My odd job for the morning was from a voice mail that came last night, in the early evening. A man said he was calling from a donut shop in the Sunset, and the guy who usually works the clean-up shift had a family emergency, and wasn't coming in. The owner (manager?) didn't have anyone to cover, so he left his sob story and a phone number and said, "Can you do that?"

Clean-up, eh? I'd called back and said yeah, but probably sounded less than enthused about being a janitor and dishwasher, so he sweetened the pot: If I'd come in and do the clean-up in the morning, he said he'd pay my price of $5 an hour, plus breakfast at no charge.

"What's for breakfast?" I'd asked.

"Donuts," he answered, and then he said something about sandwiches being on the menu, too, but who cares about sandwiches? I can make sandwiches here at home. I can't make donuts.

"How many donuts?" I asked.

He gave me the silent treatment for a few seconds, long enough that I wondered if I'd torpedoed the deal, but then he said, "Half a dozen." After a moment's pause, he added, "Or as many as you want, if you'll take day-old donuts. Usually we toss what the employees don't take. Tell me you're coming in tomorrow, and I'll save them for you."

"I'll be there," I said, and thus ended our negotiations. I was salivating the night before, eager to be a donut shop's clean-up & mop the floor & wash the dishes man this morning, man. Money is nice, but donuts are better.

As instructed, I was on Irving Street this morning, knocking on the donut shop's glass before the sun came up. A balding Asian man unlocked the door, let me in and shook my hand, and re-locked the door. He apologized, telling me he'd hated leaving a mess in the shop overnight, but I said, "Hey, I'm not the Health Department."

He didn't smile at that — didn't smile all morning, actually. He was no nonsense and very hard-working, a man who takes donuts seriously. He instructed me to wash dishes while he got dough mixing and oil bubbling, but as the sink filled with hot water and suds, I could sense his eyeballs watching me.

That doesn't bother me, honestly. I'm still amazed anyone's willing to hire a stranger from a poster and a phone call, with no job interview, no references, no background check. If I was hiring me for $5 an hour, I'd keep an eye on me too.

After washing the dishes, I wiped tables and the counter, swept the floor, washed the windows (I am not good at washing windows, but I tried), and mopped the floor, first in the dining area, then in the kitchen. That put us within talking distance, so we talked, but only about my cleaning and his donuts. Watching him do his pastry magic, though, I decided he was the owner, not merely the donut dude or morning manager.

Then a second worker came in, a rather pretty Asian woman I'm guessing was his daughter, and he did not introduce me. Oh, well. She helped him with donut dipping and frosting and other sweet sorcery I don't understand, and they'd both done this a thousand mornings, obviously.

I finished mopping quicker than expected, half an hour before the shop opened, so they had me haul around some boxes and bags, and fill the napkin dispensers. He inspected my moppery and windows and said I'd done a good job, which is one compliment more than I received from my bosses in 2½ years at Macy's. He even said he'd keep my number on file, and maybe call me again.

And I hope he does — for a little less than three hours of work, my pay was $20 cash, plus a big box of 23 donuts of all colors and toppings, some with icing, some with sprinkles, some with powdered sugar, all left over from yesterday, but they weren't stale, and anyway, I'm no gourmet. I am a sucker for a jelly donut, and there were seven of them.

♦ ♦ ♦

It should be embarrassing to admit this, but I wrapped my windbreaker around the box before entering the apartment, so's maybe Pike wouldn't see it. The donuts were my best haul in ages, and I didn't want to share.

In my room, door closed, I devoured 17 donuts for lunch, and felt a little sick to my stomach. When the feeling passed, I ate the other six.

♦ ♦ ♦

Pike deserves no donuts. The rent is due tomorrow, and he's $55 short. His scheme had been to share his room — the living room of our one-bedroom apartment — with some newcomer he very vaguely knew, who needed a short-term place. But Pike told me today that our new flatmate won't be coming after all.

So what's to become of the rent, Pike? And the fifty-five bucks? My share of the rent is ready, because I work for a living, but Pike has no job, doesn't seem to be looking, and he hasn't even done any overflow "anything legal" gigs for me in a couple of weeks. All he does is smoke dope and scream at his girlfriend — which is delightful of course, very entertaining, but it doesn't pay the bills.

On the bright side, Terry wasn't there in the afternoon, and even better she wasn't there again in the evening. Between her charming absence and all my donuts, I was in good spirits, and told Pike I'd cover the rent. Again, same as last month, because last month he paid me back. 

Still, this is becoming the rent routine, and I'm not digging it.

From Pathetic Life #12
Sunday, May 7, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Illustration by Jeffrey Meyer.

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