The walk-in in the meat room and the deep freeze next to it would each bear permanent memories for Bill, as would the staff bathrooms downstairs, the store room and the party room. Eleanor would not be the only waitress, and waitresses would not be the only females. Bill would have fun with the kitchen help too, not all of them, but a few. Bill learned that fooling around was a way of life at Suburban, even a form of stress relief. But more, he learned that it was a power game used by managers, cooks, waitresses and wives. Thus, it was a stress creator, not a stress reliever.
Some eight months later Bill would watch Alfreda walk into the kitchen one evening, take a boning knife from the knife sheath attached to the end of the counter on the line, walk over to Marie, the night pantry girl, and start cutting away at her hair. “Sleep with my husband? I don’t think so.”
Cut, cut, cut. Marie was paralyzed, traumatized. Hair flew everywhere. Bill flipped the steaks cooking on the broiler, watched the scene. Jimmy, the other night cook, smoked a cigarette and stood by the reach-in box nearby. Henry Lee came up from the meat room. He looked tired and worn. He was dragging his artificial leg, a sure sign he was beat. Usually you could never tell he had a fake leg.
He walked past Bill through the line and over to Alfreda who was still cutting away.
“Give me the knife babe,” he said. He reached over her from behind and wrestled it from her. Then he gently pulled her back and away from Marie. “Come on,” he told her. “We’ll go home.” He led her through the line, handed Bill the knife and they were gone.
Bea came back to work about forty-five minutes later. Marie had left immediately after Henry Lee and Alfreda. She’d just gotten her things and cut out, never to be seen there again. Bea took up the work and closed up.
Eleanor’s time was limited too. The walls had eyes and ears all over both Suburbans. Mary knew the next morning that Bill and Eleanor had been together in the meat room walk-in. Bea knew it too. For Bill, it made him a player. Bea was calculating what she could get with the information she had. She didn’t actually know yet what she might want or need or what she actually had, but she knew she had a hand up.
Bea and Mary handled it differently. Mary took Bill aside and gave him a talking to.
“Look,” she said, “ain’t really my business, but everyone knows everything that goes on here. So we know you were with Eleanor in the walk-in. Mind your business.”
“Nothing happened,” Bill said.
“Don’t matter,” Mary said. “I’m just giving you fair warning.”
“Thanks,” Bill said.
Bea, on the other hand, chided Bill. “I see that burned hand don’t stop you from feeling up waitresses,” she said. “Let me know when you want to feel this.” She gestured to her privates. “Meanwhile, remember I’m in charge.”
Bill didn’t say anything. When he saw Eleanor that night, he warned her by relating what Bea and Mary said. Eleanor told Bill that Tommy had already spoken to her. He didn’t tell her she couldn’t do what she wanted. He told her she couldn’t do it at work.
“I got a nice car with a big back seat,” she said. “And then I can drive you home.”
Robert didn’t care about Bill and Eleanor. “What’s good to you is good for you,” he said.
Henry Lee gave Bill a big high five. “Hit it with as many as you can,” he said. “They ain’t gonna do nothing to you.” He laughed and patted Bill on the back. “Just make sure you can do your job.”