kitchen-4Mary and Bea sat talking at their lunch table. Mary was telling Bea what Mr. Jim said, that the only difference between Yulie and Bill was Yulie was a natural. Mr. Jim said Bill had gumption, that he was smart and learned  quickly, that when you told him what you wanted, he’d give you exactly what you asked for. The ability to reproduce and repeat flavors and looks was a talent, Mr. Jim said.

“He good with his tongue too,” said Bea, joking.

“I wouldn’t know,” Mary said.

Bea laughed her deep throaty laugh and made licking gestures with her tongue. “Yeah right. Way he looks at you, I bet he licks you sweetest of all.”

Mary flushed red over her dark-chocolate skin. “Everywhere,” she whispered. “He licks me everywhere.”

“And you hate it, right?”

“I love it. He makes me so wet I could scream. Sometimes I just look at him and I wet my drawers.”

“Me too sometimes, but it ain’t him. It’s the idea of me getting done.”

“Think it’s wrong to be with a white boy?”

“Nope. Whatever floats your boat. It’s wrong what they made this shit into. That’s what’s wrong. They divide us so…”

“Lord have Mercy.”

“Amen to that.”

Bill was on the line when they came back in the kitchen. He was scrubbing down the steam table, having broken it down and drained out the water. Remaining food was set into clean containers and covered with film, one corner unsealed so the food could cool. He had turned Mary’s radio up loud and was working hard. But the elephants were dancing now and trippy music was playing. He was waiting impatiently to get downstairs to smoke some weed and drink some bourbon.

“Wanna do some breading?” Mary asked him.

“What you need?”

“What you need?”

“I need about four hours with you. Some candlelight, rock music, wine and smoke. I need you to…”

Mary shushed him before he could say anymore. She stepped close to him and looked deep into his eyes. She wanted to ask him if he wanted her or one of the others he was fooling with, but she was afraid of the answer. “Don’t say anything gonna embarrass me,” she said.

If she’d dared to ask, she would have been shocked by the honesty of Bill’s answer. Bill would have told her that he was beyond sweet on her. He would have told her that she was first choice, best choice, his chosen one.

“Okay,” he said. “I don’t need anything. Some whiskey, some weed and something to do.”

“Finish cleaning up and then we’ll do the breading.”

Bill stood for two hours breading pickerel, shrimp and onion rings. He smoked weed with Henry Lee and Mary brought him a coffee she’d spiked with bourbon. He was quite happy enjoying the egg-wash show. At one point he’d taken a break but instead of resting he washed the potatoes for Mary and set them in the convection oven to bake.

Then it was time to finish up and start all over for the dinner. By this time he was at a mellow part of the trip, the point at which he smoked some more weed, popped two downers and chilled while he worked. He took the prime rib out of the oven. He set up the steam table. He inventoried the steaks and carted up the meat trays he needed to get through the dinner. Then he took a break.

He was standing outside the back door leaning against the building. He had just lit a cigarette.

“Want anything from the bar?” Lexi peeked her head out the door. She was in street clothes. “Mary told me to ask you.”

“Come here.”

Lexi stepped fully out the door. Bill looked her over. She was only about five-two, maybe all of a hundred pounds. She wore a short, short skirt and low cut blouse. Bill noted she had great legs.

Seeing him examining her, Lexi turned for him. “You like?” she asked.

Bill reached to her and lifted her skirt so he could see underneath. “Next time don’t wear panties,” he said.

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