The Falafel Slinger

He wasn’t even Middle Eastern. Though one supposed Malta could be considered more than a vague part of that sect. Regardless, falafel became an integral part of his life when he came across a position managing Falafel Street, the main source of “balls” in Valletta. It was even a surprisingly wide open space to stand in all day, that is, when considering the average size of a falafel joint. Mirko didn’t much care either way, he just needed a paycheck he could collect long enough to get the hell off the island. Not that it wasn’t a beautiful place. But, as is the case with all paradises, it was quick to become a hell after enough time spent confined to it. That was the thing: the feeling of confinement. No way out. Stifled to the point of insanity. The heat emanating from the stove driving Mirko to further heights of irritation and impatience to flee. Did these people really need a manager? Probably not. Was he there to profit from a higher salary for doing less than they? Absolutely.

At first, they were amenable to his presence, even welcoming. They believed there was good reason for his implementation–that it might actually be useful to their sense of well-being and productivity. It only took a week for them to unearth that Mirko was a glorified statue, intended merely to stand there and silently “enforce.” What, exactly, they could not say. It wasn’t as thought they were going to stop slinging falafel with or without his hovering. They were aware their livelihood depended on it. Particularly Elias, who had been slaving away in the stand for a paltry ten euros an hour for the past five years. Five years that had seen him spawn one child in each, for his wife was a cruel trickster when it came to making him believe he had pulled out in time, somehow always managing to catch just enough to finagle a pregnancy. At this rate, he would probably be the father of another five children soon enough. Unless, he came to his senses long enough to visit the whorehouse and avoid this type of thing altogether. Yet that was the problem with being married. It was too convenient to have a body simply there, right next to you for the taking (should you be able to surmount your tiredness long enough to get an erection).

Elias was embittered by Mirko’s presence, feeling that if anyone was qualified or deserving of taking on a manager’s (still pittance of a) salary, it ought to have been him. But the “powers that be” at Falafel Street brought in this character instead. A beefy forty-something with no family to support and the predilection toward perspiration near the food. Luckily, the Maltese weren’t squeamish about bodily fluids intermixed with their cuisine. In fact, Elias reckoned he could serve Mirko’s sweat as a side sauce and people would take it literally enough to consume. He, too, was disgusted with island life and wanted to get out. Instead, Mirko would live his dream. Yet maybe once he left, he could finally take over the position he had rightfully earned but had been plucked from under his nose. Speaking of, he really needed pluck his nose hairs soon as they were starting to become rather noticeable amid the falafel.

He was, frankly, offended that Mirko hadn’t even bothered to say anything about it to him, for there had been several complaints he overheard from customers upon demanding to speak to the manager about a refund. Maybe it was Elias’ way of daring Mirko to get his hands dirty–to really fucking manage as he was supposed to. And if he was going to do that, he would need to talk to him. Or rather, “give him a talking to.” But he knew that Mirko was too chicken shit. A phrase that didn’t really sit well with him in this particular food environment.

The days passed and Elias allowed his appearance to grow increasingly unhygienic as a means to goad Mirko to at last speak to him. As a human being. Who the fuck did he think he was? God? Looking down on them all, saying and doing nothing as the chaos unfolded. To that end, Elias took to visiting the nearby St. Francis of Assisi Church, where he would sit and pretend to pray while all the while having masturbation fantasies about a certain regular visitor to the front pew. A young girl no older than nineteen, he surmised. Long jet black hair touching just above her ample backside. A backside he couldn’t stop envisioning dipping his head into. Impure thoughts indeed, but he figured St. Francis would understand. Everyone knew St. Francis was a bestial bastard. Nobody likes animals that much.

It got to the point where Elias would make these visits to the church on his supposed “fifteen minutes for lunch,” taking as long as up to an hour–which, of course, created a backlog of customers. And even then, Mirko would not yield. Would not surrender to his sole job responsibility of chastising the worker. Keeping him “in line” as a line cook. It made Elias come to grips with the fact that he would never be “management material,” even if and when Mirko finally left. For the entire basis for being hired for such a role was centered around the qualities of inefficacy and do-nothingness.

Embittered at this realization as he smoked a cigarette right in front of Mirko’s face while letting the ashes sway gracefully onto the falafel-filled pitas he was preparing, he could sense something inside of him about to burst forth. Turns out, it would do so in the church.

He had gone in the middle of the day again, and there she was. That nineteen-year-old being the only other “patron” in the establishment. She barely registered his spectral appearance as she continued to pray diligently to the giant crucifix before her. It was only after a few minutes that he was overcome with the rage and desire that had been building up as a result of Mirko. His existence and what he represented. So it was that, almost all at once and without even registering what he was doing, Elias had pushed the innocent worshipper into a nearby confessional and started raping her as he covered her mouth to muffle the echoing groans of resistance.

***

It was months later that Elias had finally, somehow, ascended to the rank of manager. He reckoned it had something to do with that girl, who had transformed him into something resembling just the kind of ineffectual stone needed to replace Mirko now that he had saved enough to go to Rome. But the stone melted one day when she walked in with her mother, a look of brokenness written all over her face and aura–intensified further by the recognition of Elias simply standing there, “overseeing.”

She whispered something to her mother and ran out. He almost wanted to go after her and tell her “thank you” for giving him the edge he had always needed to run Falafel Street.

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