Randy Beechman looked every inch the Westside Regional Director for McDonalds that he was. His belly swelled in direct proportion to the shrinking of his hairline. His arms were round and beefy, capable of hefting a fifty-pound bag of frozen fries and yet wobbling if you poked them like so much jell-o squeezed into the shape of a bicep. Even his clothes spoke to his job: button-up white short sleeved dress shirt with the red-and-yellow of the company colors on his tie. His pants were black, polyester, and roomy even on his bulk. His belt was cinched tight around his ample waist, pouches and pockets holding the gear of his profession in easy reach.
The day was warm, and Randy pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket to mop at his brow for the fifth time. The air conditioning was bombed out, and it was summer in Los Angeles. Or as he liked to think of it: the pit of Hell.
The door chime beeped, and from his seat behind the manager’s desk, Randy could see that pimply-faced teen cashier (What was her name? Oh yeah, Angela) look up from behind the counter. She gasped, then turned towards Randy’s door and nodded. “It’s them, sir,” she said in her whiny, nasal voice.
Randy returned the nod and hoisted himself to his feet. “Them,” would be Phillip, the manager for this particular store, and a couple of the burger jockeys. Randy poked his head out of the door, checking to make sure the coast was clear, then he stepped out fully and his eyes sought Phillip. At first, he couldn’t see the man, only the two minimum-wage burger flippers. He hadn’t bothered to learn their names, and mentally he just called them “the white teen” and “the latino teen.”
Randy started to frown, to ask them where Phillip was, when the burger jockeys shifted and he spotted the manager. He was laying on one of the larger ‘family style’ tables. He wasn’t moving. His face, what there was left of it, was frozen in a rictus of pain. The rest of it was clearly the source of the pain. Randy was no doctor, but he’d seen enough casualties in his life. That was a third degree oil burn over 72% of Phillip’s face.
The two burger nukers looked at each other. The latino one spoke. “You were right sir, KFC is having a sale on chicken nuggets, $.10 less than us for a 10-piece. We did it by the textbook: Tim and I,” he gestured at the white teen, “we flanked Phil while he went from car to car on approach. We never saw it sir. We never saw it.” The skinny boy began to blubber, so Randy turned his attention to the other one, Tim.
“What happened?” Randy repeated.
Tim cleared his throat, glanced at Angela, and then turned his attention back to Randy. “They has those radios for when you take drive-in orders in the parking lot, sir. Like In-n-Out does? And they had someone up on the roof, with what we assume was a spare fry cooker. We got near the door and suddenly we heard a sound from above. We looked up, and that fat bastard was dumping oil on Phil. We fired off a couple shots, then retreated. Philip stopped moaning around the time we were passing the 99 Cent Store. We figure that’s when he bit it.”
Randy was silent for a moment. Suddenly, he slammed his meaty fist on one of the tables. “Parking lot radios! I TOLD Corporate we should invest in those. No one has been able to touch In-n-Out since they started using them! Damnit!” He continued to fume for a minute or two before noticing that everyone was staring at him. He forced himself to relax, to adopt a normal tone of voice. Management Training 101. “All right. Not your fault guys. You couldn’t have known. Phillip should have been more cautious. It’s a manager’s duty to think of these things. Put your guns back in the walk-in and hang up your aprons. You have the rest of the day off.”
The two teens grinned and hurried to obey. No one likes losing a manager, but a half-day off is worth its weight in gold. They left Randy to contemplate Phillip’s body in silence while Angela hid back behind the counter. There was no doubt about it, Randy was forced to admit. The annual summer fast food wars were getting worse each year.