Generally the waitresses were not allowed to have pie. They could have jello, rice pudding, or chocolate pudding, or they could have leftover dessert specials if there were any. Same thing for dinners. They could have hamburger, chopped steak or the fried fish, or they could eat the special if there was one. They could not eat fried shrimp, steak, prime rib or the roast beef at lunch. The rules were strictly enforced. This meant that food was a commodity. If a waitress wanted a steak, she had to give up something for it, do something for it. Some waitresses did and some waitresses didn’t. Some cooks were really demanding. Some weren’t. Drenovis, the manager, was a pig.
Bill had given Victoria the pie as a lark, because it was late and they were alone, because it was slow and she hadn’t made any money, because overall, of the waitresses, she was pretty regular, much like Lorraine. Being regular meant she was just a working girl interested in doing her job and going home. She was friendly but not overly so. She was soft-spoken and nice, unassuming, a real person. Bill appreciated that. He’d given her the pie because she’d never asked for anything special, ever. She’d never asked for anything.
“You know why you aren’t allowed to eat pie?” he asked her the next day when she’d gotten a piece to serve to a customer.
“You see what you got in your hand there? That’s the boss’ profit on a whole pie. If you eat the profit, there’s no point in selling the pie.”
“That’s the profit margin, one piece per pie.”
“This is a tough business,” Bill said.
Victoria looked at Bill as a person, for maybe the first time, just as Bill looked at her. Their eyes met momentarily.
“I got to go,” she said. “Maybe we can, you know, talk later.”
“Sure,” Bill said. He was tired and cranky and just plain lethargic. He’d gotten home late, but happily satisfied. Then it was quick turnaround, up at five and in at six.
Victoria had back-to-back shifts. Bill was surprised to see her in for the lunch since she’d closed the night before, and he didn’t hesitate to ask her when they had a little free time just before the meal started.
“How come you got stuck with closing and opening?” They stood by the pantry, but Bill led her out the side door into the side dining room.
“Cause I’m not in favor,” said Victoria. “I shouldn’t even be talking to you out here like this. The walls have eyes and ears and this place is a sewer. I know everything you’re doing, and I only know it from listening, from overhearing the gossip.”
“What do you know?” Bill asked.
“Please! Let me see, Bea, Mary, Evelyn, Norma, Lexi soon as you can now that she had trouble with Drenovis. You do acid, smoke pot in the deep freeze, have sex in the party room, the bathroom, and anywhere else you damn well please. Lorraine is next up. I heard you and her are real chummy now.”
“Pretty good report,” said Bill.
“Want more? I can tell you about Drenovis, the owner and Robert, whoever he is cause I never met him, Henry Lee and Marie, and I heard something in the wind about Alfreda coming on to you. I don’t know her either. I miss anything?”
“That’s pretty damn good.”
“I get the back-to-back shifts and the crappy ones cause I said no to Drenovis. Period.”
“Well,” said Bill, “then I’m really glad I gave you the pie.”
“I told you. No secrets in this place.” Victoria smiled at Bill and tapped his arm playfully. “You have fun with Lorraine last night?”
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