kitchen-4Bill sat in the hall for half an hour, till after noon when the rush came. Mary fed him black coffee, three mugs of it, and she had Lexi bring him sodas when she could. It wasn’t until Tommy asked where the boy was that Bill got up and came in on the line.

He wasn’t seeing pink elephants yet, but the buzz was loud in his ears and the zillions of miniscule colored dots were in his eyes. His mind and body were racing. Physically he was speeding, his body working at the speed of light. Mentally, his mind was operating on a variety of levels and, as he’d done many times, he was following things on the different levels.

He remembered the green-room trip, the trip in Jack’s house where he’d sat in the bathtub for close to eight hours staring into the green walls. He remembered Rell, Jack’s friend, really his lover but no one knew about it until later when Jack finally came out of the closet. Rell had blown his mind out on acid and didn’t speak much besides reliving acid flashbacks. He remembered being in Jack’s kitchen with Annabelle. Annabelle was barefoot and naked except for a man’s shirt she was wearing as a nightie. Jack’s cats had caught a mouse. They sat on either side of the kitchen and were playing with the mouse, batting it across the room to one another using their front paws. “Wow, look at the green.” “Trip number fifty-seven. Mushrooms. Gereeenn.” Annabelle painted her toenails while the cats toyed with the mouse.

“Picking up two pickerel with fries, an order of onion rings. Picking up two burgers medium, a bleu and a roast beef dinner with fries.”

Bill was fully up to speed. The pickerel were up and waiting. Two baskets of fries were up, Bill shaking them, ridding them of excess grease. He plated the pickerel, dropped fries on each plate, set the plates up under the warmer lights. Mr. Jim slid the roast beef dinner his way. He finished that plate and waited for the burger plates. All done and up, he dropped a basket of fries and listened to the bubbling oil.

Tommy ordered two fried shrimp and a host of other things, most of them from the grill. But he also ordered six roast beef lunches. Bill fetched and dropped the shrimp then slid in by Mr. Jim. He laid out six plates while Mr. Jim cut the roast beef and warmed the meat in the au jus.  He laid out the bread on the plates then checked and picked up the shrimp. They were ready.

“Let me know when you want the roast beef,” Mr. Jim told Tommy.

“Any time.”

“Let’s do it.”

Bill scooped out the mashed potatoes. Mr. Jim set up the meat and sauced the dishes. Bill sprinkled the parsley garnish and set the plates under the warmer lights two at a time.

Done, they slapped five and moved on. Bill plated the fried shrimp, Henry Lee set up the steaks and burgers he was working as they were called for. No one missed anything. All ran on time. The waitresses hustled, Lexi doing a creditable job and Bill admiring her ass every time she left the kitchen.

Then he started to see things, plates dancing under the warmer lights for starters. One of the pickerel grew a head and started talking to him from the basket. It was dressed like Charlie the tuna. Tommy’s head started shaking like a bobble-head and it was all Bill could do not to laugh. Still, he followed and filled all the orders and danced his usual dance with Mr. Jim next to him.

They worked straight through until one-fifteen, then they worked sporadically until nearly two o’clock. Mr. Jim sat with Mary a bit before he cut out. They discussed things, from cooking to gossip, but especially Bill. Tommy came by and thanked Mr. Jim, told him they did great. Mr. Jim pulled Tommy close.

“That boy’s a star. You hold on to him even if he’s young and stupid.”

“I’m doing my best,” said Tommy.

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