The Night Shift by Shanna
The Night Shift by Shanna
Jo looked out the window of the all night diner where she worked. The street lights flickered in the darkness, illuminating the drizzling rain and creating halos of light on the sidewalk below. The streets were lonely and empty, a distinct contrast from the hustle and bustle of the normal rush-hour traffic. Jo could hear the sounds of the diner all around her; the low murmur of voices blended with the clinking of silverware as customers ate and the diner food sizzled on the grill while Patsy Cline crooned across the speakers.
Jo reached behind the counter and picked up the coffee pot. Her shoes, not quite dry from her commute to work, made squeaking sounds on the floor as she made her way around the diner, stopping frequently to refill the customers’ dwindling coffee.
She passed by what she had dubbed in her mind the “study hall”. In actuality, it was a table covered in open textbooks. The two guys and a girl sitting there were armed with highlighters and notebooks as they underlined passages and frantically scribbled out their meaning. The students came every weekend to study through the night. Jo thought they must be night students from the local college, people with day jobs who were relegated to studying in the middle of the night in order to get everything done. Jo wondered what her life would have been like if she had went to college. Would she have studied all night in a run-down diner? Maybe she wouldn’t have had 12 jobs in the past 2 years.
Jo shook her head and silently filled up their coffee cups and received mumbled words of thanks in return, the trio never lifting their heads from the books in front of them. Jo knew better than to ask if they wanted anything to eat. Other than two orders of fries when they first arrived, the trio never ordered anything else other than coffee.
“Order up!” yelled Roy from the depths of the kitchen, as he tapped the little bell that sat on the counter.
Jo walked back towards the grill area. The smells wafting out got stronger the closer she got and her stomach growled in hunger. She could smell the fresh cut potatoes and greasy onion rings and hamburgers. Mixed in was the scent of breakfast, of eggs and pancakes and maple syrup. Jo picked up the heavy plates of diner food. Her mouth watered, but then again she was always hungry working at the diner. The smells of all the greasy delicious food made her famished to the point that she always chewed gum while she worked, to try to trick herself into thinking she was eating.
She carried the plates to the table where an old couple sat. The couple always came in early to eat and always ordered the same thing. Sometimes they had a little girl with them, that Jo assumed was their granddaughter, but not today. Today the couple sat like usual and ate their pancakes and steak and eggs. By the time the sun rose, they would be gone, starting their day.
A noise outside made Jo look over to the door. The door opened and the hookers walked in, laughing. They shook their clothes and patted down their hair and faces to wipe the rainwater off.
Jo looked at the clock. “5:30. Right on time,” she thought. She watched the scantily clad women as they traipsed through the restaurant to the table in the back.
“Rain or shine,” Jo thought, “I guess everyone has to make a living.” The steady drizzle that had been raining for the past four days didn’t seem to discourage the ladies as they pulled off their sodden jackets.
Jo was familiar with the hookers. They arrived every morning at 5:30, their laughter bouncing off the walls. Jo didn’t know what was so funny about being a hooker, but she hadn’t been in town that long. Maybe there was a running joke that only the locals got.
Being new in town Jo got all the crappy working shifts, the shifts no one wanted, which was why she was currently working the overnight shift. But Jo didn’t mind. Jo thought the night shift was fascinating. She enjoyed working in the middle of the night, so many different people came out of their hiding places. Jo found that customers were more likely to talk to her, when it was dark out in the middle of the night. Perhaps they thought that secrets were less shameful or hurtful when told in the dark, rather than in the bright light of the day. Jo didn’t know but she thought there was something poetic about being awake while everyone else was asleep.
Most of the time the diner was calm, with only the regulars coming in to eat. Occasionally a drunk crowd would come into the diner after all the bars and liquor stores had closed. Sometimes they would get rowdy, their state of inebriation making them unable to carry a conversation in regular tones. Roy would come out of the kitchen, his apron stained with grease, and his boots clunking along the linoleum floor. Jo had watched as, more than once, Roy would stare down the drunks, his arms crossed in front of him, showcasing his old fading military tattoos. More than one person had stared in fright at Roy, perhaps thinking he was some kind of crazy butcher come to life and come to get them. Roy was harmless but he knew how to keep order in the restaurant.
The laughing hookers waived Jo over to give her their orders. Jo pulled out her order pad and jotted down the instructions, noting to herself that the hookers always ordered a lot of food.
“I guess all that work makes you hungry,” Jo thought as she handed the order slip to Roy. She watched as Roy looked over at the hookers and nodded his head, a brief smile on his lips. Another burst of laughter came from the hookers’ table and Jo knew that no matter how loud they got, Roy would stay in the kitchen and let the hookers laugh. Jo pulled out another stick of gum, crammed it in her mouth, and sat down at the counter to wait for the orders to be ready.