kitchen-4Bill did think about it. Bill thought about everything all the time except when he was busy at work. He was happiest when he was in the throes of a busy meal service with Lillian’s harsh smoker’s voice, her raspy, throaty voice, calling orders at him, when he was amidst the tumultuous uproar in the kitchen which was the incessant noise from the droning exhaust fans, the dishwasher jets, the clanking of plates being stacked and silverware being shaken in a dishwasher tray, the automatic doors opening and closing and the hissing, bubbling sounds of the steaks on the grill and the French-fry grease. He was at peace amidst all this because then he didn’t think.

Being in his game was all that mattered when the service was on and the board was full and there was no time to even go to the bathroom. Then he was in the dance with whoever was with him on the line and whoever was calling orders. Drenovis, as nasty and funky as he was, was a master at calling orders, as smooth as an auctioneer or a carnival barker. Tommy was quiet and melodious in his own way. Lillian was like that strict school mistress, insistent upon being in charge and always scornful in her looks.

Each meal service was a baseball game. Everything was always the same, always in the same place. But there was no telling what sort of game it was going to be. It might be short and easy, like a no hitter, where the fielders have a generally simple time doing away with the opposing team. Or it might be a slug-fest where the balls are coming at you seemingly incessantly. It might go a simple nine innings, or it might go extra innings where it seemed like the game would never end. There might be nothing out of the ordinary happening or it might be complex, filled with tricky plays, tricky orders. One never knew what was coming and this was the fun of it.

There was more to it all, of course. Depending upon the shift and who was working, there were the waitresses Bill could flirt and play around with when they came to give him a beer, a soda or coffee. There was Bea in the morning who might come on the line to grab a French-fry. She might stop to talk to Mr. Jim. Working the fryers, Bill might pinch her ass or reach up her skirt, not for anything sexual, but just because, just for fun.

Or Mary might come over to deliver something. He would kiss Mary, no matter where he was working, and depending upon where and how much time he had—really time was measured in seconds during the service—he might lick or kiss her neck or reach under her dress for an intimate feel of her. She would slap his hand and blush red over her dark chocolate, say, “Boy, you crazy?”

Mary would always kiss back, just not always when Bill would expect it. Sometimes she might find him in the hall and walk right up to him and kiss him. This had started after they’d been intimate the first few times. Sometimes she might just whisper in his ear “Later.”

Not thinking was a blessing. When Bill thought, he worried. He was ever worried. It might not seem that way to his co-workers or his paramours, but that’s the way it was. He was worried about his upcoming marriage, about having already been so wild as to… He was worried about money. He was worried about his future. This, working in the kitchen, had not been a thought in his head, not once in his life, until he had crossed paths with Robert. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had a BA in English and he was supposed to have been a teacher or editor or copywriter or reporter. He was supposed to have been a professional.

Instead, he was a college graduate bus boy, a dishwasher, a cook. Twice already the blanket of his life had been pulled out from under him.

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