Friday, January 20, 2017

Free Fic: Work to Do

Knute plunged his hands into the hot sudsy water. A few months ago, he would have grimaced, but now he could take the punishment. His hands reddened but he pushed the discomfort to the back of his mind to focus on the job at hand.

Four tables full of people were still loitering over their dinners and desserts. He'd have to go collect the used plates and silverware and transport everything to the back of the kitchen. Jason should be helping him, but the guy had called in sick. Again.

Knute was really tired of Jason calling in sick.

Knute had to pick up the slack, and that really stunk.

He pushed those thoughts away, lest he spend the rest of the night stewing about it and getting himself into a righteous snit. He didn't have time to get worked up about the injustice.

The four tables were finally emptying of people, an hour later than usual, and Knute needed to finish this job so he could go home and catch a few hours of sleep before he started on his other job. Shoveling people's walkways.

A deep blanket of snow had been forecast to begin just after dawn. He'd need all the sleep he could get because once it started, he'd be on his feet for hours.

He needed the money from both jobs to pay rent, otherwise he'd have been happy to work just one of them.

Less than half a year ago, he'd been in college, mounting up debt as well as below-average grades. After freshman year, he couldn't hack it anymore. If he got out, he could pay off the chunk of debt he'd accumulated. If he'd stayed in, he could have dug himself deeper into debt while waiting to flunk out. He'd left of his own accord.

Knute finished cleaning up the dirty dishes and wiped his hands one last time on a nearby towel. His bones ached from the physical exertion and he knew he smelled of sweat, soap, and smoke from when the cook burned some bacon.

Nearly two in the morning. Knute sighed and began walking home. He only lived a quarter mile from the restaurant, in a house that he shared with three other guys all trying to make something in life work out better.

Ten minutes later, he opened his front door. Light flickered and the sound of people yelling and cars speeding around let him know at least one person was up late watching a movie. He looked into the living room.

"Hey," he said.

Chaz was sprawled on the couch, looking barely awake. "Hey," he said. He checked his watch. "Late night."

"Yeah. Group came in twenty minutes before closing." Knute waved a hand. "I gotta get some sleep. Shoveling." He plodded to his bedroom.

When the alarm went off in the morning, it felt like he'd been asleep for five minutes. Knute dragged himself out of bed.

He sniffed. The scent of fresh coffee lingered in the air.

Knute pulled on his work clothes and made his way downstairs.

Chaz was there, frying eggs in a skillet. "Hey," he said. "I heard your alarm so I knew you were getting up."

Knute noticed an extra shovel leaning against the corner near the door. "What's going on?"

Chaz shrugged. "Thought you could use some help. It's my day off." He turned back to tend to the eggs. He poked at them with the spatula, not actually doing anything. "You looked really rough last night."

"Huh." Knute ran a hand through his hair. He did need help with the shoveling. A glance out the window told him the snow was starting to fall faster. People got royally pissed if their walkways weren't done lickety-split. "I'd appreciate that."

Chaz abandoned the eggs for a moment, facing Knute. He looked like he wanted to say something, then turned back around to poke at them again.

Bewildered, Knute went searching for a clean coffee mug. Chaz was a nice guy. They got along well and Chaz never left dirty laundry in the common areas. But they hadn't ever made a lot of conversation together. Knute didn't know that much about Chaz. He turned to ask Chaz why he'd be so helpful, but lost his courage the moment he saw the side of Chaz's face, scowling slightly down at the eggs.

For the moment, he'd be thankful. Later, when he wasn't so tired and worn out, he would figure out what Chaz was up to.

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