the short story project


Tommy Friend

Livin’ On A Prayer

It’s in the late 80s I have an interview at an Italian Banquet Hall in Chicago Illinois. Frustrated looking for work and not being 16 yet. And I knew my birthday was coming up this summer. And some of the applications when asked me how old I was, I would put down 16 and I figured if they don’t call me for months by the time they do call I will be 16. Excited that I got an interview about two blocks away from where I live. I go to the Banquet Hall and the interview goes great and they tell me I have the job. I know it’s just a busboy job and I had a couple of jobs were delivered pizza flyers or newspapers but those jobs didn’t pay much either. I remember when I was a little kid, I and my mother were on our way to the grocery store. We pass this bum, is begging he says, “excuse me lady can you spare change, or dollar or food stamps. He says he’s homeless and hungry”. My mother gives him a five dollar food stamps. And as we walk away she tells me well if he is begging for food stamps. He must be really wanting food. And I remember thinking I can’t wait to grow up, I can’t wait to get a job. Note to self, be careful what you wish for because it just might come true.

Now there’s something I gotta tell you. There’s this girl that works at this Banquet Hall. I mean there’s over a handful of good-looking girls that work there as waitresses. But this one stands out above the rest. This girl had long black hair, her eyes were royal blue but she had these blue contacts and her eyes just looked so beautiful. She is Italian and maybe like 5’5″. I was so in love with this girl. And the only reason I am telling you about her is that I’m ready to tell you this story.

It’s a hot summer day in Chicago Illinois and I am on my way to work at the Banquet Hall. On the corner Oak Park Ave. and Diversity Avenue. The entrance was on Oak Park Avenue but everybody entered the side door of the kitchen on Diversity Avenue. It’s about 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. As I open the side door to the kitchen there are three or four waitresses and waiters by the coffee pots by the entrance. The kitchen is full the whole staff is there as we are getting prepared to serve hundreds of people for this wedding reception and out the door to the left to me is the busboy station and next to it is the stage where a live band will be performing tonight. This is the 80s we don’t get that many DJs it was always live bands. There are some great bands too they would play songs like “don’t stop believing”, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, “Mony Mony”, “Living on a prayer” usually all the songs you hear on the radio. As I walked past the waitresses and of course the gorgeous waitress. I’m greeted by the owner and the head manager, for the story will give them fake names. Like Mrs. P and Gail. They stop me in the kitchen. They asked me how are you doing today and how are things going at home? I look at them with my big blue eyes and my white smile and I tell that I’m doing great. I’m doing better than great I’m doing good. They tell me they’re glad to hear that. The owner asked me. Tommy, how is your mother doing? I tell them that she is doing great. She has me what does she do for a living? I tell them she’s a nurse she works in a big hospital. She says oh that’s must be nice. How is your father? I said he’s doing great, things are great. She asked me what does he do for a living? I tell her he works downtown in a printing company. Then they both are smiling at me. They tell me that they are happy to hear everything is going so great. I smile and I walk away. I go downstairs and change into my busboy clothes.

The wedding reception is going great, it’s about 10:30 at night, I sent the other busboy’s home and I am the only busboy until the party is over. Most of the busboys had curfews and they had to be home by a certain time. But I could stay out as late as I wanted. I walk into the now very slow kitchen. I’m bringing dishes or something and as I walk into the kitchen the only person I see, is a beautiful Italian girl. she’s at one of the tables. She is working lettuce for our next party and then coming through the other two doors. Is the owner and the head manager. They stopped to talk to me in the kitchen. They tell me that there was a shower today at noon and they wanted me to work at that party. I looked at the schedule on the wall right next to us. I said I wasn’t scheduled to work, I always check the schedule and always know if I got to work. I never miss work. They tell me I’m not in trouble because the whole shower party was never put on the schedule. So they had nobody scheduled to work. So we are trying to find a busboy at the last minute. The owner of the Banquet Hall tells me, I called your house and I talked to your mother, she says you don’t live there anymore and you haven’t lived there for the last three or four months. OMG oh yeah I got a shocked look on my face. now I’m standing next to the doors that go into the back of the Banquet Hall next to the stage and the owner and the head manager standing right in front of me and over the shoulder of the owner. Right after they say this I’m looking at the waitress looking right at me. then her head quickly goes down to the table. like she didn’t hear what they were saying. She would have to be deaf to not hear every single word. she goes back to shredded lettuce really fast, moving really fast. Well, I guess I didn’t see that coming when I walked in the work and they came up to me started asked me about my family. That’s called straight up fucking busted lying. I’ll tell you what happens next in my book. But now I got a tell the truth and what’s going on and I have to downplay it because this gorgeous girls like 5 feet away from us and she can hear every word we’re saying.

There’s one more thing about this banquet Hall I want to bring up. It’s the end of the year and the lady from payroll comes to talk to me. She tells me, Tom, there’s a problem with your application. And I’m thinking oh my God they know they hired a 15-year-old and not the 16-year-old. No, it’s not that. They never catch that, I think it’s because I was only a part-time employee and we usually only work the weekends. She tells me the numbers on the application are no good. I said yeah they are. I had the card in my hand and the numbers on the card belong to me. I saw my name on the card. She asked me, are you a 50-year-old man living in Texas? I said no. She says well then you gave me the wrong numbers bring the card in and we’ll take care of it. Now the cops have put me back in the house and I go home and I tell my mother I need that card. She goes into her drawer, she has over a handful of cards, she gives me the card. I’m looking at the card with my name on it, she says here’s another card that belongs to you. I have one card in one hand and another card in another hand. So the first names are the same, the middle names are the same, the last names are the same but this one card says, Junior. I guess I find out today my dad has the exact same name, I mean like, what are the chances of that?

My spider senses tingling, oh wait. I don’t get bit by a poisonous spider until 2009 in IOWA. I sense a disturbance in the force, I got this feeling. this 50-year-old guy living in Texas could be my father. He’s still alive.

So let me think about this for a second, there was a meatpacking plant called Agriprocessors in Postville Iowa after 22 years they hired nothing but illegal aliens, undocumented workers and people who had fake Social Security numbers. It took 22 years for somebody to figure out what was going on over there. Everybody says when they started doing it everybody was complaining about it, but nobody ever did anything about it and so everybody stopped complaining about it. We need to secure our borders.


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