jailhouse-door-2Right there in Bailey’s office, the big, black teddy bear of a man took Bill in his arms and hugged him. He hugged him tightly a second and third time then said out loud, “Huh glory.”

“You two know each other?” Bailey asked.

“Yes,” the man said. “We’ve met.”

“Well then,” Bailey said, “I’ve got work to do. Good luck, Bill.”

Robert put his arm around Bill and led him out of the office. In the car Bill would learn his name and they would formally introduce themselves to each other. Robert was the broiler cook at Suburban Steakhouse West, which was where they were headed. He was busted for running numbers and was sentenced to a month in the workhouse. The owner, Jim Bowman, had gotten him out early, petitioning the court that he was necessary to the business. In its infinite wisdom, the court had granted the petition and converted the jail time to a fine and probation. Bowman had paid the fine and all was right with the world. Like Bill, Robert had been assigned to Bailey for his year’s probation.

“Lord have mercy,” Robert said as he drove.

Bill filled Robert in on all the details of his case, about his background and his education. Robert assured him it was just a bus boy job and he didn’t need his education for it. He also assured Bill that as soon as he could he would get him into the kitchen so he could keep him under wing.

Bill sat in the front seat of Robert’s station wagon and thanked God. This was nothing less than a gift directly from God. God is good, he thought. Despite all the horribleness of the past seven months, from his arrest through his jail time and inclusive of the lack of money, God had continually shown Himself. God has always been there, Bill thought.

Robert pulled into the entrance and drove around back where he parked in a spot marked off for employees. He and Bill walked up to the back door, the kitchen door, where Robert stepped in first. As soon as they were both inside, Robert put put his arm around Bill and called out. “Listen here y’all, see this boy, he’s mine. Everyone takes care of him.” He let Bill go and led him around introducing him to the kitchen staff.

Bill sat around while Robert changed into kitchen whites and then went around seeing everything Robert chose to show him. Bill noted that Robert’s feet hung out of his shoes at the heels and Robert shuffled along.

Bill got the complete tour of the prep kitchen, the line, which was an open hearth that faced out to the dining room, and the dishwasher area. There were two entrances to the hearth, one from the prep kitchen and one at the end of it past the broiler. There, past the broiler, were two half doors through which, Bill would learn, Robert would poke his head every so often to see the dishwashers were keeping up. The dish machine and pot washer sink were to the left as he poked out. The double doors to the dining room were to his right. Waitresses and bus boys brought trays of dirty dishes through those doors but all food was picked up from the open hearth.

Bill waited around a lot that first day. He didn’t do much work until the dinner service, when he was put into the dining room to bus tables. A college graduate bus boy, he thought. Big whoop.

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