There’s not much pain in this world that can’t be soothed by a good milkshake. Well, actually, that’s the kind of quote you could expect to see on a wooden sign at a “home goods” type store, right next to the sign that says, “Cats are like potato chips—you can never have just one!” In fact, I’m sure there is a good portion of the population for whom having a milkshake would actually contribute quite much to their grief. Namely, anyone who has a lactose intolerance or practices vegan eating habits. But, these groups aside, milkshakes are actually a proven mood stimulant by leading scientists. (Please believe nothing I say here, this is all slanted truth—read: false facts!!)
So this was my theory on May 28, 2019, when my life partner and then-boss Bryant was in a not-so-good mood, but in this situation, the particular milkshake which was supposed to save the day actually turned out to be irrefutably cursed.
Before I go any further, I want to say that the story I am about to tell you is—to your knowledge—entirely fictional. It is in no way, shape, or form based on true events, and if this is ever held in front of a court of judgmental peers, I will deny that any of this was rooted in fact. However, between you and me, there’s a reason why I waited until long after-the-fact to post this tale.
It was a Friday, I remember clearly—err, I mean, “I fantasize clearly.” (For the sake of not getting anything twisted, let’s proceed as though I myself am a fictional character within this fictional story.)
It was a fictional Friday, and this was during that beloved time when I was a shift manager at Mild Oats, a local breakfast-diner restaurant where many of my friends worked, including my partner, Bry…uncle. Bryuncle wasn’t my partner when I started working there, nor were the employees my friends beforehand, but I had been serving there for a few years and formed close relationships with my co-workers in that time, and well, Bry became the closest of them all. It was a family restaurant, which is to say that we served many families and became a family ourselves, sort of, and funny enough, many of us actually were family! Bry was the general manager, his younger brother, Justin—I mean, Just…out—was the assistant general manager, and I became a shift manager myself. I know that sounds like nepotism or whatever (and there was this whole big butt-hurt thing among the staff about my promotion), but I freaking earned that position and I was awesome at my job. (My younger brother also worked there, too, but he’s completely irrelevant to this story.)
So, this is how my fictional Fridays used to go: I’d work my second job in the morning until 2 PM, then I’d drive up the hill to Mild Oats, where I’d work through the dinner rush until 10 PM and close the restaurant. Bry was the mid-shift manager on Fridays, so he’d leave around 8 PM, but depending on his mood he’d stay through the close with me, because he and I usually got together after work, and he was that kind of guy, to stay late if someone needed extra help.
Friday nights were a pain, though. I’m not going to get into it because I’ve actually mentally blocked out all that trauma, but let’s just say that we had a really good special on Friday nights, and our tiny restaurant would get slammed, and as the managers, that meant Bry and I had to keep all the madness moving fluidly and fix everyone’s mistakes. (Honestly, I miss it. It was a chaos I understood.)
Needless to say, Fridays were moody. If it wasn’t me in a bad mood, it was Bry, and if it wasn’t Bry in a bad mood, it was at least a few employees who were grumbling. And some Fridays, we were just all in bad moods.
On this particular day, it was Bry who was in a bad mood. Well, to him, he probably wasn’t in a bad mood—I had asked him, and he had said, “I’m fine,” and moved on silently and straight-faced. But from my perspective, he seemed bothered, and so that was something I wanted to improve.
Because we had this friend Mox who was throwing a party that evening. Mox had a tendency to throw parties on Friday nights at 9 PM, which was great for most people, but you see, Bry and I worked at a restaurant, so we didn’t “get” weekends. Our “weekend” was Monday and Tuesday, when business was slower. So every Friday when Mox would throw a party, after working over twelve hours between two jobs, I’d have to rush through closing, rush home to change and spritz myself with enough perfume to mask the scent of bacon grease in my hair, rush to Bry’s house where I collected him and we would perform pre-party rituals such as having a preliminary drink, and then rush to the party, usually getting there at about 11 PM. By which time, I was pooped, but everyone else was just beginning to “turn up.” (And not to mention, Bry would be scheduled to open the restaurant the next morning at 6:30 AM.) So it was rare we were ever in true partying spirits, and often we stood about yawning and nodding.
I know, I know—I haven’t even gotten to the milkshake part yet, but this set-up has all been quite important, I promise. It will really help you to understand the amount of grief jam-packed into this one particular Friday and this one particular milkshake.
This Friday in May that Bryuncle was in a bad mood, was indeed a party night at Mox’s place. And so, likely for the reason that he just wanted a little more downtime before the party, Bry actually left at 8 PM and left me to take care of closing. I had closed a thousand times, so this was no problem for me. And also because I had a secret plan: I would make Bry a milkshake!
I would make him a milkshake and surprise him with it after I got off work!
Now, I don’t mean to boast, but at the company Christmas party a couple years ago, I had won the award for “Best Milkshakes” and it was something I quite prided myself on, that I made rather delightful shakes. At Mild Oats, we hand-spun every milkshake with hard ice cream and our spindle, so perfecting the right ratio of milk-to-ice cream, and then mastering the correct “swindling” technique so as to not create a mess of the shake and the surrounding area, was quite an art form. I loved creating new flavors of milkshakes by combining the different ice cream toppings and flavors, and Bry was always happy to indulge in my frozen treats. And of course, I loved the positive feedback, as I am so obviously humble.
After Bry left work that night, I made him the secret milkshake, which I had no idea would turn out to be a cursed milkshake. (Knowing me, it was probably a salty caramel truffle milkshake with additional chocolate.) But because I had to use the ice cream scoop and a spindle cup to make it, I needed to do that before the end of the night because the dish washer had to clean all of the dirty dishes before he could go home. Annoying the dish washer was one of my least favorite activities at Mild Oats, although it probably didn’t take much to do that.
I made the milkshake, transferred it into a to-go cup, sent the dirty dishes to the dish washer, and then placed the milkshake in the freezer where it would wait for me until I actually left—because who wants a soupy, sweaty milkshake? My milkshakes were the ideal consistency—thick, but still indisputably liquid. It was a science, I’m telling you.
For the next hour as the servers vacuumed and rolled silverware, the cooks cleaned up the cook line, and the dish washer cleaned the last of the dishes, I kept telling myself, “Remember the milkshake, remember the milkshake.” At 10 PM, after checking to see that everyone had completed their closing work, after completing all the end-of-day managerial duties in the office, I turned off all the lights and reminded myself about the milkshake. “Remember the milkshake, remember the milkshake.”
But because my memory hates me at the worst times, after I enabled the alarm system, I forgot the freaking milkshake!!!
Mostly, this was because my stubbornness to leave the milkshake in the freezer until the very last second, and also because of my stinking muscle memory.
At the time, I usually parked my car behind the restaurant. I would make sure the front door was locked, enable the alarm system at the front of the restaurant, and walk through it in that 60-second window before the alarm’s sensors activated, and leave out the back door. The restaurant’s back door locked from the inside, so all I had to do was just close it behind me when I left. (And for good measure, I’d always give it a tug to make sure it was truly locked.)
However, that night precisely as my black food-spattered tennis shoes hit the pavement outside the restaurant and the heavy back door slammed close behind me, I realized: Shit! I forgot the freaking milkshake!
You’re probably thinking: I left the milkshake inside the dark, locked up restaurant. Big deal, right? What’s so bad about that? I was a manager. I had keys.
Weeeeell, this part is sort of awkward. It’s true: I had keys. Except, I stopped knowing the location of those keys a few months prior to this incident.
And you see, because I was typically the closing manager, I never had to unlock the restaurant, I only had to lock it behind me. Which, as I mentioned earlier, was perfectly feasible without keys.
Which is why I never told anyone I had lost my keys. Honestly, it was kind of embarrassing for me because I’m not the kind of person to just lose keys to a restaurant I was responsible for. And I kept telling myself, “Well, they’ve got to show up one day, right?” (Except they kind-of-sort-of never did show up…)
So, I was locked outside of the restaurant and Bry’s milkshake was locked inside. I could cut my losses and move on with the night, because worst case scenario, I simply left the milkshake in the freezer over night and someone would discover it the next day, either to throw it away or consume it themselves. And I was a restaurant manager, so it’s not like I paid for it or anything. (I mean, why else would someone ever willingly be a restaurant manager if not for the free meals?)
But I really wanted to deliver this stupid milkshake to Bry because I was convinced it would be a loving gesture to show him how much I loved and cared about him, despite whatever mental place he was in that night. In my delusional romantic mind, I thought it’d be a real, “Awww, how sweet of you!” moment in which he dropped the stoic facade and truly enjoyed the rest of his night and Mox’s party.
I was not about to accept defeat because I had connections. At the time, I was living in the same apartment complex as Bry’s brother and our fellow manager, Justout, so after rapid-fire scheming, I jumped into my car and on my five-minute drive to my place, I called Justout.
No doubt Justout was probably baffled why I’d be calling him at 10 PM on a Friday night, but I’m sure he figured it had to do with either work or Bry. He probably saw my name pop up on his phone and thought, “Crap, I hope she doesn’t need help at work.”
“Hello?” He answered.
“Heyyyy, how’s it going?” I asked, braking at a traffic light. (I am not condoning driving while operating a mobile device. If you recall, this is a fictional story and so this did not, nor would ever, happen. Pay attention to the road, kiddos!! No cell phone while driving!)
That weekend, both Justout’s girlfriend and his roommate Jiff were out of town, and so he was pretty bored, watching television. This made me feel better, because at least I wasn’t interrupting anything particularly important.
Carefully, I explained the situation, leaving out what I didn’t want to draw attention to: “So, I made this milkshake for Bry and accidentally locked it in the restaurant… I was wondering if I could swing by and borrow your key?”
“Oh, you locked your keys inside, too?” Justout asked.
“Yyyeeaahhh,” I responded, turning onto our road.
“Sure, you can borrow mine,” he said.
I told him I would be over in a few minutes, parked behind our apartments, ran into my apartment and did the Swift Outfit Change and Spritz, and then ran across the courtyard to his front door. When he handed off his key to me, I mentioned Mox’s party and invited him to meet up with us there, and that I could return the key to him at that time. And, since Justout was pretty bored, he said he was interested and would meet us there.
Okay, so we were back in action! The milkshake tried to play this whole “damsel in distress locked in the castle’s tower” game with me, but I would not be defeated so easily! Ha-ha!
Back in my car, I zoomed back to Mild Oats. Just when I pulled in the parking lot, I received a text from Bry: “Are you coming? Or should I just meet you at Mox’s?”
What! That wasn’t my plan—if we met at Mox’s, it would ruin the sweet moment of me handing off the milkshake! Plus, we almost always arrived at parties together, so it seemed weird to just “see him there.” I responded urgently, “I’m almost there! Just wait for me!”
The keys only worked on the front door, so I parked rather crooked by the back door and jogged to the front of the restaurant, unlocked and entered, re-locked behind me, disarmed the alarm, ran to the back of the restaurant where the milkshake was in the freezer. Then, I jogged to the front of the restaurant where I re-enabled the alarm, and jogged back through the restaurant, dashing out the back door. (All the while hoping that there wasn’t a random police car passing by, raising an eyebrow at this figure moving about this darkened restaurant.)
But: finally!!! Success!!! I had the milkshake! I had a straw! I was changed! I was smelling… fine! I was in my car, on my way to Bry’s!
Fortunately, we all lived really close to one another, so five minutes later, I pulled into Bry’s driveway. This dang milkshake tried to get the best of me, but I was about to show Bry that I was a Caring Girlfriend with this delicious, creamy concoction! (And also probably try to steal a couple sips of it for myself, too.) He would be delighted by this gesture and feeling better after having some time to decompress after work.
As I was getting out of my car, I stepped up to enter his house’s side door, and—
Bit the DUST!!
Listen, it was dark. Bry’s house had a single, red-tinted lightbulb on the front porch, but in the driveway and along the side of the house, you couldn’t see anything. And, as I had completely forgotten about (because why would I even think of it??), his house had a few cables running along the side.
So, as my foot caught on one of the cables and my top-half went tumbling to the ground, my left hand clutched the milkshake so I wouldn’t drop it. But apparently I clutched it a little too panicked, because my thumb punctured the bottom of the styrofoam cup and suddenly became very cold.
I wasn’t injured, but I was annoyed. That was the only time I had ever tripped on those cables, and it was when I had a stinking, sacred milkshake in my hand. I got up, and while miraculously the milkshake was still upright in my hand, it was now leaking. And since the hole was on the bottom, I couldn’t do anything to slow the drip except transfer it to a new container, and quick. I grabbed the door knob to the side door.
And of course, the side door, which was famously never locked, was mysteriously locked at that very moment. I mean, honestly, this was a house where three young men in their mid-20’s lived, and so this was the kind of place where friends knew to just pop in through the side door whenever we wanted to visit. And for some reason, of all times, it was locked when I needed it the most!
With my dripping cup of milkshake, I scampered up the front porch and tried the front door, which was also locked. What the heck, gentlemen?! I spent 60% of my free time bumming around their house, so to be locked out of it felt really weird. I rang the doorbell and knocked a few times, eyeing the leaking cup in my hands and the trail of dribbles following me up the porch by the light of that ominous and dim red bulb.
Osmosis, Bry’s roommate, answered the door and let me in with an, “Oh hey,” before retreating back upstairs, pretty unconcerned with my presence. (Like I said, I was there all the time. Incidentally, Osmosis also worked with us at Mild Oats.) After frantically muttering a greeting in return, I went straight back to the kitchen, dripping my little brown dots of milkshake along their house floor.
Once inside the kitchen, I tried to find a cup to pour the rest of the milkshake in. However, because—as I mentioned earlier—this was a house where three young men lived, the sink was piled high with dirty dishes and there was no such thing as a clean cup in their cupboards. Compromising—because what difference did it make at this point, anyway?—I pulled out the last receptacle for beverages, which was a large blue mug, and dumped the milkshake at last into a solid container.
It only filled half the mug by that point, but I had other things now to worry about. I had made a mess across their floor, which wasn’t the largest of messes in their house, but was certainly the most in-the-way and the most my-fault, which was not my intended effect. Looking about the kitchen, I couldn’t find any paper towels (typical), and so I used a crumpled dish rag wedged behind the faucet, and went to work wiping at their floor.
Bry, probably confused why I was fussing about downstairs instead of going upstairs to say “hi,” then wandered downstairs. “Hey? Whatcha doing?” he asked.
Wiping up the last bit of soiled milkshake from the floor, I exhaled and flashed a large, exasperated smile. “Hey! Uhhh… I brought you a milkshake!” Thus presenting him the mug of milkshake.
As he looked at the mug a little curiously, it was then that I realized what a stupid idea this had been. We were about to go to a party. Who on earth would want to fill up on a milkshake right before having a few beers? What sort of “turn up” beverage was a cup full of sweetened dairy product? Why had I honestly thought that this would “solve” his poor mood?
I could tell by the way he was looking at the mug that he was curious as to why it wound up in a mug, and what I was doing tossing a dirty towel back on his counter. But I wasn’t sure if he was in the proper mood to fully appreciate the hilarity and madness of the night’s efforts to deliver him this small portion of milkshake, and so I merely explained, “Well, the cup broke.”
To top it all off, at that very moment, Bry’s other roommate and Osmosis’s brother Oluh came downstairs, phone in hand. “Wha’s good?” Oluh nodded at me, gently pulling a twist away from his face. “So, Mox just texted me and said the party’s off,” he announced, then shrugged.
We were both confused, and Oluh said he didn’t know any details except what Mox had texted him. Why hadn’t Mox texted any of us that it was canceled? It was only 11 PM, why would he cancel a party right before the point in the night when people our age actually began leaving for parties? (Later, we would find out that he canceled because no one had shown up, and he didn’t know that we were on the way, and also he just wasn’t in the mood anymore.)
I texted Justout to let him know the party was off, because while the cursed milkshake had done its evil, I wasn’t about to let Justout suffer, too. At least now we wouldn’t be obligated to feign energy or excitement for the sake of a party’s morale.
Bry and I retreated to his room with the mug of milkshake, where he enjoyed all of a few sips of it, because by now, it was runny and warm, with only a few soft chunks of ice cream floating among it. Honestly, I didn’t even have an appetite for it anymore, myself. It was a real jerk of a milkshake.
While Bry wasn’t necessarily in a bad mood anymore, he still wasn’t in a great mood, but what could I do at that point? I had tried (and failed), and sometimes, a person’s just gotta be in a blah mood for a bit. It’s the cycle of life, no?
So for these reasons, I am inclined to believe that this milkshake was cursed. This wretched milkshake sent me through an entire obstacle course of a night just to deliver it to Bry, and because it took so long taunting me, the party was canceled.
And it is for these reasons that I have sworn off both good deeds and milkshakes.
Okay, I jest—I didn’t swear off milkshakes because of this event, but I have largely refrained from consuming milkshakes any longer, and that’s mostly due to the fact that I’ve now joined the population of people who don’t consume dairy, because, well, that stuff is not kind to my body any longer. (Which is a shame, because it tastes so dang great.)
Maybe dairy really is cursed for me?
For more stories by Slanted Spines, visit the Stories page.
For comics about Mild Oats, visit the Comics page.