First Job
Takin’ Orders
by Lylanne Musselman

When Ms. Fish-on-a-Plate came
in wielding her walker and wearing
those thick Coke bottle glasses
we knew her order
before she even sat down.
When she complained
about her coffee
being cold again, We’d grumble.
                    if she’d drink it when
                     we took it to her
                     it’d still be hot.
The Ironing Board Lady
was also a regular who we said looked
freshly pressed from her man of the week,
                    her make-up so gaudy,
                    her bright red lips
                    left kisses on the coffee cups.
Frank, The Juke Box Man changed out 45s
                    for more popular ones
                    that’d get more spins,
Ms. Sarge O’Pork
danced under the air vent
singing, All I need is the air that I breathe…
as she cooled off
from working the hot pizza ovens.
Funny guy, John, called out my orders for Lula Belle,
LaLa, Molasses, or Lyle…to pick up and take
to hungry customers. After the ball games
the roar of voices over the jukebox blaring:
                    Old black water…keep on rolling… Or,
                    Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright…
                     well they’re packed pretty tight
                     here tonight…,
while we juggled pepperoni pizzas, trays of Pepsi,
Mountain Dew, and “Suicides,” whipping through crowds
of other untamed youth. Happy at 2 a.m. to hang
that closed sign and laugh our way through clean-up
on those busy weekends:
                    teenagers working for food,
                    small tips, and time spent with each other
                    at my uncle’s restaurant,
                    when coffee was a dime, and
                    cops got served for free.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in the waitress station at the Homestead. The photo appeared in a 1973 yearbook ad for Blackford High School. The two “customers” for the photo were my two young cousins, Ben and Gina.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was working at the Homestead, my uncle’s restaurant, in Hartford City, Indiana. I started by washing dishes on weekends when I was 13 years old, and then was “promoted” to waitress when I was 14. By the time I was 15, I had co-workers of around the same age and even though we worked hard, we had a lot of fun. Some of my co-workers became my best friends, and many of us stay in touch today. As I began to write about working at the restaurant, a place that I worked until I was 19 and married, I realized there were just too many stories and memories to tell — so I had to pare it down to some of the images that come to mind…of the people we served and the experiences we had. The restaurant: the people I met, the people I worked with, and the many varied experiences had a huge impact on my life, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having worked there during the span of my teenage years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lylanne Musselman is an award-winning poet, playwright, and artist. Her work has appeared in Pank, Flying Island, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Poetry Breakfast, The New Verse News, Ekphrastic Review, and Rat’s Ass Review, among others, and many anthologies, including the Nancy Drew Anthology (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and most recently, Resurrection of a Sunflower (Pski’s Porch, 2017). In addition, Musselman has twice been a Pushcart Nominee. She is the author of three chapbooks, including the newly released, Weathering Under the Cat, from Finishing Line Press. She also co-authored Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). Visit her a lylanne.com.