A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was brainstorming for new story ideas. One of them was the word “pineapple juice”. I just liked the sound of it and thought it would make a great title. So, a few weeks later, this is what came out of it: A story about a guy who works at an indoor playground and may or may not have something to do with Jimmie Dean… Enjoy! (Reading time: about 15min)
“Just 5 more minutes, and we’re done, dude!” Danny shouted to his colleague Jake. They and the other workers were cleaning the last bits of the indoor playground “Jumping Jack”.
It was 9 PM, a warm Saturday evening in July. Jake chuckled with relief when he heard Danny’s comment. He was 22, studied agricultural science, and was grateful that this job
“When’s your next shift?“ Danny asked.
“Not until Wednesday. I going to do some stuff for college.”
Danny nodded half-heartedly. He couldn’t say much about college since he never went. He wanted to be a painter, but the apprenticeship wouldn’t start for another few months.
“We’re gonna go camping, tomorrow. You coming, man? It’s a cool lake down there.”
Jake shook his head. “Maybe next time.”
The boss walked in and dismissed them. Lights off, everybody left, and Jake walked with Danny toward the railroad tracks. They talked for a bit, until Danny had to catch his train.
“See you, man!“
The train left and Jake turned away. He felt guilty about how he treated Danny. He didn’t actually have anything to do for school. He would probably sit in his room all weekend. And nothing but Netflix and Memes would come out of it. But why couldn’t he just tell Danny that?
He wouldn’t get it, the guy was an idiot. Didn’t know anything about the real world outside, and he couldn’t talk well, either.
But… he’d also made it easier to start out at “Jumping Jack’s”. He was the first guy to greet him. He had shown him around, and even offered to share his stale sandwich with him. That was kind of gross, but also thoughtful. And Danny’s invitation to go camping was probably sincere. Even if he’d only known Jake for a few weeks.
But Jake didn’t know. An idiot like that didn’t handle big thoughts, well. And Jake didn’t care much about painting.
The train announced: “Next stop: Reed Lake”
Jake got off with a handful of other guests. Danny was a nice guy. Unfortunately.
He walked on a few meters and turned left, then he got to his apartment. He smirked when he read the doorbell sign: “Jacob Theissen”. Apart from his boss, no one called him that.
He went upstairs to his room. You could find a few dozen folders, empty bottles, a few old DVDs, and a poster of Jimmie Dean on his motorcycle. All in all, it was quite a sparse room. But with the trash, you didn’t notice it, so much.
Jake dropped down on his bed. He was going to watch a movie to relax, but he was too tired for that. The only thing he wanted now was something sweet to drink.
He got up one more time and slouched his way to the kitchen. He looked in the fridge for the open bottle of coke, but apparently, he had drunk it all.
He sighed. But then, he noticed a lonely-looking, open can of pineapple. It wasn’t coke, but with this weather, a glass of pineapple juice with water sounded better than nothing. So, he picked up the can and poured himself a glass.
He took it back to his room and tried it. You could taste the stale aluminum in it. Or was it not aluminum? He didn’t know.
But then he looked at Jimmie Dean on the Poster and felt some defiance inside of him. As if to say to him: “So? I may not be a super-star with a fancy leather jacket, but I’m happy. This glass here is like half a pina colada! And just wait till I saved up for my own motorcycle, then I won’t even have to take the train, anymore!”
He took another sip. He knew these thoughts were childish. Embarrassing, in fact. He was probably just tired. Too tired. He set the glass down and fell asleep right away.
By the time he woke up it was already noon. Jake could hear kids playing and the wind in the trees. But this utopian feel was busted as soon as he looked at his phone: voice mail from Daniel Newman.
Jake rolled his eyes. But Danny had only left a message about work: They were to plan a birthday party for next Wednesday.
“… We’re supposed to cook Hawaii pizza and do the program with the kids. I’ve done it before, it’s fun. Just grab 2 cans of pineapple on the way and we’ll rock the party. Ok, so, good luck on you’re school stuff, man. Bye!”
Jake rubbed his eyes. The birthday parties meant a lot of cleanup. That’s what other colleagues had said. And then he had to bake pizza with Danny. But that wasn’t for another 3 days, so no reason to stress over it.
And indeed, Jake didn’t spend a single thought on it for the next 3 days. He had his Netflix and his Memes. And he even read a chapter for school. On Monday and Tuesday, he went to the usual lectures. Just your average daily routine.
And along came Wednesday.
He bought the pineapple and got to work on time. He and Danny baked the pizza. And there were even some laughs in between baking and the first few guests.
But then, the boss came in. “Mr. Theissen, Mr. Newman, is everything ready for family Miller’s party?”
Jake stood up straight and proudly reported: “We got everything ready, sir. The pizza is looking good. If I was the birthday kid, I’d be thrilled!”
When the boss heard these words, his face turned red. “Pizza… did you just say pizza?”
Jake and Danny nodded slowly.
The boss ruffled his hair. “No, no, no! That wasn’t the order! The Millers explicitly had ordered Hawaii Toast! What were you thinking?”
Jake gave Danny an angry look. Of course, he had to mix up the order!
Danny winced with an apologetic frown. They both looked like idiots, now
The boss inhaled with exaggeration. “But… the party doesn’t start until 1PM, so no reason to panic… Don’t just stand there, do your job! Theissen, Newman, now!”
The boys responded with a “Yes, sir.” And hurried back to the kitchen. And Jake mumbled to Danny: „We’re out of pineapple, I’ll be right back.”
He marched straight to the store and back to the same shelf as a few hours ago. The 40-something-year-old cashier lady gave him a confused look.
“So, Jake, 2 cans weren’t enough for you?”
Jake mockingly laughed. “We’re about to put on a birthday party at “Jumping Jack’s”. We were supposed to make Hawaii Toast, but a certain colleague messed up the order, and we accidentally made Hawaii Pizza… there’s just too many idiots in this world…” Jake was surprised, that he was telling the cashier so much.
She sighed. “Oh, the good old work place. But if you ask me, it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “But that’s just what I said: It isn’t easy with him!”
The cashier smiled softly. „I mean, it’s not as easy as “He’s this” or “That’s that”. Someone once challenged me with the sentence “What else is he?”. Maybe you’ll feel better, once you see things in a different light.”
Jake shrugged off her comment and payed for the pineapple.
He felt annoyed when he left the store. He hadn’t asked he opinion! But there was also a voice in him that was repeating her question: “What else is he?”. Could she be right?
But it didn’t matter, hurry back. The party was starting in an hour.
Jake stormed into the kitchen with the new cans. He was annoyed when he saw Danny eating a piece of pizza. But at least he had prepared the toast and some toppings. They would have to hurry.
Jake opened the cans and started to top off the toast. He was about to pour the juice down the drain, but Danny protested. “Hey, someone could use that, man. Get a jug or something.”
Jake moaned. As if anybody around here would drink pineapple juice from a can! But he didn’t want to fight, so they filled a jug and put it in the fridge.
Toast ready, off to the oven. Ok! Now, for the table and the decorations.
Wipe here, roll out the table cloth there, avoid running over squealing kids. Paper streamers and confetti. Danny had it all. Jake just set each place with the “Jumping Jack”-brand plastic dishes. And they were ready – at 12.58.
The last cup had barely been put down when the group came running through the door. They took their seats like a pack of pirates. Jake’s throat went dry.
Danny clapped to get the gang’s attention. But this wasn’t really working, since two kids were fighting over who got to sit next to the birthday boy.
Jake looked at the parents, but Mrs. Miller only snouted: “You’re the professionals, you get them to be quiet!”
Jake was taken back by her rudeness but managed to separate the squabble.
Then, Danny pushed through. “Hiya kids, and welcome to „Jumping Jack’s“! And of course, a special shout out to the birthday boy! Dude, it’s great you’re here!”
The kids applauded. But Mr. Miller snapped: “Adress our son with his name if you please! Haven’t you gotten the name list?”
Danny pricked up his hears but kept a friendly face. “Well… we ain’t gotten the list on time, sir. But hey, what’s the boy’s name?”
Mrs. Miller proudly answered: “Our little angel’s name is Gediminas Ambrose Miller. And he is the most gorgeous little thing, aren’t you my dear?”
As the boy
shoved his mom’s hand out of his hair, Danny struggled with the name.
“Ged… Gedi-what? Gedimin, Gedimina Ambero…”
The parents thought his attempts were “highly unprofessional”. But then, the boy dared to speak for himself: “My name is Gedi, I am 8 years old and in 3rd grade!”
smiled with relief. “Well, Gedi, that’s super! Happy Birthday! When the food
comes, we’re gonna sing for you.
You all can go play in just a second. But first, the rules: You can eat and drink here, but over there in the playground: no shoes, no food or drinks, no hitting people, and only one kid per trampoline. Otherwise, it ain’t much fun. Ok?”
But most of the kids didn’t listen. So, Danny had to explain the rules, again. When the last of them finally got it, the gang ran into the playground.
Jake had to catch some of the kids who forgot to take their shoes off, but other than that, things seemed ok. When he came back with a pair of boots, he and Danny took a deep breath.
But Mr. and Mrs. Miller didn’t leave much room to rest. “Our little Gedi has been looking forward to this day for so long. And all his friends from the soccer team have come early, just so we could be here. We hope, it will be worth it…”
That sounded more like a threat than a hope. But Danny kept a friendly face. “We’ll do our best, ma’am. You son Gedi should enjoy this day. Eh, Jake, let’s get the rest of it, yo!“
These words were like the wind of deliverance for Jake. He followed Danny to the employee’s lounge.
Danny sighed. „Dude, so sorry, man! Your first birthday shift and you get a crowd like that!”
Jake absently murmured: „It’s not like you could help it.”
A bit of quiet set in. But then, Jake shouted: “Oh no, Danny, the toast! How long has it been in the oven?“
He ran to the kitchen and opened the smoking oven. “Darn it, the cheese is brown. All burnt!“
Danny looked at the baking tray that Jake pulled out. “Yeah… crunchy. But not burnt. Seriously, man. This’ll work. The kids wanted toast, this is really toasty. So, take it out to the table.“
Jake hesitated. But what else should they do?
He carried the tray and tried to look confident. “Time for lunch! Hawaii Toast with extra crunchy cheese!“
The parents looked down their noses at the food, but their only comment was: “Call our kids. And hurry!”
So, Danny and Jake grudgingly found themselves in the playground. They might as well have been inside a „Where’s Waldo“-picture. But luckily, they managed to catch one of the kids and tell them to get his friends. The kid took his job seriously and was surprisingly good at it. He got a high-five from Danny. Jake couldn’t help but smile.
The kids sang a birthday song for Gedi, ate their lunch, and drank their juice. All without much complaining. The parents were pampering their “little angel”, and Gedi was fending them off. And apart from a spilled cup, they didn’t give Jake or Danny much trouble. That was, until they had finished eating.
“That was so good!“ Gedi and the boys next to him shouted.
“Yeah, awesome, buddy!“ Danny replied.
“Yes, indeed.” Mrs. Miller commented. “But what about dessert?”
Jake detailed the options. “We have smoothies and slushies at the front counter, as well as all sorts of popsicles and ice cream.”
But Mrs. Miller crossed her arms. “No, no. That won’t do for our Gedi. It’s his birthday, and we ordered a dessert. A specially-made dessert. You do have that, don’t you?”
Jake and Danny stuttered. Mrs. Miller raised her voice. “What, do you only have cookie-cutter stuff? I expect you have something! You hipsters with your sweatpants, you can’t do anything right!”
Danny was so shocked that he couldn’t respond. But Jake spoke for him. “Of course… you wanted something special… excuse us for a moment…”
He grabbed Danny and they went back to the lounge.
This time, Danny was at a loss. “Dude, what was that about? Calling me hipster, she’s nuts! And what do we do now? There ain’t nothing else but the stuff at the counter!”
They kept silent for a moment. Jake had never had a work day like this, before. And he knew the boss wouldn’t do anything about it. Nothing but stress all day, and it all started with Danny! Maybe he should look for another job.
But then, he looked at Danny, as he whispered to himself to keep his head up. And it dawned on him: Danny was more than a dumb idiot. The Millers weren’t his fault. But also, work had been different with him today. And that wasn’t because of Danny. It was because of him. The cashier must have been right, after all. „What else is he?” she had asked. “More, than I thought.” Jake replied in his mind.
But what good was that, now? The Millers were still demanding their dessert. Immediately.
over and pat Danny on the shoulder. Danny wiped aside tear and put on a brave
They got up and were just about ready for a difficult customer interaction. But then, Jake yelled with excitement: “Wait! The pineapple juice! You didn’t throw it away! We could toss in the ice cream maker and make pineapple soft ice. And we even have sprinkles and chocolate sauce!”
Danny clapped and his eyes lit up. “Yeah, dude, great idea! C’mon, to the kitchen!“
They didn’t waste a moment. Jake filled the cream into the machine and Danny added the pineapple juice. It all came together and even tasted all right. Jake felt a spark of new joy.
They filled up the waffles and served the soft ice to the guests.
“Well, that took you a while!” Mr. Miller complained.
Jake ignored the rude tone. “Here’s an exclusive ice cream dessert, only for this birthday: We even rearranged the ice cream maker to create pineapple ice cream. And to top it off, we brought out the sprinkles and the chocolate sauce.”
When Mr. and Mrs. Miller heard that, they smiled with approval for the first time. Jake handed everyone their dessert. The pack was thrilled!
Jake whispered to Danny: „I guess things turned out. Thank God you saved the juice. You’re the man!“ Danny responded with a proud smile and a fist bump.
And to the Millers, Jake said: “Pineapples used to be the fruit of kings. It was only served for the most noble and expensive feasts. So, enjoy your party as though you were kings, as your son seems to have a noble palate.”