You ain’t getting no beer, Bill thought. He was already reaching down into the meat cooler for the steaks that were ordered when the dishwashers turned the corner and went back to their machine. He noted Jim eyeball the beer bottle and he watched as Jim went on to the dish machine and put his dinner dishes inside one of the racks. Then he watched as Jim assumed his position at the machine.

Lorraine came back in first. She had two more dupes and Bill suddenly found himself in the midst of a little rush all by himself. It wasn’t the first time this had happened and it surely wouldn’t be the last but he wasn’t getting out early this night. He took a moment to look at the French fryers with disdain. He had to change the grease and that would make him even later.

Lorraine had brought him another beer. She sipped it before she set it down. Once her hands were free, she took up another piece of the prime rib. That left only one on the plate.

“Go ahead and eat it,” Bill said. “I’ll cut another piece.”

“Good,” Lorraine said. “We’re gonna be real late tonight.”

“Yeah, well, no one’s home waiting on me.”

“Where’s your fiancé?”

“Up in Cleveland with her parents.”

“You want to sleep over then? I mean my kids are there, but you could sleep on the sofa. It’s close by.”

“I might just take you up on that.”

“Good. I hope you will.”

Lorraine ate the last piece of rib then went over to the pantry for her salads.

Marie was bitching because she’d already done most of her clean up and was gonna have to do it again. She’d covered everything and now it was all uncovered. She’d wiped everything clean and dry. Now she had to do that again.

Meanwhile, Bill had eight steaks, three hamburgers, two fried shrimp and a pickerel working. He also had two orders of rib to cut. He had five orders of fries to drop and one order of onion rings.

As the steaks and burgers cooked, he put the fries in the baskets but didn’t drop them both. He dropped one, the one with the fries that went with the fried shrimp. The other basket would wait until he was close to plating steaks. The pickerel was coming up next to last so it sat alone in one fryer basket. The two orders of fried shrimp came up with the two ribs. The shrimp were working, so Bill cut the rib quickly then turned the steaks that needed turning. He plated the rib orders, put a baked potato on each plate, ran au jus over the meat to warm it up. Then he picked up the shrimp, shook them free of excess grease, plated them, picked up the fries, shook them free of grease, plated them. One plate in each hand, he pushed the plates up on the shelf under the warmer lights and hit the bell. Before he did anything else, he took the order of onion rings he’d taken out when he got the fries and set it in the empty French-fry basket. Then he dropped the other basket of fries.

Up was Victoria’s order. Soon as she came into the kitchen, he warmed the ribs one last time, this time leaving au jus on the meat. He split the baked potatoes and spread them open, put parsley over the ribs. Then he pushed these plates up for Victoria to usher out to the dining room.

Being nice, Marie brought him over three set-ups. The burgers and some steaks were next up. Beyond this order, two rare steaks came with two medium-wells, so Bill held those two to the very front of the grill where they wouldn’t cook. He flipped the burgers a second time, rotated the steaks. Then he took a moment to stop and sip his beer.

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