Bill busied himself with work, cooking the waitresses’ food, cooking hamburgers for the dish washers, breaking down the steam table as he did so. He went through his closing-cleaning routine quickly and energetically all the while thinking he should not have acted out on the sudden impulse. So he launched into his internal dialogue, the conflicting feelings, finally coming to an existential decision, as he generally did in situations like this, to a what-the-hell moment where he reasoned that she wanted it, Henry Lee wanted it, Mary had started it, teasing him as she did, and in the long run it didn’t mean squat in the scope of things.
The decision made, he started wondering what she was thinking, what she would want for him to do to her. He was thinking what he wanted her to do for him. Thinking these thoughts took his mind off his work and being unfocused, flipping a hamburger he burned his arm.
“Goddamn it,” he said aloud. The burger was for Bebe, medium rare. He went to the freezer and got an order of fries which he set into a fryer basket. He had no setups ready and had to cut a tomato and a pickle. He stepped over by Marie, took a nice piece of iceberg, a tomato and a pickle from her walk-in.
“You could have asked,” she said. “You could ask for just about anything.”
Bill nicked his finger cutting the tomato. This drew another “goddamn” and a “shit” too. Angry at himself, he dropped the fries too hard and splashed oil on his checkered work pants. Only by luck did he not burn himself.
He burned the first bun, but finally managed to get the plate ready and up under the warmer lights. He tapped the bell. A moment later, Lexi, who had eaten a steak, came in in her street clothes.
“I’m out of here,” she said. “See you tomorrow, sweetie.” She blew him a kiss as she picked up the burger plate. A moment later, one of the new waitresses came in with a beer for Bill. She told Bill the bar was full and Tommy asked that he hang around while they see if any late orders came in. Bill said he was going downstairs in a few, to get him if she needed him.
He finished up everything he could upstairs. He was conscious of threes as he worked. He had nicked himself, burned himself and wondered what the three would be. Jim was hanging around the knives again, eyeballing him and the beer. Marie was happening–maybe that was it.
The last thing he did was put away the steam table leftovers. He had already put the foods into clean containers and covered them with film, leaving a corner open on each. Since they were still warm, he made the open parts smaller and stored them that way.
“I’m going downstairs,” he told Marie. “I’ve got some things to do for tomorrow.”
Marie didn’t say anything. She watched him go out of the kitchen then went to her carry purse where she took her lipstick and powder. Looking in the glass of the reach-in box, she fixed her face the way she wanted it. Then she stepped around behind the counter of her station and when she was sure no one was looking, she quickly stepped out of her underwear. She tucked her panties into her dress pocket and quietly unbuttoned the top two buttons of the dress. Ready, she stepped through the line on her way downstairs. She stopped to pick up the beer Bill had left there, took a sip, then carried the bottle with her.
She found Bill in the meat room. She knew he would be there. He was busy fixing the meat for the meat loaf, taking the chopped beef from one tray and putting it into a pan which he would carry upstairs and store in the walk-in there for Mary for the morning. The first thing Marie did was take a sip of bourbon.
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