Changing the French-fry grease was the last thing Bill did at night. He did it while he was finishing up any late orders that came in and after he had scrubbed down the line. Everything from the steam table he set on the counter in the back. All that had to be done with those things was for them to be covered and put into the walk-in box.
Changing the grease was a laborious task. This was before the days of liquid grease, so Bill, every other night, had to cart up two boxes of grease, fifty-pound cubes of it set in plastic in cardboard cases. Then he had to shut down a fryer and drain the liquid grease which was at three hundred seventy-five degrees. The slightest pop or splash that hit his wrist or arm blistered instantaneously.
The draining was the worst part. He took a kitchen pot and placed it under the drain which was in the bottom compartment of the fryer underneath the gas jets. He had to open the drain, fill the pot, close the drain, empty the pot into a big fifteen-gallon stock pot then repeat the process over and over until the fryer was empty. Then he had to empty the stock pot by dumping the hot oil into the grease barrel outside the restaurant. That grease was resold. Next, he had to clean out the fryer, rinse it with water, drain the water, empty the water, again pot by pot into the stock pot, and finally empty the stock pot into the pot washer’s sink. Last, he had to unpack the fifty-pound cube and lift it into the fryer. It sat upon the heat lines until he re-lit the gas jets and it slowly melted into fresh, clean, fryer oil.
Two fryers, he had to do it twice.
It was sloppy work but Bill knew he couldn’t be sloppy about it. The only way to safely do it was to do it carefully, meticulously, and with his full attention.
Bill was on his knees busy at it and didn’t notice Lorraine standing at the end of the line by the knife sheath attached to the counter there. All the knives were in the sheath now since Bill had cleaned them. She was holding a beer for Bill. She did a clear-her-throat thing so Bill would look up, which he did.
“Bebe sent this,” Lorraine said.
“Leave it there,” Bill said.
“I’ll bring it over.”
Bill stopped what he was doing. Lorraine came through the line to him and handed him the beer. “You closing?” he asked.
“Long day for you.”
“I do it every day.”
“Well it’s empty out there. So it’s easy for me. Let me know if you want anything.”
“I’m good,” Bill said.
Lorraine lingered by Bill. She stood leaning against the steam table. He was on his knees by the fryer.
“I’d really like to thank you for being easy on me today.”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
“Mum’s the word. But I meant to thank you.”
“I know what you mean. Like I said, we’re good.”
“I guess I have to throw myself at you.”
“You give it a few days, maybe a week. We’re good as is. You still feel like you want to fool around, look me up. You know where to find me.”
“Gonna do me a favor then, huh?”
“Gonna finish this grease, do the next one, finish cleaning up and putting things away, and then I’m going home.” Bill started back to work. “Bring me another beer when you get to it.”
Lorraine walked back to the end of the line. “These knives very sharp?” she asked.
“They’ll shave you. Don’t touch ’em, please.”
Lorraine left the kitchen. While Bill finished in the kitchen, she set up the dining room making sure all tables were in ready-to-go shape. One young couple came in for hamburgers. Then they were done.
Bill walked Lorraine to her car. Tommy walked Bebe, the barmaid, to hers.
Another day. Another night.
Coming This Month:
The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide