Raymond, Master of Sandwich Puppets
by Eric Feezell
Raymond loved Subway. Subway the sandwich shop. He typically ate there four or five days a week for lunch, especially since they had started doing the daily special. Raymond could not pass up that cheap of a sandwich. He loved all their sandwiches. He loved the daily special.
His friends often told him otherwise--you should go to Domenico's, Raymond. Or you should go to Dimitri's. But he would have none of it. Eat fresh was Subway's motto. This pleased Raymond, who felt it was important that food be fresh.
The Subway down the street from his apartment was like a second home. All the workers knew him there, knew exactly how he liked his sandwich. Raymond was never overtly picky about food, yet he valued being able to go in and just order a sandwich without having to answer all sorts of questions about it. Just make the sandwich.
One day, Raymond walked into Subway to find a new sandwich artist behind the counter. It was not his guy, Veero, but someone new. Maybe he was Indian. Raymond didn't know. It didn't matter. It wasn't Veero. Veero was Armenian.
It was Wednesday. The turkey breast special.
"May I help you, sir?" Not-Veero was putting on his disposable plastic gloves, staring inquisitively at Raymond over the counter. Raymond didn't like the way he did this--put on the gloves. It wasn't at all graceful like Veero did it.
"Yes ... one moment." Even though Raymond knew what he wanted, he would make Not-Veero wait. He disliked Not-Veero for not being Veero and therefore wished to waste Not-Veero's time. Also, he needed a few seconds to prepare himself for the imminent barrage of questions soon coming his way.
"The special," Raymond offered coldly.
"Foot-long or six-inch?"
Raymond had never had to answer this question before. It was a dumb question, he thought. It was lunch time.
Not-Veero glanced over at the specials sticker affixed to the sneeze guard to verify the day's selection. At this Raymond cringed and mean thoughts entered his mind. He doesn't even know which special for which day. How long does it take to memorize seven things?
"Turkey breast?" asked Not-Veero.
You're asking me? You just read the sticker. Sandwich artist my foot. You're a sandwich apprentice.
"On what kind of bread, sir?"
God almighty. Raymond was too angry to say, and so just pointed at the loaf of wheat on the display board.
Not-Veero removed a foot-long loaf of wheat bread from the oven. Fresh-baked bread, baked daily, was another thing Raymond loved about Subway, and another thing he suspected Not-Veero would ruin for him quite soon. Not-Veero placed the freshly baked loaf on the cutting counter and sliced it in half unevenly. A five/seven-inch split. It then became a psychological test for Not-Veero to determine what sort of man Raymond was: more bread, or less bread? Not-Veero decided in haste that Raymond was a less-bread sort of man. Not-Veero was incorrect.
"Other half," said Raymond, pointing.
"Other half," Raymond repeated with gusto.
After placing the smaller half back in the oven, Not-Veero returned to the sandwich station and cut a slit down the center of the piece. He placed three slices of turkey breast upon one half of the bread, grabbed two triangular slices of white American cheese from the cold case, and then looked up at Raymond.
"No." Raymond did not want cheese, but Not-Veero had just assumed he did. Was he trying to make Raymond insane?
"Okay, sir. Would you like mustard and mayo?" Not-Veero seemed on edge suddenly, as if overly aware of Raymond's antipathy. He gave a look that Raymond read as, please be patient, I am new. Not-Veero couldn't have known it, but he should not have given Raymond that impression.
"Yes." Raymond curled his toes tightly. That was a trick he used to suppress his anger at the video store. His friends would often say, you should try Netflix, Raymond. No way would he try Netflix. He liked Blockbuster.
Mustard in hand, Not-Veero positioned the sandwich for application of the condiment. He squirted the yellow sauce upon the bread with utmost care. It pleased Raymond to see him apparently so nervous, to see him walking on egg shells like that. Raymond, Master of Sandwich Puppets, he thought to himself.
"And what kind of mayo, sir?"
Raymond didn't understand. He hated not understanding things.
"What? What do you mean? Mayo."
"But what kind, sir?" repeated Not-Veero.
Becoming increasingly indignant, Raymond raised his voice some.
"Sir, we have two kinds: regular and lite mayo."
"Light mayo, then. Jeez-louise."
"Do you mean lite mayo, or light mayo?"
Raymond's blood surged and he slammed his palm down on the counter.
Not-Veero flinched as the sound of Raymond's strike resounded within the cavernous Subway walls. Not-Veero looked around quickly to see if there were any other customers or co-workers in the shop. There was none.
"Okay," he then continued, "but do you want the mayo that is lite, or do you want light mayo?"
"Fucking fuck! Light fucking mayo, you jerk! Light fucking mayo!"
Not usually one to make a scene, Raymond checked himself after this outburst, rubbed his chin embarrassingly, and then calmly restated that he would just like light mayo.
"Fine, sir. The lite mayo." Not-Veero had managed to keep his cool throughout all of this, which bugged Raymond to no end. Not-Veero lacked many of Veero's better attributes--namely, Veero's sense of urgency when it came to making Raymond's sandwich.
"What?!" Raymond barked.
"But would you like light lite mayo, or just lite mayo?" Not-Veero ginned just slightly and with a villainous tinge as he made this inquiry.
At this, Raymond began flipping out, wildly gesticulating, screaming and flapping about the restaurant. Beet-red in the face, he leaned in over the counter toward Not-Veero, grabbing the collar of his Subway polo shirt.
"That's it, motherfucker! What did you do with Veero?!"
"He is on medical leave, sir," said Not-Veero, his tone patronizing, overly polite. "He will be back in three months. Would you like to come back then?"
"Oh? Well fuck you then, pal!" Storming toward the exit, Raymond knew he had just gotten the last word in on the matter, and this satisfied him. But he wanted more, the death knell in this verbal duel. Swinging the glass door open wildly, he turned momentarily and added, "Why don't you just go back to India, huh?"
Not-Veero paused to enhance his effect.
"Because I am from Nepal."
He then raised his arm up and produced a robotic wave toward Raymond. "Please come again!"
Raymond stood in the doorway for a few seconds, expressionless, then turned promptly outside and stomped his way down the block to Domenico's where he ordered their Italian Stallion sub, which came recommended from the girl at the register, and tasted oddly like defeat.