kitchen-4They didn’t run behind. No matter what you thought about him, Drenovis was an ace at expediting and he called the orders efficiently. Mr. Jim made it clear to Bill and Henry Lee that he didn’t want Drenovis to have any chance to say anything negative or critical, so they made sure to be swift and accurate. All plates were released only when they’d satisfied Mr. Jim’s aesthetics.

At the lunch table they all had choice words for the disliked manager. Mary recalled how he’d hit on her. She laughed it off, said he was one ugly cracker. “Now you,” she said to Bill, “you’re one cute white boy.”

They all had a few good laughs. Drenovis could see them and hear them and the harder they laughed the more irked he was. When he’d had enough such that he felt he was gonna blow his temper, he called Lexi into the office. He gave her a dressing down for being inebriated on the job and offered her a choice, not a good one, not one with any good alternative for her.

Mr. Jim had just gone out the back door. Henry Lee and Bill were standing in the hall. Lexi, in tears, ran through the kitchen and out to them. She threw herself down on the lettuce cases and wept.

Mary and Bea came out. Seeing Lexi run through the kitchen, they already knew what happened. Mary put her arms around Lexi and stroked her back.

“It was give him a you-know-what or get fired. So I guess I’m through.”

“Shit,” Henry Lee said, drawing out the word to “shee-it.”

“You done right, girl,” Mary said. She continued stroking Lexi’s back.

“What you think?” Bea asked Mary.

“I think we need to stick up for her.”

“Me too,” Bea said.

“You ain’t hitting that today,” Henry Lee said to Bill.

“Guess not,” Bill said. “Maybe not ever.”

Even distraught as she was, Lexi heard that interchange. She looked up at Bill then down to her feet. “I don’t mean to cause any trouble,” she said.

“He’s mad with us,” said Mary. “We gave him a hard time all through lunch. And so you know, I didn’t give him no favors either. But lots of the waitresses do.”

“I’d rather work in a fast food joint flipping burgers. The hell with him.”

“Wait around till Tommy gets back. Me and Bea’ll see what we can do. Take her with you in the meat room,” Mary said to Henry Lee.

Downstairs, Lexi sat on the stainless steel counter while Bill and Henry Lee cut meat. Drenovis came in once to see what they were doing. Seeing Lexi there, he turned red and told her to get her things and get out. Bill took this one on. He stepped between her and Drenovis and told Drenovis she was staying to see Tommy. Then, most uncharacteristically, he told Drenovis to cart his funky ass out of the meat room.

“I’m gonna fire you too,” Drenovis said.

“Go for it,” Bill said. He looked Drenovis straight in the eyes. “I know six other places give me a job and more money too. I’ll take a few days off and be working next week.”

“You’re getting too big for your britches,” Drenovis said.

“You’re the one out of line,” Bill said. He picked up the sharpening steel and his curved butcher’s knife, honed the blade’s edge on the steel. “Go on out of here before you get yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in.”

“This isn’t over,” Drenovis said.

“I suppose not. No matter. We’ll finish it.”

“You watch your step.”

“You watch yours,” said Bill.

Coming This Week:

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