Alfreda came back around six. She took some more steaks for the west side. Henry Lee had been cutting meat full time only having taken two breaks, one to come upstairs and get something to eat and another to do Marie in the bathroom downstairs. Marie had come in a half hour early just for that. The two times he relieved Bill on the grill were not breaks. They were slight setbacks to his meat-cutting schedule.
Henry Lee was grouchy and he and Alfreda were having words as they carried up meat trays for the van. Robert had put Drenovis to calling ahead to make sure Henry Lee would be prepared, but this meant he was cutting into East’s inventory. Nevertheless, he took the time for Marie, and maybe, just maybe, seeing Marie had caused Alfreda to say something. Alfreda and Henry Lee were cursing each other as they passed by the kitchen entry. Bill could not hear everything, but from what he heard, he decided no matter what Alfreda’s plan was, or what her game was, he was staying away from her. But then the road to hell was paved with good intentions, he thought.
During one of the return trips back downstairs, Alfreda stopped in the doorway and hung out. She started talking to Bill, and Bill, despite the full broiler and calling of orders, answered her back.
“Don’t know what he sees in that skanky bitch,” she said.
“We’re busy,” Bill said.
“You got a nice ass.”
“Aren’t I supposed to say that to you?”
“Let me work.”
“I’m gonna have you.”
“Let the boy work,” Mr. Jim finally said. “Get the meat and get gone, Alfreda.”
Alfreda stuck her tongue out at Mr. Jim. She knew him outside work. He knew her. He knew what Henry Lee was about, and he knew what she was about too. “Mind your own business, old man,” she said under her breath, loud enough for Bill to hear but not loud enough for Mr. Jim. Or, if he did hear her, he chose to ignore her words.
All the while of this little interplay, Lillian called orders, Bill turned steaks, plated ready ones and put steaks on the broiler. Jimmy was working both fryers, all four baskets down. Mr. Jim put the sides on each plate, sliced the rib, wiped and beautified each plate. Mary came around and went down the line seeing what needed replenishing. Grandma fried chicken and helped Mary in the back. Bea and Marie worked side by side, putting up salads, making sure all the dressings were plentiful, tidying up after sometimes messy waitresses.
After Alfreda left, Henry Lee came up on the line. Bill was a touch uncomfortable. He didn’t know if he’d heard Alfreda or not. But Henry Lee addressed it immediately.
“Pay her no mind,” he said. “She says she knows things, but she don’t. She got no proof about Marie and me and long as you keep to yourself, it’s all good.”
“I don’t say anything.”
“I know,” Henry Lee said. Then, “I’m hungry. What can I cop from the grill?”
“What do you want?”
Bill didn’t even bother to open the drawer. He reached in with the tongs and pulled a Super from the grill. He plated it quickly and immediately reached into the meat cooler before him and took out another Super which he placed in a different empty spot from the one he’d taken.
“Thanks, man,” Henry Lee said. He went down the line to the fryers and filled his plate with French-fries. Then he went around back and stood by Mary and Grandma to eat.