“Night, baby.” Bea, in her civvies, leaned down and kissed Bill on his cheek. She stepped past him, told him watch out for Marie, then stepped out the screen door.

A moment later Mary came up followed by Henry Lee. Henry Lee stopped to let him know what steaks he had cut and that he didn’t cut the round. Mary went in to the kitchen. She did that every night, talked to Grandma, stirred some things on the stoves, read the menu board to make sure she didn’t forget anything.

Out in the hall, she stopped by Bill. “Don’t get yourself in any trouble,” she said. “Make sure you bring me up some onions, potatoes and six bags of lentils. Lentil soup on the menu for Wednesday.”

“Yeah, yeah. I won’t forget anything.”

“Good. And leave the waitresses alone.”

“You bet.”

“Specially Lexi.”

“Uh…”

“Uh, you never learn, do you?”

“I’m learning everything.”

He reached up her dress but she stopped him.

“Cut that shit out.”

“Yes mommy.”

“I’ll mommy you.”

Bill laughed as Mary stepped away from him and out the door. Then he stood up and walked back into the kitchen. He surveyed the dishwasher crew, same crew, Paul, Andy, Jimmy and Mickey. He looked across at Marie who stuck her tongue out at him. He went down the line, checked everything, stirred what could be stirred, checked the reach-ins to make sure everything that was needed was there. Finally, he went around back, had a brief chat with Grandma, made sure she was all set. Then he drew himself a coffee and stood over by the dishwashers to drink it.

“You guys need anything?” he asked. “Want a pitcher of soda?”

He watched as they all nodded yes, so he waited until the first waitress came in. It was Norma. She didn’t usually work on Monday, but she was in today. She had two dupes and handed them to him. He asked her to get the soda.

It was a usual Monday night, mostly quiet with a decent little rush lasting from about seven until a little after nine. Tommy came in several times to make sure they were okay. Bill and Jimmy assured him it was easy peasy. From nine till eleven they had regular orders, nothing unusual, all pretty steady. Still, Grandma and Jimmy were able to cut out before ten-thirty.

It was change-the-grease night so Bill adjusted the cleanup accordingly. He broke down the steam table while he handled the few orders he still had after Jimmy and Grandma were gone, while he cooked the waitresses’ dinners. Norma, Lexi and Victoria were on. They could have eaten steak for all Bill cared, but they all ordered hamburgers. Bill made them special by  doubling the usual size and piling on double cheese. He also cooked burgers for the dishwashers. Marie ate a steak, well done, with fries and onion rings.

All staff having eaten, orders having stopped, Bill scrubbed down the line so that the stainless steel shined. Then he shut one fryer and began the laborious task of carting over a stock pot and a regular pot to drain the grease. From the corner of his eye, he noted Jim move toward the knife sheath at the end of the line. But Jim didn’t do anything more than lean over to look at him.  He was on his knees in front of the fryer.

“I could sure go for a beer,” Jim said. “Wouldn’t kill you, you know.”

Bill stood up and faced Jim. “Look, I’d give you one if I could. I don’t care about the beer. But it’s strict policy and I’m not getting my ass reamed for it. Get you more soda. Get you something else to eat. But I can’t get you alcohol.”

“You could do what you damn well please,” said Jim. “Think you’re something, don’t you?”

Bill watched Jim head back toward the dish machine. He was just about to get back on his knees and resume straining the grease when Bebe came in to order her dinner.

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