Another week, another piece of flash fiction. This time, Chuck Wendig has prompted us with a photo, as seen above. My response is below. Enjoy.
You know how they say that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well. I thought that the painting of a fairy king on my manager’s wall meant that he was nerdy, liked fantasy, and that we might get along, seeing as how I think fairies are pretty cool and have been kind of a mythology fanboy for a long time. I should have paid more attention.
My manager runs something no more grandiose than a cheap pizza joint in Grand Rapids (yeah, I know, I should do something better with my life, but a job’s a job, especially when all you have is an English degree). But if I’d thought to ask anyone who works here what they thought of that painting, they would have had some words for me.
“Obie” changed his name when he was eighteen. He refers to the painting as, no joke, his “self-portrait.” I guess he’s a good artist. But the man thinks that he was reborn in a mortal body due to the machinations of his lover / frenemy, Titania. It’s really not clear to me whether he thinks that this was some sort of punishment, or whether it’s a test, a quest, or what. It’d be kind of endearing if he weren’t so deadly serious about the whole deal. I mean, you’ve dealt with managers who have overly inflated views of themselves before. Now imagine one who actually, honest to goodness, thinks he’s a king. Better yet, thinks he’s a fairy king who’s been exiled from his kingdom due to the machinations of his enemies.
It’s about as bad as you’d think.
Case in point: two weeks ago Marcella had to take a day off, because she was sick and sneezing snot all over the place and there’s just no way that anyone would buy our pizza if she were doing that in the store. Not that they’d necessarily know (haha, cheese looks like snot, I’d never eat our pizza, and I don’t think I want to eat pizza ever again). But Marcella is pretty considerate and responsible, and she didn’t want to get anyone sick or cause any trouble.
So of course Oberon decides that this is just another one of Titania’s tricks. When I show up to cover for Marcella’s shift, he’s just about lost it. I kid you not, he’s in this terrifying rage, stomping around the back hall from his tiny office to the kitchen and back again, yelling about how this is the last straw.
I spent something like forty minutes convincing him to chill the fuck out while also running the register and serving all the customers. Maria, bless her heart, just had her headphones in and was making pizzas like a beast, the way she usually does. Technically she can’t listen to music on her headphones, but technically there’s no way in hell that I’d ever mention it to Oberon. And I don’t think he even pays enough attention to her to notice. I feel kind of bad for her, because there’s no way he’d ever recognize what a bamf she is, but at least she can listen to her own music in this shitty no-wage job.
Anyway, I convince him that it’s not productive to rant and scare off the customers, and I mention that as the king of the fairies there ought to be something he can do about it that would be better for everyone involved, so he finally quiets down and walks out the back door. He comes back in a little while later with this big smile on his face, slaps me on the back, and commends me on my excellent work and loyal service. Weird.
Magically, Marcella is back the next day. It was just a one day sort of thing I guess.
On the plus side, when Oberon is feeling magnanimous (told you, English major), he does it in style. Last winter, on the solstice, he handed out gold-fucking-coins to everyone who came in that day. He pulled some stupid scheduling bullshit to make everyone work that day, without giving any of us much time on shift, but no one complained afterwards. It was all a surprise. He said that it was a big portion of money that should have gone into profit, but that he had to reward the “labor of his loyal vassals.”
The truth is, we’re not sure whether to love him or hate him. He spends so much time being this pompously patronizing prick, but then, every so often, he gives you solid gold coins. Now then, you remember what I said at the very beginning? I totally should have paid more attention.
Maybe things would be different right now if Oberon had ever learned to be a little more subtle. As it was, while he wasn’t yelling it to the heavens, he might have well have just put a big sign out front saying “OBERON IS HERE.”
So. I don’t know if he was totally bugfuck nuts, but if he was there sure were some other people who were willing to be nuts right along with him.
I got in this morning, and Maria was standing out front, looking really confused. She was supposed to be making dough already, so I was pretty confused too. Then I looked around. The whole front of the shop had been torn up and cut to pieces. There were huge slashes through most of the seats’ upholstery, there was an ax still stuck in the countertop beside the register, and it looked like the manager’s office door had been hacked into splinters.
Inside the office, there were huge blood splatters. Like, huge. They covered the walls. There was a scorch mark next to the doorway, and Obie’s painting was missing. It was the only thing gone. The safe was untouched, as was the register. Oberon still hasn’t shown up to work yet. I should have paid more attention.