Brandon walked into the kitchen of the pizza place where he worked, tying his apron behind him. He looked around and smiled. He had only been gone on vacation for two weeks but it felt like two years. The swinging doors burst open and Brandon jumped as his normally calm, collected boss burst into the kitchen behind him.
“Quick! Hide these!” Jonny shoved a thick stack of papers wrapped in plastic into Brandon’s arms, a crazed look on his face.
“Hey! You can’t go back there!” Duncan’s voice bled into the kitchen as the doors burst open again.
“Where are they?” A blonde man that Brandon had never seen before stormed into the kitchen.
“Get out of my kitchen!” Jonny ordered as he moved to block the newcomer.
“Not until you give me back my menus!”
Brandon glanced down at the stack of papers he was holding and realized they were menus, the words Pat’s Stack Shack blazoned across the top over a towering stack of pancakes. The letters had been designed to look like drippy maple syrup.
“Oh my god Jonny!” Brent said following the commotion into the kitchen. “You stole his menus?”
Jonny glared at Brent. “No,” he said haughtily.
“Then what are those?” the blonde, presumably the Pat from the menu’s name, sneered.
Jonny half turned and gave Brandon a betrayed look when he saw that he was still holding the menus. Brandon blushed and made a half-hearted attempt to move the menus out of Pat’s line of sight.
“I found them outside,” Jonny said crossing his arms defiantly.
“On my steps! The delivery service had just dropped them off!” Pat argued.
“Well maybe you should—”
“Brandon, give Pat the menus,” Brent interrupted. “Jonny, apologize.”
“But—!” Jonny scowled at Pat. “Sorry,” he muttered stepping aside.
“Thanks,” Pat said smugly, taking the menus from Brandon. He left the kitchen and Brent rolled his eyes, grabbing Jonny’s shoulder to stop him from following.
“Why are you taking his side?” Jonny demanded.
“Uh, because you did steal his menus? Don’t you think this little war of yours has gone far enough?”
“How can you be at war with a pancake place?” Brandon asked, confused. “Pancakes are nothing like pizza. And you love pancakes,” he added. He vaguely remembered Jonny being excited when they’d found out what the new business going in across the street was.
“Don’t get him started kid,” Brent said wincing.
“Yeah, pancakes, with normal stuff like maple syrup,” Jonny said. “Not those “artisan” monstrosities he’s inflicting on the general public!”
“Lemon with powdered sugar,” Brent elaborated.
“But those sound good. Sorry.” Brandon flinched under Jonny’s furious glare.
“Hey,” Duncan said popping his head in through the swinging doors. “Not to interrupt but the customers are starting to complain about the lack of service…”
“Shit! Sorry Duncs,” Brent apologized. “Welcome back Saader,” he called over his shoulder as he followed Duncan onto the floor.
“I guess we’d better get some pizzas in the oven,” Brandon prompted.
Jonny jumped guiltily. “Yeah,” he agreed grabbing an apron and the two of them got to work.
“How can pizza be “vintage”?” Pat scoffed stalking back into his restaurant and dropping his new menus onto the counter. “What the hell does that even mean?” He looked around at the empty tables and fought down a surge of panic. Yeah it was after noon, not a lot of people thought of pancakes when they thought of lunch, but he hadn’t been as busy as he’d hoped in the week and a half since he’d opened the doors. He had put everything he had into this place, if it failed….He took a deep breath and tried to think positively. His official grand opening was tomorrow, and with the amount of advertising he had thrown into that, things were bound to improve.
He ripped the plastic off of his menus and smiled. Even with his insane neighbour and the uncertainty of starting a new business this was way better than working at his dad’s used car dealership.
Jonny wasn’t really sure how the feud had started between him and Patrick Kane but he knew that he wasn’t entirely blameless in the matter. The insanity of it had been driven home to him yesterday afternoon when, for the first time in his life, he hadn’t put his customers first. His business was well established and had a good reputation but that wouldn’t carry him for long if he had many more days like yesterday.
He parked in his usual spot and then walked across the street to Pat’s Stack Shack. He glanced at his watch. It was five thirty and Pat’s opened at five so he pushed the door open and walked inside. He looked around in surprise. The place was set up for the grand opening but there wasn’t a soul in the place.
He hesitated and walked to the doors leading to the kitchen. He could hear someone talking inside and peered through the door to see Pat talking on the phone, his back to the door.
“But there must be—yeah. Yeah. Thanks Sharpy.” The call ended and Pat dropped his phone onto the counter, leaning forward.
“Um hi,” Jonny said awkwardly wondering if he shouldn’t have just left. He was almost certainly the last person Pat was going to want to talk to.
Pat jumped and spun around, rubbing a hand quickly across his face. “What do you want?” He tilted his head up defiantly, despite the tears still glistening in his blue eyes.
“What happened? I thought today was your grand opening?”
Pat laughed and slumped back against the counter. “The advertisements printed the wrong address but it doesn’t matter anyway because my regular help is sick and the help I hired for today didn’t show.”
“I’m sorry,” Jonny said thinking of the first day he had opened the pizzeria and what a nightmare that had been. He was still surprised he had managed to pull through; he didn’t think he would have if Brent and Duncan hadn’t stepped up and helped him out.
“Yeah well,” Pat shrugged and gestured at his phone. “That was my business advisor. We’re going to reschedule the grand opening and he’s going to make the trip here to help me for a few days…” He shook himself like he had just remembered who he was talking to. “Anyway it’s no big deal. Now get out of my kitchen.” He forced a smile and made a shooing motion with his hands.
Jonny left Pat’s and walked slowly across the street. It was a shame that he had to reschedule the opening; it looked like he’d gone to a lot of trouble and expense with the decorations. He hoped Pat had left himself some room in his budget to do it over.
He marched into his own kitchen, a plan forming in his head. “Does anyone here know how to make pancakes?” he demanded, startling his morning crew who had been there since four getting the dough ready for the day.
“Um it’s pancakes,” Vinnie said. “Who can’t make them?”
“Good. Then get across the street and help Pat with whatever he needs. Don’t take no for an answer.” He turned to his next target. “Does your cousin still work at the radio station Corey? Think he could get us some last minute ad time?”
“How much?” Corey asked not batting an eye.
Jonny grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down what he wanted the add to say. “As much as he can give us, starting as soon as possible.” He passed Corey the note. “Ryan go to my office and print out as many flyers as you think you and Corey can hand out in a day. Grand opening, Pat’s Stack Shack, make it look nice. And make sure you get the address right!” he called after Ryan.
Jonny looked around his now empty kitchen and smiled. He had some calls to make and then it looked like he’d be finishing some pizza dough.
Pat didn’t have the heart to start taking down the decorations and he kept the griddles hot in the kitchen just in case he had people show up. He was pouring himself a cup of coffee when he heard the door open. He turned around to see a guy dressed like a baker, all in white, walk in.
“Good morning,” Pat said brightly. “What can I get you?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” the guys said grinning. He held out his hand. “I’m Vinnie; Jonny said you needed some help.”
“Uh,” Pat stared at him, trying to figure out if this was some elaborate trick.
“Come on man,” Vinnie urged. “If I know Jonny we’ve got about an hour to get things ready before we’re swamped.”
“Uh,” Pat repeated as Vinnie pushed past him into the kitchen. Pat followed. “What exactly is your boss expecting to happen?” Vinnie was pulling fruit out of the fridge.
“Are you grand opening or not?” Vinnie asked impatiently. “Cause if you are people are going to expect food.”
“Right.” Pat guessed he might as well go along with this. It wasn’t like it was going to make his day any worse. “Let’s get to work then.”
He’d been asleep when Jonny had called him and had only half understood what Jonny was calling him at quarter to six for. He got the important part though: get to the pizzeria as soon as possible. He threw on some clothes, skipped his shower and headed straight for Jonny’s, half expecting to find that it had burnt down or something equally horrible.
When he got there a little before seven, he was relieved to find the place still standing and headed inside, glancing across the street at the busy sidewalk in front of Pat’s Stack Shack.
“Hey Jonny!” he called heading into the kitchen and not seeing anyone. They didn’t open for another three hours but the kitchen still should have been busy with prep work. He hoped nothing had happened to the morning crew. “What’s—?”
“Here take these over to Pat’s,” Jonny said coming into the kitchen coming out of the storeroom and pressing a box into Brandon’s arms.
Brandon glanced at the label on the box. It was a full case of napkins with Jonny’s logo on them. “Jonny…” he hoped this wasn’t some attempt to sabotage Pat’s grand opening.
“He’s running short on napkins,” Jonny said rolling his eyes. “Take these too.” He tossed a box full of disposable glasses on top of the napkin box.
“Um, right.” Brandon headed for the door.
“And see if he needs another hand while you’re over there!” Jonny shouted after him.
Brandon made his way across the street, skirting around the crowd and heading to the back door since there was no way he was getting through the front door, and pushed his way into the kitchen, thankful that the door wasn’t latched.
“What’s going on Vinnie?” Brandon asked surprised to find his co-worker there, flipping pancakes with practiced ease.
Vinnie glanced over at him. “Hey Duncs!” he shouted out the door. “Napkins are here!” He grinned at Brandon. “Pat ran into some staffing shortages this morning so we’re helping out.”
“Thanks Saader,” Duncan said hurrying into the kitchen, taking the boxes from Brandon and hurrying back out of the kitchen.
“You sticking around? Want to plate?”
Brandon still wasn’t sure what was going on but he grabbed an apron, washed his hands and pulled on a pair of clear latex gloves before loading plates according to the orders in front of him. Barely looking up as Brent and Duncan rushed in with new orders and took the filled ones to the floor. At some point Pat had appeared in the kitchen to help, giving quick pointers on a few of the fancier items on the menu.
“Take a break Saader.”
Brandon jumped at Jonny’s voice behind him and a quick glance at his watch surprised him, he’d already been here for four hours. Jonny was already wearing an apron and Brandon wondered how long he’d been there. “Yeah, thanks,” he said grabbing a bottle of water and headed towards the back door. He glanced over his shoulder and things suddenly made sense when he saw how well they worked together, Pat on Jonny’s right. He wondered if the two of them had realized that yet. He grinned and headed outside.
Pat didn’t think he had ever been so tired by the time they closed the doors at seven that night.
“Thank you guys all so much for all your help today,” he said genuinely grateful. He knew he wouldn’t have been able to do this without them. “I’m just—” his voice caught and he broke off.
“You’re not going to get all mushy on us are you?” Corey asked, smiling a little to show he was joking. He and Ryan had shown up shortly after noon having run out of flyers.
Pat laughed. “No,” he promised. “Just, thank you.” It felt inadequate but he hoped they understood how much he meant it.
“Go home guys,” Jonny said from where he was leaning against the counter behind Pat. “After the work you put in today you deserve the rest of the night off.”
“Hey,” Pat said as Jonny moved to follow his employees out.
Jonny stopped and looked at Pat curiously.
“So um,” Pat licked his lips and shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Why did you help me?”
Jonny shrugged, looking down. “We were just starting to get a good rivalry going, couldn’t have you shutting down before we had a chance to see where it would go.”
Pat stared at him and then laughed. “Does that mean you’re willing to give the lemon pancakes a second chance?” he teased.
Jonny made a face. “No. Though, if you’re not doing anything, maybe you’d join me for beer and pizza?”
“Yeah, I’d like that. What kind of pizza?” he asked as they headed out the door.
“Ugh now that is a crime against food. Please tell me you’re kidding?”
The door swung shut behind them.