Candice stared at newspaper want ads, tapping a pencil against her temple.
Eyes shifting to her bedroom window, she contemplated her future. High school graduation, barely three weeks behind her, had thrust Candice into adulthood reality. Her dreams of college had been dashed, both parents losing their jobs within a week of each other. Bills had begun to pile up, her parents fought late at night when they thought she was sleeping and she felt, to say the least, useless.
Beer bottles had also started to pile up in the recycle bin.
Glancing at the want ads again, Candice couldn’t decide which was worse – how unprepared she was for the job market or the lack of money to do something about her situation. Her cellphone rang, startling her. It was a welcomed distraction.
“Candice, what’s going on?” Alli’s voice breezed in her ear, cheerful as usual.
“Nothing. I was just checking out help wanted ads …”
“Well look no more. I just got off the phone with Margie and she told me a restaurant on 4th and Main has posted a help wanted sign on the door.”
“Help doing what?”
“Don’t know but whatever it is, be prepared for a test.”
“A restaurant that tests its employees – doesn’t that strike you as odd?”
“Maybe it’s on people skills.”
“I don’t know …”
“Candice,” Alli said firmly, “You need money for college and being picky isn’t an option. Go, check out the restaurant, take the test and if you don’t pass at least you tried.”
Groaning, Candice bit gently on the pencil eraser. Alli had a point. Besides, how hard could it be working in a restaurant?
“Okay. I’ll get dressed and go see what this test thing is about.”
“Good luck!” her friend said and hung up.
Candice stared at the red brick building, gripping her purse as if it were a shield against the unknown. The neighborhood was above average in appearance, a well groomed park sat north of the restaurant and townhouses were within walking distance just south of it. There were people walking by her, most middle aged who offered friendly smiles as the passed by, and the streets were free of the homeless.
Courage up, Candace approached to the restaurant door. Scotch taped to glass seated in the middle of a mahogany door, was a computer generated sign that read: “Culinary opportunities. Applicants will be tested.”
“I can do this,” she said, squaring her shoulders. Candice then grabbed and gave the doorknob a twist.
A bell chimed overhead announcing her arrival. An odor assaulted her nose once she stepped inside – pine scented air freshener. Her grandfather kept one of the Christmas tree shaped things on his rearview mirror of his truck, which smelled the same as what freshened the air in the restaurant. The room, large and dimly lit, was empty except for furniture. The tables still had chairs stacked upside down on them. A long bar with stools that matched the bar’s dark color was just up ahead and on the wall behind the bar, wine bottles in a lattice style wood arrangement.
“Hello.” Candice called, walking a few steps forward. She looked right, then left.
“Can I help you?” a man’s voice called from behind her. Startled, Candice smiled to mask her nervousness when facing him.
“I,” she jerked a thumb at the door, “saw the sign on the door …”
The man’s eyes stilled her words. He was dressed in black from head to toe, looked like a funeral director. Turning slightly, he stepped aside to reveal the door he’d used to enter the room.
Candice entered ahead of him, glancing back to watch him close the door.
“I’m Candice, Candice Edgewood.”
“I’m Alexander.” His eyes slipped over Candice, lingering here and there before he looked her in the eyes.
“About the job…”
“Yes. There’s a sign on your front door about culinary opportunities. And since there is a test involved, it’d be helpful if you could tell me a little bit about it …”
The man smiled. Candice’s eyes dropped to his mouth, a gasp escaped
“Oh, that. I’m afraid that was a typographical error. You’re not here to be tested. You’re here to be tasted …”