“I’ve got to go downstairs,” Mary said. “Be back in a few. Stir the Bordelaise and don’t let it burn.”
Bill told her okay and watched her head out of the kitchen. He was about to start the breading but the walls melted, the room shifted–there was too much to see. On one level, Bill had work to do. He knew he had work to do and was going to do it. On another level, each time he reached for that first piece of fish, his arm got longer and longer and the tray slid further and further from his reach. The impression of it on his mind finally stopped him from reaching for the fish at all. All the pieces of fish stared at Bill, started dancing with the music, now another famous rock song. Then they all molded together into one live fish. “Stir the Bordelaise,” the fish said. Suddenly it was wearing sunglasses and Bill was watching a famous tuna. “Sorry Bill. Stir the sauce.”
Bill turned from the counter where he was standing and went to the prep stove, maybe ten or twelve feet real distance. He took up a kitchen spoon and stirred the sauce, no problem. But then he made the mistake of looking into the pot. In that brown sauce the kaleidoscope effect went wild. He stirred again and kept stirring and in the swirling liquid the rainbow shone, stars and quarter-moons and dancing rectangles, squares and triangles appearing in the swirl, going under and reappearing. Over and over and over. The music was in the background now. He stirred and stared totally unaware of himself except as part of the kitchen, oblivious to time and how long he actually stood there. Stir and stare, stir and stare. “God this job is boring, this isn’t the real world, this is…Hare Krishna,” he thought.
Mary had come up from downstairs. She’d sat a moment with Henry Lee and they’d had a drink. They’d chit-chatted and then Mary’d gathered the things she needed from the store room and gone back up the stairs. Now, seeing Bill lingering over the sauce, she stood unobtrusively in the doorway observing him.
Of course Mary would not know what caused Bill, after what she timed as twelve minutes, to stop stirring and turn back to the fish. But that’s what she saw him do, and when he had settled himself back there, she walked into the kitchen and set the things she held in her arms on the counter opposite her stoves.
“Everything all right?” she asked.
“Just peachy,” Bill said.
“Stir my sauce?”
“How’s it going over there?”
“Moving right along.”
“Good,” Mary said. Then, “I got to pee. Be right back. Don’t worry about the sauce. It’s done and I’m turning it off.”
“Okie dokie,” Bill said.
While he spoke with Mary, he was watching his own versions of cartoon animations in the egg wash. The music played, the exhaust fans droned, the fan from the convection oven blew. Bea, seemingly an impossible distance away, played with dancing carrots. Mostly, and luckily, although Bill was not considering it at all, the kitchen was still and no orders came in. Every now and then a waitress came through. They were setting up their stations for the dinner. The rule was no one was done until everything was reset and ready to go for the next meal, and that meant top to bottom in and out of the kitchen.
Mary had gone downstairs. But she didn’t go to pee. She went to get Henry Lee and then they both sneaked up the stairs and observed Bill from out in the hall.