The Slushie Slinger
The buzz in the air at Altador was positively contagious. Plooshpluff waited in line at the docks, happy to be off the rocky ship and onto solid ground, but behind a huge wall of excited cup fans. She was trying hard to ignore the sidelong glances and outright rude stares from other pets as the line slowly moved forward. Seeing a Krawk in Altador must have been an interesting sight for some, but one in Darigan colours was often met with fear.
“Hurry up! Keep moving!” came the shouts from the Dock Master, as he eyed yet another ship about to dock, and explode with more crazed fans.
Plooshpluff kept her head down as she passed under the Dock Master’s stern gaze. She didn’t need any other delays. As it was, she was probably going to be late for her new job, and that didn’t bode well. She had stood in line in the Employment Agency for hours, waiting to find a job that would get her off the Citadel for the first time and out into the world. Under her fear was a huge simmering pit of nervousness, as this was her first time out on her own, with a job at the much anticipated Altador Cup IV.
As the gates of the arena came into view, the sound of the crowds got considerably louder, as did the sounds coming from all the shops piled up along the road. There were souvenirs, foods from every world represented in the cup, and odd clothes with cup and team markings on them. The lines to get into the shops to purchase the wares were long, and hung with the stench of Burnt Scarab Cookies. Plooshpluff swallowed hard and turned away, looking for the Employee’s door where she had been told to enter.
The door was behind a huge mutant Skeith, who checked her name off of a list and looked her over before letting her pass. The door had opened up into an area below the arena. The sounds of the crowd were evident but muted by the huge amount of concrete that separated the fans from the service corridor.
“I hope those Altadorian architects knew what they were doing when they built this place,” Plooshpluff muttered, looking up warily. “That’s a lot of raw excitement sitting up there.”
Plooshpluff walked past stores with names over the doors, looking for the place she was to report to. Whistle cleaning... Ugh, no. Dung Removal... Definitely not. Yooyu Counselling... What?! The last tent on the left had a hastily hung sign: “Slushie Slinging”. Slinging? Must be a typo. She took a deep breath and walked in.
In the dim light of the shop, she could make out enormous stacks of cups, lids, straws and slushie mix. The sound of the slushie machines grinding and churning could be heard from an opening on the other side of the tent. Plooshpluff walked through the door and blinked in the sudden light at three slushie machines and three long smooth counters. An enormous red Tuskaninny stood at one of the counters, hands on her waist.
“About time you decided to show up, darn new recruits,” she grumbled. “I’m Thea_xd, and I run this place!”
“Thea_xd?” asked Plooshpluff with surprise.
“Yeah.” Thea_xd was used to raised eyebrows at her name. “My owner wasn’t very patient when naming me; it could be worse. Now let’s get you to work.”
The Tuskaninny grabbed a clean, white apron off of the counter and handed it to Plooshpluff to put on. Then she pointed to the three arched doors at the end of the counters. “Your job,” she explained, “is to wait for the customers to come in and place their slushie order. You...” She pointed at Plooshpluff forcefully,” ...will get the slushie they ask for and sling it down the counter to them---”
“Sling?” interrupted Plooshpluff anxiously.
“Yes, Sling! Slide it down the counter to the customer, fill all of your orders and clean up the cup they sling back to you. Easy! But don’t let them litter all over my shop; it wreaks havoc on my tail when the floor is a sticky mess. If there is a big enough mess or too slow service, you’ll be heading back home on the ship faster than you can say Meepit! Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am!” said Plooshpluff. This should be a breeze after growing up on the Citadel where many residents were still recovering from the war. Jobs there had been scarce and the toy factory was making some disturbing toys. She wanted no part of that.
“Good, you have your first customer.” Thea_xd pointed to the door. “I’ll be in the back mixing more slushies,” she said as she disappeared into the back.
Standing at the door was a thin looking Ogrin. “What can I get you?” asked Plooshpluff with a smile in her politest voice.
The Ogrin at the door almost turned and walked away; having a Darigan Krawk smile at you was not an overly pleasant experience. “Ummm... Zeenana, please?”
Plooshpluff made a snappy turn, went to the Zeenana machine and poured off her first slushie. Then she walked to the counter and slid the cup down to the Ogrin hovering in the door. “Thanks,” he mumbled as he started gulping down his slushie. After his final noisy slurp, he tossed the cup back down the counter to her and left without another glance.
Hmmm, rude, but the job is a breeze, thought Plooshpluff. I wonder why no one wanted this job? Plooshpluff busied herself making sure the floor and counter were spotless, dealing with a small spattering of customers and ignoring the sound of snores coming from behind the back curtain.
Periodically the sounds from above would also waft down to the store; cheers, groans, exploding Yooyus and the stomping of feet as fans made their mood known. There must be thousands of people up there, thought Plooshpluff, glad they are up there, but it feels overwhelming thinking of all those people above you.
After a few hours, Plooshpluff found herself getting bored. Slinging slushies wasn’t very exciting at all. As she cleaned the counters yet again, she noticed a change in the sounds from above. It was sounding more like stomping and less like whooting and shouting. Then she realized that the sound was not from above, but from the corridor outside. She peeked out through the door and what she saw was enough to turn her purple hair to grey. A huge wave of fans was stampeding down the hall, straight to the slushie shop where she stood, unprepared.
Plooshpluff backed up to the machines and stared in wonder at the crowd, struggling to come in to the shop all at once. The sound of shouted orders was almost unbearable! Plooshpluff shook herself out of her stupor and stepped up to take orders. She basically ran from counter to machine and back to counter to try and keep up.
The fierce glares of the heated and thirsty fans were wicked. Try and try as she might, the line got longer and longer, the crowd got angrier, and her irritation began to show. As she got madder, she began to make mistakes and mix up the orders. She kept accidentally sending the wrong type of slushie to the customers. They would take what they got with an angry grunt, slurp the drink quickly and slide the cup back to her with such a force that they would fall onto the floor. The floor and countertops started to get so sticky that it was difficult to move around between the machines and hard to slide the proper slushies to the customer when she did get the order right.
Snores still came from behind the back curtain. The unhappy grumble of the crowd got louder and louder. Finally, a large purple Tonu made an extremely rude comment that made her already thin patience snap.
“I hope you all get brain freeze!” she shouted, and turned and ran behind the curtain, vaulting over the sleeping Tuskaninny and out into the service corridor, shaking in anger and trying to hide her angry tears.
“Wha-?” she heard Thea_xd mumble as the door slammed shut behind her. Plooshpluff ran down the hall until she found a dark doorway, and turned in. She sat against the wall, trying to gain control of her emotions.
“What was I thinking getting a job like that? What is wrong with those fans? How can people be so rude? What am I doing here?” Plooshpluff had no answers for herself.
“Then why are you still here?” creaked a small voice from the dark.
Plooshpluff sat up in shock; she had thought she was alone. “I’m sorry. I’ll just go...”
“But why are you still here?” creaked the voice again. All Plooshpluff could see were a set of small gleaming, red eyes in the dark looking out at her.
“What are you?” Plooshpluff asked the eyes.
Out of the shadows stepped a small Darigan Yooyu. “This is what I am,” it said.
“Why aren’t you up there? Why are you hiding down here?” asked Plooshpluff.
“I could ask you the same,” said the Yooyu.
“Being a coward,” she mumbled.
“As am I.” The Yooyu nodded.
“But... but, you’re a Yooyu, the star of the game; what is there to hide from?”
“Have you ever actually watched a game? I’m surprised that that PPL doesn’t get involved,” whined the Yooyu. “The poor Yooyu gets kicked around, tossed against the arena’s boards, hurled into the screaming fans, booted into the goal and with no time to rest, gets put back in another game. And if you’re stored with that imposter of a Yooyu, the Clockwork, you have to watch it doesn’t explode on you. There’s no way they will send me into a game!”
“You’ve never been in a game?” asked Plooshpluff. “How do you know it’s that bad?”
“Well, it has to be, just by watching it,” replied the Yooyu. “I will hide here until the cup is over and sneak away. Maybe I will visit the space station. What’s your story?”
“Me? My job is way too hard, the customers are cranky and rude and I have no help from my boss. I can’t do it. I should go home.”
“Ahhhh, a quitter,” agreed the Yooyu. “Did you ask for help?”
“No, um, I didn’t! What does that prove? You’re one to talk, scared of the game and never even played before!” Plooshpluff started to get angry again.
“Yes, it seems that way.” The Yooyu smiled at her with pointed teeth. “Tell you what, you go do your job and ask your boss for help, I’ll go play a game and see if it’s a bad as it really seems.”
“Deal!” agreed Plooshpluff. She turned and walked off back to the store.
“See?” grumbled the Yooyu to the Mutant Yooyu that stepped out from shadows. “You just need to know how to talk to them.”
“I see,” said the Mutant Yooyu. “Now let’s get back to the games. I still have twenty wins over you and we can’t play until the crowd comes back from the slushie hut!”
“You’re not ahead for long!” shouted the Darigan Yooyu as they made their way back to Yooyu Storage.
Plooshpluff opened the door to the shop and peeked in. The crowd standing in line was huge, but the Tuskaninny was making a decent headway. Slushies were flying fast down the counter as orders were shouted in. The floor and counter were amazingly spotless, and Thea_xd was able to serve, clean and move the customers through.
Thea_xd spotted Plooshpluff from the corner of her eye. “Back for more, eh?” she asked with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.
Plooshpluff took a deep breath. “Well, yeah, if I could and I’d like to apolo-” She was cut off by Thea_xd.
“No time for chatting, dear; the slushies are melting, the game is starting again soon, and there’s work to do,” she said with a knowing smile. She tossed a cup to Plooshpluff. “Get to work!”
“Gladly!” said Plooshpluff with a smile. It wasn’t so bad after all.