“Step it up, Freshie. There’s a lot of hungry white people out there.”
I pick three burger patties off the grill. This country makes no sense. I thought the white people would insult me but they never do. Not to my face anyway. The people who make fun of me are the children of my fellow countrymen. On my first day working here, I asked them why they call me “Freshie”. “It’s cos you’re fresh off the boat!” Boat? I came on a plane! The three burgers go on three buns. Two swirls of ketchup, one of mustard. Gherkin slice. Wrap them up. Three more hamburgers down the hamburger chute. The next three come off the grill. The flesh is pink in the middle. Reddish water runs down the bun. I show the manager. He turns up the temperature on the grill. I pick up the uncooked burgers and move towards the bin.
“What you doing, Freshie? Wrap ‘em up. They’ll be fine.”
His mobile phone buzzes. He heads out front and speaks to a customer. I watch him hand over a small snap bag in exchange for £20. I prepare the bleeding burgers and toss them down the chute.
It’s the patty hockey semi-final. It’s a simple game. A frozen burger patty on the floor. The players hit it with trays. Mop buckets for goals. The manager’s busy selling “happy meals” out front so we’re all able to crowd round and watch the action. It’s a close match. The timer on the deep fat fryer is almost at zero when the winning shot splashes into the loser’s bucket. The cheers bring the manager rushing in. All back to work. The players are bagging up fries. The trays are back on the pile. The puck gets fed into the flaming grill.
The patty hockey final gets cut short. The immigration officers stride into the kitchen. The manager points them in my direction. They step over the patty puck as it slips across the greasy floor. As they walk me to their car, my future shrinks into a one-way street. Police station. Detention centre. Flight back home. One less Freshie.