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Category Archives: autobiographical

kitchen-4And another and another and another. One after the next, days rolled on.

Marie’s black eyes healed. She and Henry Lee went on fooling around. Bill said something to Henry Lee about Marie’s rejection-aggression so she quit messing with him. He didn’t want to get her fired. No one knew it yet but Alfreda would dispense with Marie.

They never heard about the robbery again. They never found out if the thieves were caught or the exact amount that was stolen. It was never the same opening up the restaurant anymore. Bill and Tommy always went in first and checked to make sure no one was inside. Only then did Mary and Bea follow in.

Lorraine and Bill established a relationship, a friendship which included intimacy every so often. Bill let Lorraine control that. They always went to her friend’s apartment. Bill learned what made Lorraine happy. She ate steak when she wanted, but like the trouper she was, she didn’t abuse the privilege. Bill discovered that she was easy to please and fun all around.

Two days after he had tripped, Lexi was closing girl. It had been a no-fun Saturday night for Bill, a Saturday with State playing ball at home. They were extremely busy so he and Jimmy had worked hard. Alvin had come over from the west side and worked the middle for a few hours. Tommy came in the kitchen around nine-thirty to relieve Lillian for fifteen minutes so she could get a drink and catch a smoke.

Alvin, fat and funky, wore his shirt out of his pants and he didn’t wear an apron. Sometimes you could see his fat belly where the shirt split open. He never came to work clean-shaven, always had a stubble, not the cute Hollywood stubble. He ate two orders of grandma’s chicken before he cut out, before Grandma cut out. He sat out in the hall stuffing his face, happily drinking a beer that he had made Victoria get him. He was sweet on Victoria and was looking for a way to make her be sweet to him, but that was never gonna happen. She hadn’t appeased Drenovis and she surely wasn’t giving it to funky Alvin.

She told Bill this out in the hall when everyone was gone, when the waitresses were ordering their dinners and Bill was taking in the cool air while the few things on the grill were working.

“He always makes me get him shit when he’s here.”

“He likes you.”

“No! Ya think?”

“Sarcasm. I like that.”

“You would.”

“Eat me.”

“You wish.”

“Actually we’re better just the way we are.”

“Why? Don’t you like me?”

“You’re not gonna start that?”

“Nope. Just razzing you. Am I pretty enough?”

Bill looked at Victoria. He didn’t answer. He went to the broiler and flipped the things cooking, then he set up the plates along the shelf. Victoria came in with him and stood on the other side of the line where they picked up their food from the serving shelf under the warmer lights.

“You’re messing with my head, aren’t you?” Bill started plating things, a hamburger very rare for one of the waitresses, a chopped steak medium for another. Victoria had asked for an order of onion rings that Bill hadn’t dropped yet. He also plated two steaks that were for an order and put the sides to them, set the plates under the warmer lights then hit the bell. Lexi came in a moment later.

When everything was gone, Victoria stood eating her onion rings out in the hall. Bill stood opposite her, leaning against the wall. He smoked a cigarette and was drinking a beer which he offered to Victoria.

“You never answered me,” she said.

“You are messing with my head.”

“Maybe I want to know.”

“I don’t get it,” Bill said.

“What don’t you get?”

“Women. I just don’t get you all.”

Victoria laughed. “You’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to be kept guessing.”

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kitchen-4

Bill was coming down from the trip. He was drinking a beer and hanging out by the door to the hall.

Lillian had just come into the kitchen. Bill watched her fold and set up the three towels she would use to hold the dupes. When she finished, she pulled over Bea’s stool. Then she got herself a mug of coffee and sat herself down.

Lillian was always the same. She wore a white kitchen dress, white nurse’s shoes with white hose. She had white hair and granny glasses. She only stood five-three but she had a raspy smoker’s voice, deep and steady.

“Good evening,” she said when Bill stepped on the line. She said it again when Jimmy stepped on. “What’s with the sunglasses?” she asked, gesturing toward Marie.

“Stung by a bee,” Bill said.

“Sure. And I was born yesterday.” She laughed. “Who gave her the shiner?”

“Who else?”

Lillian shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, I thought maybe her husband found out. Busy last night?”

“Very.”

“Good. They’re playing home tonight, so we should get a bump.”

“We’re always ready.”

Lillian sipped her coffee. Marie was stirring her salad dressings and making sure all her desserts were set and ready to go. When she finished, she walked out to the hall and sat where she could see her station. She sat swinging her knees and lifting her dress up and down to fan her legs.

Bill watched her a moment. He remembered the other day. Henry Lee had offered her to him then she’d offered herself to him. He remembered walking in on her and Henry Lee in the men’s room. He laughed to himself, thought they should have hung a towel on the handle.

Seeing him watching her, Marie lowered the sunglasses a bit and peered at him over them. She let her legs stay open and lifted her dress. Then she stuck her tongue out at him and gave him the finger. Bill made the notorious male gesture, grabbing himself there, then he flipped her the fingers-on-the-chin bird.

“We have to stop the animosity,” he told her a little later when he went by her station and took himself some cocktail shrimp to eat.

“Bite me.”

“Watch your step, girl.”

“Why? What you gonna do?”

“Jesus Christ. I’m trying to be square with you.”

“Maybe you should give me some of that weed and take me to the storeroom. I don’t like being turned down.”

“Maybe you should stick to Henry Lee.”

“He don’t care.”

“Jesus Christ,” Bill said again.

The quiet didn’t last long. Waitresses gave Lillian orders and before they knew it a good dinner rush started up. What they couldn’t see was that it would go straight through so that they worked way past ten with no let-up. Twice Tommy came in to let them know both dining rooms were full and people were waiting. Twice Bill got himself coffee and popped aspirin to ease his speedy-head headache.

Then it was over and tapering down. Lexi brought Bill a beer and a soda for Jimmy. Lillian was standing, returning the stool to its corner. Grandma was cleaning up.

Bill sat awhile out in the hall as he took a moment to smoke a cigarette and drink the beer. He didn’t have but a moment until the next orders came in. He and Jimmy worked these. Grandma  cleaned up and was dressed to go home by the time they emptied the board. Jimmy left right after grandma. Bill went straight into cleanup and cooking the waitresses’ meals.

Just another day.

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kitchen-4Mary and Bea sat talking at their lunch table. Mary was telling Bea what Mr. Jim said, that the only difference between Yulie and Bill was Yulie was a natural. Mr. Jim said Bill had gumption, that he was smart and learned  quickly, that when you told him what you wanted, he’d give you exactly what you asked for. The ability to reproduce and repeat flavors and looks was a talent, Mr. Jim said.

“He good with his tongue too,” said Bea, joking.

“I wouldn’t know,” Mary said.

Bea laughed her deep throaty laugh and made licking gestures with her tongue. “Yeah right. Way he looks at you, I bet he licks you sweetest of all.”

Mary flushed red over her dark-chocolate skin. “Everywhere,” she whispered. “He licks me everywhere.”

“And you hate it, right?”

“I love it. He makes me so wet I could scream. Sometimes I just look at him and I wet my drawers.”

“Me too sometimes, but it ain’t him. It’s the idea of me getting done.”

“Think it’s wrong to be with a white boy?”

“Nope. Whatever floats your boat. It’s wrong what they made this shit into. That’s what’s wrong. They divide us so…”

“Lord have Mercy.”

“Amen to that.”

Bill was on the line when they came back in the kitchen. He was scrubbing down the steam table, having broken it down and drained out the water. Remaining food was set into clean containers and covered with film, one corner unsealed so the food could cool. He had turned Mary’s radio up loud and was working hard. But the elephants were dancing now and trippy music was playing. He was waiting impatiently to get downstairs to smoke some weed and drink some bourbon.

“Wanna do some breading?” Mary asked him.

“What you need?”

“What you need?”

“I need about four hours with you. Some candlelight, rock music, wine and smoke. I need you to…”

Mary shushed him before he could say anymore. She stepped close to him and looked deep into his eyes. She wanted to ask him if he wanted her or one of the others he was fooling with, but she was afraid of the answer. “Don’t say anything gonna embarrass me,” she said.

If she’d dared to ask, she would have been shocked by the honesty of Bill’s answer. Bill would have told her that he was beyond sweet on her. He would have told her that she was first choice, best choice, his chosen one.

“Okay,” he said. “I don’t need anything. Some whiskey, some weed and something to do.”

“Finish cleaning up and then we’ll do the breading.”

Bill stood for two hours breading pickerel, shrimp and onion rings. He smoked weed with Henry Lee and Mary brought him a coffee she’d spiked with bourbon. He was quite happy enjoying the egg-wash show. At one point he’d taken a break but instead of resting he washed the potatoes for Mary and set them in the convection oven to bake.

Then it was time to finish up and start all over for the dinner. By this time he was at a mellow part of the trip, the point at which he smoked some more weed, popped two downers and chilled while he worked. He took the prime rib out of the oven. He set up the steam table. He inventoried the steaks and carted up the meat trays he needed to get through the dinner. Then he took a break.

He was standing outside the back door leaning against the building. He had just lit a cigarette.

“Want anything from the bar?” Lexi peeked her head out the door. She was in street clothes. “Mary told me to ask you.”

“Come here.”

Lexi stepped fully out the door. Bill looked her over. She was only about five-two, maybe all of a hundred pounds. She wore a short, short skirt and low cut blouse. Bill noted she had great legs.

Seeing him examining her, Lexi turned for him. “You like?” she asked.

Bill reached to her and lifted her skirt so he could see underneath. “Next time don’t wear panties,” he said.

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kitchen-4Bill sat in the hall for half an hour, till after noon when the rush came. Mary fed him black coffee, three mugs of it, and she had Lexi bring him sodas when she could. It wasn’t until Tommy asked where the boy was that Bill got up and came in on the line.

He wasn’t seeing pink elephants yet, but the buzz was loud in his ears and the zillions of miniscule colored dots were in his eyes. His mind and body were racing. Physically he was speeding, his body working at the speed of light. Mentally, his mind was operating on a variety of levels and, as he’d done many times, he was following things on the different levels.

He remembered the green-room trip, the trip in Jack’s house where he’d sat in the bathtub for close to eight hours staring into the green walls. He remembered Rell, Jack’s friend, really his lover but no one knew about it until later when Jack finally came out of the closet. Rell had blown his mind out on acid and didn’t speak much besides reliving acid flashbacks. He remembered being in Jack’s kitchen with Annabelle. Annabelle was barefoot and naked except for a man’s shirt she was wearing as a nightie. Jack’s cats had caught a mouse. They sat on either side of the kitchen and were playing with the mouse, batting it across the room to one another using their front paws. “Wow, look at the green.” “Trip number fifty-seven. Mushrooms. Gereeenn.” Annabelle painted her toenails while the cats toyed with the mouse.

“Picking up two pickerel with fries, an order of onion rings. Picking up two burgers medium, a bleu and a roast beef dinner with fries.”

Bill was fully up to speed. The pickerel were up and waiting. Two baskets of fries were up, Bill shaking them, ridding them of excess grease. He plated the pickerel, dropped fries on each plate, set the plates up under the warmer lights. Mr. Jim slid the roast beef dinner his way. He finished that plate and waited for the burger plates. All done and up, he dropped a basket of fries and listened to the bubbling oil.

Tommy ordered two fried shrimp and a host of other things, most of them from the grill. But he also ordered six roast beef lunches. Bill fetched and dropped the shrimp then slid in by Mr. Jim. He laid out six plates while Mr. Jim cut the roast beef and warmed the meat in the au jus.  He laid out the bread on the plates then checked and picked up the shrimp. They were ready.

“Let me know when you want the roast beef,” Mr. Jim told Tommy.

“Any time.”

“Let’s do it.”

Bill scooped out the mashed potatoes. Mr. Jim set up the meat and sauced the dishes. Bill sprinkled the parsley garnish and set the plates under the warmer lights two at a time.

Done, they slapped five and moved on. Bill plated the fried shrimp, Henry Lee set up the steaks and burgers he was working as they were called for. No one missed anything. All ran on time. The waitresses hustled, Lexi doing a creditable job and Bill admiring her ass every time she left the kitchen.

Then he started to see things, plates dancing under the warmer lights for starters. One of the pickerel grew a head and started talking to him from the basket. It was dressed like Charlie the tuna. Tommy’s head started shaking like a bobble-head and it was all Bill could do not to laugh. Still, he followed and filled all the orders and danced his usual dance with Mr. Jim next to him.

They worked straight through until one-fifteen, then they worked sporadically until nearly two o’clock. Mr. Jim sat with Mary a bit before he cut out. They discussed things, from cooking to gossip, but especially Bill. Tommy came by and thanked Mr. Jim, told him they did great. Mr. Jim pulled Tommy close.

“That boy’s a star. You hold on to him even if he’s young and stupid.”

“I’m doing my best,” said Tommy.

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kitchen-4Bill popped the acid at 11:30. He wasn’t going to, but he’d made one of those existential decisions, more like a what-the-hell. He was already playing with his head, using drugs like they were a graphic equalizer. He had popped the black beauties, was drinking bourbon, smoking weed and now the LSD. The worst that could happen, he figured, was he’d end up fall-down messed up like Mary said Yulie used to be. Or they’d be carting him off to the ER with a coronary since he’d put so many stimulants into himself. But that wasn’t likely. More likely was he’d cut himself, or burn himself, or maybe do something really stupid like mess around with one of several people he could mess around with.

He’d walked Lexi out of the meat room and up toward the front stairs that led into the lobby area by the front door. Unless the restaurant was closed, he did not use these stairs. Even when it was closed he generally didn’t use them. Lexi still had to change, or at least fix herself since she was mostly wearing her uniform except for the apron and work shoes. They stopped by her locker and talked. He told her not to worry about Drenovis, that he would speak to Tommy again and get that settled. She stepped very close to him, so close he could smell her perfume. Messed up as he already was—he hadn’t popped the acid yet—he couldn’t help himself. She was like a young flower waiting to be plucked.

“I’m gonna have my way with you, you know.”

“I know,” Lexi reached up and kissed him, once, softly on his lips. “It’s okay. I want you to. I wanted you to even before you stood up for me.”

Bill took her in his arms and kissed her hard, just once.

“I’ll make it nice for you.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

On his way back to the meat room, he’d remembered Henry Lee popping Marie in her face and offering her to him. He remembered Marie offering herself to him that night, and he closed his eyes and pictured her buck naked showing herself off. When it rains, it pours, he’d thought. All those years, even most of his time in college, he’d been mostly without girls. And now…

Up on the line, everything was the same, just another day once they were past the robbery surprise. Mr. Jim was in place. The round was not done yet, but they had roast beef from yesterday to start with. Mary and Mr. Jim had talked about it and Mr. Jim, in his characteristic way, had simply patted Mary on her shoulder and told her not to worry about anything. His soft voice and tender ways soothed an already tense kitchen.

“You all messed up, aren’t’ you?” Mr. Jim took one look at Bill’s eyes and knew right away that he was going to have to guide Bill through the meal. “What the hell you take?”

“He been smoking weed and drinking bourbon.” Henry Lee was greasing the grills with hot oil from the fryers. He was getting ready to cook off some burgers and bleus.

“He probably been taking pills,” Mary said. “Maybe even that LSD shit.”

“You been doing drugs, boy?” Mr. Jim took Bill by his shoulders and shook him.

“Yup,” said Bill. “Gonna be tripping just about by the end of the rush.”

“That’s dangerous, boy. I ought to have Tommy send you home. And don’t think I ain’t telling Robert.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Mary looked at Bill. His eyes were like shiny stars, the pupils dilated. “Goddammit it. Losing Yulie was bad enough. Don’t want to lose you too.”

“Give me a kiss,” said Bill. He reached for her.

“Get out of here,” Mary said. “Go downstairs and get me a sack of potatoes. And after that, get me six bags of split peas for tomorrow’s soup. Then you go out in that hall and you hide out. You hear me?”

“Yes, Mommy. I hear you.”

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kitchen-4By the time the first waitresses came in, the police were gone, the kitchen was in full swing and Henry Lee and Bill were busy making the hamburgers and bleus for the lunch. Mr. Bowman had okayed the cleaning company to patch up the skyline and completely service the dining room. Everything was being washed down, the floor power-vacuumed, the linens cleared and replaced. All dishes were being re-run through the machine. Overnight, the skyline would be replaced and reset. As quickly as possible, this would be put to the past. As unobtrusively as possible, business would go on. The fewer the customers who knew about it, the better.

Mary had gotten everything started as quickly as possible, Bill helping her. He had carted the round up and set it in the pan for her. He’d even cut the mirepoix to cover it with.

They’d all heard the screaming from downstairs.

“Goddammit. You did that on purpose.”

“It was an accident. Here, let me get you a towel.”

“Stay the hell away from me. You know how much this suit costs?”

“No but I’ll bet you’re gonna tell me.”

“More than you make in a week, you moron.”

“I may be a moron, but I’m the one with the college degree. You’re stupid.”

“You watch your mouth.”

“Who told you to stand so close?”

“You’re gonna pay for this.”

“You can kiss my ass.”

“I told you watch your mouth.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Bea and Mary had gone to the hall to hear everything clearly. Mr. Bowman was busy with the detectives, but he heard the screaming. Tommy too. He was going to go down to intervene, but Bea and Mary held him back.

Drenovis came up first. Meat blood covered the front of his suit jacket and was on his pants too. His white shirt and his tie were red as well. He was furious, his face as red as the blood on his clothes. He was wiping at everything with a clean kitchen towel he had helped himself to from the linen room.

Bill came up behind Drenovis. He was smiling, almost laughing, but he wiped the smile from his face as he turned the corner and headed into the kitchen.

“You need to change those clothes,” Mary told Drenovis. “It’s bad luck having blood on you.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

“You don’t need to be fresh about it.”

“I’m not being fresh.”

“You better not be.”

“Or what?”

“Or you can cook your own lunch here.”

“Didn’t we just have this meeting?” Mr. Bowman stopped dealing with the detective and faced his crew. “Didn’t we?”

No one said a word. Mr. Bowman was referring to the fight they’d had the other day, the one that involved Lexi and Bill, where Bill had stood up to Drenovis and they’d all stood up for Lexi. Tommy just shook his head. He knew something had to be done.

“Now everybody, shut the hell up. Play nicely in the sandbox and get your work done. Drenovis, go get a clean suit while I finish up here. And don’t any of you make me address this again.”

That was that. No one said anything. Drenovis went out to the dining room and must have gone out the front door. Or that’s what Bill surmised when Lexi, still in her Fall jacket, came into the meat room. She was in tears.

“What’s the matter?” Bill asked.

“Drenovis. I ran into him in the parking lot. He told me he hadn’t forgotten anything and he was still going to fire me.”

“Pussy,” Henry Lee said. Then seeing Lexi visibly more upset by what he said, he added, “Not you. Drenovis. He’s a pussy. This is two times now he’s mad at the kitchen and took it out on you. Did you happen to notice he was covered in meat blood?” Henry Lee laughed. “Your boy over here did that. Just wish I was here to see him do it.”

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kitchen-4There was no figuring  women out. Bill thought this not while he pleased Mary but shortly after, after he was dressed in his uniform, had popped another black beauty and was upstairs in the kitchen with everyone. The police were there now busy taking pictures and checking things out throughout the whole restaurant. Mr. Bowman and Drenovis were not there yet, but they were on their way.

Bill took himself a coffee, stood over by Bea’s station and looked over her shoulder as she read the racing page in The Dispatch. Tommy was telling the police they got only a few thousand dollars, but there was damage to the office, the safe and the skyline. Mary was drinking her coffee over by her stoves. She needed to get some things working, but without exhaust fans nothing could get lit. So she waited, made sure Tommy knew her situation, was becoming impatient because she did not like running behind.

When he finished his coffee, Bill went over by Mary.

“This sucks,” she said.

“Hell yeah. Let me know what you need from downstairs and I’ll start carting it up.”

“Okay.” She walked over to the menu board and looked at the day. It wasn’t as if she didn’t already know it, but she wanted to refresh her memory and make sure she didn’t forget anything. She took up a scratch pad and pencil and made a list for Bill, then she went to her walk-in and looked at her upstairs shelves to see what she had. She crossed off one item from the list and Bill went on his way.

Bea came in the storeroom while Bill was gathering things. She was dressed in her bra, half-slip, panties and shoes. She had the kitchen dress on but wide open. “I need all dressings if you got time. And if she didn’t put it on your list, we need a bag of onions.”

“What’d they get?”

“Our virginity.”

“Seriously.”

“That is seriously. Police say they been hitting places out here. Same every time. In through a skyline, blow out the safe, out the back door. They always eat, only take cash and never leave fingerprints. They got us for today’s startup money. Tommy says it was about four grand cause he had some deliveries to pay for.”

“That isn’t too bad.” Bill watched as Bea buttoned up her dress.

“Could have been worse. Anyway, no one got hurt.” Bea stepped over to Bill and copped a feel of him. She was totally unshy about it, laughed, pinched his cheek with her free hand. “I’m taking the French dressing,” she said as she withdrew.

“Okay,” Bill said. He watched her take a bottle of French dressing from the case and head off.

He made two trips upstairs for Mary and was in the midst of the third and final one when he heard the exhaust fans kick in. As he reached the kitchen he saw Drenovis and Mr. Bowman huddling with Tommy and the police. Bottom line was they had no clues, no leads and the cops were pretty sure they weren’t getting these guys until they finally made a mistake. Real deal was he would never hear anything more about it.

Drenovis came in the meat room while Bill was taking out the steamship round. Henry Lee had cut it last night, so all Bill had to do was carry it up and set it in the pan for Mary.

“Don’t think I’m forgetting about that shit with Lexi, or whatever her name is.”

Bill was just about to sling the tray the meat was on up to his shoulder. He put it on a cutting block instead. “I got stuff to do.”

“Sooner or later I’m firing both of you.”

“I heard that before. Ain’t you got nothing better to do?”

“Don’t think Robert’s gonna save your ass either.”

Bill didn’t say anything. He looked at the meat tray and saw the blood that had dripped from the meat and collected on the tray. He looked at Drenovis’ suit. He looked from the suit to the blood to the suit several times before he reached for tray.

Rose’s Story is now available on Amazon. Pick up a copy today!

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