Mom, Inc.

The Truck Guy

And Marlena’s two cents

By Renee Phile

She dragged the mop over the sticky floor while I stood behind the register in my Chick-fil-A uniform — chicken breading smeared on my black pants. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school, working on nights and weekends to earn money to pay for my car insurance, gas, clothes, makeup, caramel lattes, you know, teenage girl essentials. 

Her bleached blonde hair, coarse as a scouring pad, was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her face was tanned but weathered. A spray bottle hung from her left pocket. As she mopped she sprayed the tables and wiped them with a dirty towel. 

After my last customer walked away with his chargrilled sandwich, no pickle, I greeted her from behind the counter. “Hi, Marlena!”

“Hi, honey!” She beamed. 

“How are you?”

“I’ll be great once the truck guy gets here. It’s Thursday.” 

“Our truck guy?” 

“Yes, girl. Have you seen him?” 

I laughed. The truck guy was a hit among the single (and not single) women up and down the food court. He appeared every Thursday, armed with chicken breasts, waffle fries, cheesecake and other Chick-fil-A essentials. One of our employees would help him unload the truck and put everything into our freezer. Sometimes it was me. His green eyes sparkled every time he said, “Here, let me help you with that box.” 

“Marlena, I thought you had a husband.”

“Wes? Yeah. But he ain’t worth much. Doesn’t hurt to look, does it, honey?” She winked. 

I laughed and thought of my boyfriend and how awful things were. I was 17, he was 18, and had just gone away to college. It was a four-hour drive that might as well have been forever. 

“Can I get a No. 1 with Coke and extra Polynesian sauce?” said the red-haired woman. A cross between a rat and dog poked its head out of her purse. “And an extra fry for Scrappy,” she said. Scrappy. Yes, he was. 

I punched her order into the register. Marlena was straightening chairs in the lobby, hanging around so she wouldn’t miss the truck guy. 

The customer and her rat dog walked off. “Marlena,” I said, “my boyfriend just moved away. Should I break up with him?” 

She frowned, her eyes squinted a little. 

“Honey, do you love him?” 

“I don’t know. We’ve been together since I was 14.” A millennium in teenage years. 

“If you don’t even know if you love him, and you’ve been together that long, I’d get rid of him. That’s what I did to my first husband. My second and third one, too.” 

“First, second and third? Marlena, how many times have you been married?” 

She picked a crumb off the table, dropped it on the floor and swept it up. “Well . . . ”

“How many?” 

“Nine.” When the word escaped from her mouth, she looked like she wanted to stick it right back in there. 

“Are you kidding me? You don’t look that old!” 

“I’m telling you, Honey, when I get tired of them, I toss them. Life’s too short.” 

Right then the truck guy walked up to the counter with his paperwork, and Marlena’s eyes lit up while she patted her hair down.

“There he is!” she mouthed to me. I smiled and knew right then and there that all advice wasn’t created equal.  PS

Renee Phile loves being a teacher, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

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