kid got “submerged”

The “highest paid” member of the pizza parlor staff is technically the kid who comes in at 9 a.m. on weekday mornings to mop the place down and wipes tables and tend to various janitorial tasks and who then bails a couple hours later at 11, before we even open, usually with a free pizza in one hand while holding up his pants with the other, running across the street to catch the Coral Gables trolley to the metro rail, then the metro rail to the Dadeland station, then an Uber from the Dadeland station…

            That kid gets $20 an hour.

            But he only works two hours a day.

            Nice kid but there’s an edge to him. I’ve never seen him angry, and his sense of humor is boyish and his laugh is loud with a constant slackjawed grin and he’s an earnest person, talking openly about his time in juvie and how he’s taught himself to stop saying he “wants” to own a restaurant and to start saying instead that he “will” own a restaurant. “Manifesting,” he says with a slow nod, “my uncle taught me.” He’s friendly to everyone. But he’s got that troubled past where he’d use little jagged knobs of porcelain to smash car windows, sometimes to steal things and sometimes cuz he just wanted to, and also there’s an AK-47 tattooed on his throat. I imagine him getting really pissed and wonder how tight a grasp he’s finally gotten of that adolescent temper.

            He’s interested in moving up with the company so on Superbowl Sunday our general manager put him on the expo line to help fill out orders—and he did a terrific job!

            Well-mannered, hard-working, precise.

By Tyler Varsell

            Our restaurant, you should know, serves meatballs. We cook the meatballs and then keep them marinating in a vat of red sauce throughout the day. They’re amazing. Some of the meatballs float to the top of the vat, naturally. But we only serve people the meatballs that have spent a  couple hours fully soaked in the red sauce.

            “Scoop from the bottom,” as they say.

            At one point on Superbowl Sunday, while filling an order, the kid in question went to scoop a meatball from the top of the vat.

            One of the managers stopped him and said, “You gotta get one of the ones that’s submerged.”

            And this poor kid, wide-eyed and looking embarrassed with a ladle in one hand and the pot lid in the other, gulping in a humble way that makes his AK-47 tattoo fidget, he looks around at everyone and says, “What’s that word?”

            The manager says, “What word?”

            He goes, “The one you said about the meatballs. They gotta be…?”

            “Submerged,” says the manager. Patient. “Down deep, they gotta be all the way down deep in the sauce, soaking in it.”

            A restaurant expo line is a rough place to be. It’s vulgar and hot and tempers flare. Feelings aren’t spared. And I think it says something about how vulnerable the kid suddenly looked that nobody gave him shit for not knowing what “submerged” means.

            He hoisted the ladle after that and plunged it deep into the sauce, digging for a meatball way down there, and he forced a laugh and said, to nobody in particular, “My vocabulary sucks.”

            And then it was quiet for a while until things picked up, and there were other orders coming in, and the standard restaurant chaos kicked up to divest us of ourselves.

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