kitchen-4They went straight through. It began slightly after opening. Tommy set himself up to call the orders and the orders came in rapid fire. Bill ran a full broiler almost the whole day. Henry Lee came up twice so Bill could go to the bathroom. Lillian came in two hours early and she relieved Tommy so he could take care of the front of the house.

At the busiest point Bill ran a full broiler, a full charcoal grill and a semi-full second broiler. Mr. Jim sliced the prime rib to order and put the sides and garnishes on all the plates. No matter how busy they were, Mr. Jim worked one speed, steady, and his steady speed matched the rate of the orders going out. He was never nonplussed, never raised his voice and never discourteous. He referred to Lillian as “love” or “darling” or just by her name. Tommy he would talk to, guide so to speak, telling him what Bill needed sometimes even before Bill himself knew. Lillian he would gently coax. “Need to go with some steaks, Darling,” he would say, or “Pick up what you can from the boy, Love. Gotta go.”

Lillian liked Mr. Jim. He calmed her. Her greatest fear was not getting all her orders on the grill and running so far behind they could never catch up. She didn’t care so much that they ran behind, but she was damned if running behind was gonna be her fault. Mr. Jim’s sweet-talk voice, smooth and beguiling, wheedled her into complying with the real needs from the other side of the counter. Every time she adhered to what Mr. Jim had cunningly demanded of her, Mr. Jim praised her and reminded her that due to her expertise, they were keeping on course.

To Bill, quietly, he spoke in confidence. “What’s the point in yelling or arguing? Lillian’s gonna do it as she does it, and you already know how she does it. Find a work around.” Even with a full grill, sometimes Bill stopped to look at Mr. Jim. “What’s your longest cooking steak?” Mr. Jim asked Bill. “Put one or two of those up front, getting ready to get ready. You know how to rotate everything. Think ahead. The busier you get, the more you got to think ahead.” Mr. Jim would laugh sometimes. “When it gets really crazy,” he said, “the sane head always wins out.”

Tommy came in mid-evening to relieve Lillian so she could go to the bathroom and catch a smoke. When he came in, Bill stepped off the line and lit a cigarette. Tommy had Norma, who was a runner this evening, take drink orders from the kitchen. Bill made sure the dishwashers were included in the order, and as he always did when they were so swamped the dishwashers were working non-stop, he sent over steaks for each of them. Drenovis called the dishwasher operation the asshole of the industry. Mr. Jim had taught Bill that life was miserable when your asshole wasn’t working right and reminded Bill that they were hardworking people and deserved to be treated as such.

Bea worked with Marie side by side for awhile so Marie could get up to speed. Marie completely replenished everything on the pantry station while Bea put out the orders. Seemed to Bea now that her and Bill this morning was so long ago, like in a whole other time and space. Mary was cooking fresh pots of vegetables and baking potatoes endlessly. She even set and started a second large pan of yellow rice. Yellow rice—they called it saffron but it wasn’t really—was one of the regular side choices. She and Bea were working overtime and wouldn’t go home until nine. Mr. Jim was working late too, not on any schedule. He had agreed to stick around until the orders started tapering off.

Coming at the end of May 2017:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide