kitchen-4Luckily, dinner was slow. It must have been slow over on the west side too because Drenovis came in about nine. Apparently he was closing up.

Drenovis didn’t like Bill and never would. He would be happy when Bill gave notice, unlike everyone else. Meantime, he tolerated him and worked with him, only because he had to. They were cordial, even polite. Drenovis understood that his own job was dependent upon Bill’s performance, yet Bill’s job was independent of how Drenovis did his. That was the power of an experienced broiler cook in a small kitchen setting.

Bill discovered quickly that there were a zillion ways for a cook to kill a restaurant’s profits, most of them invisible to the owners and managers unless they knew what to look for and stood over the cooks all the time. Consequently, the managers had to overlook a lot of dysfunctional behaviors and cooks could do just about anything without getting fired. Not anything, but just about.

When Tommy came in to say good night, Henry Lee and Alvin were long gone. Jimmy was out in the hall smoking a cigarette and Bill was working the two orders they had on the board, a total of two Supers and two burgers, all with fries. Marie was reading the newspaper Bea had left her and Grandma was sitting on Mary’s stool. She was half asleep.

Tommy walked through the line. He looked at everything, made a comment about not having sold much rib. He asked Bill if he thought they needed to cook one tomorrow. Bill said probably not, but then they’d have no rare. He suggested that it might be better to cook one and run rib as a special with a lowered price. Tommy nodded acceptance of the idea. He asked if the round was cut. Bill said he’d check when he brought the meat down. That brought the image of Henry Lee and Marie right back to him, right back to before his eyes. He took up the tongs from the handle of the broiler drawer, flipped the two Supers, then closed the tongs and slid the closed tips under the burgers, one at a time, to flip them. All the while, he saw Henry Lee pumping away on Marie, the image ignited by the thought he might have to cut a round in the morning which meant throwing that meat on the band saw. That band saw would never be the same.

Bill put out the two orders, Tommy gone already a few moments. Then he went over by Marie and drew himself a coffee.

“Ain’t you going to say something?” Marie asked him.

Bill said “Nope.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not your boss. I’m not your priest. I’m not your father.”

“Henry Lee…”

Bill cut her off before she could say anything more. “Look, what you do is on you. Don’t bring me in it.”

“You ain’t gonna say nothing?”

“Why would I?”

“Not even to Bea or Mary?”

“It’s not my business.”

“Thanks,” Marie said.

Bill was walking the long way back to the broiler, around front of the line, when Eleanor peeked her head in the kitchen. Seeing Bill there, she stepped all the way in.

“Hey,” she said. “Bebe wants to know if you want a beer. And she wants a Super medium-rare with a baked.”

“Okay,” Bill said. “Yeah for the beer.”

“See you in a bit,” she said. She walked out the out door.

At ten, both Grandma and Jimmy left. Bill fed the dishwashers and started on the waitress orders which would filter in as they took their dinner in turns. He cooked a Boston strip rare for himself which he cut into pieces and left on a plate on his reach-in box. That was for Eleanor who came in and helped herself to it. She brought Bill a beer, sipped from the beer, and since they were alone for a moment, she gave Bill a sweet kiss. She could not stay long, so she came in several times. The last time, she brought Bill another beer and took several hits from his Marlboro.

At eleven, when Bill had begun cleaning the line, Drenovis first came in to say hello. He didn’t look too happy.