kitchen-4Bill didn’t mean to spend some twenty-five years of his life in kitchens.  He didn’t mean for being a cook to be his career, and up until the day he’d met Robert, huh Glory, it wasn’t even a thought in his head.

From the age of fifteen, Bill wanted to be a writer. As it worked out, he wasn’t suited for much else, or so he supposed. His best friend, the one who always beat him twenty-one to nothing at foosball, was the first indication that he was not a good eye-hand-coordination person. That friend picked up a pair of drumsticks and a drum pad and could just naturally play the drums. He went on to become a recording engineer. Bill went to college.

Bill wasn’t great at reading either. It was a laborious task for him. He’d known from his first ophthalmologist, the one who had performed his eye operations, that his eyes did not coordinate correctly. He’d never known exactly what that meant. In real-life terms, it meant he lost to his friend at all hand-eye games. It meant that he had trouble moving his eyes over the words along a line of reading. It meant that he didn’t gauge things well, had trouble finding things that were on shelves directly in front of him. He had a much easier time finding them when they were to one side or the other.

Only later in life, when he was aptitude tested, did he discover he was “spatially retarded.” What that meant was that he scored lower than the test’s measuring scale started, or that his spatial-relations capabilities didn’t even reach the beginning rung of the testing scale’s measuring ladder. The counselor who had tested him suggested he rule out things like becoming an architect.

In the kitchens Bill had learned that practice makes perfect. It wasn’t his first lesson in this. His first lesson in this was on the football field in high school when he was second-string center but felt he should have been the starter. So he worked hard, more than any of the other linemen. He hit the sleds harder, took extra turns, practiced, practiced, practiced, over and over, repeat, repeat, repeat, until one day the head coach was standing over him on the four-man sled and Bill hit it directly under him.

“Who was that?” the coach asked.

Bill stood up so the coach could see him.

“Go over and work with Nicoletti,” the coach said. Nicoletti was the second-string quarterback. A week later, he and Nicoletti were the starting quarterback-center team.

Life! Who’d have thought his mother would have died suddenly? Who’d have thought that the track of his life was switched on him, that he wouldn’t know it or realize it until it was already a done deal, and not a good deal at that?

Kitchens were therapeutic for Bill. Robert, huh Glory, had saved his life in a sense. Just having a job was therapeutic. Bill’s mind was occupied in the first few months because he had to learn everything there was to learn at Suburban and that included the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good, of course, was that he got a trade. He went from dejected, broke and down and out to useful, needed and with money in the bank. Huh Glory! (Robert was known to, every so often, in the midst of everything, stop dead, do a little shuffle-dance and yell out “Huh Glory.”) Bill re-learned that practice did make perfect and even though he wasn’t particularly talented at it or even adept at it, he could get good at all the things he had to do in kitchens by hard work and practice. So he worked hard, harder than anyone else.

The bad and the ugly were bad and ugly. One manager, later in his kitchen career, would scold a waitress after she complained that Bill had pinched up her skirt with his tongs. That manager, not much better than Drenovis, told the waitress to leave his cooks alone. “Ten waitresses equal one cook,” he’d said to the waitress.

Coming This Month:

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