With Eleanor gone, Bill’s waitress activities mostly came to a halt. Regarding waitresses, Bill discovered if he just sat back and minded his own business they would come on to him. It would happen time and again throughout the twenty-some-odd years he would spend in kitchens. Some of them would be memorable. Others would be non-entities. All of them would represent, on one level or another, something…something he should never have indulged in, something he regretted not indulging more in, something that symbolized something missing in his genetic makeup or occupying his psyche causing him to…something.
He and Norma messed around a couple of times post Eleanor, but Bill lost interest. Norma didn’t do anything she shouldn’t have. In fact, the more disinterested Bill was, the harder Norma tried to please him. A few new girls came and went. Bill only indulged himself when he knew they were on their way out. Waitress turnover was rapid, especially when they were looking for a permanent replacement. Drenovis hadn’t counted on that when he messed with Eleanor. Eleanor had been liked and was a long-time regular. Finding someone to fit in with the rest of the crew wasn’t as easy as he might have thought.
The big story out east was Henry Lee and Marie. Marie seemed to be thinking she was gonna take Henry Lee for herself. She sure started acting that way after a while. That she had a husband and her own kids didn’t seem to matter much. What actually did matter was that Henry Lee thought her delusional, and maybe she was.
Alfreda remained intent upon bedding down Bill. Every time she came for the meat pickup she managed to make a comment, corner Bill in one way or another, press into him to cop a feel or force him to feel her. And talk dirty? Alfreda, when she could, launched into graphic descriptions of what she would do to him, what he could do to her, what they could do to each other.
Bea didn’t mind. Bea was getting hers and Bill discovered she was a freak. If Norma was an anywhere girl, Bea was an outright freak. She would play with Bill whimsically, sometimes catching him by surprise. Sometimes, if he went down to the bathroom, she would follow him and then follow him into the bathroom. Bill never ceased to be amazed at the stuff she would come up with.
Mary was the surprise. Mary fell for Bill. It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened nevertheless. That first time was like a drug. Something in Bill reminded her of Yulie, maybe the sad eyes he wore every so often. When she saw them she would ask what he was so sad about and Bill would simply shrug his shoulders and not answer.
“I could put a smile on those lips,” Mary would say.
“Make me smile,” Bill might say. Or, “Nothing could make me smile,” he might say.
Mary took to telling Alfreda to cool it with Bill. She reminded her that he worked every day with Henry Lee and anything she might do with Bill was sure to mess that up. She reminded her that she had two little kids to take care of and they needed their father. Alfreda told her that their father should have been thinking about that before he messed with the salad lady.
“Yeah, well,” Mary said, “it ain’t the same for men as for women.”
“Screw that,” Alfreda said.
Robert was aware of everything going on, east and west. Sometimes, Sunday mornings in church he would look down from on the stage—he was leader of the choir—into that first row where Alfreda, Mary and sometimes Bea sat, all in the same row, Mary with her kids, Alfreda with her kids, and Bea with Mr. Bea. “Lord have Mercy,” he would say to himself. But then he would think there was nothing he could do.
What’s good to you is good for you, he would tell himself.