He was sitting quietly when Mary came in. She sat in the seat next to him, unscrewed the cap of the bottle and took a drink. Her kitchen dress was mostly open now. She’d probably unbuttoned it on the way down, Bill thought, as he’d seen her do lots of times. She was coming down to change into her civvies but since she hadn’t seen Bill, she’d probably gone looking for him and buttoned one or two buttons again on the way. He could see just about her whole bra and then just about all the way up her legs to her panties.
“I just came from the meat room,” she said. “Henry Lee is waiting for you.”
Bill told her okay. He didn’t know what she’d seen, if anything, and he wasn’t letting on what he’d seen. He took another drink.
“You gonna be okay to do your shift?” she asked.
“Don’t think you moving too fast?”
“What you mean?”
“Two waitresses. Messing with me and Bea, maybe gonna do something you really don’t want to do. Drinking, drugging. And you on probation too. We been through this before.”
“Very funny, fool. I care for you.”
“How do you know I don’t want to do what I’m doing?”
“I don’t think you know jack.”
“Maybe,” Bill said. He reached his hand to her lap and unbuttoned the buttons holding her dress closed. The dress fell open so he could see her white panties.
“Maybe,” Mary said, mocking him. “Maybe,” she said again. “What would make you happy?”
Bill reached his hand to her and felt her along the inside of her thighs up to and on to her panties. He smiled at her. “I’m gonna owe the boss a bottle,” he said.
“I’ll take one from inventory and put it back in place,” she said. “Yulie was crazy like you.” She held his hand on her a moment then kissed it and returned it to him. “Too bad you’re white,” she said. “Otherwise I’d steal you away.”
“I’m the one that’s tripping. I don’t believe that for a second.”
Mary stood up and gathered the dress around her. She leaned in and kissed Bill full on his lips. “Believe it,” she said.
Bill watched her walk out of the party room then took the bottle with him and returned to the meat room. Henry Lee was cleaning his knives having finished his work. Bill handed him the bottle, watched him take a long pull after which he put the bottle in the drawer next to the one he’d brought with him in the morning. Then they both donned the arctic parkas and went into the deep freeze.
When they’d come out and hung up the parkas, they took a drink then started carrying up the meat trays.
Marie was over on the pantry station with Bea. Bea was showing her what was done and what was left to do. Finished the briefing, she walked through the line to the door. Bill was bent over arranging the meat in the reach-in. She goosed him as she went past and told him have a good night. Then she told Henry Lee to go straight home and headed downstairs to change her clothes.
Alvin and Jimmy came in at five-thirty. Jimmy was the night line cook, the only part-time cook. Alvin had come from the west store. He would leave around eight and take Henry Lee home. Tommy came in shortly after they arrived. Bea and Mary were in their street clothes saying goodbye. It was the end of another day for them, the midst of one for Bill, Alvin and Henry Lee, and the start of one for Marie and Jimmy. Grandma had not come in yet.
All was set. All was as usual. Bill, still tripping, was on the way down.