Two black beauties coaxed him out of his fear and woke him up. He left at five-thirty, after a long, hot shower to warm his bones.
In the car he blasted both the heater and the radio. Leaving as early as he did and coming home so late made the drive both ways quick and pleasurable. The amphetamines and the music kept him awake and focused. Christmas was up next and he was taking the holiday off. Thanksgiving was gone, his first of what would be many Thanksgivings spent at work. Christmas in Cleveland with his fiancé was required, but he was working up until the 23rd and back to work on the 27th. She was staying with her family until after New Years. He’d had to beg for the time off and pay back with covering others on his days off. He owed Alvin three days.
The morning started like always. They opened up, went down to change, had coffee and lingered over by Bea’s station. Bea read the racing pages of the Dispatch and took the numbers which she would pass to Robert. She was feeling frisky and wanted some, but Bill was standoffish since he’d just been with his wife-to-be. He told her later, but that wouldn’t happen because one of the cooks on the west side called sick and Bill was going over there. He didn’t find out about it until nine-thirty when Tommy came in and told them all. Robert was coming to pick him up at ten and either he would bring him back or Bill would ride with the van for the meat pickup.
So off Bill went, not quite at ten but a bit later when Robert sauntered in in his usual way. He sung “Huh, Glory” to announce himself, flirted with everyone, took money from Bea, checked things out with Mary. Then he stopped in the office to speak with Tommy before returning to the kitchen, putting his arm around Bill and leading him out the door.
The west side always needed three. They could manage with two but it was a great hardship, so when any of the cooks called sick, Bill was drafted. Mr. Jim and Henry Lee could handle the east side’s lunch service. If it got crazy, Mary jumped in to help doing the fryers. The west was an open hearth and had to be a good show as well as run efficiently.
On the west side lunch was fast and furious. This day Alvin was out and Bill worked the middle cutting the round. Robert danced and laughed as he did the broiler, and he took time sometimes to slightly rearrange how Bill plated some things. Drenovis called the orders and Mr. Bowman watched things, met with customers, schmoozed as it were. Some of his customers played the numbers, but Mr. Bowman never took numbers himself and never talked about it. It was his game, he was the bank. He would say he didn’t know anything, to ask around, and he would leave it for the customer to find someone who knew. Most all of the regulars knew that Robert had been busted for running numbers and so he was the logical one to approach. With the open hearth, Robert could direct them to someone who would help them out.
“See Lucy,” he’d say.
Lucy was the hostess, on the numbers payroll as well as the Steakhouse payroll. She was a drop-dead knockout of a woman, absolutely gorgeous and in a league beyond any of the Steakhouse waitresses, some of whom were stunning. Many of the single men from downtown, the businessmen, came in just to see Lucy.
Alfreda, who did the prep cooking on the west side, came on to Bill like always. Bill was all business and reminded her that he worked with her husband. She would be the second vengeance encounter he would have, the second woman who would threaten him with blackmail to get with him, not because he was so desirable they couldn’t live without him, but because he met the prerequisite for what they wanted.
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Bill dreamed. Of late he was not sleeping enough to dream heavily, but Marie had started something off and this night he was home relatively early and would get about three and a half hours uninterrupted sleep. That was a lot.
Vengeance. He did not think about getting vengeance with the undercover cop who led the conversation that aired at his trial. He was positive he was entrapped because that same cop he was entrapped by tried to sell him weed about six weeks after the day he’d gotten busted at the riots, which weren’t riots when he was busted, only demonstrations. Undercover FBI and undercover cops started the riots.
Still, no thoughts of vengeance. The only real thoughts were about conspiracy and conspiracy theory—how most anyone who had not actually experienced conspiracy at work had real trouble believing in conspiracy and conspiracy theory.
Marie was more complicated than he’d imagined. Inside what he’d thought was a senseless head were real feelings, feelings of curiosity and wonder which led to desires. He imagined she really did desire trying a white man, that somehow this was important to her in her life. Then there was vengeance. If what she’d said in the car was accurate, Marie was into getting even with her husband. That would explain Henry Lee and any others if there were any. Bill made up his mind to ask her about it.
Vengeance. He dreamed about Jenny, Pam’s cousin. Pam was the girl he’d lived with for more than a year until he’d left her suddenly—one of his first times bolting. Jenny had a coat-hanger abortion on the day he and Pam were having a party. The timing just worked out that way because he and Pam didn’t know about the abortion. Only Nina, Pam’s and Jenny’s other cousin, and Jenny’s boyfriend, Peter, knew. Apparently they drove a long distance to get there, and then a long distance back.
Jenny was on her feet at the party for awhile, but she got dizzy and swooned and so they laid her down in the bedroom where she started to bleed and eventually had to be taken to the hospital. But not before Peter, in his crazy head, came on to Pam in the kitchen while she was getting stuff to bring out to serve since the party was getting into full swing. He tried kissing her and feeling her up, was actually pretty relentless about it until Bill walked into the kitchen to help Pam. Caught in the act, Peter walked back out to the living room.
After Jenny recovered and heard about what Peter had done with Pam, she cornered Bill one afternoon while Pam was at work and Peter was in class. She’d gone over by surprise, told Bill she didn’t know if he was gonna be home or not but wanted to give it a try. She told Bill it was for vengeance and he had to do it, that it had nothing to do with Pam and everything to do with Peter.
“Believe me, Pam will understand completely,” Jenny said.
Bill didn’t understand but he got the message when Jenny leaned down and opened his fly.
“No pleasure for me,” Jenny said. “I’m gonna do nasty things with you, things maybe you never even thought of, then I’m not washing up, and tonight, after Peter does what I tell him to, I’m telling him exactly what I made you do by threatening to tell Pam you came on to me. For the rest of his life Peter’s going to know he got your leftovers and you’ve been inside every orifice I have, and I’m going to know that that shithead paid for what he did to me. And if he doesn’t stay with me, good riddance to bad rubbish.”
Bill woke with a start. His alarm had not gone off yet and of course early as it was, it was still dark outside. He took his fiancé up in his arms and made desperate love to her with a deep fear inside him.
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Back in his car and on their way, Bill breathed easy for the first time. He had never seen this policeman before and he was thankful the cop didn’t phone in to have him looked up. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all on his probation. He’d admitted to having a few beers, not a smart move, he thought, but better than getting busted for lying on top of everything else.
Everything else. Bill didn’t think about it much at the time, but being in the same car late at night with a black woman could have gotten him in deep shit. Worse, it could have gotten Marie in deeper shit. The one thing they both had going for them was that they worked at Steakhouse East. Otherwise…
“Good thing we work there,” Marie said when they were a distance away. “You could have been beaten senseless. I could have been raped then killed. They could have arrested you for it, said you were a bigot and a hater. They could have made it stick with you having a record.”
“Assault and battery.”
“I’m telling you, you don’t know how lucky we were. This ain’t no liberal place except by the university. They could have just beaten the shit out of both of us cause we’re an interracial couple, even though they don’t know we’re not a couple.”
“Next time don’t get so messed up.”
“How else could I get you alone in the car?”
Marie reached over the gear shift and rubbed Bill’s thigh. She smiled at him and lifted one leg so her legs were apart and angled. She opened her coat and slowly lifted the dress she’d worn to work.
“You don’t give up, do you?”
“Hey, I know a good piece of meat when I see one.”
“What a thing to say!”
“I never had a white guy before. I want to try one before I die.”
“That’s about the most honest I can be. What else you want me to say?”
“Don’t say anything. Put your dress down, bundle up and I’m dropping you off.” They came to a light and stopped momentarily. Bill looked at Marie. “Just what do you think you’re gonna get with a white guy?”
“How the hell should I know. What did you get with a black woman? With the black women you been with?”
“Different outer colors with the same insides. That’s it.”
The light changed and he started driving again. Marie began telling Bill where to turn and when they were getting close. She bundled up her coat and withdrew into herself. Except for directions, she didn’t speak again until they were parked in front of her house.
“I’m still gonna take my turn if I can have it. That’s on you.”
“Why?” Bill looked directly into Marie’s eyes as she faced him.
“Because I’m curious. Because I’m young and attracted to you. Because like Henry Lee, my old man is hitting anything that moves, specially things ten years younger than me, and I’m only twenty-nine. Because in my whole life I might never get a chance to be with a white guy again and I want to. Me. I want to. I’m entitled to what I want if it don’t hurt nothing or it just hurts me.”
Bill didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. As they sat there, the door to her house opened. It was a half double. Bill could see a man standing there in the light from inside the house.
“I got to go. See you tomorrow. Thanks for the ride.”
“Take it easy,” Bill said.
“You be careful,” Marie said. “This neighborhood ain’t safe for you.”
Bill watched until Marie was safely inside the house and the door was closed before he drove off. He drove straight home, showered, slipped into bed next to his wife-to-be. For her part, she sensed him there and snuggled up against him.
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Our real enemy is not external and our greatest problem is not climate change. Climate change is at best an issue and perhaps a concern. Iran, North Korea, Russia and China are foes, even enemies. But they are not the real danger facing the United States. Even Radical Islamic Terrorism, a danger for sure, isn’t the real danger. The real danger facing us comes from within. It is the willful attempt at destroying a presidency, an attempted coup d’état in the premier free country of the world.
It seems unbelievable, unreal, way out there. An overthrow of our government? To even say it sounds silly, even fantastical. However, all the elements are in place and at play. The government is divided. The country is divided. The media are biased, even controlled. Protests and protesters are paid by anarchists like George Soros and his cronies, and their true goals are couched by their labeling anyone who opposes them as racist.
Division, media control and paid opposition make the perfect storm for toppling not just this presidency, but any presidency.
There’s more. The deep state, as they call it, is actively anti-Trump and remains powerful because Congress is still dilly-dallying in approving Trump nominees. The deep state leaks false stories to the biased media who run with them, true or not. The politically correct, corrupt politicians, more accurately those who are paid off by big money, holding to the whims of their benefactors’ purse strings, dance to the rhythm of the false stories. These politicians are corrupt and even immoral in many instances, no better than the old Communist Politburo we used to abhor and chastise through the Cold War in the fifties and sixties. In fact they are very much the same as them. Some of these politicians, you know who they are, are driven by personal animus toward the man who is president, by simple hatred for him, and they are willing to put their personal feelings ahead of national interest. That is narcissism, even hubris, the very same qualities for which they attack the President.
Worst of all, and a common thread across the camps of those who would undo the presidency, is a willingness to re-write history. In their misguided political correctness they are willing to tear down the statues of our founders and heroes and replace them with icons of socialists we once reviled. Revisionist history alone threatens the presidency, the Constitution and our very existence as a nation.
Yes, our real enemy is within. The first thing a dictator does when in the midst of a coup is seize the media and suppress it completely until the coup is a fait accompli and the new dictator controls them. Here, now, for the most part, our media are already no better than Pravda was. They are biased, controlled and paid for by political foes. They spew pure liberal propaganda spun by presenting nearly incessant anti-Trump news, real or not. Facts and fact-checking are things of the past, replaced by gossip, purposefully incorrect leaks and outright fabrications. Thus the media are, in and of themselves, the greatest of the dangers within.
It’s simply the turnaround at work. See The Turnaround. So the real danger within is our overall erosion from within. Its origins, as stated many times here, emanate from human selfishness and greed. That selfishness and greed have caused our leaders to dumb-down education and brainwash the upcoming generations that have no context for the realities of socialist dictatorships, for their evils and failures. With no context they are easily cajoled into thinking those systems are preferable to our freedom and capitalism and easily led into any other thing the leftists would have them believe.
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Bill and Marie went down to change together. They had done this many, many times and Marie always took her civvies into the ladies room to change there. Bill used the open store room since it was easier and faster and no one was around this late at night. In the morning he, Bea and Mary uninhibitedly changed together in the hall.
Marie really was messed up. Before she went to change, she went into the meat room and took another long gulp of bourbon. Bill followed her in and took a small sip, but not much. He was driving and he wanted to be mostly straight.
After she drank and Bill had tucked the bottle away, she hopped up on the counter where Mary always sat, crossed her feet at the ankles and swung them the way Mary did.
“What you doing?”
“Pretend I’m Mary.”
“Get out of here. And let’s get out of here.”
“Aw, boo-hoo.” Marie jumped off the counter and almost fell, actually did fall into Bill’s arms. He had to catch her to stop her from falling. She kissed him and pressed herself to him, but he led her by the hand back into the hall where Marie simply stood and stripped without going into the ladies room. Naked on the bottom, bra on the top, she stood before Bill who, because he couldn’t help himself, bent over and kissed her once, there, just a quick fun kiss. Then he slapped her bare ass and told her to get dressed. She turned around and told him to kiss her ass first, which Bill did, one cheek then the other. Then he slapped her again and told her move along.
He drove carefully, maybe too carefully, because they were only a few blocks from the restaurant when Bill was pulled over. For the life of him, he couldn’t tell what he’d done wrong and he was scared, but he felt lucky because he was not drunk and he wasn’t carrying any drugs at all. Everything he had he’d left in his locker at work.
“License and registration.”
Bill handed them to the officer silently praying first that Marie wouldn’t say anything and second that he wouldn’t get busted for breaking probation by not going straight home. In the first month they’d watched him all the time. In the second month it was sometimes. Now it was hit and miss, meaning sometimes they were there, sometimes not, mostly not, and even if they were they didn’t generally hassle him though sometimes they followed him at least until he hit the city limits. This time he hadn’t seen them and he had turned out of the parking lot in the opposite direction since Marie didn’t live in downtown Columbus.
“Where you headed?”
“Just dropping her off and then heading home. I do something wrong?”
“Checking you out.”
Marie bent over Bill so she could see the policeman’s face. “Good evening officer.”
“It’s my fault he’s going this way. I had too much to drink and didn’t want to drive home. We work together.”
“You have some ID, ma’am?”
Marie reached in her purse and handed her ID to Bill who handed it to the officer.
“Where’d you leave your car?”
“What you been drinking?”
“Bourbon and beer. I don’t know what got into me.”
“Anyone at home waiting for you?”
“You been drinking?” the officer asked Bill.
“A couple of beers over the last few hours.”
“Wanna walk a straight line for me?”
“Want me to?”
Bill stepped out of his car. The officer went back to his cruiser and asked Bill to walk over. He did. When he got there, the officer handed him both IDs.
“Make sure you take her straight home then head home yourself.”
“I will, sir.”
“And you be careful.”
“Yes sir. Good night officer.”
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Especially To My Family, Friends, Readers and Followers, and to everyone, a most wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving and best wishes for a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.
Second verse, same as the first. The beer was waiting for him, unopened, tucked in on the line on the steam table’s upper shelf. He used a knife to flip open the beer bottle and walked over to Marie so she could get some. He was ever conscious of Jim watching him. He could sense Jim kind of licking his lips, as it were, over that beer. While Marie sipped at it, he reached up the back of her dress and helped himself to some more of her. He was clueless as to why he did this. He hadn’t planned it, hadn’t desired it, hadn’t even thought about it other than to not do it. Yet here it was, here he was, just doing what he knew he should stay away from doing.
Marie didn’t stop him, didn’t let on to anyone who might have come into the kitchen and glimpsed their way that anything was happening. She stood close to her counter with the beer so Bill’s hand and arm were as hidden as could be. He could tell she was getting aroused; he knew she was cause he was. She inched close to him as she could get and whispered “Don’t stop.” But Bill had to stop. He had to do that second fryer and finish up his work. More important, they were in the kitchen.
So he went back to work. Marie told him, while he was down on his knees draining that second fryer, that she was going down to pee. This meant he should watch her station. But they were pretty much through with orders. Victoria had brought him another beer and told him no one else had come in. It was getting on toward eleven-thirty. Most likely they had seen all the business they would for the night.
He was still on his knees when Marie returned. She stopped by him and sipped from his beer, told him she’d stopped in the meat room and taken some more bourbon.
“I am so messed up,” she said. “Don’t know how I’m gonna drive home.”
She was standing over him, kind of, but not quite. As she admitted how messed up she was, she spread her legs for Bill to look up them. He saw she had taken off her panties and was showing him what she had.
“What should I say?”
“Say you like.”
“Gonna drive me home?”
“I’m not gonna let you drive if you’re too messed up.”
“I’m too messed up.”
“What about your car?”
“I’ll get a ride here tomorrow.”
“Maybe Tommy drop you off.”
“Get out of here. I ain’t riding with him.”
“Okay. But all I’m doing is dropping you off. I’m tired and I need to get some sleep tonight.”
“No problem.” Marie laughed.
“What you laughing at?”
“Just a crazy thought.”
Marie took another sip of the beer, put the bottle down and passed through to her station. Bill kept at draining that second fryer and when he was done, he did the same as with the first, got water and poured it through to clean it out. Then he wiped down the fryer with an already used kitchen towel.
After he’d double-checked everything, he lit that second fryer and watched the gas jets fire up. He wanted to make sure the grease was melted and was set for the morning before he went home.
Once he saw it starting to melt, he dragged the stock pot to the end of the line. There, he picked it up and carried it outside. Outside, he set it down by the grease drum. He took the metal cover from the drum and then very carefully hoisted the stock pot up so he could dump the hot oil into it. That done, he covered the drum and headed back inside with the last pot from him for Andy to wash.
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