They load into the car, and just like that it no longer smells like lavender air-freshener, but rather boy sweat and damp running shoes. I explain we only have a hour, so to save time I will order their lunch and they can go directly to the Bacteria Zone until the food is ready. But I want their orders now.
One at a time, please.
Hamburger! Hamburger! Cheeseburger! That’s what I meant, too! But not baby ones! No ketchup wait I mean no mustard WAIT I MEAN ONLY MUSTARD Two hamburgers no one. No two. How big are they I can so eat two I want two but NO PICKLES.I only want ketchup. I only want mustard. And pickles. No. No pickles. Just mustard. And not the baby ones!
I am going to stop the car, let them out with my debit card, point to the Golden Arches and leave.
Can I have fries? I want big fries. I want fries, too!
You can all have fries. So three fries, then?
I don’t want fries.
Okay. Two fries. Drinks?
Root beer Root beer Root be…Juice.
So root beer, root beer, juice?
I changed my mind. I want root beer. Me too!
Me too now!
Three root beers?
Three root beer, three fries…
I SAID I DON’T WANT FRIES.
Three root beer, thr…two fries, two hamburgers no pickles, one cheeseburger ketchup only, one cheeseburger mustard only.
I want fries now.
Thank Christ. We’re here.
Go play. I will come and get you when the food is ready and when I say it’s time to leave I MEAN IT.
Food ordered, verified, checked and re-checked. Napkins fanned, ketchup squirted, straws unwrapped and placed in root beer, root beer, juic…root beer.
They come and sit. They eat their lunches quickly, not from hunger but for greed of time, this brief reprieve from the school day. Sweaty little faces and pink cheeks. Soft jaw lines slowly hardening into the faces of young men. I am just the vehicle by which they get here: I pay for lunch, enforce hand washing, supply napkins for spills they can clean on their own. Fart jokes, Minecraft arguments, Lego wishes. A small hill of wax wrappers from “not baby burgers” rises from the sticky self-serve tray.
My voice is not wanted or needed in their conversation, and at the sound of it they disappear like birds after a shot.
One comes back to drop a hoodie on the bench.
Aren’t you gonna eat?
I turn from him. I can’t meet his face, this crazy lady with wet eyes in a harshly lit fast food restaurant. No, I say. I’m not hungry.