I was never one to believe in bad
luck, or curses, or voodoo, but when a mysterious man showed up one night for
dinner at the Applebee’s where I was a waiter, I couldn’t help but wonder.
was a Thursday night and I had just started my evening shift. Tammy, a 40-something
waitress who wore the tightest tops they sold at Walmart and smoked menthols on
her breaks, was complaining about a family of four who had only left her a 10%
little shits dropped French fries all over the floor!” she complained. “And the
Dad spilled his lemonade. Twice! I’m tellin’ ya, next time I’m ….” Tammy’s
eyes widened ever-so-slightly, and she lowered her voice to just above a
whisper. “Oh my Lord Jesus, would you look at this…”
turned toward the front door to find the source of Tammy’s amusement. It was an
older man, 60’s maybe, who had tripped on the rug in front of the waitress
stand and was struggling to pull himself up.
dollars from my tips tonight if you pretend to help him up, then drop him,”
Tammy quipped. “Fifteen if he breaks something.”
that’s terrible,” I shot back, shaking my head.
man got up on his own. He wore a dark, ill-fitting suit with white pin stripes,
the kind you might find at a Salvation Army for $25, and was missing most of
the hair on his head, save a couple tufts on the side and back. The white shirt
beneath looked two sizes two small, accentuating the bulge at the man’s waste.
Genevieve seats Pin Stripe in my section, I’m quitting,” Tammy said, looking at
her watch. “I’m dead serious.”
Genevieve didn’t seat him in Tammy’s section. She sat him in mine.
“He’s limping! Paul, he’s
friggin’ limping…” Tammy hissed from behind me.
ignored her and shuffled over.
I get you something to drink?” I asked in the kindest tone I could muster.
he said solemnly, looking around the restaurant.
are you meeting someone? I can seat you somewhere else?”
I responded, checking to see if he’d moved the menu at all. He hadn’t. “I’ll be
back in a minute for your order. Take your time.”
made my way to the bar and got his drink. On the way back, Tammy stopped me.
he’s staring down every person that walks in. Like, boring holes through them.
And he’s squinting as he does it. This guy is a creeper.”
gossip skills were top notch, so I didn’t really doubt her. Still, she was
annoying. “He’s probably just bored. Don’t you have tables to see to?”
guess,” she replied, sighing. “Ruining all my fun. This guy is the most
interesting thing to happen here since Antonio got fired.”
bet,” I said absently.
man ended up ordering chips and salsa, and that was it. I filled his water a
couple times, but he didn’t ask for anything otherwise. He just sat there,
checking out everyone that walked in. After I watched him squint at a Mexican
family as they were being seated, to the point where it made them obviously
uncomfortable, I reluctantly began to agree with Tammy.
guy was a creeper.
kept an eye on him the rest of the night, but all he did was stare at customers
and eat his chips. After about three hours, he got up and limped out the door.
He’d left the exact amount of his bill on the table, in cash and change.
only other thing notable about that night was the dad of the Mexican family,
who’d consequently been seated two tables down from Mr. Pinstripe, ended up
throwing up all over their table. After I cleaned up the mess (the joys of
being a waiter, I tell ya), I noticed his chicken was bright pink in the
next shift was two nights later. Tammy met me at the door, waving at me to
follow her. I was supposed to clock in as soon as I walked in, but Tammy was
insistent, to the point of grabbing my elbow and pulling me behind her. We
stopped at a spot near the kitchen, with a view of her section. She put her
hand on my shoulder and pointed a shaking hand toward a nearby table.
man was back.
was wearing the same pin stripe suit, the same tight white shirt beneath it. He
was sitting at the table, staring at absolutely nothing, eating chips and
I said, trying to sound disinterested. I really wasn’t in the mood for Tammy’s
SO?” Tammy adjusted her bra before putting her hands on her hips, like she was
about to scold a child. Then, she paused. “Oh, you weren’t here last night.”
I had the day off. What happened?”
my God. Creeper happened! He was here last night, too. And Genevieve sat him in
my section.” She rolled her eyes. “I think she’s mad because I sort of called
her fat on a Facebook post…”
know she has hypothyroidism, right?”
baloney! Yeah, she says that, but….” Tammy shook her head. “Damnit Paul, this
isn’t about Genevieve! That guy is strange. LOOK at him.” She glanced over at
obliged, grudgingly. Mr. Pinstripe was holding a chip in his hand, piled so
high with salsa it appeared to defy the laws of physics, then shoved the whole
ensemble into his mouth.
I could finish, there was a crash from behind me. Tammy and I turned to look.
Carl, the night shift manager, was on his back on the ground, tangled up with
Susan, a new waitress who’d just started that day. Carl was howling, clutching
at his ankle amidst the wreckage of a full tray of spilled food.
Tammy said, “He’s bad luck!”
Salsa and Chips! Ever since he’s been coming, shit has been going wrong. That
guy threw up on your shift two nights ago….”
and last night, something in the kitchen caught fire! Almost burned the whole
Luckily we had that fire training last week, and someone put it out with the
didn’t even know we had one. Who was it?”
I think. And I guarantee you, Carl’s ankle is broken. GAURANTEE IT. This guy is
I looked over at the man, Tammy’s
words echoing in my head. Bad ju-ju. Most of the people around him
had gotten up to check out what the noise was. Some were still sitting, albeit
a little flustered. But the man was simply staring straight ahead, enjoying his
chips and salsa.
forty-five minutes later, every system in the restaurant went haywire.
lights dimmed down to almost nothing, and the air conditioners kicked on full
blast. It sounded like a lion roaring in the ceiling. And then “Welcome to the
Jungle” started playing through the sound system, cranked up to full blast.
Everyone was either covering their ears, trying to warm up, or running for the
door. The new waitress, Susan, the one who crashed into Carl, tried to serve
someone a steak in the confusion, and the customer ended up slicing his finger
with the knife pretty badly, to the point he had to leave the restaurant and go
to the hospital for stitches.
was a madhouse.
was in the office icing his ankle, so the servers had to take care of finding
out how to turn everything off. Tammy ended up getting the air conditioner
taken care of, and I figured out how to turn the music down, but the lights
refused to un-dim. Flat out refused. The customers that stayed had to finish
their meals in the relative dark.
in the darkness, Mr. Pinstripe remained perfectly calm. But you already figured
one point, I think he may have been smiling.
as weird as those three nights were, nothing could have prepared me for what
happened on Monday night.
was about 8:45 p.m. Mr. Pinstripe was back, same suit, same shirt, same salsa
and chips, and sitting in my section, to boot. I’d just refilled his water and
turned toward the door when I saw Tammy walk in, a man on her arm.
was off that night, but she was the type of person to go eat at the place she
worked on her days off. That was just Tammy. And I was pretty sure the real
reason she was there was to show the guy off. To whom, I’m not sure, but you
could see it in Tammy’s eyes. She was dressed to the nines. Skin tight dress,
two sizes too small, hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. Heels she couldn’t
properly walk in. But, I’ll give it to her, her makeup actually didn’t look
like a child had applied it, for once.
she walked in, Mr. Pinstripe turned and stared at her. His eyes were squinted
down to almost nothing.
met her and asked where she wanted to be seated. Tammy pointed to an empty
table in my section.
to Mr. Pinstripe.
shuffled over to the waitress’s stand, trying to stop Genevieve, but it was too
late. She obliged, leading Tammy and the guy, a bulky red-headed dude wearing
an Affliction shirt, to the table Tammy had requested. They sat facing Mr.
Pinstripe. I turned toward the kitchen immediately, not wanting to be a part of
whatever was about to happen. My week had been stressful enough.
hadn’t made it very far when I heard a loud voice ask, “What’s so
interesting?”, loud enough to be heard over the music and the din of
conversation. I knew it was Affliction who’d asked it. And I’ll give you one
guess who he was talking to. I sprinted back toward my section.
nothing,” Mr. Pinstripe answered. “Nothing at all.”
yeah?” Affliction said, standing.
him, Ryder,” Tammy goaded. “Tell that weird fuck where he can stick it.”
“And where is that?” Mr. Pinstripe
said calmly. “I’m dying to know.”
YOUR ASS!” Affliction shouted, overturning his chair and charging Mr.
then it happened.
this day, I still don’t know where the knife came from, whether it was
Affliction’s or Mr. Pinstripe’s. And I guess it doesn’t really matter. All that
matters is that the two men ended up locked together, fighting, both holding a
portion of the four-inch knife’s handle, in the middle of Applebee’s on a
Tammy, predictably, in the middle.
only last for about thirty seconds, and I’ll never forget her scream. Or the
amount of blood that poured from the puncture wound in her neck.
restaurant erupted in chaos. Affliction tore his shirt off and pressed it
against Tammy’s neck, but it was saturated with blood in a matter of seconds.
He picked her up in his arms and charged out of the door. The rest of the
patrons were screaming, hiding under their tables, or running for the exits.
Carl hobbled out of the office on a pair of crutches and I shouted at him to
call the police.
I looked around for Mr. Pinstripe, he was gone.
a quick look around the store, I made my way out the side door, where customers
park while waiting on their pick-up orders, and found Mr. Pinstripe casually
I shouted, half-jogging toward him.
expected him to run, but he didn’t. He turned slowly around, facing me.
cops are on their way. If you don’t stick around, you’ll be leaving the scene
of a crime.”
supposed that’s true,” he said.
can you be so calm after what just happened?” At first, I didn’t think he was
going to answer. I think he did because we’d established a good rapport over
the several nights I’d served him, even though we’d never really spoken.
you want to know the truth?” he finally asked.
“Because I knew it was going to
happen,” he started, a thin smile on his face. “Or, something like it. I’m a…”
He paused, looking up at the moon, which hung full in the sky. “I’m a shifter, I
guess you could say.”
prevent horrible things from happening by shifting negative energy around.”
confusion must have showed on my face. “I don’t…”
guy that threw up, Carl’s ankle, the music and lights fiasco…”
that was me.”
something worse would have happened if I hadn’t.”
just stared, waiting for an explanation.
man crossed his arms. “You knew Antonio, right?”
I answered. He was one of our cooks.
weren’t working when Carl fired him, were you?”
figured. When he got fired, right there in the kitchen over the burger he’d
burned for the second time, he said he was going to get revenge. So he went
home, and he started googling news articles about work place shootings. And
then he got a crazy idea. So he went and bought an AR-15. And he didn’t do
anything with it. Not for a week or so. But four days ago, when I walked into
your Applebee’s for the first time, he was sitting in his truck with the AR-15
in his lap. He would have killed seven people that night, including you and
he didn’t do it, because I diverted some of that negative energy into the guy
sitting two tables over from me. Sorry about the vomit, by the way.”
about the next night? And the next?”
I don’t get all of the negative energy. In Antonio’s case, he was filled with a
vast reservoir of it, one of the largest I’ve ever felt. That second night he
was planning on coming back after closing. So I had to keep coming back until I
got rid of all of it.”
about the way he said it made me believe it. Every last word of it.
wait a minute. People still got hurt. Carl has a broken ankle. And Tammy’s
dead. She didn’t make it.”
hate it,” he said, sounding genuine. “I really do. For Carl, being hurt is
better than being dead. He would have been one of Antonio’s victims as well.
He’s the one who fired him, after all. But in Tammy’s case… well, sometimes the
universe just won’t give up when it’s someone’s time. She was just bad ju-ju,”
he finished, winking at me.
moment later, sirens disturbed the stillness of the night.
running out of time,” he said.
wait a minute. You have to explain the salsa and chips.”
He stifled a laugh, then said,
“there’s really nothing to that. I just really love salsa and
turned to leave.
turned again, exasperation painted on his face.
question. Where are you going?”
man reached into an interior pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a haggard
notebook. He flipped to a page in the middle.
one town over.”
for?” I asked.
“There’s supposed to be a school