Monday, January 02, 2006

Creative Writing 101

Frances was already yelling at Boo and it wasn’t even 5:30. Boo and Frances didn’t normally cook together, but it was Friday night and there was a horse show in town. Speedy never showed up to prep, so I was covering my tables and running back to the kitchen whenever I could, to chop vegetables and slice lemon wedges skinny enough to fit inside a Corona bottle.

“Get your big black ass away from my flattop and go chop me some peppers and onions for these steak sandwiches,” she bellowed, poking at his forearm with the hot spatula.

“Frances, you just cant leave the chicken on like that - you’ve got to keep turning her or she’ll burn her skin.”

“Boo, if you don’t shut your fat mouth and get the hell away from me I swear I’m going to put rat poison in your burgers and kill half this town.”

I watched him retreat; the yellow bandanna print headscarf was the only part of him visible over the slicers and fridges that lined the walls of the prep area. Frances glared at me through beady eyes and muttered something about too many cooks. Her black eyes flashed and her freckled skin reddened. I grabbed table six’s chicken fingers, by the time I got there the cadets were staring longingly at their empty mugs and they dove into the pitcher as I sloshed it down onto the table.

It took nearly a half an hour to get an order from table eight - two sticky looking little girls in pink jumpers who requested that none of the food on their plates touch any other food and an old grandmother who had a list of dietary restrictions a mile long. I gave the granny our blue-hair special: grilled chicken breast, mashed potatoes and boiled cauliflower. Everything on the plate is colorless, tasteless and safe for diabetics, epileptics, phenylketonurics, insomniacs and even hypochondriacs. The girls got chicken fingers. Everyone under the age of 12 gets chicken fingers if I have any say in the matter. I bring them about eight different dipping sauces and the kids love me. Usually that guarantees at least 15%, especially because there’s no extra charge for the dipping sauces.

The couple at table ten smiled as I coaxed their little girls through their order. The wife looked like a local with her corduroy jumper and duck print turtleneck. Her accent confirmed it; when she ordered white toast for her turkey club, the letter “h” came out long and breathy. She grew up a townie, but her family had money. Most likely her father was a professor at the military academy. I turned to her husband to get his order and I gagged a little on my pen cap when he looked up at me.

“Good evening, Ms. Raisinhater” I pulled the slobbery cap out of my mouth, hoping he couldn’t see. The light blue “Palms” t-shirt brought out my eyes. I was wearing my short khaki skirt rather than the ugly denim one I wore only on Monday nights.

“Good evening, Professor Lawrence, can I take your order?”

“I didn’t know you worked here - must be tough to see your classmates in here drinking while you wait on them?”

“It’s not so bad. As their sole means of access to $3.50 pitchers, I am always the most popular woman in the room.”

“Understandably,” he chuckled.

Oh please dear Lord let that be some kind of innuendo. Please let him mean “understandably” in the sense that he finds me stunningly attractive, not unlike a ripe peach, rather than “understandably” in the sense that he got my dumb beer joke and perhaps wants me to hurry the hell up and bring his Sam Adams.

I ran the order back to the kitchen and found that Boo had replaced Frances at the flattop and was flipping about a hundred burgers and sticking little color coded toothpicks in them. I heard Frances cursing from the storeroom.

“Dammit Boo, where the hell is the damn chopper. How the hell can I be expected to keep this place running when you cant even keep track of the damn chopper for more than fifteen frigging seconds.” Marlboro smoke wafted out of the storeroom and we heard the sound of vegetable crates being overturned. Boo grinned at me and pointed to the chopper lying on the block where Frances had left it.

As I delivered the drinks to Professor Lawrence and his brood, I noticed his hand on his wife’s knee and I felt a stab through my heart. Actually it was more of a twitch in my ankle, probably from wearing heels to a job where I spend nine hours in a row standing up, but I attributed it to heartache. I knew he was married when I signed up for a second semester of administrative law; I was happy just watching him from the back row. His slick jeans, the sloppy oxfords with orange t-shirts underneath, brown sandals and sometimes even flip flops, the kind with the foam sole with rainbow strips along the outside. He was tan and lean and looked nothing like a law professor. He looked like an archeologist and I found myself sighing loudly every time I thought of him.

A horrific clanging came from the kitchen. Frances was clearly back in control and was ringing the bell for my pick up. As I grabbed the cadets’ sandwiches I glimpsed Boo and Frances, hip to hip, at the flattop. She was shoving him out of her way hard as he was deliberately splattering bacon drippings onto her veggie combo.

“You dumb shit, get away from that combo.”

“Frances, I’m just trying to get this bacon done. I hold no malice toward your damn veggie sandwich.”

“If that combo tastes like bacon fat you can be sure some skinny little bitch out there is gonna send it back to me. If that happens I can assure you that it will be you undertaking the chopping of a whole new batch of vegetables.”

Boo gave his Zen-man look and slid his big butt just a little closer to the center of the grill. I turned away because the cadets were again looking over with lust, this time at the tray of burgers they suspected were coming their way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent story! I can picture every person and every morsel. Keep writing.

8:59 AM  

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