KARL MARX: A REFUTATION
EXCERPT FROM SERVER
Paul deflected the questions and merely stated, “Karl starts on Friday.”
He refused to give further details, which led to much speculation. Some wondered if Paul hired a real-life monkey or was making some sort of statement about the general quality of new hires in recent months.
Scott arrived early for his shift that Friday night, not wanting to miss the arrival of the monkey, Karl. He placed his bag on the employee bench and went to make himself coffee. A few workers stood around the coffee station, chatting and enjoying the free time before the dinner rush. Kim rambled on as usual, with the others listening with less than perfect attention.
“I wonder if Karl has restaurant experience,” Kim said.
Scott remained silent and eyed her as she ran her fingers through her thick, blonde hair.
“A monkey in a restaurant?” Dave asked.
Scott smiled at Melissa. She smiled back at him, transfixing his attention with full lips and pretty brown eyes. He squeezed her arm, running his fingers over her smooth tan skin.
“I think it has something to do with quotas,” Scott joked. A few workers laughed, but sounded more nervous than amused.
“I don’t want to work with a monkey,” Kim said, shaking her hair back and forth in obvious displeasure.
The workers murmured their agreement.
“Why not?” a voice said.
“Huh?” Kim turned to answer.
A monkey stood in the doorway to the kitchen. He was a head taller than the counter-top, which was approximately three feet in height. Waiting for a response with one foot tapping on the tile floor, the monkey picked at his teeth with a thick nail. The blood red of the uniform stood out against his black fur and brown ears. He was ugliest monkey Scott ever laid eyes on. His eyes were set too deep into his skull, which gave him a sinister look when he smiled.
“I’ve never worked with a monkey,” Kim managed to say.
“Sure, you have,” Karl said, winking at her. The crowd around them laughed.
“I’m Kim.” She extended her hand toward the monkey.
“Call me Karl—Karl Marx.”
Scott blinked and looked around, but nobody seemed to think it was strange for a monkey to be named Karl Marx. He wondered if they knew while Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, his kids almost starved to death. He walked away with his coffee in hand as his co-workers questioned Karl. He heard laughter and turned in time to see the monkey pinch Kim on her backside. Scott shook his head and walked toward the side door.
He looked out, watching the cars passing on the highway, honking, and entering the parking lot. He sipped his coffee in silence as the sounds of laughter from his co-workers mixed with the sounds of traffic coming through the open windows. Feeling someone next to him, he turned and found Melissa close to him.
“It’s odd,” she said.
“What’s that?” Scott put his arms around her and pulled her against him.
“Karl is a writer.”
Scott thought for a moment. He rested his cheek against her forehead and sighed. His stomach felt tight and full of nerves. “What does he write?”
“He wrote a fantasy novel.”
Scott kissed her cheek. “What can you expect from a monkey?” he laughed, feeling better.
Scott didn’t see much of Karl during the monkey’s first week of employment. During the first two shifts they worked together, Karl was surrounded by the female workers, who showered him with attention. Karl basked in the glow of his popularity; the fact that he liked to party after his evening shifts made him an instant success. Kim reported she spent a rather entertaining evening with him outside work.
“What do you mean, ‘entertaining’?” Scott asked her.
“He’s just a funny monkey, that’s all.” Secrets were hidden in her smile as she played with her hair.
Scott wanted to talk with Karl himself, but didn’t get a chance until Monday afternoon. He sat at a table near the kitchen, eating a hamburger before his evening shift, when Karl walked in the front door. None of the other servers had arrived yet, and as there was nobody else to talk with, Karl made his way over to Scott. He hopped into the booth across from him and took a french fry off of Scott’s plate. Scott stared at him, not amused. Karl smiled as he chewed and took yet another one.
“It’s okay. I wasn’t eating those,” Scott said, not attempting to hide the contempt in his voice. Any desire to talk to this monkey about writing vanished.
“You don’t like me, do you?” Karl asked him.
Scott didn’t answer and grabbed the newspaper off the seat. He began to read, hoping Karl might leave him in peace to eat his meal.
“I hear you’re a writer,” Karl said.
Scott put down the paper and folded his hands across his lap. “Yes, I am.”
“I wrote a novel myself.”
“Thank you.” Karl either didn’t notice the sarcastic tone or chose to ignore it. “I want to be a best-seller one day like Stephen King, although I don’t write horror. I write fantasy.”
“Really? What type of books do you write?” Karl asked, smiling once again.
Scott sighed and did not answer. Do I have to get into this discussion with yet another writer?
“I write literary fiction.”
Karl whistled and clapped his hands together in excitement. “You’re an elitist,” he laughed.
“I write for myself without worrying about the issue of selling books,” Scott said, feeling annoyed.
“An elitist,” Karl insisted.
“As you wish.”
“Don’t you want to make money?” Karl asked him.
“I want to write what I feel in my heart. If that sells, so be it, but money isn’t why I write.”
“Liar!” Karl exclaimed, pointing his finger.
“It isn’t always about the money.”
“Yes, it is always about the money. All writers want to be on the best-sellers list and make loads of money. Some are just honest and admit it.”
“I don’t care about money.”
“Liar!” Karl repeated.
Scott sighed again. He gripped his fingers together tightly. His fingertips changed from white to red from the pressure. “You’re a capitalist pig.”
“No, I’m a monkey,” Karl laughed as he jumped down and walked into the kitchen.
Scott kept to himself that night, watching Karl flirt, joke, and clown his way through the shift. Karl was popular with the ladies and took liberties, groping nearly every female worker. Far from being reprimanded for such behavior, his popularity increased.
“This monkey does not work,” Scott said to Tim, the shift manager.
Tim shrugged and pointed at Karl, who was chasing ladies around the kitchen with a towel in hand. He caught Kim and whacked her on the backside. Great fits of laughter broke out from the workers.
“He doesn’t have time!” Tim walked away, shutting himself in the office.
Scott approached the food window. Food orders were stacked three plates deep, but Kris, whose job it was to place plates on trays, was preoccupied with Karl was rubbing her back. The monkey’s hands moved down and rested on her ass.
“I have to set my own trays now, so you two can have more time to grope each other, is that it?” Scott said.
“You’re just jealous.” Karl stuck out his tongue.
Scott carried his food out into the dining room, kicking the door open with enough force to leave a scuff mark. When he returned, he saw Karl pushing himself against Melissa. Karl looked at him and laughed as his hands came to a rest on her shirt. He squeezed Melissa’s breasts and jumped back, howling with laughter. His eyes remained on Scott.
“Hey!” Melissa laughed and shrugged.
Scott gnashed his teeth and took a step toward Karl. “You’re disgusting.”
“I don’t see her complaining,” the monkey responded.
Scott threw up his hands and went toward the back for a smoke. He lit a cigarette, taking a deep drag to settle his nerves. Slowly, he exhaled through his nose and took another drag. He leaned his head on his hand and sighed, rubbing his temples with his fingers.
“Don’t let Karl bother you,” he heard a voice say.
He looked up to see one of the cooks. “Hey, Dave.”
Dave rubbed his hand on his shirt, which was soiled with food and grease, before he patted Scott on the shoulder. “The ones that count know.”
Dave lit a cigarette and sat down beside him.
“Karl is taunting me,” Scott said.
“When?” Dave asked.
“Just now. With Melissa. I’m sure someone told him I have it bad for that girl.”
Dave nodded and patted his shoulder again. “Don’t worry. Melissa likes you.”
Scott sighed and took a drag. He pushed his cigarette around, making patterns in the refuse of the ashtray.
“You should ask her out on a date,” Dave said.
“Maybe …” He snubbed his cigarette out and stood, fixing his apron before he returned to the front. He heard the servers talking about their plans after the shift.
“Are you going out tonight, Karl?” Kris asked.
Scott looked at her. Her hair was dark brown, which flowed over her shoulders, but she had pale skin and thin lips. You can have the monkey.
“Count on it,” Karl said.
A cheer came from the workers.
“You can always count on Karl to party.” Kim twirled her blonde hair between her fingers.
Scott ignored them and began counting his money in silence. They were making plans, and he wished to be invited. It’d been a few weeks since he was invited to join the workers for drinks.
“It’s all about the writing,” he muttered. He looked at his money, which was sixty-three dollars after a tip for the bartender, and shook his head. “I can’t afford it anyway.”
“Can’t afford what?” Melissa asked.
“Come on. You can afford to have one drink. It won’t kill you.” She put her hand on his shoulder.
He smiled and squeezed her hand. “I have to write—”
“Nonsense. You can’t say no to me. You’re going out tonight, and that’s all there is to it.” She slapped his arm playfully as he pinched her side.
“Bad boy,” she said, smiling. “Don’t pinch my fat.”
“For the last time, you’re not fat,” he answered. “You’re beautiful, and you know it.”
Smiling, she hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll see you there.”
He squeezed her hand again before continuing toward the office.
* * *
Scott stopped at his apartment to shave and shower, which was why most of his co-workers were already at the bar when he arrived. He entered the front door and saw Kim, Kris, and others talking in a group. He waved to them, but his greeting was not returned. He walked by them to where Dave and Melissa sat and saw Dave’s arm around her shoulders.
“Scott!” Dave extended his hand.
“Dave,” he said, sitting next to him. He winked at Melissa as he signaled to the bartender.
“The usual?” the bartender asked.
“You remember?” Scott laughed. “You are a credit to the profession.”
Scott lit a cigarette and surveyed the bar, which was packed with area workers after their night shifts.
“I got you a beer.” Dave clapped Scott on the back and lit a cigarette of his own.
“Cheers.” Scott raised he glass and gave Dave a nod.
“It’s good to see you out again,” Melissa said.
He reached over Dave and squeezed her hand. “I needed a break from writing.”
Melissa smiled at him. Her pretty brown eyes were framed lightly with mascara. Her dark brown hair stuck to her forehead before she brushed it away. She leaned toward him and touched glasses, giving him a view of a black bra and beautifully tanned breasts. His eyes met hers, and he smiled again. The warmth spread in his stomach.
“I’m glad to be here,” Scott said as Kylie, Dave’s girl, walked in the front door.
Dave got off his stool and walked over to meet her, leaving Scott alone with Melissa.
“Tell me something,” she said, taking Dave’s stool. She smelled like flowers, and the touch of her arm against his made him feel dizzy. He wanted to say many things—how often he wrote about her, how often he imagined her naked, and her perfect golden skin next to his own—but couldn’t.
“The novel isn’t going well.”
“I see.” She leaned back on the stool and watched him.
She seemed disappointed, but Scott, with nerves in his stomach, concentrated more on his fingernails. He picked at them, peeling away his cuticles. “I’m writing about an outcast man and how society attempts to squelch individuality and personal freedom.”
Scott stared into his beer. He opened his mouth, but no sound came forth. Tell her you love her, he heard a voice say. He spun his head around but saw nothing. Returning his eyes to hers, words failed him and desperation spread in his veins. He ran a hand over his hair and took a deep breath. She remained quiet, waiting and watching him. Her eyes were intense, maybe a little angry.
“What do you want out of life?” he asked her.
She sipped at her drink with her eyes upon his. “I guess what everybody else wants: To be happy, secure, and to have a nice family,” she said.
He nodded, but inside, he wanted to ask what she meant by being happy. Don’t ask that. Tell her you love her, he heard the voice say again. He didn’t look this time and drank his beer instead.
“What about you?” she asked.
“I want to be a published writer.” He thought he’d captured it well with that statement and leaned back on his stool, crossing his arms.
“That’s all?” She seemed confused and leaned toward him as if she hadn’t heard him correctly.
“Nothing else will make me happy,” he said flatly.
She shook her head, but didn’t respond. She looked across the bar with her fingers clutching her glass, at a loss for words. Scott was about to speak, but a cheer from the workers stopped him.
Scott seethed while the workers hugged and kissed. Their laughter rose over the music. Karl pushed through the crowd to the bar and nodded at Scott. He grinned and yelled for all to hear.
“Who wants a shot?”
A loud cheer came from the workers.
“I’ll take one,” Melissa yelled, getting up to join the others.
Dave took his seat once again with Kylie at his side. Without asking, Dave ordered shots from the bartender, which they drank off in silence. Scott closed his eyes but still heard the chorus of laughter from the workers. Karl danced on a table, kicking his furry legs high in the air. Scott groaned. The monkey executed a back flip, sending a roar of approval through the bar.
The bartender rang the bell and pushed a shot toward the monkey. “On the house!”
“He’s a showboat.” Scott’s anger was palpable.
“Agreed,” Dave said, lighting a cigarette.
“The damned monkey is a fantasy writer!” Scott said as if that statement explained it all. Eying Karl, he threw money on the bar before finishing his beer. Scott stood, put on his jacket, and took his keys from his pocket.
“Are you leaving?” Dave asked.
“I can’t watch this.” Karl was speaking with Melissa, and Scott wanted to put his fingers around the monkey’s neck. He walked toward the door, ignoring Dave’s farewell.
* * *
Later that night, Scott lay awake, deep in thought. He attempted to write in his journal, but after an hour of staring at nearly-blank, white paper, the one sentence he wrote displeased him:
We must fight to retain our individuality in the face of attempts by society to homogenize its citizens into well-behaved lemmings.
Motionless, he stared at the ceiling. He resisted the urge to light a cigarette and continued to stare at the ceiling, making shapes of shadows cast by moonlight peeking at him through the blinds. Closing his eyes, his thoughts centered on the monkey.
“He is everything I’m not.” Scott was shocked at how thin his voice sounded. He sighed and rolled onto his stomach, waiting for sleep.
* * *
Weeks passed without change. Karl remained popular, spending almost every night partying. Scott grew more bitter and angry as time passed, isolating himself from all social activity. His writing did not improve, and his efforts weren’t helped by news that Karl’s agent might sell his novel soon. The monkey informed him it was his first novel and that fact irritated Scott more than anything.
Scott arrived for his Friday shift to find the workers filled with excitement. The ladies were talking excitedly by the coffee station. He heard Karl’s name and walked over.
“Karl gave his notice,” Kim told him.
He’s quitting? He felt a surge of joy and laughed. “Why?”
“Haven’t you heard?”
Scott stared at her. He felt his heart skipping and his palms sweating. From the bottom of his soul, he wanted to scream, but instead, he attempted to gather himself. “I haven’t worked the past couple of days. What happened?”
Kim clapped her hands together, as Karl often did, happy to inform him. “A publisher accepted Karl’s book.”
Scott blinked, his knees weak. “It can’t be true. He finished that book less than six months ago. He couldn’t have sold it this fast.” The room seemed to dim, and Scott struggled to breathe. She continued to speak, but it took a few moments for him to focus on her words.
“He called to tell me,” Kim said.
It all made sense and he was forced to lean on the counter for support. The room spun under his feet, and he felt cold—very cold. The floor rose to meet him until his cheek pressed against the tile, cool and comfortable against his skin.
Karl entered the kitchen to a cheer from the workers. He stood near the spot Scott lay prone on the floor, close enough for Scott to see the pink skin below his monkey fur. All the while, the co-workers chanted...
Karl, Karl, Karl!
Scott heard their voices as if under water. He attempted to lift himself, but lacked the strength. His arm fell useless at his side. Looking up, he watched Melissa kiss Karl’s cheek and her lips form the word “congratulations.” Scott felt consciousness slipping at the sounds…
Karl, Karl, Karl!