What follows below the asterisks is a tiny excerpt from the novella I’ve just completed. The novella is called I See My Light Come Shining. I thought I’d open a new section here for true stories from my kitchen days and since I’d written this not too long ago I’m putting it here as the first story. The excerpt is to show how it plays off in fiction.
The actual story goes like this. I did sear off the skin of the five fingertips of my right hand my first day in the kitchens as a cook. Henry Lee had asked me to get him a sizzling platter since we served all rare steaks on sizzlers. It was about 11:30 AM. We’d just opened for lunch and only had a few customers and a few orders working. I didn’t know what was happening, that’s how lost I was. There was so much to learn, so much to keep track of. I never thought that the second side of the charcoal grill was turned on and I never imagined that the top plate of the stack of sizzling plates would be hot. It all happened so fast and my head was already spinning. I reached for the plate and the sizzle was my own skin. Mary came running when Henry Lee called out and Robert did just amble over, grab my wrist and put my hand right back over the open fire. He held it there and apparently knew how long to keep it there, and besides telling me to watch what I was touching, he told me then and repeatedly to check out my mind. Mary said something to Robert which I didn’t hear but for which Robert’s response was something about the boy, me, not being afraid of the fire and that was why he was doing it that way.
For many years, I had just about no feeling in those fingertips. Over the course of time, some feeling came back, but to this day I can hold unusually hot things in that hand. Being able to handle hot things was an asset through my kitchen career.
That first day in the kitchen in State Steakhouse East, way back so long ago, Henry Lee asked Murph to reach for a sizzling platter. The line in State West was an open hearth where the customers could see the cooks work, but in the east it was inside the kitchen, a Garland, then an open double charcoal grill, then another Garland and two French fryers. Henry Lee ran the broiler at lunch. Murph didn’t know both sides of the charcoal grill were turned on and when he reached for the sizzler, he seared the skin right off the five fingertips of his right hand.
“Oh, shit,” Henry Lee said.
“What?” Mary said. She came around from the preparation part of the kitchen on the other side of the line and saw Henry Lee holding out Murph’s hand. Murph was almost in shock.
Oh, shit,” Mary said.
Robert was there that day since Murph was his boy and this was his first day in the kitchen. Nonchalant as always, he wandered up from changing into a uniform, his apron draped over his shoulder, his shoes flopping on his feet because his heels were out.
“Robert,” Mary called.
Bee had come over from the salad station located passed the fryers and perpendicular to the line like the top of a sideways capital T. She was looking at it all. “Ain’t feeling no pussy with that hand for awhile,” Bee said.
Like nothing, Robert moseyed up. He surveyed the scene and ever-so-gently took Murph’s arm by the wrist and extended it back over the charcoal grill. Murph tried to pull away but Robert clamped down on the wrist and held him there. In a moment’s time, not uttering a word, he had cauterized the burns and seized control of the situation.
“Next time be mindful of what you touch,” he said.
Copyright 2014© Peter Weiss All rights reserved.