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Tag Archives: autobiographical fiction

kitchen-4If anything, the cold season brought Suburban’s help closer. The kitchen’s heat was desirable and waitresses found themselves coming around by the Garland side of the line to absorb the heat. If they could, they’d stand by the charcoal grill next to the Garland and warm their hands, even lean over it and let the heat run up through their upper bodies. That oppressive heat of the summer was no longer oppressive.

Business did not slow down. Sure, there were snowy nights when business was beyond slow, times when they could sleep just about the whole shift. But OSU sports brought plenty of customers and basketball season easily replaced football season. The individual crowds were smaller but the games more frequent.

Bill, Mary and Bea opened every morning along with Tommy. Bea and Mary waited in Bea’s car—they came and went together—and Bill waited in his. When Tommy arrived they all went in through the front, Tommy opening with his keys, Bill going down the hall to switch off the burglar alarms. Then Bill, Mary and Bea went through the dark dining room lit only by the red exit signs into the dark kitchen where they woke up the beast. Waking up the beast meant switching on the exhaust fans and the lights and lighting the broiler and back ovens. Bea started a small pot of coffee on one of the Bunn machines, not in the big urn.

It didn’t take long for the kitchen to heat up, so when they came up from downstairs, not only was it already warm, but they had fresh coffee to drink. Changing, since they had all seen each other naked and more, was now done in the hall. Bea would toss them the uniforms and Mary and Bea would strip to their bra and panties then don their kitchen dresses. Bill would strip to his underwear and don the pants, then the short sleeve kitchen shirt they used there. Mary or Bea, or both, might cop a feel if they were in a playful mood. Bill would too, sometimes of both Mary and Bea at once. Sometimes it was more than just a quick feel.  Sometimes it was an intimate embrace in an intimate space. Sometimes, if Mary or Bea went up first, Bill and whoever was left would fool around. Sometimes it just worked out that way. Sometimes those early morning quickies made the day more bearable.

Back upstairs, they all took coffee. Bea sat on her stool and read the newspaper. She turned to the racing page and picked her horses. Mary stood by her a moment, finished her coffee, listed out things needed from downstairs. Bill went down the line. He lit the fryers and made sure everything was okay. Then he checked both reach-ins doing a mental inventory of what he needed to bring up from downstairs or what needed to be done. Cases of French-fries and onion rings were down in the deep freeze. They had to bread the shrimp and pickerel, but the shrimp and pickerel were also in the deep freeze, so if there was not enough breaded for the day, Bill would have to bring up the boxes from there for defrosting.

Bill had  not popped that acid, but he still had it stored in his locker. He had just gotten some new weed from Doc, his supplier, and he’d gotten some new acid too. He was dying to try both. He’d brought some of the weed, but he’d left the new acid home.

Having laid out the morning’s work, Mary and Bill started into it. Bea had more luxury time than them. She sat on that stool, drank a second cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette.

The steamship round had to go on first. Henry Lee had not brought it up and Bill went down for it. Henry Lee had not cut it either. Bill hoisted the huge chunk of meat on his shoulder and dropped it down gently on the cutting block. Good morning to me, he thought. He opened the drawer to find the bourbon and took a drink.

Coming Soon:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4The bad and the ugly were bad and ugly. Boredom seeped in quickly in the kitchens for Bill. He learned everything and after learning it what remained was just simple practice, teaching the hands to do the same thing over and over the same way every time. Over the years he would accumulate story after story of how much he had to practice for certain things, and if in retrospect they were funny, also in retrospect they were thematic in that they all exemplified his innate ineptitude in eye-hand coordination matters.

The bad? Idle hands make the devil’s workshop. Bill learned anything a good cook did would be tolerated as long as the cook could do his job. More than anything would be tolerated if the cook was great at his job, and Bill was a great broiler cook once he’d learned the job. He was great at it because it depended more upon his mind than upon his hands. He had to remember orders, what went with what and how things were cooked, and Bill could do this. In fact, he excelled at it. In fact it made him a great line cook and prep cook too and what Mary saw in him was his likeness to Yulie, whom she had loved, not only in his abilities but in his substance abuse. Mary had no option but to fall for Bill.

So being bored and being young and at the peak of his sexual prowess, Bill discovered that not only was he interested in waitresses and kitchen girls, but he could get them if he wanted. Henry Lee taught him that. Henry Lee taught him he could have anyone he wanted. The bad? Even though he was engaged and living with his fiancé, Bill discovered that he wanted.

The ugly? Everyone was fooling around and they were all willing to fool around with Bill. Interestingly, Bill had metamorphosed from a dorky, four-eyed, chubby kid with a crew-cut to a thin, very desirable twenty year old in a position of power and desirability. That was a lethal combination.

Eleanor, no longer at Suburban, had happened accidentally. Bea was just Bea, middle-aged, not getting any at home and horny as hell. Alfreda was angry at Henry Lee who was currently hittin’ it with Marie. Alfreda was out for paybacks and Bill was readily available. Ugly all around, except she was cute and Bill was cute and there it was. Norma was thrust upon Bill by Drenovis. Drenovis maybe was the ugliest of all because he used his power-position to hit it with every waitress, or most of them anyway, and Drenovis tried to use Norma to get Bill to fight with Lorraine. That backfired and instead Bill got with Norma and still messed with her from time to time. Norma was a put-it-anywhere girl.

Lorraine did not figure into any of this. Lorraine was hired by Tommy, not by Drenovis, and she was just an innocent bystander. She had managed to stay apart from it all, to just do her job and go home to her kids. Lorraine had a story and it was an ugly one, Bill would learn, about an abusive husband who drank too much and beat her up. Unfortunately, this was an all-too-common story for those days, for all days, Bill would discover. Lorraine had not been with anyone for several years, and so when she offered herself to Bill, it was a complicated issue. Bill could never be sure it was to keep her job safe. He could never be sure if it was out of  job-insecurity and her need to support two daughters or simply, like Bea, because she was a middle-age woman not getting any and really wanting to get some.

The good, the bad and the ugly permeated everything in the kitchens. Huh Glory and Lord Have Mercy. Mercy, mercy me.

Coming This Month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4Bill didn’t mean to spend some twenty-five years of his life in kitchens.  He didn’t mean for being a cook to be his career, and up until the day he’d met Robert, huh Glory, it wasn’t even a thought in his head.

From the age of fifteen, Bill wanted to be a writer. As it worked out, he wasn’t suited for much else, or so he supposed. His best friend, the one who always beat him twenty-one to nothing at foosball, was the first indication that he was not a good eye-hand-coordination person. That friend picked up a pair of drumsticks and a drum pad and could just naturally play the drums. He went on to become a recording engineer. Bill went to college.

Bill wasn’t great at reading either. It was a laborious task for him. He’d known from his first ophthalmologist, the one who had performed his eye operations, that his eyes did not coordinate correctly. He’d never known exactly what that meant. In real-life terms, it meant he lost to his friend at all hand-eye games. It meant that he had trouble moving his eyes over the words along a line of reading. It meant that he didn’t gauge things well, had trouble finding things that were on shelves directly in front of him. He had a much easier time finding them when they were to one side or the other.

Only later in life, when he was aptitude tested, did he discover he was “spatially retarded.” What that meant was that he scored lower than the test’s measuring scale started, or that his spatial-relations capabilities didn’t even reach the beginning rung of the testing scale’s measuring ladder. The counselor who had tested him suggested he rule out things like becoming an architect.

In the kitchens Bill had learned that practice makes perfect. It wasn’t his first lesson in this. His first lesson in this was on the football field in high school when he was second-string center but felt he should have been the starter. So he worked hard, more than any of the other linemen. He hit the sleds harder, took extra turns, practiced, practiced, practiced, over and over, repeat, repeat, repeat, until one day the head coach was standing over him on the four-man sled and Bill hit it directly under him.

“Who was that?” the coach asked.

Bill stood up so the coach could see him.

“Go over and work with Nicoletti,” the coach said. Nicoletti was the second-string quarterback. A week later, he and Nicoletti were the starting quarterback-center team.

Life! Who’d have thought his mother would have died suddenly? Who’d have thought that the track of his life was switched on him, that he wouldn’t know it or realize it until it was already a done deal, and not a good deal at that?

Kitchens were therapeutic for Bill. Robert, huh Glory, had saved his life in a sense. Just having a job was therapeutic. Bill’s mind was occupied in the first few months because he had to learn everything there was to learn at Suburban and that included the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good, of course, was that he got a trade. He went from dejected, broke and down and out to useful, needed and with money in the bank. Huh Glory! (Robert was known to, every so often, in the midst of everything, stop dead, do a little shuffle-dance and yell out “Huh Glory.”) Bill re-learned that practice did make perfect and even though he wasn’t particularly talented at it or even adept at it, he could get good at all the things he had to do in kitchens by hard work and practice. So he worked hard, harder than anyone else.

The bad and the ugly were bad and ugly. One manager, later in his kitchen career, would scold a waitress after she complained that Bill had pinched up her skirt with his tongs. That manager, not much better than Drenovis, told the waitress to leave his cooks alone. “Ten waitresses equal one cook,” he’d said to the waitress.

Coming This Month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4Changing the French-fry grease was the last thing Bill did at night. He did it while he was finishing up any late orders that came in and after he had scrubbed down the line. Everything from the steam table he set on the counter in the back. All that had to be done with those things was for them to be covered and put into the walk-in box.

Changing the grease was a laborious task. This was before the days of liquid grease, so Bill, every other night, had to cart up two boxes of grease, fifty-pound cubes of it set in plastic in cardboard cases. Then he had to shut down a fryer and drain the liquid grease which was at three hundred seventy-five degrees. The slightest pop or splash that hit his wrist or arm blistered instantaneously.

The draining was the worst part. He took a kitchen pot and placed it under the drain which was in the bottom compartment of the fryer underneath the gas jets. He had to open the drain, fill the pot, close the drain, empty the pot into a big fifteen-gallon stock pot then repeat the process over and over until the fryer was empty. Then he had to empty the stock pot by dumping the hot oil into the grease barrel outside the restaurant. That grease was resold. Next, he had to clean out the fryer, rinse it with water, drain the water, empty the water, again pot by pot into the stock pot, and finally empty the stock pot into the pot washer’s sink. Last, he had to unpack the fifty-pound cube and lift it into the fryer. It sat upon the heat lines until he re-lit the gas jets and it slowly melted into fresh, clean, fryer oil.

Two fryers, he had to do it twice.

It was sloppy work but Bill knew he couldn’t be sloppy about it. The only way to safely do it was to do it carefully, meticulously, and with his full attention.

Bill was on his knees busy at it and didn’t notice Lorraine standing at the end of the line by the knife sheath attached to the counter there. All the knives were in the sheath now since Bill had cleaned them. She was holding a beer for Bill. She did a clear-her-throat thing so Bill would look up, which he did.

“Bebe sent this,” Lorraine said.

“Leave it there,” Bill said.

“I’ll bring it over.”

Bill stopped what he was doing. Lorraine came through the line to him and handed him the beer. “You closing?” he asked.


“Long day for you.”

“You too.”

“I do it every day.”

“Well it’s empty out there. So it’s easy for me. Let me know if you want anything.”

“I’m good,” Bill said.

Lorraine lingered by Bill. She stood leaning against the steam table. He was on his knees by the fryer.

“I’d really like to thank you for being easy on me today.”

“Don’t tell anyone.”

“Mum’s the word. But I meant to thank you.”

“I know what you mean. Like I said, we’re good.”

“I guess I have to throw myself at you.”

“You give it a few days, maybe a week. We’re good as is. You still feel like you want to fool around, look me up. You know where to find me.”

“Gonna do me a favor then, huh?”

“Gonna finish this grease, do the next one, finish cleaning up and putting things away, and then I’m going home.” Bill started back to work. “Bring me another beer when you get to it.”

Lorraine walked back to the end of the line. “These knives very sharp?” she asked.

“They’ll shave you. Don’t touch ’em, please.”

Lorraine left the kitchen. While Bill finished in the kitchen, she set up the dining room making sure all tables were in ready-to-go shape. One young couple came in for hamburgers. Then they were done.

Bill walked Lorraine to her car. Tommy walked Bebe, the barmaid, to hers.

Another day. Another night.

Coming This Month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4Lorraine was working a double and came back at four to set up for the dinner service. When she came into the kitchen Bill saw that she wore a shorter, tighter-fitting skirt. She also wore her blouse with the top buttons open so she showed cleavage.

Bill wondered about women, about girls. So many times they said no when they really meant yes. He remembered the first time he’d felt up a girl down there. She’d said no, so he stopped. No sooner had he stopped than she asked him why he stopped. She took his fingers and placed them back where she wanted them.

So he wondered about Lorraine. He really wasn’t interested in her in any way and having used her as an object lesson, she’d served her purpose. If anything, by how she’d approached him in the party room, he was now soft on her. He empathized.

Mary commented first. “What’d you do to that woman?” she asked.

“Absolutely nothing,” Bill said.


“Truth. Not a thing. I told her go home and kiss her kids.”

“She prettied up for you,” Bea said. “Look how she painted them lips. Never seen her lips painted so heavy. You know what that means.”

“What’s it mean?” Bill asked jokingly.

Bea made a hand-mouth motion then laughed.

“Well I got plenty of work to do,” Bill said. He headed downstairs to the meat room.

Mary came down a little while later. She asked if Bill had more weed, and so he took a moment to roll several joints. They took turns in the deep freeze, Bill with Mary and Henry Lee with Mary. Then they drank bourbon, but Bill did not drink much.

At six dinner started. Henry Lee left with Bea and Mary. Grandma and Jimmy were in place. Everything was ship-shape. Bill sat out in the hall on a milk case. Lorraine came out to him, asked if he wanted anything from the front of the house. Bill said no and told her she didn’t have to do anything for him, that what happened was done and over.

“I want to,” she said.

“I’m good,” Bill said.

“How about a coffee?”

Bill smiled. “Just cream.”

Lorraine returned a moment later. She handed Bill the coffee and asked if he minded if she sat a moment. Bill said no and watched her sit up on the lettuce cases where Bea always sat.

“You look pretty,” Bill said.

“I did it for you.”


“Because I wanted to.”

“Well that’s nice, but no need.”

“I know you can have whoever you want. I’m too plain, huh?”

“Too nice is more like it.”

“You mean not sexy enough.”

“You’re plenty sexy.”


“But I don’t think you want to have a fool-around thing. You’re a serious person. You don’t have to prove anything.”

“Not your type.”

“Yeah. You’re my type. Not the right situation.”

“And if I wanted to?”

“Why? We never even talked until we fought.”

“It’s different now. You’re really soft and sensitive.”

“Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.” Bill smiled and got up. “You and me are fine now. Go on out and take care of your station.” Bill went into the kitchen. Lorraine followed him in and walked out the front dining room door.

“You and Lorraine okay now?” Tommy asked later when he came in to expedite.

“Yeah. We’re good.”

“So I don’t have to do anything?”

“Yeah you do. Give her good shifts and see she gets on okay.”

“Why the soft heart?”

“Ain’t no fun in life,” Bill said, mimicking a line from a short story he’d read in college.

Coming This Month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4Bill was in a mood. That waitress, Lorraine, had ticked him off and he’d done a one-eighty. He finished the soda by throwing most of it in the sink over by the dishwasher.

As soon as he got on the line, when she handed Tommy her first orders he told her to bring two more sodas and another beer. Lorraine looked at Tommy but Tommy simply shrugged her off. He’d accumulated a stack of orders quickly and began calling them out. There was no time for petty squabbling.

Bill and Henry Lee immediately went to work. It was like going from neutral to fourth gear skipping second and third. Bea helped Bill in his hissy-fit by giving Lorraine a hard time with her salads. For Bea, it was just being a bitch, and she took a pleasure in watching Lorraine being run in circles.

Bill would know cooks through the course of his many years in kitchens who would burn a waitress’ hands by purposefully heating up a plate. He would know cooks who demanded sexual favors to keep their jobs. He would know cooks who spit in a waitress’ dinner because they didn’t like the waitress.  Getting a waitress fired wasn’t even a challenge.

Bill did none of this, not ever in his tenure as a cook or chef. He could have had Lorraine fired before the day’s end, but he remembered what it was like to need a job, to desperately need a job. He could have had her if he wanted. By the end of the meal she was in tears because they consistently backed up her orders and then dumped them on her all at once. And in the midst of her angst, Bill made her make four soda/beer trips. Finally, Tommy intervened saying it was enough.

“Happy?” he asked.

“Want her to get you a coffee?” Bill asked.

Tommy just shook his head.

Lorraine went to Bill after the meal and asked to talk to him privately. She was about forty, a bit chubby. She showed her age by sporting some grey hairs. Her makeup did not hide her wrinkles or age marks. She wore glasses, no jewelry and was not particularly attractive by Bill’s tastes.

They went into the party room downstairs and sat at one of the tables. Lorraine did not tuck her legs under the table. She sat with them wide open so Bill could see up them.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Okay,” Bill said.



“I was just having a bad moment.”


“I need this job. I like it too. At least I did up till today.”

“You married?”


“Got kids?”

“Two girls, fourteen and twelve.”

“Okay,” Bill said.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am. But I could show you.” Lorraine got off her chair and stood before Bill. “I’d be happy to make it up to you.”

“Sit down,” Bill said. He watched her sit back down. She was crying, he could see. He got up, went behind the bar and got her some tissues.

“Thank you,” she said when he handed them to her. Then, “Don’t you want me to make it up to you?” she asked.

“Go home and kiss your kids.”

“I’m not pretty enough, huh?”

“It’s not the way I work. And I know what it’s like to need a job. Hope you learned your lesson.”

Lorraine stood up. “We okay then?”

“Go hug and kiss your kids,” Bill said standing. He watched her walk out of the party room before he went out.

Coming this month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide


kitchen-4Bill did not pop the acid he’d brought with him and he spent the remainder of the day careful with what he drank.

He helped Mary on her station again when he and Henry Lee came up from cutting meat. First he checked the convection oven and then he took out the baked potatoes. He put the potatoes into a steam table insert, covered the insert with aluminum foil and set it in its place. Next, he poured the vegetables into a cylindrical insert and set that into the steam table. He did the Bordelaise sauce after that and then he took the round from the oven. Mary helped him with it by taking one end of the roasting pan.

By 11:30, when Suburban opened for business, the entire line was set up and everything double-checked. Fried fish, fried shrimp, French-fries and onion rings were all in abundant supply. All the steaks  were in the reach-in, enough for the busiest of lunches. Mr. Jim was out again, so Bill and Henry Lee were flying solo.

Bill had brought up a joint. After triple-checking the items he was responsible for, seeing the line was ready and Mary’s prep work was done, he told Mary to come with him and they went out the back door and around behind the building. Bill lit the joint and passed it to Mary. Mary smoked by herself for awhile then passed it back. Bill did a puff-puff-pass and left it with her. He walked off a few feet, stood facing away from Mary, unbuttoned his fly and peed. When he was done, he returned and finished up by smoking the roach.

“You through with your mood?” he asked.


“Maybe yes or maybe no?”

“Maybe. Maybe maybe.”

“Give me a kiss.”


“Cause I want it.”

“What about what I want?”

“Tell me what it is and you got it.”

“Be careful there.”

“Give me a kiss,” Bill demanded.

Mary stepped close to him and kissed him, softly at first and then passionately. They kissed a long moment until Mary stopped it by saying they needed to get back. But when they returned to the kitchen, no orders had come in yet so they sat in the hall. Bea and Henry Lee were already there, Bea on her lettuce cases, Henry Lee standing and smoking a cigarette.

“You owe me,” Mary whispered in Bill’s ear. “And I’m collecting.”

Bill smiled. He listened, went into the kitchen and asked one of the waitresses to bring him a big soda. The waitress, one Bill was not particularly friendly with, told him to get it himself. Bill smiled at her and walked close.

“Get your ass out there and get me the soda. Get one for Mary too.”

“I told you, get it yourself.”

“I go out there, this is your last shift.”


“Okay,” Bill said. “Bull? You better start cleaning out your locker.”

The waitress looked at Bill. She didn’t seem sure whether to believe him or not. But Tommy came in the kitchen as Bill started for the door. Bill went straight to Tommy and told him the kitchen wasn’t serving her any of her orders after this shift.

Tommy called her over and asked her what it was about. When she told him, Tommy shook his head in disbelief. “You’ll give up your job because you don’t want to get sodas for the kitchen?”

Coming This Month:

The Ghost Writer, Rose’s Story: A Look At The Worlds We Hide