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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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abstraction2illusion

 

Round about 1975 I wrote a short story called Illusions, Abstractions and Charades. I resurrected it not too long ago and though I haven’t started work on it yet, the Senate Committee report the other day reminded me of the story’s title. We are living in an age of illusions, abstractions and charades. We are living in a dangerous time, a time made more dangerous not by the real threats out there, but by the self-interests of our leaders, by their greed and insatiable desire for power.

Let me let President Trump off the hook here. I honestly believe he personally is only interested in actually bettering America. I believe he means what his slogans say. You might disagree with him and his ways, and you might disagree with his policies, but I credit him with that honesty and sincerity.

And let me be clear here too. I do not feel the same way about Obama. I believe he had disdain for America, if not outright contempt. I believe he had an agenda designed to destroy the America he disliked and worked tirelessly to achieve that agenda. If asked for proof, I would assert that his ties to organizations funded by George Soros, and his surrounding himself with people tied to Soros’ secret web of funding, clearly show a desire to de-stabilize and de-power America.

Obama, more than any modern president, veiled himself and his administration in illusions, abstractions and charades all the while claiming he was the most transparent president ever. He got away with his malarkey because the liberal press refused to call him out on it. He got away with it because he was allowed to and he was allowed to because of his color. Yes! I said it. Obama mostly went unchallenged for two reasons. First,  he suited the leftist ideology and furthered their unbridled quest for absolute power over this country. Second was his color and the fear of being labeled a racist if you challenged him.

Will I be called a racist for writing this? It’s a good bet.

Now as for most of  the other politicians, regardless of their political party and their personal beliefs, they are part of that swamp, the actual swamp monsters, more diabolical than real monsters because they are smart enough and deceptive enough to pretend that they really care about you and America. In reality, they are only scamming us, creating the illusions, abstractions and charades under which we are living.

But it’s not only the politicians anymore. Like it or not, the media is dishonest and biased. They advance and perpetuate a false narrative of what is actually going on in this country and the world. They create straw enemies in order to hide the real threats out there. Many of the media outlets are now owned and influenced by  pro-left, anti-Trump interests and operate under the same veil of illusions, abstractions and charades as do the majority of our politicians.

So let’s call out some of the major political illusions, abstractions and charades. First and foremost is Obamacare. It was not designed to provide medical coverage for those who were needy. It was designed to infuse government control into every aspect of our daily lives and to redistribute the wealth in America. Second is this leftist narrative of desire for equality. They would have you believe they care about the poor, the minorities, the downtrodden and their causes like women’s rights, gay rights, etc. Equality of itself is an illusion they hold on to. The law already provides for equal rights. The politicians only use these narratives and issues to garner votes, to maintain power, to get reelection. Their feigned concern is smoke and mirrors, an integral part of their elaborate scheme of illusions, abstractions and charades.

Gun control, immigration and illegal aliens’ rights, climate change, the war on poverty, on and on…their illusions, abstractions and charades are designed to keep us from seeing what they’re really doing, which is enrich and empower themselves while keeping us divided and subservient so we don’t mount an effective campaign to oust them all.

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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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Soup Company: Chicken Stock, Beef Stock and Laughing Stock,We were the only remaining super power in the world in the late 1980s. Ronald Reagan did that, a Republican. Of course it wasn’t just him. It was economics as much as politics. The Soviet Union was going broke, yet another sign, even back then, that socialism didn’t work.

It’s thirty years later. We have let ourselves be surpassed economically by China and we have let Russia return to world power status. Really, how stupid are we? Like him or not, President Trump is right. The world is laughing at us. It should be. As a country, the United States is acting like an idiot. Our leaders say and do the stupidest stuff and then tell us how great they are. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

So let’s get a couple of things straight. The news and news media are no longer unbiased. A simple look at who owns what there and what their political leanings are demonstrates this. Any paper who hires twenty reporters to get dirt on President Trump clearly has an agenda.

Next, to listen to the Hollywood elite and believe those elites are looking out for anyone other than themselves is at best naive and more likely simply misguided. That’s putting it nicely. Those who know anything about socialism know it really sounds great on paper. But in reality there are only two classes: the rich (very few in number) and the poor (the vast majority who pay for everything and do all the work). Which ones are those Hollywood elites and what do they get from their positions? Easy for them to promote strict gun laws. They have armed bodyguards and live in gated communities. Easy for them to promote conservation and green energy since not only can they afford green energy, but they are exempt from their own preachings. It’s like Obamacare. Good for us, but not for Congress who snuck in their exemptions.

So we, the regular American people, are the laughing stock. Look at Al Gore’s carbon footprint. Look at DiCaprio’s. I’m really glad Geraldo’s family in Puerto Rico is okay, truly, but the regular people who don’t have that kind of support got decimated. Same hypocrisy. Did Whoopi leave yet? She’s worth about 80 million. She could afford to go. Why should we believe any of them? If we do, we’re worthy of being laughed at.

Capitalism and the United States pay for almost all the charitable and philanthropic work throughout the world. While we give, give, give, they laugh, laugh, laugh. Excuse me, but I haven’t heard the Clinton foundation doing anything for these latest disasters. You know, Obama and Clinton, those who would move us toward socialist ways: sixty million dollar book deal for Obama and more than 250K per speech to Wall Street, and Hillary’s book deal isn’t being disclosed, but she and Bill have earned 250 million in about ten years. Yeah, they were broke.

Iran deal? They’re laughing at us.

Paris Accord? UN? TPP? Obama’s trade deals? They’re laughing at us.

Our Congress? Schumer, Pelosi, Ryan, and McConnell, they’re all laughing stock. In fact, it would be funny if it weren’t funny. And we’re laughing stock because we keep them in power.

So look at The Hunger Games and Resident Evil. That’s where we’re going unless we take our heads out of the sand. The world is laughing at us, and we keep acting stupid. We let Hitler take all of Europe before acting. Haven’t we learned that appeasement doesn’t work? We let China surpass us and Russia come back. We let North Korea and Iran get nuclear weapons and funded Iran so it could fund Radical Islamic Terrorism. We are the laughing stock of the world and we are truly stupid.

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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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