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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