kitchen-4Bill found the orders tucked underneath the bell. One was for three hamburgers medium-rare. The other was for two Supers, one rare and the other well done. That was a couple, he thought. They probably disagreed on lots of stuff. He laughed to himself, took a moment to grease the grills with oil from the fryer he had not cleaned yet. He did this because the grills had been idle for awhile and they were very hot. He didn’t want anything to stick, especially the hamburger meat.

The meat sizzled loudly when he put it on the grills. The two Supers he placed carefully and rotated quickly to diamond-mark them. The rare one, once marked, he flipped and pulled to the front of the drawer so it was not under the heat. The other he left to cook. Next he put the burgers on. These he left awhile so they could sear on the down side and cook some on the top side.

Meanwhile he fetched two orders of vegetables and heated them in a sauté pan he placed on the charcoal broiler, one side of which he kept lit until the end. He also fetched two baked potatoes.

By the time the sides were plated before him, the steaks were ready. He flipped the burgers, plated the steaks, speared the rare one with a red rare-sticker arrow from his supply. He tucked the tongs under his elbow, set the plates up under the warmer lights, tapped the bell and headed down the line for French fries. He poured and dropped three orders of fries, reached into the cooler for three set-ups. They kept a tray of set-ups on the ready: lettuce slice, tomato slice, two pickle chips. All he had to do was get them and set them on the plate. Next were the buns, which he toasted under the broiler. They only took a few seconds. He flipped the burgers another time, went down the line and picked up the fries. When he saw they could go another minute or two, he dropped the basket back down, went back to the broiler, plated the burgers.

Victoria came in for the steaks. Bill watched her take them with no caps, both in one hand. She went back out the door, but not before Bill told her to come right back for the burgers.

He was spilling the fries onto the plates when she returned. As he set up the burgers for her to take, he asked her to bring him another beer. Only then did he reach under the steam table to the shelf and take up the beer that was there. He finished it quickly, then opened the case of cubed grease, cut open the plastic, hoisted the case and spilled out the cube on top of the empty fryer’s gas jets. For that fryer, he double-checked. He made sure the gas was off and had been off. He made sure it was clean. He made sure the drain was shut so nothing could spill out. Only then did he retrieve the small pot, take out the towel on which it sat, replace the towel with a clean one folded to fit the space. Then with the utmost care, he lit the fryer’s pilot light, turned on the gas and watched as the gas jets fired up.

“Come on Marie.” He motioned with a head gesture for her to go out with him.

Outside was chilly. If he’d had to guess, it was pretty near the low forties, high thirties. He lit the joint before they stepped out the door, but they didn’t smoke until they were outside and around behind the building, which was not far from the back door. As they smoked, he reached up Marie’s dress. She shifted how she stood so he could help himself to whatever he wanted. Unshyly and completely without inhibition, she helped herself to some of him too.

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