kitchen-4Henry Lee came in at ten. Bill and Mary had started a pan of yellow rice and Bill had washed about twenty potatoes for baking. He was putting them into the convection oven as Henry Lee drew himself a coffee from the urns over by Bea’s station. Mary went over to join him and let him know what she needed for the specials. Beef tips was on for tomorrow’s lunch, Sauerbraten for the day after. Henry Lee acknowledged and told her not to worry. Today’s special was chicken fingers and fries with coleslaw. Mary still had to bread the chicken and put the slaw together. She would do that while Henry Lee and Bill prepared the meats needed for the lunch meal.

All in all, the morning was low key and slow. Bill had only  had a couple of pulls on the bourbon and he was straight. He drank coffee too. Bill drank a lot of coffee and almost always had a mug by him unless he was drinking beer or bourbon.

“Wanna play any numbers?” Bea asked Henry Lee and Mary while they stood by her station. She was sitting on her stool, looking at the newspaper. She had cut and washed all the lettuce she needed for house salads for the lunch meal, and she had already cleaned and refilled all the salad dressing containers. She was reading the racing charts, looking at what horses were running at Beulah Park.

Mary said, “Play me three-fifty-four and play it for the rest of the week.”

“Two-seventy-eight,” Henry Lee said. He looked over Bea’s shoulder at the racing charts and told her which horses to play for him.

“Ante up,” Bea said. “I’ll call over to Robert.”

Bill had not seen Robert in awhile. The more settled in and more experienced he’d gotten, the less Robert came around. Alvin still came by, almost every day. Sometimes he helped on the line during a meal, but with Bill pulling his own weight and more now, Alvin mostly came with the van and picked up the meats. Robert had called this morning, however. He’d lectured Bill about using drugs, especially at work, and then he asked Bill what he’d seen with Henry Lee and Marie. Bill felt bad about not being square with Robert. He didn’t exactly lie, but he didn’t exactly tell the truth. Robert took Bill’s keeping it to himself as a real strong point for Bill and left it with that it was imperative Alfreda not find out. She did find out, of course, but not for anything Bill said or did.

Downstairs, like always, Henry Lee and Bill started in on the hamburgers and bleus. Henry Lee saw the half round in the walk-in and complemented Bill on the clean and straight cut he made. They took a sip of bourbon before Bill started grinding the chopped meat. Henry Lee cut Tops and Supers while Bill did the grinding, and then when the grinder was put away and the plates and blades cleaned, they started weighing and forming the servings.

Mary came in while they worked and helped herself to a drink. “Got any weed?” she asked.

Henry Lee said he had some in his street clothes and he walked out to get it. Mary sat herself up on the counter and swung her legs, like she always did, intent upon watching Bill work.

“What’s up with you and Bea today?”

“Nothing,” Bill said.

“Yeah, okay,” Mary said. “She ain’t wearing no underwear and she was flashing you coochie out in the hall.”

“I know.”

“What you gonna do?”

“What you mean?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I’m gonna eat some salad,” Bill said.

“Mercy me,” Mary said. “Long as I get mine, I don’t care.”

“That an invitation?”

“Figure it out, college boy,” Mary said.