Bill remembered the green room. It was a bathroom. He sat in the bathtub of that bathroom for just about eight hours straight, looking at the green walls and saying “Wow, look at the green.”
Wasn’t his first trip. Wasn’t his last trip.
His first trip happened on his way to the Filmore East to see one of the best rock concerts of all time. Heading through the Midtown Tunnel they popped purple-dot acid.
Where they parked, they had to walk past a police precinct to get to the theater. Stand up straight, he thought. Stand up straight they both thought, Bill and his best friend. His best friend was into music and knew they had to go to see this show.
Stand up straight.
As they passed the precinct building they both cracked up and couldn’t help themselves from laughing so hard they almost peed their pants. Only way Bill could stop himself was to reach in his shirt pocket for his cigarettes. But that pocket was like miles away from his hand.
By the time he’d passed his friend a cigarette and put one in his own mouth they were well beyond where the cops were. Safe. Home-run. But the match, he struck it and it was sooo far from his mouth.
Where the hell is my mouth?
Where the hell was the cigarette?
Green room. Bathroom. Annabelle. Naked. She was tripping too and she wanted to get laid.
There were others in the house as well, and the cats, for real, they had found a mouse. The mouse was alive. They were playing with it, not attempting to kill it.
Later, out from the tub, he and Annabelle found the cats in the kitchen, one cat on either end of the room. They were batting the mouse to each other, watching it slide across the linoleum floor. By this time the mouse was near-dead.
“Get undressed.” Annabelle stood before him. Bill sat in the tub fully dressed. He was just looking at the green walls saying over and over, “Look at the green.”
Not able to get him to do anything, Annabelle disappeared. She came back a moment later.
Bill had no clue as to when, what time it was or how much time had elapsed. Now she wore heavy, hooker make-up. Her lips were so red all he could think about was watching her put red lip marks on the green paint. She was wearing his shirt, open, sleeves rolled up, and high-heels. She was smoking a joint and passed it to him.
The first hit on the joint shot him into the stratosphere. The second and third hits just kept him up there.
She also had a bottle of wine. She reached out for him to give her back the joint, which he did. She handed him the wine and he drank from the bottle.
“Kiss the wall,” he said. “I want to see lipstick lips on the wall.”
“I want some,” Annabelle said.
“Kiss the wall.”
“I got a better idea.”
She stepped into the tub and sat on the rim. She let the shirt settle on either side of her spread legs. She spread her legs far as she could. In her shoes, the open shirt and the fiercely red lipstick, she sat there before him.
“Rise and Shine and give God your glory, glory!” She sang.
From another room heavy rock music blasted out. Then the three others in the house found them as they were in the bathroom. Annabelle would have taken care of her needs with them—all of them at once for how messed up she was—except they were gay.
That was a whole other story.
“Get lost,” she said to them. “I’m getting me some.”
After they left the green room, she leaned in and lifted up Bill’s T-shirt. She planted a full red-lipstick lip imprint on his belly just below his chest.
Coming in a few weeks
Bill was sitting on his milk cases. He was all messed up. Actually he wasn’t messed up, he was just tripping his brains out, which meant that he was seeing and doing things on multiple levels, as he thought of it. Others watching him might certainly have thought differently of it.
He had asked Brooklyn to bring him a beer and when she came out into the hall with it, he said, “So where in Brooklyn you from?”
She said “Flatbush.”
He said, “My mother was from Flatbush. My father was from Canarsie. My Uncle Sam lived in Prospect Park.”
“So you know Brooklyn.” Not thinking much of it, Brooklyn sat down opposite Bill, on Bea’s lettuce cases which were now about even in height with the two milk cases on which Bill sat.
“Not really. I grew up in Queens. We just went to Brooklyn when we were visiting and pretty much that was when I was a young kid. I didn’t go there much as an a grownup kid or an adult.”
Brooklyn was conscious of Bill staring at her. At first she shifted where she sat a bit, but then she just looked at him and wondered, like, what-the-hell. Then she asked him what he was looking at.
Bill didn’t say anything. He leaned forward on the milk cases and reached out toward her, to her blouse on her bosom. Without hesitation, he fingered the material of the blouse on her breast.
Brooklyn didn’t know what to do, what to say. She looked deep in his eyes and said “You like what you’re feeling?”
“The spider,” Bill said. “It’s multi-colored and whispering to you.”
“Well, I should get back,” Brooklyn said. She was completely weirded-out, but she didn’t get up right away. In fact, she leaned in closer toward Bill so he could feel her more easily. “You always feel-up the new waitresses? Is it a thing?” she asked.
Only as she said this did Bill become conscious of the fact that in effect he was feeling her up. The spider was on her breast and he was, according to what was happening in his acid-brain, touching that spider. It was whispering to him. Pet me. Pet me.
So despite now being somewhat aware of where his hand was, he continued feeling her up, petting the spider. “It’s okay,” he whispered softly. “I’ll keep you safe.”
Mary found them like this. She came out to the hall on her way down the stairs to get some things from the store room. She took it in, looked at it for what it was.
“He’s tripping,” Mary said to Brooklyn.
“You mean on acid?” Brooklyn asked.
“That’s what I mean,” Mary said.
“They let him trip here?”
“Tommy don’t know. But if he did, he wouldn’t say anything. Boy got to put up the dinner.”
“The spider’s soft,” Bill said. “And I know it’s on your tits,” he said to Brooklyn. “Maybe you ought to spread your legs and let me see what’s up there.”
“Maybe I ought to get back out to the dining room.”
“Come on, let me see if his friend’s up there.” Bill laughed. He started to reach for her there with his other hand, but Mary stepped in the way.
“Come on,” Mary said to Bill. “You can see if the spider’s up my legs in the storeroom.”
She took Bill’s hand and pulled him so he stood up. Standing between him and Brooklyn, Bill had to stop feeling her up. Brooklyn did not hesitate and quickly stood. She stepped behind Mary and out into the kitchen on her way back to the dining room.
“What’s the matter with you, boy?” Mary asked.
Lily was a bit more withdrawn, clearly less brash than Brooklyn. She was following Lorraine. Bill thought immediately they were a good match because Lorraine was more mother-like.
Their first order was for two steaks, a hamburger, and two open-faced sandwiches medium. Lily smiled, a genuine smile Bill thought, and said hello right after Lorraine introduced her. Lorraine managed to tell Bill they had both come through the other day with Tommy in the group of girls who were applying for the job and getting the tour. Bill scoped it back in his mind but his mind was getting pretty bent at the moment and so he really didn’t have much recollection of her.
Then they were busy and there was no time for messing around. Henry Lee cooked off what he had to for the start and Bill went about working the roast beef, the deep fryers and the side dishes.
On the west side, where Robert and Alvin worked, they almost always had three on the line plus the pantry girl. Because it was an open hearth, it was important for them to never be out of position, to never look flustered or overly busy. An open hearth made for a lunch or dinner show. Customers could see everything from the one dining room and very often they got up from their tables to come and see what the cooks were doing.
Robert, the numbers runner for Mr. Bowman, the leader of his church’s choir, the head honcho for both cooking crews, East and West, was never one not to give the show, never one not to engage in conversation with any customer who approached. The regulars knew him and stayed to chat as he worked. A lot of them were numbers customers and while of course they would never discuss that overtly out in the open, they did make gestures and signals and obtuse references. So Robert was really, at the same time, doing two businesses and both of them for Mr. Bowman.
Drenovis called the orders out west. Regardless of anything else he was, he was a great expediter. He was fast, fluent, fluid and clear. He sounded, almost, like one of those auctioneers.
Being a great expediter did not absolve him from anything else he was, and at times it was clear that Robert and Alvin had disdain for him. When customers were within hearing range, Robert would respond to his ordering and picking up with comments like “yes dear” or “okay sweetheart.” When they were more alone, there was chatter in undertones. Drenovis would call Robert a faggot. Robert would call Drenovis a sissy. Alvin, if Drenovis ticked him off, would tell him to kiss his ass.
There was more. Drenovis would go at Robert for swinging with Mr. Bowman, and Robert would continually chide him with the fact that he was jealous because he had more power than him. If Drenovis went to argue the fact, Robert would tell him to suck something on him and remind him he was a sissy and a pussy.
On and on.
Through it all was Lucy, the hostess with the mostest. She was like the Marilyn Monroe of Suburban although she was physically very opposite to what Marilyn Monroe had been. Lucy was thin and dark, dark hair, dark eyes, angular cheekbones. She had a near-perfect hourglass figure, small breasts, long, thin fingers always perfectly manicured.
She was a dreamboat. Many of the businessmen came there for lunch just to see her.
Lucy knew this. Mr. Bowman knew this. Everyone knew it and played to it. Those close to Lucy, those who were long-time regulars as customers and numbers players got special attention, a little extra flirt or smile or pat on the arm. They also got to play their numbers with Lucy.
We plan. God laughs.
They muddled through the rest of the morning a bit awkwardly, but mostly smoothly. Bea was still standoffish, perpetually pissed off. Mary was somewhat content. Bill did his best to concentrate on work, but the acid was starting to come on and that drew him away from everything.
He did his job by rote. Henry Lee came in on time and as soon as he could get away from upstairs Bill went down to hang out in the meat room, to cut some meat and make the hamburgers and bleus.
They drank bourbon and smoked weed. They drank more bourbon and just before they came up to do the service, they smoked more weed.
Bill had washed the baking potatoes and put them on to cook. First thing he did when he and Henry Lee came up from the meat room was to check them, and seeing that they were ready to take out he did so like he always did, two in each hand at a time and directly into a steam table insert which he covered with aluminum foil.
Mary had set up the steam table. Normally Bill would do this, but since he was tripping she felt he was better off downstairs and told him she would do it. Almost everything was in place by 11:30 and so Bill only had to make the trips downstairs to carry up what was needed. As a result of it being somewhat slow and their usual efficiency, they were done early and were able to congregate out in the hall where Bill and Henry Lee smoked cigarettes and Bea sat on her lettuce cases which were now a little bit diminished in height.
Two new girls had started and were following the regulars. One was named Lily. The other was named Brooklyn. In almost every sense they were kind of opposites.
Brooklyn was short, maybe five-one, and very trim, maybe one hundred pounds soaken wet. She had dark hair cut short, Italian-colored skin, and Bill surmised after she spoke her first few words that she was probably from where she was named.
Lily was clearly Midwestern or something like that. She was taller, maybe five-six. She was trim but not thin, maybe a hundred-twenty pounds, maybe a bit more, maybe not. She spoke with no real accent, which was another indication that she was somehow from the middle of the country.
Bill did not meet the new girls until they were on the line and starting the service. They had come in while he was downstairs, and unlike most days, since he was tripping, he had hung out longer downstairs the normal. So he had missed them on their ins and outs as they followed the waitresses they were assigned to and went about setting up the dining room, or pretty much making sure the dining room was set up, because the rule was that before everyone left after a meal service everything was set up for the next meal.
When the bell rang and everyone marched into the kitchen, Bill was first on the line and pulled the dupe from the spindle. It was an easy order, a deuce, two open-face roast beef sandwiches rare with mashed potatoes and veggies. Bill told Henry Lee he could stay outside if he wanted to but Henry Lee was already inside and getting ready to grease the grills to cook off some hamburgers and bleus.
It was Victoria’s order. Bill waited and watched as Victoria got the two salads for the table. Brooklyn was following her, but Bill did not know her yet. He met her when Victoria, two salads in hand, stepped over to where Bill was on the line and introduced her.
Brooklyn was beyond cute, Bill thought. She was downright edible. So he smiled his biggest smile when Victoria made the introduction and watched Brooklyn smile back. She winked at him and kind of shimmied a little to give him a bit of welcoming body language.
“Give me about 5 minutes before you set up the order,” Victoria said.
Bill followed Brooklyn’s every move as she walked out the front dining room door.
Still May Day.
Right after Bill washed the potatoes for baking he went downstairs and into the meat room for a drink. While there, the crazies hit him and without thinking twice, he went into his locker and popped acid.
“You know I want mine too,” said Mary, meeting him in the hall. “Today. Later. And you better do me better than you ever did her.”
“I just popped acid,” he said as he led her back to the meat room.
“Just saying. You may get more than you asked for. Maybe not.”
“Why don’t you get off those damn drugs?”
“Aw, you really do care.”
Mary smiled as she gave him the finger. “I don’t even have to respond to that. If I didn’t care I’d have made your days here really hard. If I didn’t love you, you’d have quit here a long time ago.”
“You may love me, but you don’t know me. Nothing makes me quit but me. And I’m a stubborn son-of-a-bitch.”
“We need to bread anything?”
“You know what we got to do. Two o’clock, baby.”
Bill smiled. He opened his arms for Mary to approach him. They hugged, kissed. Then he offered her a drink, which she took, a very small sip. He took another drink, a big one after which he reached into the drawer and came out with a joint.
Mary pulled him close to her and took his hand, on her own, up her dress. She guided him, settled his fingers where she wanted them and kept hers on top of his. She eased them back against the counter where she usually sat so she could lean comfortably and closed her eyes.
“It’s not safe here.”
“I don’t care.”
“You do care, so let’s go somewhere safe.”
“Let’s smoke the joint first.”
They did. They bundled in the parkas and went into the deep freeze, mitts and all. Done, they hung up the arctic clothes and went into the ladies’ staff bathroom.
Was Mary who locked the door behind Bill. He asked her if everything was okay upstairs, if anything on the stoves needed tending to. She said the only thing needed tending to was her. So she sat herself up on the bathroom counter, as she had done many times before, and she drew her knees up so she could put her feet—in Bobby socks and work shoes—up on the counter. She balanced herself and spread her legs wide.
“High heels and Bobby socks would be great. You could dress like a school girl.”
“Why I want to dress like a school girl? I ain’t a school girl. You go home to one of them. I’m a grown-up, bad-ass woman. And that’s how you better treat me.”
Bill could see that Bea was pissed when they came back upstairs. She had a frown on her face, the first thing that Bill saw when he walked into the kitchen. Mary seemed to pay Bea no mind and went right back to her station where she stirred everything that was on the stoves, first thing, and then checked everything in the ovens to make sure they were okay. There was some round left over from the day before. She went into the walk-in and took it out so that it could cool down some, or warm up some, as it were.
Bill went down the line to make sure everything was in order. The Garland was hot. Half the charcoal grill was hot. The second Garland was unlit and cold. The fryers were ready. Bill found this out by taking a few drops of water from his sink and splashing them into the fryers. They popped energetically, all ready.
“Anything I can do for you?” Bill stood on the end of the line closest to Bea and asked her from there.
“I’m okay for now.” She kind of scowled at Bill. Bill purposefully ignored it, looked into the reach-in freezers to get an idea of what he had to carry up later on, then walked back to where Mary was busy at work.