By Lisa McCourt Hollar
“Charlie, why don’t you let me drive you home?”
Georgina stood next to her co-worker, waiting for him to finish cleaning up the last of the dishes. She would help him, but Charlie didn’t want anyone else doing “his” dishes. Last time she’d tried to help he’d insisted on rewashing every dish she had done.
“My bike won’t fit in the back of your car, you know that. No sense taking me home and leaving me without a way to work in the morning.”
“I’ll pick you up. Charlie, it’s dark out and I worry you’ll get hit.”
“I’ll be fine Georgie. I ride my bike to and from work every day and have never had a problem.”
“There’s always a first time,” Georgina muttered.
The next morning Georgina unlocked the doors. Turning the ovens on, she pulled vegetables from the freezer. Flipping on a small t.v, Georgina listened to the announcer talk about an accident that had occurred the night before.
Georgina glanced at the television. A familiar bike was on the screen and lying next to it the same ball cap she had seen Charlie wear every day. The knife Georgina was holding clattered to the ground.
“It was a nice funeral,” Eddie said, looking around at the others. All of Charlie’s co-workers had gathered to have a small dinner in remembrance of Charlie. It was Georgina’s idea. She thought someone should do something for him since he didn’t have any family.
“It was very nice,” Heather agreed.
The crew all sat there in silence for a moment. “Well,” Danielle said, “I have to work tomorrow, so I’d better get going.”
“Me too,” Heather said, standing.
Gathering up her coat, Georgina glanced at the dishes. “Leave them,” she said to Eddie, “I’ll do them up in the morning.”
Georgina unlocked the doors to The Shake Shak and turned on the lights. Yawning, she went into the walk in and gathered the vegetables. She was so lost in thought she almost didn’t notice the dishes clanging and banging behind her. Turning to see who had come in to help, Georgina stared at the figure that stood at the sink. Then she dropped her knife and fainted.
“You okay Georgie?”
Georgina opened her eyes and looked up into Charlie’s face. “I’m fine,” Georgina said, sitting up. “I just had a shock is all.”
“Quite a mess this morning,” Charlie said, turning back to the sink. “Whoever closed last night left all these dishes sitting out in the dining room.”
“That was me Charlie,” Georgina said. “I was tired and figured I could do them in the morning.”
“That’s alright Georgie, I’ll take care of them.”
“Charlie, what are you doing here?”
“What do you mean,” Charlie asked. “It’s Tuesday, I always work on Tuesdays.”
“Charlie, you’re dead. Your funeral was yesterday.”
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard If I were dead, would I be walking around?”
Georgina couldn’t argue with that logic, but she also couldn’t argue with the fact that his head was bent at an odd angle and he had brain matter coming out of his skull.
When Heather and Danielle came into work, Georgina pulled them off to the side.
“What do you mean he doesn’t know he’s dead,” Danielle squeaked.
“He doesn’t know,” Georgina said. “I think it’s best to let him keep working today and when I close up tonight I’ll take him back to the cemetery and explain it all to him.
“What if he doesn’t want to stay,” Heather asked.
“Well he doesn’t have a choice, now does he,” Georgina said.
The next day Georgina opened up the restaurant. She was in the middle of her morning routine when she heard singing coming from the bathroom. Going to investigate, she found Charlie cleaning the mirrors.
“Charlie, what are you doing here?”
“It’s Wednesday,” Charlie said. “I always clean the bathrooms every Wednesday morning.”
“You’re dead Charlie. We talked about this last night.”
“I know,” Charlie said, “but I don’t feel dead and I like to work. I have my routine.”
When Eddie and Heather came in later Georgina caught them up to speed on what was going on.
“I don’t know if I can work like this,” Eddie said, keeping his voice low as Charlie walked by. “He’s beginning to smell.”
Georgina couldn’t argue with that. Charlie was beginning to rot. “We’ll keep him in the back, away from the customers. I’ll explain it to him.”
“Charlie, we’ve had another complaint.” Georgina stood next to Charlie trying to breathe through her mouth as she spoke. It had been two weeks since he had decided he would rather work at The Shake Shak than lie in the ground.
“Mrs. Williams found this in her salad.”
Charlie looked at the ear Georgina was holding out to him. Reaching up he felt for his and discovered the right one was missing. “I’m sorry Georgina.”
“Didn’t I tell you to stay away from the food when Joy McMurray found a fingernail in her fries?”
“Yes,” Charlie said, “but Danielle wasn’t making the salads right, so I figured I could help her out.”
“There’ve been too many complaints Charlie.” Georgina wrung her hands together. She didn’t want to hurt her friend. “The health inspector is coming by tomorrow. I know you always work on Thursdays, but you need to stay home.”
“I can’t go home,” Charlie said. “My apartments been rented out and my landlord said if I come by again, he’ll put me back in the ground and make sure I stay there.”
“You can’t come in Charlie, they’ll shut us down.”
The next day when Georgina came in, she didn’t see Charlie. Breathing a sigh of relief, she finished her morning prep and flipped the sign in the door to open.
“Georgina Mathews,” a man asked, stepping into the restaurant.
“I’m the health inspector.”
Behind her, Georgina heard the sound of dishes being washed.
Word Count: 998
Copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar. All rights reserved.