Day 263: Benny’s Big Bean Burrito
Benny brushes the hair out of his eyes and tries to focus. What seems to be so easy is somehow impossible. He wipes the sweat off his forehead and tries again. He fails within seconds, forgetting what he was even trying to do in the first place. He’ll never get this. He has to get this. He will get this.
It’s easy, Benny. It’s just like rolling a blunt.
I get that, but—
So just imagine that you’re sitting in your friend’s Cutlass Supreme and roll away!
I don’t smoke blunts.
You don’t? Then what do you smoke?
Benny, Benny, what’re you doing smoking bowls?
You’re not really giving me a blunt salary.
That’s on you. Now start imagining that the burrito is a blunt that you want to afford and I’ll start giving you blunt money. Kapeesh?
It never works out right. He just doesn’t understand it. Ray claims that he orders regulation-size burrito tortillas, but they seem to be centimeters off. Every time he practices the roll at home, it’s perfect. But the tortillas at the restaurant? They never fold right. Or they explode. Or both. Benny wonders how much money Ray is saving by buying these counterfeit tortillas, but it’s not helping him roll. After a few more fails, Ray curses in Italian and takes over. The dishes aren’t going to clean themselves.
It’s always humid in the back room, but during the unforgiving dog days of summer, it’s intolerable. Ray refuses to get the screen door fixed, so a family of flys are always waiting to greet Benny at the sink. He swats them away and starts scrubbing. There’s no use. The whole kitchen is in a perpetual state of greasiness. No matter how much effort he puts in, fingerprints still smear on the plates. The walls are covered in it, the floor is slippery with it, even his jeans have a fine greasy crust. There’s no point in cleaning something that will never be clean.
But it never leaves him. Unwillingly, he takes his work home with him every night. He could shower for a half hour and still ruin his Xbox controller with his greasy hands. Sometimes, he’ll fall asleep on the couch and wake up to see mountains of dishes surrounding him. $5 an hour is barely worth the gas money, but he’s determined to make it work. He’s never backed down from a challenge yet. And also, what else would he be doing with his summer? Relaxing? Pssh. Fuck outta here. Benny’s a dude with a vision. And that vision is him rolling the perfect burrito before that first school bell rings.
Benny, Benny, Benny, you’re doing it all wrong. You’re trying to force the tortilla. You’ve gotta woo it, caress it, be nice to its sister…
What does that even mean?
You’ll get it, kid.
If I’m really this bad at the job, why don’t you just fire me? There’s gotta be capable burrito boys out there.
Son, this is probably where you’d expect me to say something inspiring like ‘I see a shine in your eyes’ or ‘I promised your father that I would mentor you’. But I see no shine, just haze, and I don’t know your Daddy. Truth is, I just don’t feel like hiring another kid that could end up being worse than you.
Before they have a chance to hug it out, the door chimes. Benny hears a familiar voice. Gulp. It’s Tamra. Of course it’s Tamra. He’s been too scared to talk to her after she insisted they dance at the Prom. He was stiff, nervous and probably peed himself a little. She had to force all of the movement out of him and he could see in her eyes a vast ocean of disappointment. And now she’s here, at Paco’s Tacos, blissfully unaware that Benny was cowering in the back of the kitchen. Maybe she’ll go easy on him. Maybe she’ll order some tacos, or even easier, a quesadilla.
I think I’ll have a bean burrito…
Benny audibly groans at hearing the words and then quickly looks back to ensure that he’s hidden. This is going to be a catastrophe. He might as well just go straight out the screen door. But then Ray would throw him under the bus. He’d put two and two together and go out of his way to embarrass him. He’ll never be able to look Tamra in the eye again. Let alone dance with her.
Or at least attempt to dance with her. Through the humid fog of the grease dungeon, he can already smell the fall air. Their last homecoming. After hours of staring at his feet, she’ll take his hand and lead him to the center of the floor. Step. Step. Step. Pivot. He’ll wrap his hands around her torso, she’ll put her arms over her shoulders. Step. Step. Step. Pivot. He’ll nervously look around. Nick gives him a fist pump. Mary looks on in toxic jealousy. Step. Step. Step. Pivot. She leans in closer to him and rests her head on his chest. He can smell her perfume, her shampoo, even her deodorant. Step. Step. Step. Pivot. She pauses for a second to lower his hands to her hips. Step. Step. Step. Pivot.
He snaps out of it and looks down at the counter. It’s cleanly folded. It’s packed to the gills. He had made his masterpiece. The most gigantic, perfect burrito he had ever laid his eyes on. He had stuffed it so full that he’s amazed that it’s not a shredded mess. All he had to do was imagine that he was dancing with Tamra and the rest came to him. Just like Ray’s fucked up advice, kind of. Ray heads to the kitchen and his jaw drops to the floor. He also can’t comprehend the beauty that he’s beholding.
Benny. Benny Benny Benny! You did it! You magnificent bastard!
Hands shaking, Benny carefully wraps it and beelines to the bathroom, clutching his stomach. He doesn’t even know what he put in the burrito. His fugue state was so heavy, he could’ve stuffed it with crayons and not even know it. And Tamra is going to eat it. She is getting to eat Crayon. Fantastic. He can hear Ray excitedly yelling, but he can’t discern what he’s saying. He did catch something about “Bennie’s Big Bean Burrito” and shuddered to think of what her reaction would be. Does she know it’s him? Does she even know that he exists? He can’t take that risk. He just needs to hide a little bit longer and he’ll be in the clear.
Days pass. Like some cosmic joke, nobody even dares to order a burrito. He can’t even practice his newfound rolling method. Maybe he really did mess up Tamra’s order. Maybe she’s going around town, warning everyone. He’ll be referred to as the Burrito Bum. Or Bennie, The Burrito Bum Who Can’t Make Burritos Even Though Burrito Is In His Name. But if he keeps dwelling, he’ll be stuck there all night. It’s just another sweaty, boring June night. His hands are pruned as he finishes cleaning the pans. Just before closing, he heads out towards to lobby to change the trash. To his surprise, there’s a girl standing in there, facing the wall, trying to read the faded menu. He looks around for Ray, but he can hear him singing in the distance. Taking another one of his patented 1 hour shits. Benny steps up to the register and clears his throat.
Welcome to Paco’s Tacos, home of the Paco Taco, can I take your paco—I mean, order?
Let me get…uhh…I’ll have…umm…are you still making Benny’s Big Bean Burritos?
Tamra turns to him and winks.
Ray laughs from the back.
This is going to be a long summer.