either.”
First, he called Patrick to let him know to alert the staff that the restaurant would be closed the next day. He had a lot more clean-up than he was used to. Then, before they started to decompose, while there were traces of life still in them, he drained the bodies that belonged to Carlos and Javier of their blood, rinsed his hands off in the sani bucket, and called the landlord.
“Hey, it’s me. I have this month’s offering all bottled up for you. But tonight I got three. You think we could make it thirty percent in that case?”
The man on the other end of the phone did not sound as impressed as he had hoped. “That’s not how this works. One body worth of blood is worth ten percent off your rent. There is nothing in our agreement that states that three bodies will get you thirty. The sacrifice requires precisely what I have asked of you. What do you expect me to do with the rest of it? Freeze it? It won’t keep. You think He wants to drink bitter blood? Don’t insult me like that. And you know only so much pulp can fit through the pipes without clogging them. The other two bodies are yours to dispose of. You figure it out.”
And he hung up the phone, leaving the owner alone in the silent room with three dead employees and more work ahead of him than he had bargained for.