Strange but True This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The door flies open and I enter through thefrigidness. It hits me hard and I breathe in deeply. The heavy door of thewalk-in freezer slams behind me, sending a shower of ice crystals cascadingaround my head. The perspiration from the day joins the bitter awakening of myconsciousness in this instantaneous change. Why aren't my visits to this chillychamber more frequent? I can't imagine a better paradise.

This small roomseems odd, hidden in the back of the restaurant. I almost expect to see a littlepenguin in his designer tux scuttling by on the frozen shelves. I look around;food is piled high. I kick a bucket that's in front of my destination. Why, Iwonder, do they always put these dumb buckets of food in front of the shelves?Moving it isn't easy. It's more of a barrel, really, heavy and waist high. Thisparticular bucket is filled with potatoes.

After shoving the bucket outof the way, I carefully climb up on an icy shelf. I pretend I'm balanced as Ireach above my head. Behind a bag of lemons, my hand comes to rest on thefamiliar Tupperware container of thick rice pudding. "Rice pudding,please" was the request from the nice bald man at booth number three. Iponder why he didn't choose a less dangerous dessert.

"Ah ha!Gotcha!" I exclaim to the concoction, at the same time beginning a victorydance. I realize abruptly that I am still half-on, half-off the shelf. I slip onthe ice and, flailing my arms and leg, execute an unplanned landing in the bucketof potatoes. "Terrific, this is just great," I mutter. The sound of myvoice echoes and then is lost, absorbed into the depths of the freezer.

Iglance around and see rice pudding oozing from the busted container. Who wantsrice pudding anyway? It's like cottage cheese and oatmeal combined. How tasty canthat be? I press my hands against the ridge of the bucket and push. Nothinghappens. I am stuck in a bucket of potatoes. Suddenly I burst out laughing. Hopeeveryone wants mashed potatoes with their dinners tonight!

Then the roomis blanketed in darkness. Silence chokes me. Alright, who was supposed to changethat light bulb? I try to shuffle toward the exit in my bucket, but it's tooheavy to move. My hips are about the same size as the opening and are wedged. Mylegs dangle over the side. I can't reach the ground to propel myself forward. Iam getting nowhere. Or am I? Wait, is that the right way to the exit? I am allturned around in the pitch black.

How strange this will look when someonefinds me. If they find me. I think about screaming but decide against it. Myrescuer will probably laugh at me and go to get a bigger audience. My future ofpeople taking me seriously is looking bleak. "Bucket butt, Miss Potato Head,Hey, waitress, can I have some potatoes?" they'll snicker. Oh, yeah, this isgoing to be great. I can see the headlines now:

Girl found two dayslater frozen to bucket of potatoes in walk-in freezer. Customer complains henever received his rice pudding, sues for $3 million. I've got to get out beforeanyone sees this get-up attached to my behind.

Does anyone notice I'm notout there waitressing? At least I'm getting paid to be stranded in Antarctica."I'm never coming in here again!" I shout at the consuming darkness. Iscream my complete vocabulary of swear words loud enough to echo off the frozenwalls and bounce back to me.

"Row, row, row your bucket, gentlythrough the dark! Merrily, merrily, look at my rear, the bucket left amark!" I sing. This traumatizing experience will surely warrant some type oftherapy.

I sit in the squishy substance that is now seeping through mywork pants and contemplate just about everything. You know the saying"Everything happens for a reason"? Well, how do you explain this one?My grandkids will be open-mouthed and wide-eyed as I tell the tale from myrocker. No more dull stories of walking uphill both ways, trudging through fivefeet of snow to school. Giggles will escape the children as they say, "Mygrandma once got stuck in a bucket of potatoes."

As I sit in thedark, cold prison, I think about why I am here. I have a sudden urge to confessmy true feelings: I hate being a waitress. It isn't as glamorous as I thought.Long hours in a ketchup-splattered apron, my ponytail sticking to the back of myneck, with impatient customers attacking me, coffee spilled down the front of mypants, sugar sprinkled in my hair, kids crying, greasy plates and thenever-ending flow of people ... Customers alter their orders on purpose to annoyand confuse me. Today, one woman started talking even before I had my pen ready.

"Can I get the soup instead of the salad?" she asked. "ButI want a salad on the side, but no dressing, just extra ketchup with my meat.Make sure the bread is not toasted for the grilled cheese. Don't forget, nocondiments on the burgers, make sure the fries are crispy, hot dogs for the kids,one with no roll, one with an extra roll, one roll with no hot dog, twentychocolate milkshakes." An inaudible "Thank You" was added hastilyas she became preoccupied with stopping Susie and Elizabeth from seeing who couldstick the most straws up their noses. Mentally, I added in a bunch of extranapkins for them and three Advil for me.

At the next table sat fivebusinessmen. They sucked down coffee and snapped their fingers to get myattention, then ordered their food rapidly and in hushed whispers while theyyelled numbers on their cell phones. I could only hope to catch their complicatedorder.

This little escape room is becoming more enticing by the minute asI remember the old lady who comes in and orders omelets. With her mouth full ofbreakfast, she orders lunch, her mouth gaping to display her lack of teeth andabundance of garlic breath. Then there's the middle-aged man who sits alone inthe same booth every Tuesday night and orders nothing but rice pudding ... myvisualizing suddenly comes to a halt as I am jolted back to the present andre-discover the sharp pain around the edges of my butt.

First plan ofaction when I get out of here (though my current plan of action isn't resultingin much action) is to request all buckets be coated with non-stick spray. Aboveall, I will request a raise - big time. Sigh. Where is that darn penguin to keepme company?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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