kitchen-4And another and another and another. One after the next, days rolled on.

Marie’s black eyes healed. She and Henry Lee went on fooling around. Bill said something to Henry Lee about Marie’s rejection-aggression so she quit messing with him. He didn’t want to get her fired. No one knew it yet but Alfreda would dispense with Marie.

They never heard about the robbery again. They never found out if the thieves were caught or the exact amount that was stolen. It was never the same opening up the restaurant anymore. Bill and Tommy always went in first and checked to make sure no one was inside. Only then did Mary and Bea follow in.

Lorraine and Bill established a relationship, a friendship which included intimacy every so often. Bill let Lorraine control that. They always went to her friend’s apartment. Bill learned what made Lorraine happy. She ate steak when she wanted, but like the trouper she was, she didn’t abuse the privilege. Bill discovered that she was easy to please and fun all around.

Two days after he had tripped, Lexi was closing girl. It had been a no-fun Saturday night for Bill, a Saturday with State playing ball at home. They were extremely busy so he and Jimmy had worked hard. Alvin had come over from the west side and worked the middle for a few hours. Tommy came in the kitchen around nine-thirty to relieve Lillian for fifteen minutes so she could get a drink and catch a smoke.

Alvin, fat and funky, wore his shirt out of his pants and he didn’t wear an apron. Sometimes you could see his fat belly where the shirt split open. He never came to work clean-shaven, always had a stubble, not the cute Hollywood stubble. He ate two orders of grandma’s chicken before he cut out, before Grandma cut out. He sat out in the hall stuffing his face, happily drinking a beer that he had made Victoria get him. He was sweet on Victoria and was looking for a way to make her be sweet to him, but that was never gonna happen. She hadn’t appeased Drenovis and she surely wasn’t giving it to funky Alvin.

She told Bill this out in the hall when everyone was gone, when the waitresses were ordering their dinners and Bill was taking in the cool air while the few things on the grill were working.

“He always makes me get him shit when he’s here.”

“He likes you.”

“No! Ya think?”

“Sarcasm. I like that.”

“You would.”

“Eat me.”

“You wish.”

“Actually we’re better just the way we are.”

“Why? Don’t you like me?”

“You’re not gonna start that?”

“Nope. Just razzing you. Am I pretty enough?”

Bill looked at Victoria. He didn’t answer. He went to the broiler and flipped the things cooking, then he set up the plates along the shelf. Victoria came in with him and stood on the other side of the line where they picked up their food from the serving shelf under the warmer lights.

“You’re messing with my head, aren’t you?” Bill started plating things, a hamburger very rare for one of the waitresses, a chopped steak medium for another. Victoria had asked for an order of onion rings that Bill hadn’t dropped yet. He also plated two steaks that were for an order and put the sides to them, set the plates under the warmer lights then hit the bell. Lexi came in a moment later.

When everything was gone, Victoria stood eating her onion rings out in the hall. Bill stood opposite her, leaning against the wall. He smoked a cigarette and was drinking a beer which he offered to Victoria.

“You never answered me,” she said.

“You are messing with my head.”

“Maybe I want to know.”

“I don’t get it,” Bill said.

“What don’t you get?”

“Women. I just don’t get you all.”

Victoria laughed. “You’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to be kept guessing.”

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