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FEATURED STORY / SPRING 2014 ISSUE
I work at a local pizza shop that we like to call “Submarine Dreams,” yet it is as far from a dream as one can get. Like any other restaurant the face of the business is beautiful. Everything is stacked in neat little piles at the front of the shop. The tables shine a polished black, complete with seasonal decorations. The chips and soda displays are perfectly organized and the open sign always glows neon pink. But let’s be honest, a “Tyrannosaurus Texas Toast” poster can only distract the human eye so much.
The previous owner of “Submarine Dreams,” Mark, bequeathed the sandwich shop to his son-in-law ten years ago. Mark is the mastermind behind the shop’s most famous sandwiches, for example “Tasteful Tuna” and “Super Salami.” Mark is also responsible for the overall poor design of the restaurant in its entirety. Every good façade has a secret behind it. The front of the store may appear somewhat sanitary, but what lies beyond the kitchen doors is uncharted territory.
Now I must warn you, this is not for the faint of heart. If you dare venture into the kitchen, you will be welcomed by an appalling stench that hits your nostrils harder than a brick wall. The trash or condiments, which ever you prefer to call them, are covered in a thick green slime that attracts swarms of flies. The grill is splattered with rust and is covered in the sizzling grease of every oil imaginable. Every day I must take a leap of faith walking through those kitchen doors. I often wonder to myself if minimum wage is worth the health risk and exposure to carcinogens. I have come to terms with the fact that there is no hope for “Submarine Dreams!” The place is a permanent dump, yet somehow the kitchen isn’t the worst part.
Beyond the kitchen lies an old wooden staircase, but take caution if you don’t grasp the railing for dear life, you may never reach the bottom alive. Once descended into the submarine’s depths, a thick moldy aroma greets explorers with a smack in the face. A vile smell of rotten milk and moldy cheese mixed together. The purpose of most excursions to the basement is to retrieve vegetables from the freezer, which is ironic because the majority of the fruits and vegetables are scattered across the floor to feed the rodents.
In the back corner of the basement sits a beautiful antique bookshelf. No one is really sure where it came from, but stacked ever so meticulously on its shelves are three porcelain dolls. Dolls you wish you never had the opportunity of seeing in person. One doll has two bright blue eyes and a dirt mark on her face. The other two sit perched behind her grinning sinisterly from ear to ear. I don’t think I know a single sandwich shop that wouldn’t be complete without an antique doll set somewhere on the premise.
It seems I’ve done it again. Every time I describe my place of work to someone I leave out the most mysterious part. I guess I like to save the best for last.
A man about the age of seventy has cooked for “Submarine Dreams” for God knows how long. He was here when Mark owned the shop, and I’m pretty sure he was included in the lease. He does pretty much everything that is asked of him. He scrubs the dishes, makes pounds of eggplant parmesan, and sweeps the floor with every fiber left in his decrepit body. Although he is a hard worker, he is a lost soul. He has no identity. No one knows of him, for he never speaks to anyone.
Does he have a family? A social life maybe? He speaks little to no English. To my knowledge, he enjoys the simple pleasures in life. You know, standing behind a grill and humming “La Cucaracha.” If we want a large sandwich to be made, it’s not “large,” it’s “grande.” Somehow I find this man to be the ugliest part of the whole establishment. No one has ever taken the time to learn his name, so we simply call him John. Yes, John the lost “perrito” flipping burgers for minimum wage. In an odd sense, John’s life sums up the restaurant in a nut shell—a lost soul sinking like a submarine in a sea of lost dreams.