“Drenovis is skuzzy,” said Victoria after lunch out in the hall. “I know you all don’t like him.”
“What’s to like? For him it’s all about power and getting sex. I never forced anyone to do anything or made sex a condition of employment,” said Bill. “I treat you all the same unless you screw me up purposefully. And I have met a couple of nasty waitresses who deserved what they got.” Bill was sitting on his milk case. Victoria was standing opposite him leaning against the wall.
“Let me guess. Marilyn, who was here when I started, and Jackie who was only here a week and a half.”
“Marilyn told you to screw yourself only she used a more choice word. Then she was gone the next day.”
“I fired her personally.”
“Make you happy?”
“Not at all. But it was necessary. She didn’t just tell me that. She told me to stick a plate up my ass.”
“She didn’t like the way the food looked when I told her to take the plate. So she said, ‘You’ll fix that plate or I’ll stick it up your ass.’ I told her take the plate or she’d wear it home.”
“So you fired her.”
“She couldn’t do the job and she was nasty on top of it. She screwed Drenovis then wanted steak every night. I wouldn’t give it to her. She complained to him. He gave me plenty of crap. Robert fixed that one.”
“I don’t know Robert.”
“He’s head honcho. He got me my job. Only he supersedes Drenovis.”
“Long, complicated story. For another time.”
“So who’s next?”
“On your hit list.”
“I don’t have a hit list.”
“On your other hit list.”
“Don’t have one of those either. What about you? Got a boyfriend?”
“Got a girlfriend?”
“Want to be able to eat steak?”
“Yeah, but not for that.”
“Good girl,” said Bill. “Next time you’re working dinner, you get a super or a Boston. Just can’t let anyone see you eating it.”
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. I told you, I don’t run that way. I never came on to Norma or Evelyn or Lorraine. They came on to me. I been kind of working on Lexi, but she started too. You keep putting that candy in front of anyone and sooner or later they take it. I took it.”
“I got some good candy too,” said Victoria.
“You coming on to me?”
“You want me to?”
“Nope. And that’s what I told Lorraine.”
“That’s what she asked.”
“How’d you answer?”
“I told her it wouldn’t mean anything and couldn’t go anywhere, that she should be looking for more.”
“Who are you to be making that decision for her? Maybe she should be telling you not be fooling around. You got a fiancé.”
“She told me. And I’m just a nobody.”
Knowing Bill was looking right at her Victoria, spread her legs, lifted her skirt and scratched high up on her thigh. She kept her eyes on Bill the whole time.
“You gonna start teasing me now?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Okay,” Bill said.
“Okay,” Victoria said.
“And I got work to do.” Bill stood up.
Victoria stood up too. “Me too,” she said. “I’m working tonight so I’ll see you later.”
“How you like your steak?”
“Good choice. Me too.”
“Which one’s a better steak?”
“If it was me, I’d eat the super. It’s the same meat from the same top butt, just cut differently. The super is thicker.”
“I’ll save my appetite.”
“That all you got an appetite for?”
“You coming on to me now?”
“Nope,” said Bill. “Not at all.”
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Generally the waitresses were not allowed to have pie. They could have jello, rice pudding, or chocolate pudding, or they could have leftover dessert specials if there were any. Same thing for dinners. They could have hamburger, chopped steak or the fried fish, or they could eat the special if there was one. They could not eat fried shrimp, steak, prime rib or the roast beef at lunch. The rules were strictly enforced. This meant that food was a commodity. If a waitress wanted a steak, she had to give up something for it, do something for it. Some waitresses did and some waitresses didn’t. Some cooks were really demanding. Some weren’t. Drenovis, the manager, was a pig.
Bill had given Victoria the pie as a lark, because it was late and they were alone, because it was slow and she hadn’t made any money, because overall, of the waitresses, she was pretty regular, much like Lorraine. Being regular meant she was just a working girl interested in doing her job and going home. She was friendly but not overly so. She was soft-spoken and nice, unassuming, a real person. Bill appreciated that. He’d given her the pie because she’d never asked for anything special, ever. She’d never asked for anything.
“You know why you aren’t allowed to eat pie?” he asked her the next day when she’d gotten a piece to serve to a customer.
“You see what you got in your hand there? That’s the boss’ profit on a whole pie. If you eat the profit, there’s no point in selling the pie.”
“That’s the profit margin, one piece per pie.”
“This is a tough business,” Bill said.
Victoria looked at Bill as a person, for maybe the first time, just as Bill looked at her. Their eyes met momentarily.
“I got to go,” she said. “Maybe we can, you know, talk later.”
“Sure,” Bill said. He was tired and cranky and just plain lethargic. He’d gotten home late, but happily satisfied. Then it was quick turnaround, up at five and in at six.
Victoria had back-to-back shifts. Bill was surprised to see her in for the lunch since she’d closed the night before, and he didn’t hesitate to ask her when they had a little free time just before the meal started.
“How come you got stuck with closing and opening?” They stood by the pantry, but Bill led her out the side door into the side dining room.
“Cause I’m not in favor,” said Victoria. “I shouldn’t even be talking to you out here like this. The walls have eyes and ears and this place is a sewer. I know everything you’re doing, and I only know it from listening, from overhearing the gossip.”
“What do you know?” Bill asked.
“Please! Let me see, Bea, Mary, Evelyn, Norma, Lexi soon as you can now that she had trouble with Drenovis. You do acid, smoke pot in the deep freeze, have sex in the party room, the bathroom, and anywhere else you damn well please. Lorraine is next up. I heard you and her are real chummy now.”
“Pretty good report,” said Bill.
“Want more? I can tell you about Drenovis, the owner and Robert, whoever he is cause I never met him, Henry Lee and Marie, and I heard something in the wind about Alfreda coming on to you. I don’t know her either. I miss anything?”
“That’s pretty damn good.”
“I get the back-to-back shifts and the crappy ones cause I said no to Drenovis. Period.”
“Well,” said Bill, “then I’m really glad I gave you the pie.”
“I told you. No secrets in this place.” Victoria smiled at Bill and tapped his arm playfully. “You have fun with Lorraine last night?”
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Bill made a mental note of Jim’s words. Twice now Jim had insinuated that Bill thought he was all that, better than everyone else. Twice now Jim’s tone sounded somewhat ominous.
Bill didn’t think he was anything special. Bill didn’t think he was better than anyone else. Drinking beer was just one of the perks of his position and it didn’t mean anything. If anything, he thought he was less than, less than because he was still on the rebound from having been beaten down by the authorities, almost getting kicked out of the University and doing time in the workhouse. That had changed the course of his life. It had switched the track he was on, once again.
One of the last things he did each night was put the leftovers in the walk-in box. The line sparkled now. The grills and charcoal grills were brushed, the catch-pans emptied and cleaned. One fryer was shut down. All the stoves in the back where Mary did the prep work and Grandma fried her chicken were shut down too.
Tired, more like just beat, Bill untied his apron and slung it over his shoulder. He walked over to the coffee urn and drew himself a mug of Java. He lightened it with cream from the pantry reach-in where the desserts and salad dressings were kept. He noted Marie had covered everything with film, as it was supposed to be, noted they needed to make rice pudding in the morning, noted Marie had cleaned the box as she was supposed to. He sipped his coffee, enjoying the warmth of it in him and the warmth of the mug in his hands, then went over to the dishwasher station.
The dish machine was shut down and the dishwashers were already downstairs changing into civvies. He checked the pot washer sink to see that all the pots were done. Then he went over to the machine, checked it was properly shut down, all the racks were cleared and the dishes put away. As always, there were the few remainders. They sat in the one rack kept each night just for them. He stood by this rack, finished his coffee, put the mug into the rack.
Next was to wait for Tommy. Any minute now Tommy would come into the kitchen and tell him it was a wrap, that there’d be no more customers. Then he and Marie could go on downstairs and change into their street clothes.
Victoria came in instead. She walked all the way into the kitchen and told Bill Tommy said to close it up. Then she stood there and took off her apron. “Think I could have a piece of pie?” she asked.
“What kind you want?”
Bill went over and served up a piece of blueberry pie. He took two clean forks from the silverware that was washed and waiting to be used in the morning and handed one to Victoria. Before he gave her the pie, he took a small piece of it from the tip of the triangle and ate it.
“Eat a forkful now,” he said. “Then you can take it out there and if Tommy says anything, you tell him it was mine, that I decided I didn’t want any more so I gave it to you.”
“Thanks,” Victoria said. She smiled at Bill, ate a piece of the pie and went out with the rest into the dining room.
Bill told Marie if she was finished she could go on and change and go home. Then he went back on the line. He shut down the one fryer he’d left on in case they got orders, shut down the Garland and the half of the charcoal grill he’d left on. He double checked everything on the line and in the back where Mary worked. Then he went downstairs to change.
Bill shut down the exhaust fans, the last thing he did before he went out front to say good night to Tommy. Tommy okayed him to leave and so he stepped out the front door and into the chilly November night. On the way to his car, another car pulled up by him and rolled along side him.
“Hey big boy, wanna get warmed up?” Evelyn asked.
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Bill started cleaning up. Tonight was a strain-the-grease night, so his cleanup time was considerably lessened. He was breaking down the steam table when Lorraine came back from the bar.
“I don’t have much time now. I have to do the clean up.”
“Well here.” Lorraine led him back out to the hall where she lifted her blouse. “I took off my bra downstairs,” she said as he looked at her. She took his hand and guided his fingers over the stretch marks around each one. When she’d finished that, she brought his hand up for him to feel the fullness of her breasts. She helped him fondle her. “You like?”
Bill took his hand away, leaned in and covered one breast with his mouth. He suckled for a moment then stepped back to look at her. “I like.”
“Goddammit,” she said. She let her blouse down and after making sure she was covered, she drew him to her and kissed him. As she did this, she took his hand up under her skirt, all the way up under her skirt. “See what you’ve done to me?”
Bill laughed a playful laugh. His fingers moved where they could explore all of her. He felt her pressing on him.
“I took off my panties too. I wanted you to do this.”
“Tomorrow I’ll kiss every stretch mark you have. Everywhere. I’ll kiss anywhere you want me to. And then you can whisper in my ear exactly what you want and how you want it, so your first time back on the bicycle, if that’s what it is, is just right for you.”
“It is my first time back. When I get home, tonight, I’m taking a long, hot bath. I’m gonna practice on myself. I haven’t done that in two years too.”
“Well here.” Bill took her hand inside his pants and gave her a nice feel of him “So you know what you’re getting.”
“Thanks.” Lorraine helped herself for a moment then withdrew. Then they simply faced each other in the hall and laughed.
“I was embarrassed because I’m so turned on,” she said. “Apparently you are too.”
“Apparently I am. Only I’m not embarrassed. You did that to me and you should feel good about it.”
Lorraine straightened herself up and took a moment to regain her composure. “I’ll try to let myself.”
“Good. Now go on home and let me finish up here.”
“And tomorrow and tomorrow,” said Bill. He watched her go out the back door then stepped into the kitchen where he went to work immediately, first finishing breaking down the steam table and then getting the soapy water and scrubbing brush to wash down all the stainless steel.
About eleven-thirty, Victoria, the closing waitress, came in and ordered a hamburger for her dinner. Victoria was just another waitress, one Bill did not have any history with. She had been there when Bill started, was privy to all the goings-on and kept herself mostly aloof. She had not been one of Drenovis’ back-seat-in-his-Riviera conquests. She was a seasoned waitress who could handle even the busiest nights with no muss or fuss. That was how she’d gotten the job. Of course she wanted the best shifts, but she hadn’t done anything untoward to skirt the seniority line.
Bill cleaned as he cooked her food. He asked her to bring him another beer before he set up her burger, and he contented himself with systematically finishing up everything he had to do, from scrubbing to scraping to emptying the grease drawers and straining the fryers. Then he film-wrapped the leftovers, leaving the film open in one corner of each storage container so the food could cool.
“Sure could use a beer,” Jim said again when Bill was leaning against the counter sipping his beer.
“Wish I could. If I could I would,” said Bill.
“Think you’re goddamn something,” said Jim.
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The Ghost Writer Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide is now available on Amazon.
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Rose Friedlander tells her story, a story of murder and depravity, a story about what goes on behind closed doors in the worlds to which we are generally not privy.
Money and privilege have allowed the people in Rose’s life to create their own rules. Worth nearly a hundred million dollars herself, Rose believes her father has killed her twin sisters and her mother. The man she marries has unusual proclivities, a gross understatement. Rose is about to detail how even the most sacred of sacred can be bought and how the weakest and most vulnerable of us are never truly safe.
Rose’s story will open your eyes, hurt your heart and restore your resolve.