Bill sat up on the counter next to Marie. He offered her a cigarette and put one in his own mouth then he held the match for her to light hers before he lit his own. Marie crossed her feet at the ankles and swung her legs, much like Mary did when she sat up on the counter.
They sat a few minutes in silence, neither one of them talking, both of them smoking and drinking their beer. Bill thought Marie must have been having a moment of self-consciousness because she covered herself by making sure her dress was pulled closed and tucked tight underneath her.
“That grease be melted in a few minutes,” Bill finally said. Then, “Why you hanging around?”
“I ain’t got nothing to go home to, not with the kids not there.”
“Well, what you want from me?”
“I don’t want nothing. Getting high would be nice.”
“That’s easy. Soon as that grease is melted. You could change in the meantime.”
“I’ll wait for you,” Marie said. Then, “How come you don’t like me?” She was finished her cigarette and let herself slide down from the counter. She put the cigarette out with water from Mary’s sink then tossed the butt into the garbage can. The can was empty and had a clean liner in it.
“Who said I don’t like you?”
“It’s not about the words. It’s how you act.”
“How do I act?”
“Well you don’t want me.”
“It isn’t like that. It’s that you’re with Henry Lee.”
“He really don’t care. He told you that.”
“Yeah, but I care. We don’t need any more tension. I already have plenty of that with Bea. You don’t need her on your case either.”
“You know what I got to say about that.” Marie flicked her fingers under her chin in the “f”—it sign.
“Well, we all got to live here, you know.”
“Yeah, we do.” Marie stepped up close to Bill. “Sometimes I just want to be held,” she said. She put her hands in her dress pockets and let the dress slip apart as she stepped close to him. “Just hold me.”
Bill was still sitting on the counter. He took her in his arms and held her to him. The way he was sitting made it so that she could not really touch him with her body except where their chests met. She still had her bra on and her dress closed up there.
“That feels nice,” she said. She reached up and kissed him on the lips. It was a closed-mouth kiss since Bill did not respond except to give that.
“Let me finish up,” Bill said. “Why don’t you meet me in the meat room?”
Marie nodded, picked up her beer and started for the door. “Don’t be too long, please.”
“Won’t be but a few.”
Bill took up his beer and went back to the line. He saw that the cube of grease was all liquid now so he shut down the fryer and slipped a meat tray over it to cover it. The meat tray was actually big enough to cover both fryers and Bill, pretty much finished, checked up and down the entire line, made sure everything was turned off, everything was clean and everything was put away. He went around back again and double-checked Mary’s station then peeked into all the ovens. Ever since he’d burned that rib by cooking it overnight, he never went home without checking the ovens.
The last thing he did before going downstairs was check out the dishwasher area. All the pots were done and all the dishes were put away except for the one rack that needed to be run through the machine in the morning. These were all the dishes that came in after the dishwashers went home.
Downstairs, he stopped at his locker and got a fat joint out. Then he went off to the meat room.
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Marie was about to show Bill exactly what she wanted when Tommy popped his head in the door. Tommy didn’t say anything. He just ran his hand along his neck to say cut it off, that there were no more customers. When he was gone from sight, Marie showed herself to Bill, very explicitly. Bill was about to reach up to scratch her itch, or begin doing so, but the automatic doors opened and Bebe came in. She was carrying two bottles of beer and set them on the serving shelf where the finished dinners ready to serve were placed. That shelf was usually lit in the infrared of the heater lamps. The lamps were switched off a long time now and the shelf was cool.
“I have a few people at the bar,” she said, “so I’m gonna be awhile. Any coffee left?”
Marie turned to face Bebe, the front of the line and the serving self between them so that while her dress was unbuttoned from the waist down, Bebe couldn’t see it.
“It’s old,” said Marie. “It’s drinkable, but if you want it for customers, I can make a fresh pot.”
“Would you?” Bebe asked.
“Sure,” Marie said.
“Great. I’ll be back in a few.”
Marie finished her first beer and sipped the new one. She put Bill’s beer down on the carving shelf of the steam table then started buttoning her dress.
“See,” Bill said. “You should have gone home.”
“Not without getting my itch scratched.”
Bill was finished cleaning out the fryer. Before he went over to the potwasher station with the pots he had, he put the new cube of grease into the fryer and lit the fryer. As soon as the grease was melted, he would turn off the gas and make sure everything was turned off. Meanwhile, he rinsed both pots he had, the sauce pot and the stock pot, making sure not to leave anything dirty for Andy when he came in in the morning. Bill did not have to do this and throughout his career he would discover that most cooks and chefs would never do it. Bill did it because he felt it impolite not to. It seemed a breach of etiquette.
Leaving Andy’s area clean and in order, he went directly to the back of the kitchen where he began wrapping the leftovers to be put into Mary’s walk-in. Marie met him there. She carried over their beer and while Bill put things into the walk-in she took to wrapping what still needed to be wrapped. Then, finally, they were finished. They both leaned against Mary’s stainless steel counter and drank their beer.
“You got pot, right?” Marie asked.
“Well, let’s go get high.”
“Soon as the grease melts and I can shut down the kitchen.”
“Damn,” Marie said. She hoisted herself up onto Mary’s counter and asked Bill for another cigarette.
Bill had left his cigarettes on the steam table shelf where Marie had set them. He walked over to get them and good thing too because that’s when Bebe came in to get the coffees. She was followed by Lorraine who was closing girl. Lorraine had already changed and was wearing her coat.
“See you tomorrow,” she said. “Maybe we can get to that talk.”
Bill smiled and said goodnight. He watched both of them leave the kitchen. Then he looked to see that the cube of grease was just about completely melted. He knew they still had a few moments, or they could go downstairs and change clothes. He decided to finish his beer and went back to where Marie sat.
“What you talking about?” Marie asked.
“Just stuff. Her kids. My college days. Nothing much.”
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So who is right, right in the head? The same world was a different place for different people depending upon what their experiences had been and what their circumstances were. Normal: everyone said there was no such thing as normal.
Jim was way out of line and Bill did his best to make sure he did not get a chance to go at Paulie. If he could see it or hear it, he would do his best to find a way to stop it. But Jim needed the job too. They all needed the job and Bill’s experience of desperately needing a job kept him from firing Jim or anyone without real cause. Maybe he should have fired Jim. Maybe it would have been better for everyone.
That first crew. You never forgot your first crew.
Midnight came and Marie was done with her work but she was hanging around. Bill was still busy with the fryers, almost done but not quite. Marie came up to him and asked him for a cigarette. When he could stop what he was doing, he handed her his pack so she could take one.
Marie did not smoke much. Actually she didn’t smoke at all except for an occasional cigarette every now and then. Bill could not understand that. He couldn’t understand how anyone could take just one of anything and leave the rest. No, that was not in his frame of reference and he was fond of saying that God had not given him an off button. If he ate a cookie, he’d eat the whole box. Same for M&Ms and same for beer, drugs, cigarettes or anything. That was why he was the proverbial garbage head.
Marie leaned her skinny butt against the wooden steam table shelf, the shelf that sat right before and attached to the steam table, the shelf where carving was done. Sometimes Bill or Jimmy or whoever was doing the carving would place the object—generally it was the prime rib—there on the board to cut it. She lit the cigarette she’d taken and put the pack down beside her, matches on top of the pack.
“Want a beer?” she asked.
“Why you hanging around?” Bill asked.
“He ain’t home. Probably out with one of his bimbos. The kids is with my mom. I ain’t in no hurry.”
“What you want from me?”
“I want you to scratch my back.”
Having said that, she stood away from the shelf, headed around the broiler side of the line and out of the kitchen through the automatic doors. She returned a moment later carrying two bottles of beer. By this time Bill was nearly done with the second fryer. He was changing the grease tonight and stood up to go empty the old grease into the grease barrel outside.
“Where’s it itch?” he asked.
Marie, a sly smile on her face, lifted her skirt and showed Bill where she itched. No one else was in the kitchen. The van for the dishwashers had come and gone and Bill was just waiting for Tommy or Bebe to pop their head in and tell him there’d be no more customers. Meanwhile, he went out with old grease while Marie settled herself against the shelf again to finish her cigarette and sip the beer.
When Bill returned, she’d unbuttoned most of her dress. She’d also shucked her panties and tucked them in her dress pocket. If he’d looked, Bill could have seen her coochie. But he didn’t look. He sipped his beer, lit a cigarette and went about rinsing out the fryer.
“Thought Henry Lee scratched that itch.”
“Show me where again.”
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Our real enemy is not external and our greatest problem is not climate change. Climate change is at best an issue and perhaps a concern. Iran, North Korea, Russia and China are foes, even enemies. But they are not the real danger facing the United States. Even Radical Islamic Terrorism, a danger for sure, isn’t the real danger. The real danger facing us comes from within. It is the willful attempt at destroying a presidency, an attempted coup d’état in the premier free country of the world.
It seems unbelievable, unreal, way out there. An overthrow of our government? To even say it sounds silly, even fantastical. However, all the elements are in place and at play. The government is divided. The country is divided. The media are biased, even controlled. Protests and protesters are paid by anarchists like George Soros and his cronies, and their true goals are couched by their labeling anyone who opposes them as racist.
Division, media control and paid opposition make the perfect storm for toppling not just this presidency, but any presidency.
There’s more. The deep state, as they call it, is actively anti-Trump and remains powerful because Congress is still dilly-dallying in approving Trump nominees. The deep state leaks false stories to the biased media who run with them, true or not. The politically correct, corrupt politicians, more accurately those who are paid off by big money, holding to the whims of their benefactors’ purse strings, dance to the rhythm of the false stories. These politicians are corrupt and even immoral in many instances, no better than the old Communist Politburo we used to abhor and chastise through the Cold War in the fifties and sixties. In fact they are very much the same as them. Some of these politicians, you know who they are, are driven by personal animus toward the man who is president, by simple hatred for him, and they are willing to put their personal feelings ahead of national interest. That is narcissism, even hubris, the very same qualities for which they attack the President.
Worst of all, and a common thread across the camps of those who would undo the presidency, is a willingness to re-write history. In their misguided political correctness they are willing to tear down the statues of our founders and heroes and replace them with icons of socialists we once reviled. Revisionist history alone threatens the presidency, the Constitution and our very existence as a nation.
Yes, our real enemy is within. The first thing a dictator does when in the midst of a coup is seize the media and suppress it completely until the coup is a fait accompli and the new dictator controls them. Here, now, for the most part, our media are already no better than Pravda was. They are biased, controlled and paid for by political foes. They spew pure liberal propaganda spun by presenting nearly incessant anti-Trump news, real or not. Facts and fact-checking are things of the past, replaced by gossip, purposefully incorrect leaks and outright fabrications. Thus the media are, in and of themselves, the greatest of the dangers within.
It’s simply the turnaround at work. See The Turnaround. So the real danger within is our overall erosion from within. Its origins, as stated many times here, emanate from human selfishness and greed. That selfishness and greed have caused our leaders to dumb-down education and brainwash the upcoming generations that have no context for the realities of socialist dictatorships, for their evils and failures. With no context they are easily cajoled into thinking those systems are preferable to our freedom and capitalism and easily led into any other thing the leftists would have them believe.