kitchen-4Bill and Henry Lee sprang into action. Tommy called several more orders and laid out all the checks in the rows of towels he had set up for the expediting. Bill and Henry Lee worked as he finished calling.

Bill put one order of fried shrimp in each fryer basket, the pickerel on the counter by him. He put fries in a basket of the other fryer and dropped them. Then he dropped one order of shrimp. While the fries and shrimp worked, he sliced four roast beef dinners. He set up all four of them, three with mashed potatoes. The fourth he put fries on. By this time, the first shrimp was ready. He plated it, dropped the other order down, put the pickerel in the empty basket of the fish fryer and dropped it.

Henry Lee systematically plated what he had working. Bill set up the burger plates and the Bleu plate. They took setups, lettuce, tomato and pickle. The setups were laid out on a sheet pan in the reach-in box on the wall on the line side of the doors to the side dining room. He dropped another basket of fries, used the fries in the first basket to cover what he could of what Henry Lee plated. Tommy had not called any baked, so Bill knew they all took fries.

Tommy was calling more orders. Bill sipped his coffee after he’d put the sides on what Henry Lee plated, then he went right back into taking care of everything Tommy called. Henry Lee was doing the same for what came from him, and Bill listened for the sides, tracking what got what in his mind and matching it to what Henry Lee put up.

“See,” he said to Tommy. “I can do it drunk too.”

“You shouldn’t be drunk,” Tommy said.

“You ain’t my father,” Bill said. “Or my priest, for that matter.”

“But I am your boss,” Tommy said.

“Pick em up,” Henry Lee said. He purposefully broke in so Bill didn’t get himself in trouble.

“And?” Bill said. He remembered the first time Tommy had said something to him about being drunk, back when he was too new and too shy to talk back. Henry Lee had spoken for him that time. Henry Lee had taught him to stand up for himself. In no uncertain terms, Henry Lee had asked Tommy why he cared as long as the meals went up. When all was said and done, that was the bottom line.

“And don’t you take on those bad attitudes,” Tommy said. “Drinking and smoking that silly stuff is not good for you. Neither is not listening to people who care about you, and worse, treating them disrespectfully.”

“I’m not disrespectful.”

“You are beginning to develop that tendency.”

Bill turned away from Tommy. He was going to mutter something under his breath, but he held himself in check. Meanwhile, the coffee and the heat from the kitchen caused him to sweat profusely. Within moments he had sweat-soaked his shirt.

He worked the fryers, made sure everything down in the grease was okay. Then he sliced roast beef for the orders he had to cover. He pulled out the setups Henry Lee needed and set them on plates he took from the plate warmer by Henry Lee. He used the plate warmer by him, the one on the other side of the steam table, for the orders he had to plate.

Tommy called more orders and they worked the orders. Then Tommy called more orders and they worked the orders. The hustle and bustle of the two-hour, fast-paced meal went along. Waitresses came in and out from both dining rooms. Mary came to check the items on the line, to replenish what needed replenishing. With only the two of them, there was no time  for Bill or Henry Lee to leave the line.

Not even fifteen minutes into the real rush, Bill was completely sweat-soaked. His underwear was as wet as if he’d peed himself. In that same fifteen minutes he stopped being drunk. Tommy only made one more comment, that he could smell the booze coming out of Bill’s pores.


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