kitchen-4The more comfortable Bill got at work, the more he relaxed. The raise for being an experienced broiler cook was forty cents an hour, so working a typical seventy-hour week, Bill was making a hundred seventy-five bucks. He and Sue got  ahead on the rent. They  started paying off the debts to Bill’s father and brother and they  bought an old ’67 Rambler American that ended up leaking water when it rained heavily. It would quickly be replaced by a cool Toyota fastback coupe.

Henry Lee taught Bill a lot more than cutting meat. He taught him where the liquor store was on Delta Road. He taught him where the bourbon was in the party room downstairs, the room across from the meat room where Bill would eventually meet Mary every now and then to fool around. He taught him to get high in the deep freeze. They would don the arctic parkas and quilted freezer mitts and go in to smoke a big doobie. Then they would drink bourbon. Then they would go up on the line to do the lunch. The quilted mitts showed plenty of burns where the roaches had singed them.

Henry Lee taught Bill   he could do about anything as long as he could put up the dinners and push out the orders. He taught him that the managers wouldn’t say squat. He taught Bill everything a good cook who was good at his job should know. Years later, in New York, Bill’s friend Francisco would tell Bill that any cook who could do his job and wasn’t afraid to work didn’t need a union.

This particular day, Eleanor was working lunch. Henry Lee had brought a quart of bourbon with him and before they started drinking they smoked a fat doobie to get high. Then they cracked the seal on the bottle. Mary came in to tell Henry Lee she needed a couple of things. She saw the bottle and took a long drink. Then she smelled the weed on them and asked if they had more, so Bill rolled another joint. She sat up on one of the stainless steel counters and smoked, Bill standing away so he could look up her legs.

“Boy, what you doing?” she asked.

“Looking up your legs. Spread ’em some more.”

“You crazy?”

“He’s horny,” Henry Lee said.

“Love to kiss right up those thighs,” Bill said.

“I dare you,” Henry Lee said.

Bill stepped up to Mary and kissed her on the lips. Then he reached to her legs and pushed her back on the counter. He spread her legs wide and kissed up the insides of both thighs, completing his mission with a humongous kiss-lick on her privates.

Mary was laughing so hard she choked on the smoke. She did her best to clamp her legs around Bill’s head to keep him there. Bill didn’t mind. He dug his face in deeper. She was still laughing wildly and still coughing when Tommy walked in.

Tommy saw everything, took in everything, understood exactly what they were doing and what was going on. But Tommy was no dope. He smiled at Mary and asked if they were wrestling then he turned around and walked out.

“Shit,” Mary said. She sat up and straightened herself out.

“Have another drink,” Henry Lee said, handing her the bottle. “Finish the doobie too.”

They all took another drink. They smoked another joint too. Then Mary went back upstairs. Henry Lee and Bill, both pretty wrecked at ten-thirty in the morning, made hamburgs and bleus and carted up the meat trays for the lunch service. At eleven-thirty they stepped on the line to do the meal.