kitchen-4Bill’s  only thought heading downstairs was to get into the deep freeze to smoke a doobie and then get to that bottle of bourbon. He had filed the meat count in his head and was intent upon smoking the weed before carrying up the steaks. His goal now was to take the speed edge out of the remainder of his trip.

What a difference a day makes! He was proficient at carrying trays balanced on his shoulder now, and thinking about it, he remembered that first day, not even a full shift, that he was a busboy. He spilled the soup, he got a waitress, Eleanor. Or, he thought, Eleanor got me. Then there was Norma. Norma lost favor with Drenovis once his scheme to use her to antagonize Eleanor failed and he discovered she was ready, willing and able to do the cook he would have fired if he could have. Eleanor was wild. Norma was downright crazy.

He stopped in the bathroom to pee on his way to the meat room. Finished, he washed his hands carefully, spent a long while looking at his trippy face in the mirror. He watched his face do contortions even though he wasn’t moving, watched it melt into the mirror, watched the mirror melt into the wall. Time to go, he thought. Mesmerized by his trippy face, he had to pull himself away, which he finally did. He turned the corner for the meat room.

This time of day Tommy never came downstairs unless they were getting a meat delivery. Tommy was busy closing out the paperwork from the lunch, checking out the receipts, tallying and paying out the tips to the day-shift waitresses. When he finished his paperwork in the office, he checked the line in the kitchen to make sure it was completely set, then he went back out front to monitor the incoming waitresses and assign stations.

Bill counted on Tommy not coming downstairs. Apparently Henry Lee counted on it too. When Bill turned into the meat room he saw Marie bent over the band saw on which they cut the steamship round, her dress up over her back, her panties down at her ankles. She was bare-ass and Henry Lee was mounted on her like a male dog. He was pumping away.

Marie saw Bill. Henry Lee saw him. Neither one of them stopped or made any attempt to cover up. Bill lingered a moment. He was surprise-frozen and his feet felt cemented in place. To him, it wasn’t sexual per se. It was more existential, there but abstracted and non-linear, at least on one level.

“I’ll come back,” he said when he got his wits about him.

“Yeah you do that,” Henry Lee said. “You can have a turn if you want.”

Bill didn’t answer. He was shied by that remark and he backed out  the doorway into the hall. He walked into the party room across the way. It was dark and cool. Only a few lights shone. One was the red exit sign over the guests’ entrance doors across the room. Another was a beer sign above the bar. A few others were floor lights that stayed lit for building code safety regulations. He walked behind the bar and took a fresh bottle of bourbon. He cracked the seal and took a long swig, then a second one, then he sat down at the bar and listened to the silence ringing in his ears. He closed his eyes and watched the dancing bears. Amidst the bears was the image he’d just formed of Marie and Henry Lee at the band saw.