“I'm really sorry,” said the girl behind the counter. “Your order will be ready in ten minutes.”
Cheryl took a deep breath, placed her hands on the counter, leaning on them, and then breathed out. “Let me just run through the facts here,” she said, and glanced at her watch. “I ordered fish and chips at seven, and you said it would take about ten minutes.”
“Yes, but we're really busy. I'm very sorry.”
Cheryl put her hand up. “Hear me out. You said ten minutes. Twenty minutes later, I came and checked on my order, and you told me I was up for another ten minutes.” Cheryl raised her eyebrows.
The girl nodded slowly.
Cheryl continued, “So I returned twenty minutes after that – at seven forty; forty minutes after the start of my ten-minute wait – and you told me the kitchen was really busy, and it would take ten minutes to complete my order. Any problems with the story so far?”
The girl shook her head, and looked around at the other customers.
“So I went back outside, again, and got into my car, again, to wait, again, with five children – five hungry children.” Cheryl could hear her voice, like it was in the distance. “And then I came back, twenty minutes after that, at eight o'clock, and you gave me the same spiel. Like a broken little record, you said, 'Sorry, the kitchen's busy, it'll be another ten minutes.'”
Cheryl took a deep breath, and looked around. Spectators had gathered around, and some of the customers were checking their watches and leaving. Good for them. “So here I am, twenty minutes after my last ten minute wait, having waited a total of one hour and twenty minutes for some lousy fish and chips, and you've got the gumption to tell me it'll be another ten minutes?”
“Sorry, but the kitchen's really busy. Ten minutes, tops.”
“No. No, no, no, no, no. I don't believe you. You are a liar. I want my money back, now.” She reached out her right hand, palm up, shaking.
A few people started to clap. The girl behind the counter looked stunned.
A bell rang behind her, a package was dropped into the hot box from the window into the kitchen, and a voice called out cheerfully, “Order up! Seventeen!”
Without taking her eyes off Cheryl, the girl took the packet and handed it to over.
“Thank you,” she mumbled. “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
This story, like most I post lately, was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.