kitchen-4“Yulie was a cousin of Robert’s,” Mary said. “He was a drunk and a drug addict, but he was the best as far as cooks go. He and Robert set up the place and opened it. They hired me as the prep cook.

“I was in love with Yulie. My husband, father to my kids, left me cause he didn’t want to support his children. He didn’t want nothing but to hit it with as many young girls as he could. He was finished with me the first time I got pregnant but that didn’t stop him from making me pregnant a second time.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish, I thought. I started leaving the kids with my mother so I could work. I stayed away from men for a very long time. Even Yulie. All together, my experiences with men ain’t been so wonderful. Except for Yulie, I could have… Well anyway this ain’t about that.”

Bill looked at Mary. “How long we gonna sit here?” he asked.

“Till you drink another espresso and I finish my story,” Mary said.

“You know I know you don’t have tattoos. But they were dancing on your arms before. You’re doing a good job of bringing me down when I don’t want to come down. So I’m gonna drink some more bourbon and smoke some more weed. I am sorry about your marriage.”

“Well don’t be. I don’t need you being sorry for me.”

“I’m not sorry for you. I’m sorry you had a crappy marriage.”

“I got three lovely kids,” Mary said. “My big boy and twin girls.”

“Robert told me.”

“Well Yulie, he came out here to work when they opened this one. He used to be so drunk he’d fall to his knees during the service. Alvin be on one side of him and whoever it was be on the other side. They’d pick him up by his underarms and he’d go right back to work without missing a step. He was sweet on me and I was in love with him.”

“Okay,” Bill said. “So what’s the bad news?”

“He killed himself with an overdose. Heroin.”

“That’s too bad.”

“He wasn’t even thirty. You remind me of him, especially today. You’re about as crazy as he was and you do the same stupid shit.”

“Yeah, okay. See what I mean about bringing me down?”

“Tough titty,” Mary said. “You ready to do some breading now?”

Back in the kitchen, they spent the next hour together doing all the breading that needed to be done for what Mary hoped would be the rest of the week. Mary did most of it and Bill still hallucinated in the egg wash. In between trays, Mary put potatoes to bake in the convection oven. She went around to the line and set water into the steam table, then she poured Bordelaise sauce into a steam table insert and set it in place. She did the same with au jus. The one oven that had a kitchen towel tied around the handle contained a prime rib. Mary checked it but it wasn’t quite done yet. Looking at the clock, she told Bill to take it out at four.

When the shrimp was breaded, Mary told Bill to forget the onion rings, that they would do them the next day. She told him to go downstairs to the party room and take himself a good nap. Bill looked at Mary as if she were crazy. Then he smiled at her and said he’d do the onion rings today. “You don’t understand acid,” he told her. “I’m not sleeping for a long time, unless maybe you got some Quaaludes.”

“Boy,” Mary said, “you really are tripping.”

“Girl,” Bill said, “I really am.”