kitchen-4The first real lull in orders didn’t come until after ten. Lillian was relieved. Bill could see it in her face. He was relieved too and immediately began consolidating everything he had working. This meant taking all the steaks from the second Garland and re-positioning them on the first, the one he always used. He did not turn off that second Garland but he was thinking about it and deciding when he could do so. Next, he did the same with the steaks he had lined up along the front of the double charcoal grill. These were already mostly cooked, so they went right in the front of the broiler, some of them stacked one on top of another. He left them in each front corner and pulled from the stacks as much as he could on the first few orders Lillian called out to pick up.

Mary and Bea left about nine. Bea was driving Mary home and Bill thought that if he were a fly on the wall it was probably an interesting car to be in. Maybe they would talk about him, maybe not. Maybe it didn’t matter.

At ten, Henry Lee was still downstairs in the meat room. He had come up just before Bea and Mary left to ask Mr. Jim if he would drive him home. Mr. Jim said sure. It was apparent that Henry Lee had been drinking. He was a little wobbly. He stood leaning against the wall in the doorway rubbing his leg.

“Leg hurting?” Bill asked.

“Big time.”

“Take a rest.”

“I still have a little more work.”

“We’ll be out of here shortly,” Mr. Jim said. “I’m getting ready to call it a night.”

“Me too,” Lillian said. “Looks as if the rush is slowing down now. I can’t see them getting another turn.” She started tidying   up the spot from which she worked calling orders but she didn’t tear it down yet and wasn’t ready to call it quits.

Expediting, in itself, was an art. Drenovis was the best at it, and even though Bill and Drenovis did not like each other, an understatement, Bill was happiest when Drenovis called the orders. Drenovis understood flow better than Lillian or Tommy Stevens and his voice ran sing-song, sometimes much like that of a professional auctioneer.

Tommy was good at expediting too. It wasn’t his favorite thing to do, but he had picked up the skill along the way of his management career, and here at Suburban it was one of his regular tasks. His voice was more raspy than Lillian’s or Drenovis’ and less melodic, but he understood flow and had a solid sense of what should be ready when. Lillian had no melody to her voice and no true sense of the flow of the orders. She called orders more in a panic than anything else and this caused the tug of war regarding picking up and putting on.

Just before ten, she returned her stool to the corner of the kitchen in which it sat when she wasn’t working. Then she went about unfolding the towels she used to line up the orders. In all, three towels did the job. They were folded lengthwise into thin strips so they were long and thick, and they were lined up one under the next. This made for being able to hold three rows of orders. This night all three rows had been full almost all night. As always, she handed the towels to Bill when they were unfolded. Bill used them in the cleanup.

“Good night, sir,” she said. “See you next week.”

“Good night, Lillian,” Bill said. “You did a good job.”

“Thank you, sir. Ditto.”

Mr. Jim left the line when Lillian started breaking down. He went downstairs to get Henry Lee. That’s when Bill slid over and shut down the second Garland and one half of the charcoal grill. He and Jimmy hung the few remaining orders on their board. It took less than twenty minutes to work them through and empty the grills.

Coming Soon:

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