Bill did not answer right away. Finished putting the potatoes in the pan, he shut the oven doors and covered the potatoes with aluminum foil, tucking the foil neatly around the pan’s rim. Then he walked around and onto the line where he set the pan into the steam table. He was thinking. He didn’t want to think.
Back in the back by Mary, Bill walked up close to her.
“You take the Black Beauty yet?” he asked.
“Just drink the beer and chill out.”
Mary looked at Bill. “Don’t you manage me, boy,” she said.
“Girl, you had enough.”
“Who you think you are?”
Bill leaned in very close and spoke into Mary’s ear. “Someone who really cares for you. Someone who cares about you deeply.”
“Yeah, right,” Bill said. He took her in his arms and kissed her. “And I’m not letting you ruin the good time we had last night.”
Because they were in the kitchen and because Bill thought it seemed more than just fooling around stuff, he released Mary after the one kiss and stepped away.
“What else you need done?” he asked.
“You really care about me?”
“Talk about it later. What else you need done?”
“The round needs to come out and be brought over.”
Bill went over to the oven he knew the round was in and opened the oven door. Carefully, he slid the roasting pan out part way, resting it somewhat on the oven door. Mary, knowing he was doing this, went for a sheet pan and handed it to him as she returned. Bill put the sheet pan on top of the stove. He then put on oven mitts, lifted the roasting pan out of the oven and set it on top of the stove next to the sheet pan. Last, using a heavy duty kitchen fork and a side towel, he lifted the round from the roasting pan to the sheet pan. Done with that, he put down the fork and towel and carried the round onto the line where he placed it on a pan set up on the steam table. This pan was elevated slightly in position and from here the round could easily be carved.
Since Mr. Jim was retiring, Bill would do the carving. Mr. Jim had been teaching the boy everything he needed to know, everything he could teach as it came up. Lately, he’d been staying in the back with Mary and leaving Henry Lee and Bill to do the service alone. No matter how busy it got, he stayed away to make sure they could handle it. He was showing Mary how to step in at the fryers if need be. This Friday was to be his last day. That was New Year’s Eve day and the lunch was expected to be very slow.
Bill stood and trimmed the round while Mary finished bringing the rest of the items she’d prepared onto the line. Trimming the round was a matter of clearing the fat from around the outsides and cutting out the circle of fat that sat in one of the middle seems. The first time Mr. Jim let Bill do this alone Bill had cut too deep down with the boning knife and cut out a good chunk of rare, red meat with the fat. Tommy had been watching and Mr. Jim had defiantly picked it up by the fat end and dangled it in Tommy’s face. “The boy got to learn,” Mr. Jim had said. He had a good laugh over it, but when Tommy wasn’t looking, he cut that chunk of meat into slices and used it as underneath slices. Those pieces filled out the orders so no meat was wasted. Tommy never knew. It wasn’t about Tommy. It was about teaching the boy how to never waste anything.