After Victoria and Lorraine left the kitchen, Bill tucked his beer bottle down under the steam table on the stainless steel shelf. Cigarette in mouth, he went down the stairs to cart up the first cube of grease.

He stopped first in the meat room where he took himself a long drink of bourbon. As he was drinking, Marie came in.

“You never gave me that drink,” she said.

Bill handed her the bottle. “I never got one myself. This is the first chance I had.”

Marie took a drink and handed the bottle back to Bill. He capped it and put it back in the drawer under the towels.

“Make sure you’re okay to drive,” he said.

“I’m fine.” Marie stepped close to Bill and reached to stroke his thighs. “You got any weed?”

“Yeah. But I ain’t smoking any now. I’m carting up the grease and finishing up the fryers so I can get the hell out of here.”

“I’m all done,” Marie said. “Mind if I take a joint from you and smoke it in the deep freeze?”

“Knock yourself out.” Bill reached into the same drawer where the bourbon was and found a joint he had put there. He handed it to Marie. “It’s strong stuff,” he said. “Last time I say it, just make sure you can drive home.”

Marie reached up and kissed Bill, tongue and all. “I just have to empty one coffee pot I left full for the people still out there. I’ll see you upstairs before I leave. Sure you don’t want to play with me while I get high?”

“Want to? Yeah. Going to? No. Girl, I don’t get this work finished, I might as well stay here the whole night.”

That said, he left Marie in the meat room and stopped in the store room where he hoisted the first fifty-pound cube of grease up on his shoulder and carted it up the stairs. He dropped it by the first deep fryer, then went for a small pot to drain the grease into and a big stock pot to empty the small one into. This was the routine, a well-practiced one that he virtually never varied from. Because he was changing the grease tonight, he hadn’t emptied the Garland’s grease drawer yet. He would do that on his first trip outside to dump the grease from the stock pot.

So he got down on his knees. He opened the door to the fryer, where the drain and gas jets were, lined the bottom shelf of the fryer with used dish towels. He made sure the gas was turned off and began the process. He opened the drain, filled the pot, closed the drain, emptied the pot into the stock pot. He did this over and over until the fryer was empty.

Still on his knees, he lit a cigarette and reached for the beer he’d left under the steam table. It was then that Tommy came in to tell him that most of the customers had left but there were still a couple of tables with people at them. He said they might order a dessert, but no more food was going out for sure.

“We ended up with a good night,” Tommy said.

“Real good,” Bill said. “I can tell by the meat inventory.”

“You and Mary and Henry Lee will have your work cut out for you tomorrow.”


“Did he leave a round cut?”

“I didn’t look. Don’t matter. If not, I’ll cut one first thing.”

“You did a good job.”

“I heard you and Lillian had a talk about me.”

“Yeah, we did,” Tommy said.

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