“Been giving you her coke,” Wayne said when Jackie was out of the kitchen. He looked at Bill and shrugged his shoulders. “What it is.”
Bill slapped him high five. “Hope you have more,” he said.
“Got plenty. Just we have to keep it to us. Ain’t enough for the three of us.”
“Pay you back soon as he gets in.”
“No problem,” Wayne said.
Wayne was finished the fried eggs, plated them, put some home fries and sausage on the plate, set the plate under the warmer lights. He tapped the bell.
In almost every kitchen almost everywhere Bill worked there was the little bell to tap to let the waitresses know to pick up. A moment after the ding, Aja, the one Asian waitress they had, came in to pick up her breakfast. Aja stood only four-eleven. She was thin as a toothpick with no tits to speak of. Her almond-shape eyes were slanted Vietnamese style and she wore her dark hair in a boy’s crew cut.
Aja was sweet on Bill, not for any particular reason Bill knew of. He had it in mind, this very day too, to mess with her specially because he noted she had done her nails. They were long and red. She had the finest fingers he’d ever seen.
“Hey baby,” she said to Bill, her breakfast in hand. “Join me outside if you can. I’m sitting out in the café.”
Bill smiled and nodded acknowledgement. He hit up again, quickly snorting four lines before he went out. He took a coffee with him and found where Aja was sitting. She had chosen a table at the back of the café closest to the kitchen door from the loading dock. He would have preferred a beer, but he didn’t want customers, if any came at this early time, to see him drinking.
“So,” Aja said when he sat down, “we gonna be busy?”
“If I knew I’d tell you. Sure looks and feels like it.”
“Good. Cause I’m working all day.”
“All work and no play’s no fun.”
“Play comes later.”
“I’m closing. You live around here?”
“I have a roommate. You?”
“All by my lonesome.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Depends upon what you’re thinking.”
“Thinking you probably know what I’m thinking. But if you want me to say it, thinking we don’t have to go home alone.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“You do coke?”
“I want to know how much to have on hand.”
“I don’t mind partying some.”
“Good,” Bill said.
That’s when they heard the crash. Bill recognized the crash, a plate, for sure, either down on the floor or against something. He hoped, as he sat there, it was down on the floor.
“I better go in,” he said quickly.
He found Jackie and Wayne in a stare-down. She was on the pantry side of the service counter, Wayne by the stove. She had dropped a plate, Bill saw. It was down there on the floor. He just didn’t know if it was purposeful or by accident, but if he was guessing…
Jackie was about to say something, but Wayne was trying to stop her. He was saying if she didn’t watch out the manager would be coming in and it surely wasn’t going to be him that got fired.
Jackie flashed Wayne the bird. It said what she wanted to say to him but quietly. About that time the manager did come into the kitchen. He’d heard the plate drop.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
Everything was not okay. In fact, everything was about as far from okay as could be, just they couldn’t see it yet. Jackie contained herself for the moment, ordered her breakfast from Wayne while the manager stood there. Bill went back on the line, the manager back to the office.
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Bill didn’t say anything to Jackie. They stood next to each other on the loading dock turned toward the café. Finally, in a huff, Jackie said, “Men.” She angrily crushed out her cigarette with the heel of her shoe and stormed off back inside.
Bill stood a while longer. He watched the waitresses. They were not all new since the regular, year-round waitresses got their choice of stations and the smart ones chose the café. It filled quickly and stayed filled from late spring through the summer and into the middle of fall. They could make more money outside than they could inside.
Regardless, Bill had already picked a favorite of the newbies and was getting ready to mess with her. She was a college kid, maybe twenty, a dark-haired beauty by Bill’s standards, tall, skinny, small-breasted, a darker-skinned Caucasian.
Bill’s rule about messing with waitresses was simple. He would mess with them if they let him and leave them alone if they didn’t. Through his whole career he would never persist in messing with a waitress who did not want to be messed with.
Waitresses were a strange breed. In general, and for the most part, they would do anything and everything for tips. This meant things like rubbing their nipples with ice cubes to make them stiff and leaving the top two buttons of their uniform blouses open so male customers could easily see their cleavage. Some of them messed around with certain customers, and none of them ever let a customer feel as if he didn’t actually have a chance, even if he didn’t actually have a chance.
Of course there were some waitresses who were just waitresses, the professionals, the ones who were there to make money but not for the bull shit. These were the ones who didn’t flirt with the cooks. These were the ones who do their jobs quietly, efficiently, effectively. These were the ones who provided good service to customers with the expectation that customers would leave them good tips for the good service.
Jackie was certainly not of that latter class. Jackie was surely of the former class, although Bill could never say he actually saw her twist her nipple or put an ice cube to one to make it stiff so a customer could see it. But that day, at that time when she stormed back in from the loading dock, she was pissed at her boyfriend Wayne, probably hung over with a headache and surely very tired. So in the kitchen, even before Bill got inside, first thing she did was rip into Wayne.
“What the hell,” she said. “You got shit for him and he’s no one to you, but you ain’t got nothing for me? Damn you. You should have known better. You should have known I’d want some and you should have had some for me.”
Even from out on the loading dock Bill could hear everything. By the time she got to her last words he was already back in the kitchen.
Wayne was standing on the line by the stoves. Jackie was standing across the serving counter opposite him. Raul, the Mexican pantry boy, was standing at his pantry station in close proximity to Jackie because the pantry station in this kitchen was fit to the line at an L.
Wasn’t the first time Raul had heard a cook and a waitress have a tiff. In the scope of things, as far as it was at the moment, this one wasn’t bad.
Wayne didn’t say anything to address what Jackie had said. He was frying an order of Sunny-side up. “Want some breakfast?” he asked her.
“Kiss my ass,” Jackie said.
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The cook’s name was Wayne. He was mid-twenties, a musician of sorts. He stood a large six-two. That was quite large for kitchens. He had to continually duck under the rim of the exhaust fan settings over the stoves and broiler. He was a trim one-ninety, and he could have passed for Latino, but he was light-skinned African American, not that that mattered to anything.
Wayne was cool mostly. Like musicians, he liked to drink and he liked to drug and he liked women and he was single and free. But he did not play the field at work. In fact mostly he stayed away from the waitresses, preferring to either pick girls up at the bar or get them at the clubs where he jammed playing jazz.
The waitress’ name was Jackie. She was, like so many waitresses, a would-be actress. She was a faux-blonde, about five-six and maybe one-thirty or forty. She was a little plump, very rosy in her cheeks. Like her boyfriend Wayne, she liked to do coke, and she very much like to drink. Bill had noted that she was a sloppy drunk and he always tried to stay away from her when she was being stupid.
The outdoor café’s opening at this bistro meant a bevy of new waitresses brought in every year. They were brought in just for the summer and were told this up front so they understood the nature of the position. Choice of waitresses was largely based upon their attractiveness, their ability to handle tables, or their experience, and their ability to mesh with the regular crew. The process of hiring the waitresses started in the early spring, weeks before the café opened so the staff was completely ready from the get-go.
Jackie was a jealous sort. Wayne had a roving eye and was not shy about looking at the ladies. He fancied himself, like maybe most musicians did, a ladies’ man.
What started it off would never be clear. Jackie came in bleary-eyed which Bill assumed meant she was hung over. He made a comment to Wayne something to the effect of that she looked like shit, to which Wayne responded that they’d been out all night and had only gotten a few hours sleep. Ten he intimated that when they got home they didn’t go right to sleep.
“I’m tired too,” he told Bill. “But I got the coke so I’m just fine for now.”
So that was it. Maybe. Bill started to build the scene in his head. He watched Wayne and Jackie have the conversation over by the door to the loading dock. The door was slightly behind the line, between the line and the prep kitchen. The prep kitchen was directly behind the line. At the back of the prep kitchen was the walk-in box, the only walk-in box this restaurant had. Bill would wait for waitresses he liked to go into the walk-in to get the desserts for the display and then he would go in after them to help himself to some fun.
The conversation got heated. Bill imagined Wayne was telling her he didn’t have enough coke for her, not even enough for a starter. Of course he didn’t really know what they were saying, but she stormed off hot under the collar, went out onto the loading dock where she could let off the steam, maybe. Anyway, she smoked a cigarette. Bill found this out when he went out to catch some sun light and a smoke himself.
From where they stood, together, but not together, on the loading dock, Bill and Jackie could see the activity in the café. The café waitresses were busy setting up. They had to use that same entry door to go into the kitchen, through the kitchen to the bar for their bar orders, to get anything and everything they needed from the inside. It was a tough job involving a lot of walking. But they made a lot of money.