Fun with words and words for fun

Fiction Outtakes 192: Bill Wynn 177

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No sooner than Bill had set up that first solo order did the kitchen spring into life. Waitresses came in one after the next with orders, several of them with multiple orders. One by one they handed Tommy the dupes then stepped over by Bea to pick up their salads. Bea was prepared and started on the next grouping of lunch salads as the waitresses depleted the ones she had set out ahead.

It was always better that Bea did the portions. Waitresses would give away anything for tips and they always had to be kept in check. Some of them, especially the ones Drenovis had taken advantage of, the ones who’d had to do their time in the back seat of his Riviera, were angry and took pleasure in giving larger portions. Not only did they get better tips, but they paid Drenovis back by cutting into the profit margin.

Tommy had to keep his eyes on this part of the business just as he had to make sure none of the cooks wasted anything. But waitresses and cooks here were different. Here, the cooks were all regulars. There was just about no turnover. They were all trained in-house for how things were done and their bonuses were dependent upon profits. As Mary had told Bill, they were a family and their livelihoods depended upon each other. So Bill had learned that if he messed up on a strip loin and got one steak less than he should have (sometimes he didn’t mess up, sometimes the loin’s angles were messed up), he made up that steak on the next loin. Not only was it a matter of money for the bosses and consequently the kitchen help, but it was also a matter of pride.

Mr. Jim’s reputation, in part, depended upon how good the cooks were. Mr. Jim, old-fashioned chef from the dining-car era on the first trains, was about as good as they came. Not only was he a gentleman, but he was an ace at anything that had to be done in the kitchen, from baking to prep work to meat cutting and carving. And because he was at the very end of his career, he had no qualms about teaching what he knew. In other kitchens later in his career, Bill would discover cooks and chefs who would never give up what they knew.

Tommy could tell Mr. Bowman what a  great job Mr. Jim had done in teaching Bill. Tommy could tell Mr. Bowman that not only was he capable, but he was capable of doing pretty work, making things perfect as they could be. A pretty plate with steam rising out of the hot items was the name of the game. And sometimes, just sometimes, a plate came together so perfectly that it was textbook worthy.

Personally, Bill did not understand that. He couldn’t figure why doing it the same way every time did not produce the same beautifulness every time. All the plates he made looked good, very good, in fact, but some were just plain beautiful. The more he attempted getting that beauty, the less he got it.

The lunch sped by almost in one big blur. Tommy stayed in the kitchen just about all the way through and Mr. Jim, doing what Mary ordinarily did, replenished the line items. He came around every so often to see what needed replenishing, but mostly he came to make sure that in the heat of the rush the plates that went out were as perfect as possible.

“Remember,” “Mr. Jim always said, “specially if it’s a touch off, make it look pretty and make sure it’s hot. If it looks good and the customer sees the steam rising up from the plate, you just about always get by.”

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

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Fiction Outtakes 191: Bill Wynn 176

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Bill waited until they were all out in the hall. Only Mr. Jim had stayed in the kitchen. Bea sat on her lettuce cases with her legs spread wide. Mary sat atop the metal milk cases, two of them stacked so she could be comfortable. Her legs were crossed at the ankles and her knees slightly apart. Henry Lee had cooked off some hamburgers and bleus and now they were hanging out before the first order came in. Tommy was already back in the kitchen. He was busy folding his towels to set them up to hold the dupes in place after he called the orders.

“Another damn day,” Henry Lee said.

“Another damn year,” Bea said.

“Lordy, I’m tired,” Mary said.

“What you got to say?” Henry Lee asked Bill.

“I’m glad I got a job,” Bill said. He was smoking a cigarette and leaning against the wall next to where Mary was sitting.

“You lucky you got a job, boy,” said Bea. “Wasn’t for Robert, you wouldn’t have no job.”

“But for the Grace of God,” Mary said.

“That old queen probably thought he was gonna bed you down,” Henry Lee said to Bill.

“Never even crossed my mind,” Bill said.

Bea and Henry Lee guffawed. Mary looked up at Bill then over at them.

“He’s a sweet naïve boy,” she said.

“You stupid,” Bea said. She and Henry Lee had another big, heavy laugh.

“She all messed up,” Henry Lee said. “Ain’t never seen her like this, out all night and taking them drugs the boy got. Kind of amusing when you come to think about it.”

“Yeah, it is,” Bea said.

“Up yours,” Mary said.

Mary was flush red in her face now, something Bill really loved to see. He’d told her so many times and many times he tried to make her blush just so the crimson would come out on her chocolate cheeks. Now it was out in full and he wanted to kiss her on every bit of it. Instead, he walked into the kitchen and got her beer. When he came back out in the hall, he handed the beer to her and told her take the upper.

“You think? I’m feeling so nice and dreamy.”

“Trust me,” Bill said. “Take it now and you’ll get through the meal okay. Then you can chill out all afternoon.”

Mary retrieved the pill from her dress pocket and popped it into her mouth. Henry Lee saw her doing this and shook his head. He looked at Bill after watching Mary swallow it down with her beer.

“You know she got kids to care for,” he said to Bill.

“I got it covered,” Bill said back.

“You better man.”

“Don’t worry. She’ll be fine.”

“She ain’t used to doing that shit.”

“Be okay,” Bill said.

“Ordering!”

They all heard the call from inside the kitchen. Bill and Henry Lee went in immediately and stepped into their positions on the line. Bea came a moment later. She walked through the line and goosed Bill as she by passed him. Bill would have goosed her back, but he was cutting the first order of roast beef from the top of the round. Those pieces of meat were slightly discolored from having been exposed and from being under the warmer lights too. Bill made sure to turn them over on the plate so only the fresh side showed. By the time he’d built the plate, it was beautiful: the meat nice and rare set on a slice of white bread with a bit of au jus covering it and parsley sprinkled over the au jus, mashed potatoes in a lovely ball with a dollop of bordelaise sauce ladled into a perfect nest in the middle of the ball and parsley sprinkled on them too, and a kitchen-spoonful of mixed vegetables right next to the potatoes. The meat was set so it could be eaten without having to move any of the side dishes.

Mr. Jim came from around back to inspect Bill’s work. “See,” he said to Tommy. “The boy’s getting damn good.”

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

Man Is By Nature Selfish and Greedy

money-greedy1Selfishness-and-greed Truman

Man is by nature selfish and greedy. My first father-in-law used to say this when I was a kid, just in my early twenties. He also used to say that when the National Debt exceeds the Gross National Product the government will be bankrupt.

Well, the first part of what he said is so absolutely true that it is almost incontrovertible. But because I was an English teacher for more than thirty years and because I taught Forensics (Debate) for about eleven years and coached my high school debate team for that same amount of time, I won’t say it’s a fact. No matter how true it seems, it’s still an opinion. It was his opinion and it is my opinion, and the thing that frightens me most is that saying it is like pissing in the wind because no one wants to hear it and the words just seem to dissolve into nowhere.

The selfishness and greed is manifested by mostly everyone, but the rich and famous are the ones we see it in more regularly. So, for example, we rarely see those welfare, food stamps and Social Security recipients who the taxpayers are supporting as they drive around in their new Mercedes Benz automobiles which they can afford because they have no expenses and work off the books too. These people make more than many of us who support them and hide their money. They wear all brand name clothes and pay cash for everything so as not to leave a trail. Many of them register their cars in a relative’s name so as not have a trail there too.

Man is by nature selfish and greedy!

We see it in those beggars in the street too. Not all of them of course and that’s the problem. You can’t easily discern who the real needy are. If we could easily distinguish between the scammers and the needy, not only would we have plenty of money to help the needy, which everyone in America wants to do, but we could start trimming that National Debt which in and of itself is an obscenity.

But man is by nature selfish and greedy.

Now I know you’re not supposed to use the word man. I know there are some states where I could be arrested for using the wrong gender pronoun. Yes, arrested and either jailed or fined or both! (I also know that that is not a complete sentence.) It is precisely such ridiculousness in the hands of the selfish and greedy politicians that has brought us to the absurdity we see each and every day in America, the greatest country in existence today.

Rich and greedy? Start with the Clintons. They are the most obvious. Move along to the Whoopi Goldbergs and the other celebrities who said if Trump was elected they would leave the country. Why are they still here? They’re making lots and lots of money, not piddly money but real money to the tune of millions and millions, by selling their hatred and warped opinions while exemplifying perfectly the notion that man is by nature selfish and greedy. Move along to the Al Gores and DiCaprios, those epitomes of true conservation.

And on and on.

Nope. Man is by nature selfish and greedy. President Obama somehow increased our National Debt by ten trillion dollars in a mere eight years. For the life of me, I can’t see where the money went. Can you?  I only know that if we don’t wrestle the power from the selfish, greedy politicians and if we continue down the path we are on, our selfishness and greed will be our demise.

FYI: Interest on the National Debt for Fiscal Year 2017 was 277 billion dollars. That’s more than half the total Defense Budget. What has our reckless spending gotten us? What is it costing us?

Man is by nature selfish and greedy.

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

Fiction Outtakes 190: Bill Wynn 175

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Tommy had come into the kitchen to see that they were ready, but he stood and watched Bill work. Mr. Jim and Mary watched too although they watched Tommy more than Bill. Bill, they knew, was quite adept at it now.

Bill easily cut away the slices of fat using Mr. Jim’s long slicing knife. That knife was sharper than a straight razor and Bill had learned to cut straight and true with it. The outside trimmed around, he wiped clean the slicer and set it down gently. Then he took up the boning knife and cut out the fat. Tommy watched him remove it, no meat attached whatsoever.

“See,” Mr. Jim called from the back. “The boy’s all ready. He’s as good as me.”

Tommy didn’t say anything. He turned, went to the coffee urns, took himself a cup of coffee and left the kitchen. Bill heard Mr. Jim mutter something under his breath and knew it was about Tommy. He knew it wasn’t good. However, Mr. Jim had cautioned both him and Henry Lee that as far as managers went, Tommy was a good one. He continually reminded them that they could be stuck with Drenovis all the time. He warned there were many worse than Drenovis too.

Everything set and ready on Bill’s end, sure they had enough fries, fried fish and onion rings, Bill left the line and went downstairs to the meat room. Henry Lee had laid out the meat trays, four of them in total. Bill stacked two and hoisted them on his shoulder. Every time he hoisted trays on his shoulder he was mindful of how terrible he was as a bus boy, of how he’d spilled the soup on a customer that time, his first night working, when the customer’d been abusive toward him and   the waitress,   Eleanor. He’d stuck up for Eleanor and almost gotten fired on his first night’s work. Eleanor had taken to him, went sweet on him, showed him how easy it was to bed a waitress. Eleanor had been his first in the line of waitresses and other females with whom he cheated.

He went back downstairs to get the other two trays. Henry Lee could have taken them, but he wanted to smoke a joint and get a drink of whiskey. This time Mary followed behind him. She went with him into the meat room and was quick to go into the deep freeze to get high. Henry Lee went in with her.

“Boy got your head messed up don’t he?”

“It’s them damn drugs. But they sure felt good at the time. That’s not all that felt good.”

“Yeah, well tell it to the judge.”

They smoked their joint all the way down till it was scorching the freezer mitts then came back out into the meat room. Bill was waiting for his turn and quickly went inside alone. He didn’t take long and when they’d all had a drink of bourbon and straightened themselves up, Bill hoisted the last two meat trays up on his shoulder and they went up for the  lunch service.

“What the hell wrong with you?” Bill heard Mr. Jim ask Mary when she was back on her station and beside him. “Goddamn drugs,” he said. “You know how many people they done killed? You got kids you got to look after, girl. Get your goddamn head right.”

When Bill heard Mr. Jim start in on Mary, he’d stood by the deep fryers and listened to what he said. Through one of the spaces, he could see her and he could see she was wasted, truly wasted. She had the faraway eyes, what he called sour cream eyes because they were like little marbles in pools of white mucous-like goop. The Black Beauty could help fix that, he thought.

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

Fiction Outtakes 189: Bill Wynn 174

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Bill did not answer right away. Finished putting the potatoes in the pan, he shut the oven doors and covered the potatoes with aluminum foil, tucking the foil neatly around the pan’s rim. Then he walked around and onto the line where he set the pan into the steam table. He was thinking. He didn’t want to think.

Back in the back by Mary, Bill walked up close to her.

“You take the Black Beauty yet?” he asked.

“Not yet.”

“Don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Just drink the beer and chill out.”

Mary looked at Bill. “Don’t you manage me, boy,” she said.

“Girl, you had enough.”

“Who you think you are?”

Bill leaned in very close and spoke into Mary’s ear. “Someone who really cares for you. Someone who cares about you deeply.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Yeah, right,” Bill said. He took her in his arms and kissed her. “And I’m not letting you ruin the good time we had last night.”

Because they were in the kitchen and because Bill thought it seemed more than just fooling around stuff, he released Mary after the one kiss and stepped away.

“What else you need done?” he asked.

“You really care about me?”

“Talk about it later. What else you need done?”

“The round needs to come out and be brought over.”

“Okay.”

Bill went over to the oven he knew the round was in and opened the oven door. Carefully, he slid the roasting pan out part way, resting it somewhat on the oven door. Mary, knowing he was doing this, went for a sheet pan and handed it to him as she returned. Bill put the sheet pan on top of the stove. He then put on oven mitts, lifted the roasting pan out of the oven and set it on top of the stove next to the sheet pan. Last, using a heavy duty kitchen fork and a side towel, he lifted the round from the roasting pan to the sheet pan. Done with that, he put down the fork and towel and carried the round onto the line where he placed it on a pan set up on the steam table. This pan was elevated slightly in position and from here the round could easily be carved.

Since Mr. Jim was retiring, Bill would do the carving. Mr. Jim had been teaching the boy everything he needed to know, everything he could teach as it came up. Lately, he’d been staying in the back with Mary and leaving Henry Lee and Bill to do the service alone. No matter how busy it got, he stayed away to make sure they could handle it. He was showing Mary how to step in at the fryers if need be. This Friday was to be his last day. That was New Year’s Eve day and the lunch was expected to be very slow.

Bill stood and trimmed the round while Mary finished bringing the rest of the items she’d prepared onto the line. Trimming the round was a matter of clearing the fat from around the outsides and cutting out the circle of fat that sat in one of the middle seems. The first time Mr. Jim let Bill do this alone Bill had cut too deep down with the boning knife and cut out a good chunk of rare, red meat with the fat. Tommy had been watching and Mr. Jim had defiantly picked it up by the fat end and dangled it in Tommy’s face. “The boy got to learn,” Mr. Jim had said. He had a good laugh over it, but when Tommy wasn’t looking, he cut that chunk of meat into slices and used it as underneath slices. Those pieces filled out the orders so no meat was wasted. Tommy never knew. It wasn’t about Tommy. It was about teaching the boy how to never waste anything.

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

Fiction Outtakes 188: Bill Wynn 173

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While he was setting up the steam table, Lexi came into the kitchen and walked around the line to say hello. She was already in her uniform but still she was gorgeous in ways that none of the other waitresses were. Bill was immediately turned on, this despite having just been with Bea and having spent the night with Mary. She smelled like lavender and he wanted to lick behind her ears. He knew that would start her off like she had just done to him by simply approaching him. He wanted to lick a lot of stuff.

“Hey babe,” she said.

“Hey Lexi.”

“Want a beer?”

“Bring two, one for Mary.”

“You go it.”

“You working tonight?”

“Naw. I’m off.”

“I’m free. Want some late company?”

“Wish I could. Gonna be out.”

“Come back home. Won’t be till about twelve-thirty.”

“Let you know later.” She turned and left the line the same way she’d come on.

Bill was finished with the liners and inserts when Mary came back up. First thing, he noticed she had those far-away eyes and she was totally messed up. He couldn’t remember ever having seen her like this and while on one level it was kind of funny and even cute, on another level he was immediately concerned and even worried.

“Maybe you better take that upper,” he said.

“Why?”

“Cause I can see in your face you’re all messed up.”

“I’m all right.”

“Lexi bringing in some beers.”

“You gonna do her too?”

Bill looked into Mary’s face. “Why you going there?”

“Going where? Maybe you could do Lorraine and Norma at the same time as Lexi.”

“Ah, shit,” Bill said.

“Yeah. Ah shit.” Mary went around back to her station and asked from back there what Bill was ready for.

Bill did not answer. He went around back to where Mary was and found her simply leaning up against her counter looking down at her feet. He stood himself next to her, leaned against the counter the same way she was.

“Garbage head,” he said. “Truth is I was a garbage head. Maybe I still am. If it would make me high, I’d take it. If I didn’t know whether it would make me high or not, I’d try it. I didn’t give it a thought. Something would take me out of my own head and put me in a different place, I’d take it.”

“Why you telling me this? I ain’t your mother.”

“Nope. You aren’t my mother, that’s for sure. I told you I’d give you the truth. Well, that’s one part of my truth.”

“Yeah, and?”

“Give you the rest after you tell my why you’re mad. But I already know.”

“Yeah, what you think you know Mr. College Graduate?”

“I think you got a bad head is all. You just aren’t used to the drugs. You’re not used to being up all night. And you’re not used to caring about someone.”

“Fuck you,” Mary said.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. We had a great time and we’re gonna have another one, and I know you want to mess it up so you don’t have to deal with it. Wanna know how I know? Cause I want to do the same thing and everywhere else in my life I do that same goddamn thing. But I ain’t doing it here and I ain’t letting you do it either. I’m going to set those baked potatoes into a pan and I’m putting them on the line. Take the upper with your beer.”

Bill only wished that the distance between where Mary was and where the convection oven was was a whole lot greater. But he couldn’t do anything about that. So he opened the glass doors and started taking the potatoes, two at a time in each hand, and placing them in the steam table pan he’d set there. Every now and then he’d look toward Mary. Finally she came over by him.

“You care about me?” she asked.

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.

Fiction Outtakes 187: Bill Wynn 172

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Like that trick where the magician pulls the tablecloth out from under all the dishes and glasses on the table, that’s how it had happened to Bill twice. Talk about insecurity!

Anyone who really knew him, not those who knew the broiler cook but those who knew the person, the boy in a young man’s body, the young adult boy-child, might see a not-so-long-ago pimple-faced kid with fears up the yin yang. Those fears were compounded by excessive drinking and even more compounded by drug abuse that the boy within the broiler-cook-man could not see. That boy-man was stuck. He didn’t know he was stuck, would not discover that he was stuck for many more years in his life. Then he would learn what they say, that when you pick up substances you get stuck at that age. Bill had picked up between thirteen and fourteen.

Alcohol, weed, uppers and downers were part of his daily life. He didn’t use every one of them every day, but the first two were daily staples. Then there was acid and other hallucinogens too. Cocaine would come later.

Mary wasn’t too happy about Bill’s drug use. She had her own demons in the name of Yulie who’d been felled in his prime. Why? Why were so many kids and young men felled? Drugs and alcohol. Of course those weren’t the only reasons. There was war (which so often led the veterans to drugs and alcohol), murder, inordinately high in her community, and the regular stuff like heart disease and accidents. She was desperately afraid her boy, the one who called Bill cracker, would succumb to drugs.

“Enjoy yourself with Bea?” Mary asked when Bill came up, not after Bea, but later, after cutting meat.

“I only did what I had to to get along,” said Bill.

“What’s that mean?”

“You know what it means.”

“No. I don’t. Enlighten me.”

“It means it ain’t worth fighting with her now. So I did what I did and you and me going back to The Upper Room tomorrow night.”

“And why would I go back there with you?”

“Because you want me to make love to you. Because I want to make love to you.”

“Boy, you are crazy.”

Bill smiled at Mary. “See, I knew you’d say yes. I already set it with Robert.”

“Give me another one of them uppers,” Mary said.

“Too soon. Go down and get a drink of bourbon and smoke a joint.” Bill reached into his pocket and handed Mary a joint. He also handed her a Quaalude.

“Goddamn, boy. You a drug store.”

“You want the truth?”

“I wouldn’t pass that up.”

“When you come back up.”

“See you in a few,” Mary said.

Bill watched her walk toward the hallway door. Immediately, he stirred all the liquids working on the stoves. Then he checked all the ovens. Finally he checked the convection oven to see how the baked potatoes were doing.

Assured that everything was okay, he made a mental list for what he had to do. First he would finish setting up the steam table. Mary had only started it and there were more inserts to put in place. Then he would take out the baked potatoes which he’d found were close to done. Then he would pour the au jus into a bain marie and set it in its place in the steam table. Next would be the soup of the day. Then the rice would have to be put into its pan and set on the line. Then the vegetables, mashed potatoes and steamship round would have to be put into their proper pans and tray and set on the line.

He was sure Mary would be up by then, actually by long before then, and he knew she would help him complete these tasks. Once all this was done, last thing for him before the service was to the check the reach-in freezer and make sure they had enough French-fries, onion rings, fried shrimp and pickerel.

Pick up a copy of my published works here: Books by Peter Weiss.