In the eye, I swear to God, right in the fucking eye.

With a butter scoop?

With a butter scoop, a butter scoop half-covered with margarine, right in his fucking eye. And he’s screaming and shit, he’s screaming like a little girl. Which you might think is a kind of pussy kind of reaction for a full-grown man, right, screaming like that? But really, his eye, I mean the part of it that’s not mashed into his socket is, like, it’s hanging out of the socket, like some little shred of a jellyfish dripping down his cheek. It was pretty unnerving to look at, actually. It was pretty fucking disgusting.

And the guy who did it?

Yeah – Kevin. Kevin … I don't know his last name. He’s a waiter, usually works the dinner shifts, so I don’t know him that well. I’m a brunch guy, myself, you know? Brunches, lunches, all the daytime stuff so I can play with my band at night. That's my thing: I’m a drummer. That’s what my life is really about. This foodservice shit, that’s just the day job.

So Kevin was …

He was really pissed. I mean, he was already on edge to begin with, you know? He’s got a lot of heavy shit going on – he was telling me about it in the prep room. I was standing there, cutting limes, and he was standing there, scooping butters, and he was just kind of spilling his guts, you know?

He was scooping butter?

Well, it’s margarine, really, but everybody calls it butter. It’s just easier, you know? Butter, margarine, whatever. It’s no big secret or anything, everybody knows it’s margarine. Just – save yourself some syllables, I guess.

So he – Kevin – was upset?

His ex is hitting him with a lawsuit, this child custody thing. He’s got a kid, a son – I forget his name – and he and his ex had this agreement about custody. Nothing legal, they’d worked it out themselves, everything’d been cool for years, right? The kid’s like nine, ten, spends time with Kevin, spends time with the ex, everything works out. But now she’s remarried, and the new husband, he’s got this job offer in Seattle. Fucking Seattle, right?

And she wants to take the kid.

Exactly. She wants to take the kid. And Kevin is – well, you can imagine, right? He’s pissed. He’s beyond pissed. His ex wants to take his fucking pride and joy, whisk him out of the state and move to Seattle. And so he and the ex, well, they get into it, you know? Big ugly scene outside the kid’s new house. Kevin’s screaming, the ex is screaming, the new husband’s standing there in the doorway not knowing what the fuck to do. The kid is God knows where, probably playing Nintendo in the living room, not hearing a goddam thing, right? But it was ugly, it was a real big mess. And so now they’re going to court.

Theyre going to court?

Ten years of no trouble, and now they’re going to court. Lawyers all over the place, money out the wazoo, more bullshit than any five people can deal with. And Kevin’s barely hanging on, you know, he’s barely got a grip on his sanity lately. He’s dealing with the lawyers, he’s shelling out the bucks, he’s worried that his ex is gonna get sole custody and he won't be able to see his son except maybe once a year or whatever. And he loves that kid, right? That kid is his fucking reason for living, sometimes. And so he’s dealing with all that shit, besides the usual crap that everybody deals with, and then he’s gotta come in and wait tables? You think that doesn’t make for a getting-near-the-breaking-point situation?

It sounds like … a lot to deal with.

You bet your ass it’s a lot to deal with. And then he’s gotta come in and deal with the customers? With the “Oh, waiter, my enchilada’s got the wrong sauce,” when they know goddam well they ordered that same fucking sauce? Or they’ve got, like, an entire herd of babies with them, tearing up your condiments, throwing Cheerios and shit, bunch of fucking cribcrawlers screaming like Rhesus monkeys all over the place? Believe me, it’s enough to push anyone over the edge. And then Dale comes in with his wise-ass bullshit, and it’s no wonder Kevin lost it.

Dale? Thats the guy who got, uh –

Yeah, that’s him. Dale. Biggest pain in the ass this place ever hired. He’s a college grad, has some degree in English, thinks he’s better than everybody else. Thinks he’s fucking smarter than God.

And what happened with Dale?

Well, we’re back there in the prep room, right? Doing opening sidework, like I said. I’m cutting limes, Kevin’s scooping butters, we’ve gotta take care of this shit before we go on the floor. There’s already two waiters out there, taking tables, but it’s brunch and things are starting to hop, so we’ve gotta get out there as soon as we can. So I’m slicing and Kevin’s scooping and he’s telling me all about this custody thing. And Dale walks up.

Hes not taking tables? 

Oh, he’s taking tables, alright. He’s taking all his tables and probably snaking the counter, too. You can bet your ass he’s grabbing everything he can get his hands on. But this is Dale, right? Dale’s never too busy to stop and give somebody shit.

Ah.

So he comes into the prep room, walks over to Kevin. He walks over like he’s king of the fucking universe, you know, like he owns the goddam place instead of just being shift supervisor on one of his other shifts. He looks at the bucket of butter and the already scooped butters in their little soufflé cups, kind of gives the whole scene the hairy eyeball. Then he looks at Kevin and says, “Hey.” He says, “Hey, man, what’s up with the butter? Are you scooping it – or are you establishing some kind of deep relationship with it?”

Implying?

Implying – besides implying that maybe Kevin was, like, fucking the butter? – implying that Kevin was taking longer than usual to finish his sidework. Which he was, yeah, but so what? Because you know Dale doesn’t really give a shit whether Kevin’s on the floor or not, he’s just looking to bust somebody’s chops. And it wasn’t even Kevin’s fault, anyway. It wasn’t even that he was going slow because he was telling me about all this custody shit, you know? Like a guy can’t talk and scoop butters at the same time? No, it was because of the butter scoop itself, man. Which is kind of weird. Which is definitely ironic. Because if it had been a different butter scoop, not only wouldn’t it have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, it wouldn’t have wound up in Dale’s eye socket.

Im not sure I follow you here.

It was the wrong size butter scoop.

The wrong size?

See, there’s two sizes of butter scoops. There’s the big one that we use for scooping butters, and there’s the little one that the cooks use for … well, I don’t know what the fuck they use it for, okay? But there’s two of them, and they’re two different sizes. And we use the big one because it’s faster, because it scoops out a scoop of butter that’s exactly the right size to fill a soufflé cup. Whereas the little one is a pain in the ass. Whereas, with the little one, you have to scoop at least twice, maybe three times, to fill a single soufflé cup. And your sidework, if you’re doing butters, you’re filling one hell of a lot of soufflé cups. Dozens of the fucking things. You have to fill up three whole trays of them, and each tray has to have two tiers, two layers of butters. It’s bad enough having to take care of that much shit before going on the floor, without having to scoop each fucking cup three times because you’re using the little scoop.

And Kevin –

Kevin couldn’t find the big scoop. He looked all over the kitchen, in the dish area, couldn’t find the damned thing. The bus carts, everywhere. No scoop. No fucking scoop. It happens, you know? Who knows where the hell it goes? And then the next time you work a shift, there it is. Like it’s magic or something. The Great Re-Appearing Butter Scoop, you know? Anyway, Kevin couldn’t find it. So he gets the little butter scoop, which is a major pain in the ass, and he starts scooping with that. And he’s scooping away, and he’s telling me about the custody thing, and I can tell that he’s under a great deal of stress.

So Dales comment …

Was the last fucking straw. Except, it wouldnt have been the last straw if Kevin wasn’t already so close to the edge from having to use the little butter scoop. I’m serious: I think that’s what did it. I think that extra scooping made all the difference in the world. And what’s weird is that, if he’d been using the big scoop, even if he’d still snapped and gone off like that? Dale wouldn’t be missing an eye, man. Dale wouldn’t be missing an eye and Kevin wouldn’t be fucking going to jail, now, probably, with assault charges against him on top of everything else.

And why is that?

Because the big scoop is too big, man. That’s why. Because the little scoop that probably brought everything to a head? It’s also the only scoop that's small enough to fit into your eye socket. I mean, the big one, yeah, you’d probably have a black eye or something if somebody whacked you with it, it’d probably fuck you up around the eye. But the little one, man, it’s like the perfect size for sticking right into somebody’s eye. And it’s just ironic – well, I think it’s ironic – that the instrument of assault was also pretty much the reason for the assault. On some level, anyway right? Because if you get a whole bunch of shit piling up like that? You get a whole bunch of stress going on, and you keep adding to it? Eventually all it’s gonna take is something like the wrong size butter scoop to set a guy off. You know? And then …

And then?

And then, well, mayhem ensues.

Mayhem ensues?

Exactly.