kitchen-4If anything, the cold season brought Suburban’s help closer. The kitchen’s heat was desirable and waitresses found themselves coming around by the Garland side of the line to absorb the heat. If they could, they’d stand by the charcoal grill next to the Garland and warm their hands, even lean over it and let the heat run up through their upper bodies. That oppressive heat of the summer was no longer oppressive.

Business did not slow down. Sure, there were snowy nights when business was beyond slow, times when they could sleep just about the whole shift. But OSU sports brought plenty of customers and basketball season easily replaced football season. The individual crowds were smaller but the games more frequent.

Bill, Mary and Bea opened every morning along with Tommy. Bea and Mary waited in Bea’s car—they came and went together—and Bill waited in his. When Tommy arrived they all went in through the front, Tommy opening with his keys, Bill going down the hall to switch off the burglar alarms. Then Bill, Mary and Bea went through the dark dining room lit only by the red exit signs into the dark kitchen where they woke up the beast. Waking up the beast meant switching on the exhaust fans and the lights and lighting the broiler and back ovens. Bea started a small pot of coffee on one of the Bunn machines, not in the big urn.

It didn’t take long for the kitchen to heat up, so when they came up from downstairs, not only was it already warm, but they had fresh coffee to drink. Changing, since they had all seen each other naked and more, was now done in the hall. Bea would toss them the uniforms and Mary and Bea would strip to their bra and panties then don their kitchen dresses. Bill would strip to his underwear and don the pants, then the short sleeve kitchen shirt they used there. Mary or Bea, or both, might cop a feel if they were in a playful mood. Bill would too, sometimes of both Mary and Bea at once. Sometimes it was more than just a quick feel.  Sometimes it was an intimate embrace in an intimate space. Sometimes, if Mary or Bea went up first, Bill and whoever was left would fool around. Sometimes it just worked out that way. Sometimes those early morning quickies made the day more bearable.

Back upstairs, they all took coffee. Bea sat on her stool and read the newspaper. She turned to the racing page and picked her horses. Mary stood by her a moment, finished her coffee, listed out things needed from downstairs. Bill went down the line. He lit the fryers and made sure everything was okay. Then he checked both reach-ins doing a mental inventory of what he needed to bring up from downstairs or what needed to be done. Cases of French-fries and onion rings were down in the deep freeze. They had to bread the shrimp and pickerel, but the shrimp and pickerel were also in the deep freeze, so if there was not enough breaded for the day, Bill would have to bring up the boxes from there for defrosting.

Bill had  not popped that acid, but he still had it stored in his locker. He had just gotten some new weed from Doc, his supplier, and he’d gotten some new acid too. He was dying to try both. He’d brought some of the weed, but he’d left the new acid home.

Having laid out the morning’s work, Mary and Bill started into it. Bea had more luxury time than them. She sat on that stool, drank a second cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette.

The steamship round had to go on first. Henry Lee had not brought it up and Bill went down for it. Henry Lee had not cut it either. Bill hoisted the huge chunk of meat on his shoulder and dropped it down gently on the cutting block. Good morning to me, he thought. He opened the drawer to find the bourbon and took a drink.

Coming Soon:

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