Bill sat at the kitchen help’s table in the middle of the kitchen. He felt like a high school kid in detention. He was sure he was getting fired. He was glad he spoke up because it was the right thing to do, but he was totally demoralized since he needed the job.
About twenty minutes later, Drenovis, the manager, came in with the waitress. The waitress kissed Bill right on his lips and thanked him for doing what she couldn’t. “That was so sweet,” she said. Bill smiled shyly.
Drenovis started by dressing Bill down. He yelled, he cursed, he explained that it cost him dinner, dinner next time for the customer and his party and the cleaning bill for the suit. He was in the process of firing Bill when Robert came in from the open hearth.
Robert spoke quietly, softly. “Mind your p’s and q’s,” he told Drenovis. “He’s my boy. You’ll pay him for the day and tomorrow he’ll work in the kitchen.”
“He’s getting fired,” Drenovis said.
“No,” Robert said. “He’s not. Now take your big butt out of the kitchen and don’t bring it back in.”
Drenovis turned red in the face. He did an about face and walked out of the kitchen. Bill did not understand why, but he would learn in due time.
“They all told me what happened,” Robert said to Bill. “No matter what, the customer is always right. That’s lesson number one. But you did right standing up for the waitress.”
“What’s going to happen?”
“Nothing. Drenovis is a pussy. He won’t do nothing. He’ll bitch and moan and he’ll go to the owner. Don’t you worry your mind about it. I got your back.”
Robert went out to the hearth and back to work. Bill sat. Bill sat some more. Bill sat even more. While he sat Alfreda came in from the line and sat with him a moment. Alfreda was the pantry lady and backup prep cook. She was also married to Henry Lee, the butcher for both Suburban Steakhouses, Suburban West and Suburban East. She asked why he was Robert’s boy. Bill said to ask him. She accepted that answer. Bill noted she seemed to be looking at him as if he were a lollipop. He knew it was a crazy thought, but he couldn’t shake it. She smiled sweetly at him before going back out to the open hearth.
At about ten o’clock, Robert brought him a steak with a baked potato. Bill sat eating when the waitress came in with a beer for him. She leaned over him, offering him a full view of her bosom.
“Anything you want hon, let me know. Anything,” she said with a wide smile and a little shimmy.
Drenovis came back in the kitchen while Bill was still eating. He saw him with the steak and was about to throw a fit, but Robert came out from the line.
“You give him the steak?” Drenovis asked.
“Double cut,” Robert said with a big grin. “What’s it to you?”
“Goddamn it,” Drenovis said.
“I told you, leave the boy alone. You got a problem you see Mr. Bowman.”
Dismissing Drenovis, Robert asked Bill if he had enough to eat. Bill shook his head yes.
At closing, after the line and kitchen were cleaned and shut down, Drenovis came into the kitchen. He paid all the dishwashers in cash. He was about to leave the kitchen when Robert stopped him. “Pay the boy,” he said.
Bill boarded the Suburban van with ten hours’ pay, a whole sixteen dollars. He sat by a window and looked at the night while the van sped toward downtown. The van driver said he’d pick them up at eleven in the morning, same place. He reminded them that if they wanted the work they’d be there on time.