“So what did you talk about?” Bill stood up and faced Tommy. He stood hand on hip, smoked his cigarette, sipped his beer almost as if it were in defiance.
“Just that you’re turning into a damn good cook,” said Tommy. “Pretty soon be time to make you a manager. With your cooking knowledge complete and your college education, you’re a perfect choice.”
Bill didn’t say anything. He just smiled at Tommy.
“Well, I’ll leave you to your work,” Tommy said. “I know it’s late and by the time you get home be almost time to head on back.”
Bill didn’t say anything. He was deciding whether or not to stay over at Lorraine’s. With her kids there it was innocent enough and he could actually get some sleep.
Once Tommy was out of the kitchen, Bill took his first trip outside to dump the grease. He stopped at the Garland first, emptied the grease drawer into the stock pot filled with grease then headed out the door and outside to where the grease barrel was. Sitting out in the cold, the grease in the barrel was all congealed. The grease Bill spilled, still very hot, melted the top layers and slid into the congealed grease some as Bill poured. But there came a point where it wouldn’t melt anything more and then it filled the hole it had made and settled on top, a good six inches of liquid grease that would quickly congeal.
He cleaned the fryer before he went downstairs for the next grease cube. He ran hot water through the fryer, catching it in the same way he had caught the grease, in the small pot which he emptied into the big one, over and over until he was satisfied the fryer was clean. Then he wiped it with already soiled dish towels.
The dirty water he spilled out in the pot washer sink over by where Andy, the pot washer, would have been if the dishwashers hadn’t already finished work and gone downstairs to put on their civvies. Bill made sure not to dirty the sink Andy had left clean by rinsing any scum the water had left anywhere.
He parked that big stock pot at the end of the line, right by the knife sheath, underneath it and pushed up against the end of the counter. Then he headed down the stairs to get the second cube of grease. He was on the stairs as the dish washers rounded the corner and headed up toward him. They all said good night, first Paulie, the ADHD kid, then Mickey, the finagler, then Andy, bald-headed and with one strange eye. Jim came up last. He didn’t say good night. He stopped where he and Bill crossed paths since Bill was coming down. They stood face to face on the same stair.
“You could have given me a beer,” Jim said. He looked Bill straight in the eyes.
“Nah,” said Bill. “I couldn’t and you know that.”
“Really think you’re something, don’t you? But you’re just a snot-nosed kid.”
That said, Jim headed up the stairs.
Bill turned to watch him go up. He stood there thinking the matter was not going away, that Jim was becoming fixated on it. It was shifting from a little incident type thing to what looked like it was going to be a problem, and it was getting time, almost, for him to say something to Tommy, to have Tommy tell him he most certainly could not have alcohol.
Before he went into the store room for the grease cube, Bill stopped in the meat room for another drink. To his surprise, Marie was there waiting for him. She was sitting up on the counter Mary always sat on, still in her kitchen dress only the dress was mostly opened so at quick glance he could see the whole front of her bra on top and up her spread legs on bottom. Her skinny legs were covered more by her white half-slip than the dress.
“Been waiting for you, white boy,” she said.