“Got the trifecta,” Mary said to Bill.
“What do you mean?”
They were downstairs changing early Tuesday morning the week after Bill and Alfreda had driven back together from Suburban West.
Mary was in her bra and slip. Bea was in her bra and slip. Bill was stripped down to his skivvies.
“You don’t think she wasn’t gonna tell us, did you?” Bea said. She let out her throaty chuckle. “Gotta love them white boys, don’t you?” she said to Mary.
“Lord have Mercy,” Mary said. “Only a matter of time till Henry Lee finds out. Bill Wynn, I hope you can fight.”
“I didn’t have a choice,” Bill said.
Bea laughed even louder. She sat down on the chair they all stood around. “Come here boy.” She motioned for Bill to come close to her. “Me and Mary been talking about it. Don’t know how we’re gonna stop him from finding out.”
“Basically, she blackmailed me,” Bill said. “She said if I didn’t get with her she’d tell him I did stuff to her.”
“So you didn’t want to?” Mary said.
“I didn’t say that. I said I tried not to. I told her I didn’t want to. She said it was payback for all the stuff he does.”
“Don’t blame her for that,” Bea said.
“Me neither,” Mary said. “Meanwhile what we gonna do about this?”
“Nothing,” Bea said. “Not for now. Me, I’m just gonna keep having fun with the vanilla ice cream. What about you Mary?”
“I’m done with all this. I’m taking myself out of it. I don’t want to be part of what’s coming.”
“How about a uniform?” Bill said.
“How about you give me some?” Bea said.
“Goddamn it, Bea,” Mary said. “Give him a uniform.”
“I like it in the morning,” Bea said.
“I do too,” Mary said. “But you don’t see me making it worse.”
“Now that Eleanor gone, the boy must be lonely. You lonely, boy?” Bea spread her legs and pulled off her panties. She lifted one foot to the edge of the chair so everyone had a clear view of what there was to see. “Well, boy? You lonely.”
“I just want to go to work,” Bill said.
Bea started rubbing herself. “Well, go to work,” she said.
“I’m out of here,” Mary said. She took her own kitchen dress from the uniform closet, put it on quickly then threw Bill a pair of uniform pants. Finished dressing, she headed to the stairs. “You two gonna rot in hell,” she said on her way up.
“You believe that?” Bea asked.
“No,” Bill said. “Not at all.”
“Good. Me neither.”
“You know we can’t keep this up,” Bill said.
“Sooner or later we’ll get caught.”
“You think they don’t know? You think Tommy don’t stay away from us down here on purpose?”
“You telling me he knows?”
“Boy,” Bea said, ”you young and fun and pretty, but you sure are stupid.”
Bill flushed full red in the face. “I have a college degree,” he finally managed.
“That don’t mean nothing,” Bea said.
Bill thought about it a moment. She was right, he decided. Here, in the kitchen world, college degrees didn’t mean anything. What you could do with your hands and how you could handle the orders during a rush meant everything. Being smart was different from being educated. Bill knew he was educated. He also knew that compared to Mary, Bea and Henry Lee he wasn’t so smart. Maybe he could get smart, he thought to himself. But it sure wasn’t gonna happen while he and Bea were getting in on in the downstairs bathroom.
Due to several personal commitments, Coming Now In About Another Month:
The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide
Personally, I’ve never understood how things get so turned around and how some people become masters of the turnaround while others are ever the victims of it. To me it’s an enigmatic phenomenon. I think it involves the ability to lie and stand by your lies no matter what. It also involves being able to speak loudly, deflect scrutiny and never admit culpability in anything. It also involves a big sense of self-righteousness and the assumption of having the moral high ground.
Maybe it’s kind of like s/he who screams the loudest and the longest gets stuff turned around the way s/he wants it. Then the rest of us are perpetrators, ever the culprits.
All together, the Republicans have a bad name. This was true before Trump, and Trump, no matter what you think of him, is categorized by it. They, the Republicans, are against the little people, against the minorities and only for big business, Wall Street and those big shots.
That’s what the Democrats would have us believe. They say it every chance they get. But the facts don’t bear that out. The facts show that Democrats get an overwhelming majority of minority votes, but their policies have overwhelmingly failed the minority community. Democrats have singlehandedly run the inner cities for more than half a century. In those inner-city communities, education is failing, unemployment far exceeds the national rate, crime rates far exceed the national average, drug abuse and poverty abound.
So what have the Democrats done? Really, they’ve done just about nothing but exploit the minority community by stealing what they can from it including its vote, and they’ve done this by consistently branding Republicans as racists, sexists and homophobes and blaming them for their own failure.
Spoken about here lots of times, the war on poverty illustrates the point. Begun in the 1960s by Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic president, and continually supported by Democrats like Teddy Kennedy (remember Chappaquiddick?), twenty three trillion dollars later the poverty rate in America has not significantly changed. Yet if any Republicans suggest we revert to workfare to reduce the welfare rolls, they are branded racist. Ironically, Bill Clinton did this during his presidency with great success. Great success means welfare rolls were reduced, unemployment was reduced, more people worked and rose from poverty to the middle class. They did this with dignity and established independence.
Even the suggestion by Republicans that able-bodied people work is met by Democratic derision. Similarly, while economic studies show that raising the minimum wage, as the Democrats are pushing, will increase unemployment in the very community they allegedly want to help, when Republicans cite this fact and oppose the idea, they are branded as racists: the turnaround.
And on and on. If the Republicans fight to enforce immigration laws and end sanctuary cities, they are, you guessed it, racists. If they don’t want to fund Planned Parenthood they are sexist. The turnaround! Since when was it a bad thing to enforce our laws or speak your conscience in America? And that’s being kind to Planned Parenthood.
The Turnaround is a sinister technique. It stifles and suppresses new ideas and alternative solutions and it all too often maintains a status quo which needs to be changed.
We used to say “the pot calling the kettle black,” which is a good start at examining the Democratic mastery of The Turnaround. We should not only follow the money (a previous blog entry here), but we should look at who’s calling who what.
In Shakespeare the truth often comes from the clowns, the jesters and the blind. Even if you feel that way about a candidate, it doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t speak truth at times.
Maybe The Turnaround is suppressing the truth and not reflecting it.
Not long after Eleanor was gone and Bill’s Suburban life had quieted some, State West was down a cook and the east sent Bill over to do the lunch rush on the line with Robert and Alvin. Alvin was burly, a heavy-drinking, pot-smoking man in his thirties. He was related to Henry Lee and Yulie, who’d died awhile back, who Mary talked about as if she had loved him. Robert did the grill, Alvin worked the middle cutting roast beef from the steamship round, and Bill did the fryers and vegetables.
This was the day the line caught fire, a good one too, starting on the Garland and spreading quickly over and past the charcoal grill.
“Damn,” Robert said.
Bill started to panic since this was his first real fire and he didn’t quite know what to do. Robert gently grabbed his wrist and held it, shook it so his whole hand shook.
“Check out your mind, baby,” Robert said. “Make every step count for two.” He let go Bill’s wrist. “Now go to the walk-in and get me a case of milk. Quickly.”
Alvin was nowhere to be seen when Bill returned with the milk. Robert, slow and easy as was always his way, reached into the milk case, took up a gallon container and started pouring milk systematically over the fire. He did the charcoal grill first, then the Garland. Meanwhile, Bill covered the food that might get splashed, and within a matter of moments, the fire was out.
“If the foam goes off,” Robert said, “we lose all the food and can’t do the lunch. You know Mr. Bowman gonna lawnmower our asses if that ever happens.” Then he said “Put the milk away, chill out a minute and we’ll clean up.”
Bill was coming out of the walk-in box in the prep kitchen when he heard Robert yell, the first and only time he ever heard Robert yell.
“Who the hell cleaned the broiler and didn’t empty the damn grease drawer?”
Bill saw the kitchen stop dead. No one moved, no one made a noise.
“You stupid bastards,” Robert continued, yelling at no one in particular, “that ever happens again I’ll fire all you crazy bitches.”
Done, Robert turned to Bill. “C’mon baby,” he said, calm as if he’d never raised his voice, “let’s go get some air.” He put his arm around Bill and started for the door.
The moment the door closed behind them, as if it were one living organism, the kitchen came alive again. Robert’s arm still around Bill, he said, “Glory hallelujah,” and he started to laugh. Then he saw Alvin sitting on a big rock with Alfreda, Henry Lee’s wife.
“What the hell you doing out here?” Robert asked.
“Shit,” Alvin said, “I’m a cook, not a fireman.”
Bill would never forget those words. Alvin was sitting on that rock all relaxed and peaceful, smoking a cigarette and talking to Alfreda as if nothing was going on.
Bill lingered outside with Alfreda after Robert and Alvin went back in to start the clean-up. Alfreda was dark chocolate like Mary and skinny like a speed freak. She didn’t get up from the rock and Bill sat next to her a moment.
“So,” Alfreda, said, “I am gonna get with you, you know.” As she said this, she slid her hand into Bill’s lap and rested it there. She began indulging herself and Bill made no attempt to stop her. He couldn’t help but get roused.
“You’re Henry Lee’s wife,” Bill said.
“So? Being married never stopped him any.”
“Never seemed to stop you any either.”
“What are you saying?”
“Bea, Mary, Norma, Eleanor. That’s what I’m saying, and now it’s my turn.”
“I don’t think so,” Bill said.
“I do,” Alfreda said with a big smile.
Due to several personal commitments, Coming Now In About Another Month:
The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide
The shooting yesterday was tragic. Make no mistake about it. But it is a true metaphor for where we have come to in our society. It should be a wake-up call, but as our past performance indicates, more than likely it won’t be.
As it is wont to do, the media has already run with the event. The blame game started almost immediately and the media quickly assumed its current role of aiding and abetting their political favorites in assuaging their consciences and casting aspersions on their opponents. Isn’t that what got us here, to this shooting, in the first place?
Meanwhile, as Steve Scalise fights for his life, our illustrious leaders do what they always do which is talk BS. They speak in platitudes and make symbolic statements and gestures. They play, not a baseball game, but the jockey-for-position game. They fight, not to serve the American people but to be first to appear as if they really care about the American people and the country. Their past performances, pick a side, right or left, show that to them appearance is everything and they are engaged in not working for the American people but in putting forward the appearance that they are.
Some reality exists behind the façade. First, their reality is not our reality. Not too long ago in the scope of history the United States was formed as a government for the people and by the people. Intrinsically, that meant the people were supposed to run the government for the benefit of the people. With the advent of career politicians, those whose lifelong job is being politicians, the government of the United States shifted. Our leaders forgot about serving the people and began the quest to stay employed. Or, like the paramount premise of evolution, they took on the notion that staying employed was their first priority and a matter of survival of the fittest. It’s called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is the greatest corrupter of our institutions, our governments throughout the world, and yes, of humankind, for man is by nature selfish and greedy.
Another reality behind the façade our leaders are putting on for us at this moment is that they have never before been so far apart in their fight for control that they were willing to usurp the power of very government they are supposed to serve. Never before has one party colluded with the media to destroy a duly-elected president. History, if not overcome by revisionist history, will write this chapter. It is one thing to not support a president’s policies, or his party’s policies. But it is quite another thing to assume that your own party has moral superiority and the will of the people when the will of the people, like it or not, elected a different candidate. Or, obstructionism is one thing. Attempting to bring down a duly-elected administration is quite another. Factually, impeachment of the new President was being talked about prior to his inauguration.
Symbolically, our leaders talk about the importance of unity, the importance of coming together now and playing this baseball game tonight to show the American people how strong we (they) are and how much they care about our government and its moving forward together. Behind the scenes, our politburo leaders are discussing the same old same old which is how to keep themselves safe and keep themselves in office. It’s shameful and it makes one as queasy as Comey.
This shooting is tragic. All our hearts and best wishes for a full and swift recovery go out to Steve Scalise and the others injured. Nothing more important can be said than that. But make no mistake about it. The shooting event itself is metaphoric for where we have come to in our society and the response to it is metaphoric for the true nature of our leaders and their lack of real concern for the best government, society and country in the world.
With Eleanor gone, Bill’s waitress activities mostly came to a halt. Regarding waitresses, Bill discovered if he just sat back and minded his own business they would come on to him. It would happen time and again throughout the twenty-some-odd years he would spend in kitchens. Some of them would be memorable. Others would be non-entities. All of them would represent, on one level or another, something…something he should never have indulged in, something he regretted not indulging more in, something that symbolized something missing in his genetic makeup or occupying his psyche causing him to…something.
He and Norma messed around a couple of times post Eleanor, but Bill lost interest. Norma didn’t do anything she shouldn’t have. In fact, the more disinterested Bill was, the harder Norma tried to please him. A few new girls came and went. Bill only indulged himself when he knew they were on their way out. Waitress turnover was rapid, especially when they were looking for a permanent replacement. Drenovis hadn’t counted on that when he messed with Eleanor. Eleanor had been liked and was a long-time regular. Finding someone to fit in with the rest of the crew wasn’t as easy as he might have thought.
The big story out east was Henry Lee and Marie. Marie seemed to be thinking she was gonna take Henry Lee for herself. She sure started acting that way after a while. That she had a husband and her own kids didn’t seem to matter much. What actually did matter was that Henry Lee thought her delusional, and maybe she was.
Alfreda remained intent upon bedding down Bill. Every time she came for the meat pickup she managed to make a comment, corner Bill in one way or another, press into him to cop a feel or force him to feel her. And talk dirty? Alfreda, when she could, launched into graphic descriptions of what she would do to him, what he could do to her, what they could do to each other.
Bea didn’t mind. Bea was getting hers and Bill discovered she was a freak. If Norma was an anywhere girl, Bea was an outright freak. She would play with Bill whimsically, sometimes catching him by surprise. Sometimes, if he went down to the bathroom, she would follow him and then follow him into the bathroom. Bill never ceased to be amazed at the stuff she would come up with.
Mary was the surprise. Mary fell for Bill. It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened nevertheless. That first time was like a drug. Something in Bill reminded her of Yulie, maybe the sad eyes he wore every so often. When she saw them she would ask what he was so sad about and Bill would simply shrug his shoulders and not answer.
“I could put a smile on those lips,” Mary would say.
“Make me smile,” Bill might say. Or, “Nothing could make me smile,” he might say.
Mary took to telling Alfreda to cool it with Bill. She reminded her that he worked every day with Henry Lee and anything she might do with Bill was sure to mess that up. She reminded her that she had two little kids to take care of and they needed their father. Alfreda told her that their father should have been thinking about that before he messed with the salad lady.
“Yeah, well,” Mary said, “it ain’t the same for men as for women.”
“Screw that,” Alfreda said.
Robert was aware of everything going on, east and west. Sometimes, Sunday mornings in church he would look down from on the stage—he was leader of the choir—into that first row where Alfreda, Mary and sometimes Bea sat, all in the same row, Mary with her kids, Alfreda with her kids, and Bea with Mr. Bea. “Lord have Mercy,” he would say to himself. But then he would think there was nothing he could do.
What’s good to you is good for you, he would tell himself.
The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide
By three-thirty enough steaks for the night were cut, so Bill and Henry Lee cleaned and straightened their stations. Then Bill carted six short loins from the icebox and set them between him and Henry Lee. When they were ready to start boning the loins, just before they started, they took another drink.
Henry Lee’s leg was bothering him: this was the second full day on a drunk and exhaustion caused the pain. But because he was on a drunk, because he was used to it and prepared for it, he was steady. Bill was getting sloppy.
Twelve more loins sat waiting in the box. Henry Lee, the master butcher, did four to Bill’s two, and when he was done he examined Bill’s work. “You’re too damn slow,” he said. “You be doing this enough to be faster.” Bill didn’t say anything. He just took a drink. “You got pussy on the brain,” Henry Lee said, “and you drink like a boy, too.” Bill kept silent. He carted six more loins, two at a time, from the walk-in. “You do these,” Henry Lee said, “cause you need the practice. I’m going to take a crap.” But on his way to the bathroom he heard Mary call “Meat’s here,” from the top of the stairs. “Damn,” Henry Lee muttered, and calling back “Okay,” he passed the bathroom and climbed the stairs. At the top of the stairs he unhooked the wood ramp down which the meat was slid. The ramp, set on hinges, crashed into place.
Bill stopped working and grabbed a quick drink before he moseyed over to the bottom of the stairs. Henry Lee came down and set up the scale in the meat room. The invoice called for a regular delivery, about fourteen hundred-fifty pounds of meat. He laid the invoice next to the scale and waited while Bill carried the cases of meat, slid down the ramp by the deliveryman, into the meat room. They dropped them, one by one, on the scale, then slid them over and off.
After the meat was weighed and stacked in the walk-in, after Henry Lee’d initialed the invoice, Bill, Henry Lee and the deliveryman rested a few minutes. Talking jive, they passed the bottle. All the while the short loins lay on the counter, and every so often the deliveryman poked at them with his fingers. This time Suburban was his last stop and his truck was empty. He was talking about after work. Bill and Henry Lee wished after work was as soon for them.
The bottle was two-thirds dead and Bill was drunk-numb. He liked feeling this way. He liked working by habit. His ears buzzed and the top of his head was hot. His apron, stiff in spots from old smears and dried blood, was damp in spots too from fresh blood that had dripped during the delivery. A dishwasher mopped the stairs and the halls over which the meat had been carried.
“Now I’m going to take that crap,” Henry Lee said when the deliveryman left.
“Yeah, see you in awhile,” Bill said.
Henry Lee sat down in the stall and unstrapped his leg to rest the stump. He leaned the leg against the wall, and while he crapped he massaged his thigh. “Feels good,” he said aloud, relaxing, feeling the freed stump begin to throb. He hated it like this, when exhaustion pained it all and even whiskey couldn’t stop the ache. He hated and he remembered and he drank to be numbed and forget. But sometimes it didn’t work. Sometimes you could drink forever and never get outside yourself. “Lord have mercy,” he said, leaning his head against the wall of the stall. The cool metal soothed his temple, and sitting motionless, he cast his eyes downward studying the wood gam, not feeling at all inclined to get up.