No Man Knows My Story
by "The Enduring Man-Child"
All standard disclaimers apply.
The title is based on that of a 1945 biography of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, written by Fawn M. Brodie.
"The usual, Ned; a salad for my lady and a naco for Rufus and myself!"
"Yo, Ned my man, I said..."
"Yes, sir. One...salad...and one...naco...?"
Ron's eye (and Rufus' too) did their familiar twitching at the unfamiliar voice. Both looked up to see, not the usual bespectacled image of Ned, but a scrawny freckle-faced girl neither had ever seen before, who was evidently as confused by the order as they were by her being there.
"Um...where's Ned?" Ron asked.
"I dunno. Isn't he, like, the manager? I don't think he showed up this morning. Company had to call out an employee in Lowerton with a spare set of keys. We opened late and have been playing catch-up all day. So...you want fries with that?"
- - - - -
"A little late there, Ron. Why the holdup?"
Ron seemed a bit distracted as he sat down opposite his girlfriend in their usual booth. Even Rufus, riding on his shoulder, seemed strangely unenthusiastic about his favorite cheese-filled treat.
"Yeah. Sorry about that, KP. Some newbie taking the orders." He slid her salad to her.
If she found her order in any way unsatisfactory she didn't show it. Ron on the other hand looked at his naco with foreboding. It did seem a little messy. And once he had taken a cautious bite he wrinkled up his nose in disgust.
"Newbie doesn't have the touch?" Kim asked him.
"Eew! The cheese is all wrong!"
"What's the matter with it, Ron?"
"I like cheese as much as the next goofy sidekick, but this is overdoing it a bit," he answered as he held the naco up a bit from his tray. True, the thing was supposed to be a cheese-filled taco, but someone apparently thought the taco was supposed to be buried deep inside the cheese. It was messy to the point of being disgusting, even for Rufus' taste, as he plainly indicated his concurrence with his master's opinion by sticking out his tongue and giving a raspberry, after which he dove back into his cargo pocket.
"Well, there's always the salad bar!" Kim suggested. The look she received in response, however, indicated that this was not an option.
"Oh well. Wait a minute...Ron, you forgot the drinks!" This was totally unlike him.
"Huh? Oh, no wonder, Kim," he said, "Ned always includes two medium sized Slurpsters with our orders. I was so used to it I forgot to tell the new girl."
He started to get up put she put a hand on his arm to stop him.
"Let me," she said, "Maybe I can get you two a decent naco. Besides, I'm a little curious as to why Ned isn't here."
"Yeah, KP, come to think of it, the girl said something about him not showing up this morning and them opening late."
"Hmmm. So not like Ned. I'll be right back, okay?" She flashed him a smile to lift his spirits. And she being the girl of his dreams, it did.
Kim rose and walked to the counter. Unfortunately, there was quite a line there. The harried new girl was taking down orders with her hands while trying to balance a cell phone on her shoulder. Again, this struck Kim as odd. Even when Ned had a day off (which he rarely did) there wasn't this sort of chaos. She toyed with the idea of merely sitting back down and forgetting the whole thing, but her curiosity got the better of her and compelled her to stand until there was a breathing spell in the line.
"Um, excuse me...Lola" she said, reading off the hand-written name on the tag, "but things seem a little hectic today. Where's Ned?"
"Like, I wish I knew!" the poor girl said, "I'm from Lowerton myself. The usual assistant isn't very useful without the manager here and we're terribly short-handed. I'm calling the BN in Upperton right now asking for reinforcements. Can I help you with something?" She didn't ask the question with much enthusiasm.
"No...no, that's all right," Kim assured her, "You're having trouble enough without me adding to it." Kim wasn't sure, but she thought she could hear a very stifled expression of "Yessssssss!!!!" from...what was her name again?...Lola.
"But just out of curiosity, I'd like to know what happened today to keep Ned from opening the place. Do you have any idea?"
"No ma'am, like I said, I'm from the Lowerton BN," she said, "I'm just pulling emergency duty. Sorry."
Kim's curiosity was piqued. Of course, there was the other guy, the assistant. This was his BN, and he would certainly know what had happened to his manager.
"Excuse me...whoever you are," she said to the other, equally harried but slightly more familiar face, "you seem to be working short-handed. What happened to Ned?"
"I don't know, Kim," he said (hey, everyone knew who she was!), "but I'm afraid I don't. I don't know him outside of work, and from what the guy on the earlier shift said when I came in, he hasn't been here all day."
"Hmmm. Well...that's odd...er...whoever you are..."
"Eddie," he told her.
"Uh...okay...Eddie. Well, I hope he's all right."
"I wouldn't know," he told her, then immediately had to deal with yet another unsatisfied customer.
Kim was obviously deep in thought when she went back to her seat.
"Anything wrong, Kimele?" Ron asked her.
"I'm not sure. Ron, what do you know about Ned? Any idea where he lives or anything?"
"No, come to think of it I don't, KP" he told her, his brow now arching, "he doesn't go to Middleton High. He's gotta be a graduate, but I'm not sure what year."
"College student?" she asked.
"I don't know. I've never asked him."
"What about his family?"
"I don't know that either," Ron said, now rubbing his arched brow in a way that would have seemed perfectly natural for "Genius Boy." "Come to think of it, KP, I really only know Ned from Bueno Nacho."
"Now that is unusual," Kim responded, rubbing her own forehead in a way she sometimes did when she was trying to figure out something on a mission. "I'm not liking this. Here's this guy we've seen every day for it seems like forever, but almost always at the same place. And now one day he doesn't show up for work and no one knows what's happened to him...not even his co-workers."
"You don't think something bad has happened to him, do you, Kim?" Ron asked.
"I have no idea," Kim said, "but I'd feel a lot better if I knew he was all right and had just come down with a cold or something."
"Hey, that's it, KP! He's probably just come down with a cold! I mean, if even the Stoppable Fortress of Immunity sometimes fails to hold off the germs, you know it can happen to anybody!"
"Yeah! That's probably right, Ron!" Kim responded, "everybody comes down with a little something once in a while, and I'd say he's due, since I can basically . . . never...remember him...not being here since he started."
Ron and Kim both looked down again as she uttered this realization.
"But, oh well!" she resumed, "I'm sure it's no big! After all, if something really bad had happened I'm sure we'd all have heard about it by now!"
"Yeah. Yeah, you're right, KP, like you always are!" he agreed enthusiastically.
Kim resumed eating her salad in silence. Ron and Rufus had no interest in their over-cheesed, Slurpster-less naco, and planned on tossing it into the garbage can on the way out (Rufus would have to distract Kim though; she'd be majorly tweaked if she caught him wasting food).
- - - - -
"Well, good night, Ron. See you tomorrow!"
"You know it, KP!" he said, relishing the kiss she bestowed upon him at her doorstep. Then after parting it was no time before he was at his own house again. He responded to his parents' and his sister's greetings but not with much thought. He had something on his mind, and once he was in his own loft-room he determined to call Ned at his home and make sure it was nothing serious. He picked up the Tri-Cities telephone book, not knowing that at that same time in another loft-room his bf/gf was doing the same, having come up with the same idea. Unknown to the couple, both phone books opened simultaneously and both phones were activated. However, at the exact same time both books were slammed shut in horror as both teens realized something very strange about the gawky young man they saw almost every day:
They didn't know his last name!
To be continued...