El Mercado
(Approx. 1,300 words)

Edward loved burritos. That's a big part of the reason he worked at El Mercado, a fast food burrito place near his house; so he could eat burritos a lot. Edward was allotted one free burrito during his shift at El Mercado, which was to be eaten only during the thirty minute paid break required by the state of Illinois for every eight hours of work.

It's not like Edward only ate one kind of burrito. During his employment at El Mercado, he tried out every combination of every burrito made. His favorite burrito is the steak burrito with refried beans, Mexican rice and guacamole. The guacamole is $1.25 extra, but Edward swears it is worth every penny.

Edward has been working at El Mercado for a long time.

Edward's friend Jim used to stop by El Mercado all the time while Edward was working. Edward knew Jim from college. They had both attended a university in Chicago, and had been in some of the same classes. Jim works for a public relations firm whose offices are located down the street from El Mercado. When Jim would go into El Mercado, he and Edward would chat nonchalantly and Edward would make Jim a burrito. One day, Jim had his lunch later than usual and came into the shop and was surprised to find Edward on his break. Edward was eating a grilled vegetable burrito, which had vegetarian black beans, sour cream and Monterey jack cheese. He was reading the Chicago Sun-Times. The shop was pretty much empty, except for Edward's co-workers, who were not on break.

Jim walked past Edward without him looking up from his newspaper or his burrito to notice him. Jim ordered a grilled chicken burrito with black beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and extra-hot salsa. He ordered a coca-cola to drink. He approached Edward, who was sitting alone at a round wooden table surrounded by three uncomfortable industrial-strength steel chairs.

"Hey, Edward," Jim said, "Do you mind if I join you?"

Edward looked up at Jim. "Not at all, Jim," he replied, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin. "Take a seat."

Jim sat down. "What do you have there?" Edward asked.

"It's a grilled chicken burrito."

"What kind of beans did you get on that burrito?"

"On this burrito? I got black beans on this burrito."

"Really? When I get a chicken burrito, I usually get refried beans, as I find that their flavor better blends with the chicken."

"What kind of burrito do you have, Edward?"

"I have a grilled vegetable burrito. I like black beans on this burrito, because I feel that black beans make a more substantial burrito filling than their refried sisters; hence the chicken burrito with the refried beans rather than the more substantial black beans. The last thing you want to do with burritos is overdo it."

"You're tellin' me. Sometimes burritos give me gas."

"It's easy to eat a burrito too fast. You swallow a lot of air when you eat a burrito too fast."

"So it's the air creating the gas? Not the burrito?

"It's not the burrito, my friend."

"It's not the burrito?"

"It's not the burrito."

They sat in silence for a while, munching on their burritos and sipping their pop. Then Jim asked Edward a question he wasn't expecting.

"Edward, what did you do after college?"

"Well, I came and started working here."

Jim sipped his pop. "No offense, Edward, but why?"

"What do you mean, why?"

"Well, you were a P.R. major like me."


"If you don't mind me asking, why are you working here rather than a P.R. firm? I mean, I know the market is rough, but, man, you must be really desperate to be working here."

Edward lowered his eyes a moment, and seemed to be thinking about Jim's description of the situation. "Well, Jim, to be honest with you, after I got out of college, I was kind of tired of P.R."

"That makes sense," said Jim. They paused again. Edward took another bite out of his burrito and took a sip of his pop and looked out the window at the cars passing by the store. "But," said Jim, which cued Edward's head to whirl around and look at Jim, "you've been working here for more than a year now, haven't you? I mean, I've been working for Johnson for eighteen months now, and it seems like you're here every time I come in for lunch."

"Yeah, I work the day shift; 11-7. They bring in some college kids for the night shift."

"Are you still tired of P.R.?"

"No, I like P.R. I like P.R. a lot. I just like making burritos more."

"So you're telling me that making burritos is your life's passion, with public relations a close second?"


Jim didn't believe him. "If you're having trouble making contacts, I can put in a word for you with Johnson."

Edward looked at Jim and smiled a smile that Jim somehow knew was totally genuine.

"That's very nice of you, Jim," Edward said. "But I'm not going to work in P.R."

"Oh?" said Jim. "What are you thinking about doing? Advertising? Getting an MBA?"

"I think I'm going to make burritos," said Edward.

Jim put down the hot foil wrapper and took a thoughtful sip of coke. He looked at Edward who was staring out the window at the cars.

"I hope you don't think I'm being too forward, Edward," Jim said. "But you have a degree in public relations from a good university. You could make a lot more money if you worked at a P.R. firm."
Edward nodded slowly. "Yeah, that's true. But, really, what I want to do is to make burritos."


"I really like burritos."



Edward took the last bite of his burrito, crumpled up the foil into a ball and tossed it in the trash. He took the wax paper sheet that lined the basket out and tossed it into the trash. He put the red plastic basket on top of the waste receptacle, which politely said "Thank You" on its wooden mouth.

"Edward. Why do you like burritos so much?"

"I don't know. They're just really good."

"Don't you ever get tired of them?"

Edward just shook his head. "There are so many different ways you can make a burrito," he said sincerely. "You just can't get tired of them."

"What's the matter with you, Edward?" Jim said. Edward looked at Jim quizzically. He didn't understand why Jim was so frustrated. "Edward, why are you throwing your education away?"
"I'm not throwing it away," Edward said.

"How can you say that? You don't need a college education to make burritos for a living."
Edward paused and seemed to think about it for a moment. "No," he said. "I don't suppose you do."

"Come on, Edward. You're a smart guy. Let me put in a word for you with Johnson. I don't know if I can get you a job, but it would be something. Maybe it would help get you into graduate school or"
"Thanks all the same, Jim," Edward said, "but like I said before, all I really want to do is make burritos."

Jim took the last bite of his burrito and put the foil in the same waste receptacle that Edward had put his. Edward looked at his watch and said, "I'd better get back to work. Good to see you, Jim. Stop by again soon." He stood up and turned to walk way, but Jim stopped him.

"Edward," said Jim. "Just consider this. Only half of the population goes to college. Do you know how many people would kill to have an education like yours? Hell, do you know how many people who went to college would kill to have a degree from the place we got ours?"

Edward smiled the same genuine smile as before. "Maybe those people should be making burritos," he said.