They looked like they had lost their best friends, their soulmates, or firstborn. As if they’d been unjustly incarcerated when their wife was pregnant, spent sixty years on death row before being executed the day before DNA exonerated them posthumously. Like they were closeted in a family full of well meaning, but misguided Bible thumpers. Like they were in the midst of a session of interrogation; complete with bamboo shoots under the fingernails and water boarding.

These were the people working the salad bar. Day in, day out, they had to use yellow wedge-shaped sponges to clean errant beets, garbanzo beans, pepperoncinis, shreds of butternut squash, blue cheese crumbles, and an ever-flowing line of house ranch dressing from between black plastic containers which held the 50 feet worth of ingredients needed to create the perfect salad.

They were the first employees to arrive, sometimes as early as five am in order to open 50 gallon containers of pickles, scrub every inch of the salad bar and floor with bleach, and rub the sneeze guards with generic Windex and coffee filters. Throughout most days, they stood in a couple of inches of tepid water, trapped by the piles of lettuce, veggies, cheese, croutons, and hardboiled egg, left by each change of shift, that inevitably seeped through any shoe design. Salad bar attendants left after everyone, risking skin to burns by boiling hot water and limbs to slips in the permanent puddle.

Everyone always went home smelling like rotten ranch dressing.

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CLS FERGUSON, PhD is a communication professor who paints, sings, acts, models, produces independent films, and has earned awards for her academic research, published many academic articles, and two academic books.  Her portrayal of The Black Rose in Silence, which she also co-wrote and produced, earned her a best actress award and a best film award at the LA Neo Noir Festival. Her music video, Secrets & Lies recently earned accolades on the indie film circuit.  CLS has published poetry in Shangri-La Shack, Still Points Quarterly, PQLeer, Dirty Chai, Sheepshead Review, Drunk Monkeys, and other places. Her poetry collection, God Bless Paul is out on Rosedog Books, her co-authored chapbook, The Way We Were with JC Jones is out on Writing Knights Press, and her collection Soup Stories is out on Portage Press. She and her husband, Rich are raising their daughter, Evelyn and their Bernese Mountain Border Collie Mutt, Sadie in Alhambra, CA.

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