April Fools’!

Sam spread his two shirts, one red and one blue, out on his coffee table with all the hems aligned. When his wire-less iron was hot, he touched it to the cloth. A soft sizzle and a vapor of grease rose. Taking great care, he pinned identical-looking name tags on each, just under the right shoulder. He grinned wickedly.

The next morning, April 1st, Sam woke up late, dressed, and sprinted to the bus terminal, catching his bus to work just as it was about to pull away. Settling into his seat, he realized he had not brought the extra shirt. He had left it out, folded, next to his backpack. Why he hadn’t put it in his back pack was a question he couldn’t have answered. Sam felt furious with himself. April Fools’ Day was his favorite holiday out of all of them. His plan had been to sneak into the break room whenever he got the chance and switch shirts. People would have thought they had gone insane arguing with each other when one swore he had been wearing a blue shirt just a second ago and the other swore, ‘No, it has been red all along. You are seeing things.’ Sam would have waited until everyone was talking about it before showing the second shirt and screaming, “April Fools’!” How everyone would have laughed!

As the bus merged onto the freeway, Sam started to pull out his cell phone, but he thought better of asking a neighbor to climb a tree behind his apartment, slither in through his tiny bathroom window, and rush across town to bring him a second uniform.

At the restaurant, three tables were already waiting for him, so Sam was able to forget about his forgotten shirt as he took drinks to his tables and put their food orders into computers. Everyone was extremely busy taking food out to tables and pouring dressings into ramekins.

An hour later, the restaurant was filled with a line of people at the door. Sam stood at the pass shelf waiting for fries, when Tuiey—one of the other servers—called that he needed a red ticket for a burger.

“What happened?” A manager asked.

“It had blood on it,” Tuiey said, then added, “sorry.” He walked around the pass shelf and disappeared into the kitchen. The manager held the burger over the trash, angling it under the lights, and peering in. Sam saw a couple of bright red dots on the bun. The manager dropped it into the garbage and told the kitchen to make a new one on the fly.

As Sam grabbed his fries that finally came up, Tuiey returned from the back. He had a bandage on his hand which looked odd, held against his side.

Sam wanted to make sure he was all right, but saw that he was getting double-sat and so he went out to his section, dropped off his fries, and started his next two tables. He got them drinks and got their food orders in and returned to the pass shelf, ready to run food. Tuiey appeared with another burger. “Sorry, it had blood on it.” He handed it to the manager and left for the back, holding his hand pinned in his armpit. This burger was streaked red. The fries were in a pool, thinner than ketchup.

The manager followed Tuiey into the back. Sam grabbed some dirty dishes and followed as well.

“Did you cut yourself?” The manager asked. “I should look at it; it could be a deep cut.”

Tuiey stood next to a sink. He reached into a first aid kit that hung on the wall and pulled out bandages. Sam saw a thin line of red falling from his hand. Heard the continuous splatter of it landing in the sink.

A group of employees had followed Sam back, and they all moved in closer. Tuiey dropped a blood soaked bandage into the trash can. “Tuiey, what happened?”

Tuiey turned and faced the group. Blood ran from his strangely-shaped hand, made a tapping sound as it dripped into the wet garbage.

“April Fools’! April Fools’, I cut off my pinkie finger!” Tuiey’s face emptied of color as quickly as the trash can filled.

One of the servers, Brita, emerged from the group and wrapped a fresh bandage around the stump where Tuiey’s finger had been. The manager yelled for someone to call an ambulance, then led Tuiey out through the back of the restaurant.

Brita (an avid fan of ER since the first season when George Clooney had been on) knew about the miracle of reattachment, so she snapped on a pair of food handlers’ gloves and picked through the bloody bandages in the garbage. She pulled out the pinkie finger and took it into dry storage. She came back out with it in a to-go soup cup. Excusing herself between some people standing in front of the ice machine, she scooped some ice in, burying Tuiey’s finger. She snapped the lid on and followed where Tuiey had gone out the back.

Everyone was still standing around the trash can, stunned, when Brita returned. She turned on the water at the sink and let it heat up while it washed away Tuiey’s blood. Then she washed her hands, for a little more than thirty seconds. She finished and the other servers still stood in a cluster. “Excuse me, I have tables.” Brita squeezed through the group and returned to work.

The rest followed. They had tables too. And new people would be coming in that didn’t know anything had happened, and they would need to eat.

When the lunch rush ended, Sam recalled how he had forgotten his extra uniform, but decided it was for the best. It had been such a busy shift that he wouldn’t have had time to be constantly changing shirts. And, anyway, it wouldn’t have been that funny.

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