Although Bill could not know it yet, eventually Tim would hang himself on a tree in Battery Park. Maybe no one had known he’d felt so distraught and so it happened. Almost everyone was blown away by it, by the total surprise of it. Tim had moved to New York a little after Bill and his fiancé had moved there.
Tim was slight, blonde, pretty. He was overly sensitive and heady. Apart from being a dancer, he was somewhat intellectual, or he had used his time in school actually studying.
Bill would discover, after hanging around with dancers and even some actors, that for the most part they were pretty stupid. After all, someone else always controlled them, always told them how to move or what to say. But they had a good amount of common sense and a great deal of hubris. Actors were the most narcissistic and least interested in being anywhere or doing anything in which they were not the center of attention. They were always on stage.
Over the course of time Bill would attend many cast parties. At those parties one could tell almost instantaneously who was who.
The dancers pigged out. They had starved themselves coming up to a concert series to be completely trim and flat-stomached on stage. So whenever a concert series ended, when they all got together to celebrate at the cast party, there was always a big buffet from which they stuffed their faces.
They also danced to loud rock music. They danced freestyle and uninhibited, unleashing any personal creativity and unleashing their feelings through their physical selves. That was how dancers let loose.
Bill, who studied literature, who wrote, who knew writers and poets, intellectualized his thoughts. He, like most writers, was linear and cerebral. That’s why having to become a cook had never been in his frame of reference. He would never have thought it, never have chosen it, never have wanted it for an occupation let alone a career.
One of the UDC teachers and choreographers was married to a writer named Richard. Richard, like Rell, was an acid head. Rell was Jack‘s lover on the sly, Jack being one of the dancers in UDC. Jack cast himself as being hetero. Unlike Tim, he was in the closet. For several years no one knew that Jack and Rell were lovers. No one knew that Jack was gay, including Tim, who was not in the closet and who hung out with them all the time. Tim and Jack were opposites. Jack was the masculine gay, Tim the effeminate one.
At the cast parties, Bill and Richard would end up talking. Richard would be tripping. He and Bill would get high, right there with everyone else. One of the things about the cast parties was that joints were passed around continually.
Bill and Richard got drunk as well as high, and Bill, very often, popped speed. Bill loved his black beauties. He and Richard both used Doc as their suppliers.
Richard wrote stories in his head and told them aloud to Bill at the parties. Bill could see them in Technicolor because Richard was always tripping and everything in his head was in Technicolor. Bill, on the other hand, never spoke his stories.
After he’d been busted and become a cook, Bill was different from all the other people at the parties. He didn’t know it yet and couldn’t sense it yet, but surely he was different and onto a different path. All the others were college people. They were artists! He, alone, was not.
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“Kiss this,” said Marie.
They were pulled over about two blocks from where she lived. Bill was parked behind her, the engine of his car running, the heater blasting. He had walked up to say good night and make sure she could get on the rest of the way. Marie opened her car door and Bill could see she’d pulled down her jeans and her panties.
“Go on home,” said Bill.
“Not until you kiss my coochie.”
“It’s freezing out here.”
“I ain’t moving till you get on your knees and kiss my coochie.”
“Damn it, Marie.”
“Henry Lee never does. My husband don’t too. Come on. Give me a thrill.”
Bill knew he was trapped. They were both messed up, her much more than him, and he knew she wasn’t changing her mind. Tired, wanting to go home, he reluctantly bent in toward her. As high as he was he couldn’t keep his balance well so he ended up leaning in against the seat. Marie started to laugh. She did her best to swing her legs apart and toward him. That was hard because her jeans kept her from spreading them. She did manage to lift one leg slightly, or, actually, to kind of put her foot up on part of the seat.
“Kiss it good,” she said.
Leaning in, Bill bent as far as he could. He found his head in her lap.
“That good enough?” he asked after he’d kissed her there.
“What you talking about? You hardly did anything.”
“Come on, Marie. It’s cold out here. I’m cold.”
“I told you get in.”
“And I told you no. I’m going home.”
“I’m going home too, but not until you kiss me good.”
Marie’s car was bigger than Bill’s. Hers was a full-size American car made in the late sixties. The front seat was a full front seat, no bucket seats, no gear shift in between. Not really wanting to, but not really not wanting to, Bill walked around to the passenger side and got into the car.
“Good,” Marie said.
With Bill sitting next to her she could slide her legs out from under the steering wheel and toward him. She asked if he had a joint and he said yes but that he thought they’d had enough. She told him it was never enough, and so he lit a joint and they smoked some more. When they were done, Marie pulled her pants all the way down to her ankles and repeated her request for what she wanted Bill to do.
When Bill was done, when Marie had shuddered and shook, she reciprocated. It didn’t take long for her to complete what she was doing since Bill had gotten pretty roused from what he had done.
“Why you doing this?” Bill asked.
“I want to,” said Marie. “I want to go home and kiss him. That makes me feel good.”
“That’s spite,” said Bill.
“You’re goddamn right it is,” said Marie. She smiled at Bill.
“Okay. Can I go home now?” he asked.
“Yup. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Marie.” Bill opened the door and got out, went back to his own car which had been running all the while. Smaller and more sporty, with the heater running his car was toasty warm. He watched a moment as Marie sat there, fixing herself, he imagined. He sat there until he saw her drive off. Then, when she was gone, he drove home.
After he parked the car, he climbed the steps up into his apartment only to find Tim there sleeping next to his fiancé. As Bill saw it, this was neither a good or bad thing. He could imagine that they had been hanging out and fallen asleep. Maybe they’d gotten high. Probably, Tim, as he was wont to do, had cried to her.
It was after one-fifteen when Bill and Marie left the kitchen to go downstairs to change. The first thing Bill did was go into the meat room for a drink of bourbon. Marie, her kitchen dress unbuttoned, followed him. She took a long drink for herself and Bill could see she was on the way to being drunk. This was not a good thing. The last time she’d gotten drunk and he’d driven her home, she’d come in the next day wearing dark sunglasses courtesy of Mr. Marie.
There was a phone in the meat room and so after they’d had a good drink, Bill phoned home. While he was on the phone, Marie, teasing, reached up and unhooked her bra so she stood there in her open kitchen dress and panties with her tiny, almost non-existent breasts out there for Bill to see. She walked toward Bill and stopped right before him so that as the phone was ringing on the other end he could reach down and kiss one of those little things.
“No answer?” Marie asked.
“Nope. Either she’s asleep, in the shower or not home.”
“Well, let’s go into the party room. But let’s smoke a joint first.”
While they were in the deep freeze, Marie bundled really tightly in the arctic parka, Bill explained that if his fiancé wasn’t home she was sleeping at one of her friends’ houses, probably Tim, the one who was really gay and really depressed.
“And you don’t mind?”
“Makes it better for me. Look at what I’m doing.”
“Yeah, well let’s get to what you’re doing.”
They were both messed up. Marie was pretty gone, so much so that she did not even cover herself as they went from the meat room into the party room. Bill was just plain tired but that did not stop him from wanting to get some. He locked the door they came in from and went immediately to the front door to lock it. By the time he returned to Marie, she’d taken off her panties. She tossed them to him playfully.
“See. I was sweating. I’m surprised they didn’t turn to ice in the deep freeze.”
“Me too. Then I’d have to defrost you.”
“You sure Tommy won’t come down?”
“Nope. But it’s a good bet he’s plenty busy upstairs.
“You going home tonight?”
“Right after I drop you off.”
“Oh no. You can follow me to make sure I get there. But I ain’t getting hit again.”
“He still gonna be up?”
“You kidding? With me this late? But it’s not cause he cares. It’s cause he’s checking up on me.”
“I feel for you.”
“Course I do.”
“Good. Now feel on me too.”
“How you want it?” Bill asked.
“Surprise me, white boy,” said Marie.
Tommy looked at them a little suspiciously when they came upstairs and went out into the dining room to say good night and head out the front door. Four tables were still occupied and Bebe had customers at the bar.
“You okay?” Bill asked Tommy.
“Yeah. We’re gonna be here awhile, but we’re okay. You better get some sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be even busier and I’ll bet Saturday is a record, other than Mother’s days.”
“I need another raise,” Bill said.
“You just got one.”
“So? Me and Jimmy are busting our butts and you’re being cheap on the labor.”
Tommy smiled at Bill but didn’t say anything. Then, seeing Marie wobble, he asked Bill if she was okay to drive home.
“I’m gonna follow her and make sure she gets there,” said Bill.
“Then straight home for you?”
“Straight home,” said Bill.
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“Actually, I’ll kiss your ass if you want” Marie said. “Happily too.” She was standing next to Bill, both of them facing the grill and leaning on the steam table shelf.
“I can kiss yours too.”
“I been waiting, white boy.”
“Another beer or two and I might just do it tonight.”
“I won’t fight you. I might bite you though.”
“I might bite back.”
“Promises, promises.” Marie sucked the top of her beer bottle suggestively, then laughed. Bill shrugged, dragged on his cigarette then turned the one steak that was on the grill.
Bill had lined up the other steaks to put on when it was time, but that wasn’t even close yet. All the dinners took baked and veggies, so when he’d turned the one steak again, he went to the back where all the food from the steam table was sitting waiting to be put into the walk-in. He took one fry pan and filled it with vegetables, took another and ladled in au jus. He brought the two fry pans around to the line and set them on the charcoal grill, one side of which he’d relit. Then he went back to the back and grabbed six baked potatoes which he brought around front. These he would place in the Dutch oven, which was a top compartment on the Garland, when he put the other steaks on.
All that done, and everything set, he made one last trip to the back where he cut two slices of prime rib using one of Mary’s cutting boards to work on. These he put on a small tray and carried them around to the line.
Now he was all set. He turned the King again and again, flipped it, re-flipped it, turned it some more. Because he was impatient now, and because the grills were very hot since they were empty, he finally took the steak, put it on a cold sizzler and put the sizzler into the Dutch oven. There, the steak could cook like it was baking and would finish more quickly without burning.
Marie had finished her station again, for the third time. She had covered everything, wiped away any spills, closed the metal cover of her salad station, a cover that slid over everything like the old roll-top desks with the rounded covers that went up and down. Satisfied she had nothing more to do, she went to stand by Bill and help him however she could.
Bill rang the bell. Almost immediately, Victoria came into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Let me know when you’re ready for the ribs. And bring in two more beers.”
Victoria didn’t say anything. She just went out the door. Bill, using a kitchen towel so as not to get burned, opened the Dutch oven. He flipped the steak with his tongs then shut the oven door. It was almost time to put the other steaks on the grill. But before he did, just because he felt like it, he reached for Marie and kissed her. As they kissed—she kissed back eagerly—he reached up under her kitchen dress and slipped his hand under her panties.
“Hey,” she said, “Victoria be coming back in in a minute.”
“And I don’t want to get seen. I’d like to get done, but I don’t want to get seen.”
Bill didn’t hurry away from her. Only when he heard the sound of the automatic doors did he stop and go back to work.
Victoria left the two beers on his cutting board without saying anything.
“You ready for the ribs?” Bill asked.
“In about five minutes.”
“Push them along,” Bill said.
“I’ll do my best, hon,” Victoria said.
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After hearing the bell, both Lorraine and Victoria came quickly into the kitchen. One took one order, one took the other, and quickly the seven burgers were gone from the kitchen. Bill managed to tell them to bring two more beers, and that said, both he and Marie went back to finishing up their last cleanup.
Marie did not have much to do. She needed to rinse the knife she had used to cut the tomato for the setups and then clean her cutting self. After that it was simply a matter of making sure everything was properly covered and stored for the night.
Bill still had a lot of work. He would skim the fryers quickly one more time since he had used them again. He needed to brush the grills on the Garland and then empty its grease drawer. Since he was not changing the grease tonight, he would empty the drawer into the grease barrel outside. When he went to do this, Marie followed him out.
“What you want, baby?” Bill asked seeing her right behind him.
“Oh, lots of things,” said Marie. “A joint would be great. And you know what else,” she said shaking her booty a little bit. Not only did she shake her booty, but she ran her tongue all around her lips. Then, when she was sure Bill had emptied the drawer, she reached up under his apron and felt him up.
Bill’s hands were full and he couldn’t stop her, not that he really wanted to. Or, he did and he didn’t. But either way it was impossible for them to linger outside. Not only was it cold, but there was no one in the kitchen and that wasn’t good.
“Listen, we can’t stay out here.”
“I know,” Marie said.
Bill set the empty drawer down to slide the cover back on the grease barrel then led the way in toward the kitchen carrying the drawer so no grease dripped. Before he turned the corner from the hall into the kitchen, the bell rang. When he did turn the corner he saw Victoria with dupes in her hand.
“You’re not gonna like these,” she said. She did not spear them. Instead, she waited for Bill to set the drawer in its slot in the Garland then handed them to him.
“Goddamn it,” he said.
“I told you, you wouldn’t like it.”
“What you got?” Marie asked. Since she was right there with him, Bill handed her the orders.
One was a four-top, all steaks, a King well-done and three Bostons medium-rare. Bill immediately put the King on. It was a large-size filet mignon with a bacon slice wrapped around it. Being the biggest and thickest of the four, it would take about three times as long to cook. Worse, because of its thickness, it had to cook slowly and be turned often so as not to burn and it had to be watched all the way through.
The second table was two prime ribs. That was easy and Bill could do it immediately except Marie had to put up the salads first and the customers had to have time to eat them. So all in all, they were looking at a minimum of a half hour to get these out of the kitchen.
Marie wasted no time. She went immediately to her station and put up the six salads herself. Victoria and Lorraine were there to take them out and told Marie which dressings they took. Bill told Lorraine to bring in two more beers, and while he turned the King, he lit himself a cigarette.
“Anything I can do for you?” Marie asked.
“Yeah,” said Bill. “You can go out there and tell the guy who ordered the King to kiss my ass.”
“Oh yeah,” Marie said. “I’m on my way.”
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Bill plated the four-top. It was easy enough, three steaks and a burger all with fries and no veggies. He did not have to leave the line at all.
Marie stood by him and drank her beer but did nothing to help him, not because she didn’t want to or didn’t know how to, but because he was in his rhythm and she did not want to upset that. Simply put, it was easier and more efficient for him to do it himself. She knew from experience that he would ask her for anything he needed if he needed anything.
Marie did remove the two new orders from the spindle. She called them to Bill after he asked her what they were so he was able to get them started quickly. When the four-top was gone and the new orders were working, Bill lit a cigarette and leaned his butt against the steam table shelf. He stood next to Marie sipping his beer.
“What’d you say to Alfreda?” she asked.
“You said something.”
“I was just messing with her.”
“Well what’d you say?”
“I told her I wanted to lick her everywhere.” As Bill said this, cigarette in mouth and beer in hand, he moved toward the broiler to flip what was working.
“Wanna lick me everywhere too?”
The last orders were two burger tables, a total of seven burgers all well done. Being all well done, they were simple to prepare. He had them lined up across the hottest spot on the grill and let them go, flipped them every so often so they did not burn anywhere. Purposefully, he did not answer her.
“Well? I like being…”
Bill interrupted her before she could finish what he already knew she was going to say. “I need four setups. Would you make them for me?”
“I like lollipops too,” said Marie before she went back to her station to make the setups. “Just four? You want all fresh ones?”
“Nah. I’ll use the ones I have. They’re good.”
Almost right behind her, Bill walked down the line to the reach-in freezers and pulled out a bag of fries. He ripped the bag open and dumped the contents into two fryer baskets then dropped each basket carefully into the hot grease. That done, he walked back to the Garland, flipped the burgers quickly, then pulled seven buns from a fresh package he took from underneath the steam table. The buns they used were pre-split, so he opened the Garland drawer, flipped the burgers again then put the buns face down on the front of the grill. He closed the drawer and stood over it watching the buns toast.
Marie came back with the setups. As was his way, and part of which made him a highly efficient cook, Bill had already lined up seven plates from the plate warmer. Marie put her setups on the plates and then took the tray with the three setups Bill had and plated those. Bill quickly took the buns, hot potatoes, and put them on the plates. Since none of the burgers were cheeseburgers, he plated all seven one after the next, then slid down the line and picked up the fries, one basket in each hand. He let the baskets sit hooked on their rack over the grease to drip for a second, then, from underneath, he tapped the basket handles so the grease would drip some more. Then, one basket at a time, he shook generous orders of fries onto each plate.
Marie stood to the side closest to her station and watched him work. She saw him, after he’d returned the baskets to the fryer, lift the plates two at a time up under the warmer lights. Right after he lifted the first two, he tapped the bell so Victoria and Lorraine would know the orders were ready.
Marie walked over to the fryer and reached into a basket for one of the leftover French-fries.
“I do like to lick,” she said.
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Victoria and Tommy came in together. Tommy asked for a piece of rib and when Bill had fixed him his plate and he’d left the kitchen, he told her to bring him in two beers. She said okay. As she went out, Lorraine came in. She had dinner orders and since Bill was standing there, she just handed them to him, a four-top and a deuce, he saw as he read them.
“Shit,” he said. Gonna be here really late.”
“Me too. Tommy asked me to stay with Victoria till closing. Everyone else is cashing out. I saw more people coming in too.”
“Well, good thing all I have to do is strain the grease tonight.”
“You can sleep over if you want. I mean the girls are there but the couch is yours if you want it.”
“I do,” said Bill. “I’m tired and worn. But I haven’t been home and I need to get clean clothes and see my fiancé.”
Lorraine shrugged her shoulders and headed out of the kitchen.
Bill was busy breaking down the steam table when the dishwashers came back up. Being after midnight, the van had arrived to take them downtown. Bill told them to finish up the racks they had and then to cut out. He heard Jim mumble something, and while his instinct was to ignore it, his fatigue mixed with the bourbon and beer overrode his instinct.
“You got something to say?” Bill started toward Jim but the van driver stepped onto the line blocking him from leaving it.
“He ain’t got nothing to say,” the van driver said. “We’re all tired is all. Me, I been working like you since early this morning.”
“I ain’t got nothing to say,” Jim said.
With the van driver there, Bill didn’t have to keep an eye on Jim, so he went back to work. As late as it was, he could carry the leftovers to the back counter then stack the steam table pans and inserts over by the potwasher station. That done, he started soaping everything that was stainless steel. Everything soaped, he wiped it all down making sure it shone.
Next was the grease, first one, then the other, both of them still hot and working. Bill strained them with the round, wire skimmer. He dumped the crud into a pot and finally emptied that pot into the garbage. In the morning there was going to be a lot or work for the day crew. Since the dishwashers were going, he would cart out the trash before he left.
Marie was busy finishing her cleanup. She had taken her beer over with her and when she was finished it, she held the bottle up indicating to Bill that she wanted another one. Bill was tending to the orders working, but when Lorraine came in, he asked her to fetch the beers.
“Any new tables?” he asked.
“Just those people I told you came in. They ordered drinks and are looking at the menu.”
“I’m gonna call home in a bit. Maybe I won’t have to travel.”
“Well, my offer stands.” Lorraine smiled at Bill then went out for the beers. She returned a moment later. Bill was plating the deuce, which was an order for two Tops medium rare with French-fries. Since he was busy, she came around on the line and placed the beers where they were not in his way. Then she walked through so as not to cross behind him and waited for him to put up the steaks.
While that was happening, the van driver said goodnight and the dishwashers followed him out the door.
“Alone at last,” said Marie when Lorraine had gone out with the steaks. But they were not alone for long. A moment later Victoria came in with two new orders.