The restaurant truck, with paint peeling and a broken headlight, chugs down highway 77 in the early hours of the morning. Its driver balances her coffee mug in between her legs, sipping at red lights to avoid spilling it on the ratty upholstery like she’s done so many times before. She’s on her way to Meadowbrook, the better side of town where there’s a decent market. All the top rated chefs in the city shop there for their ingredients, but none of them have ever heard of Ann’s Italian restaurant on the corner of Dreamwood and Shellac.
“Use your blinker, damnit,” she mutters under her breath as she slams on the brakes. She’s running late this morning, and the fogginess and poor visibility make her anxious. She pulls into her usual alleyway parking spot, yanks the keys out of the ignition, and hops down from the truck to begin her day.
It hits her, like it does every day, the smell of fresh produce, of ground spices, of fresh fish on ice. They’re like adrenaline to her; they surge through her veins as she hurries to the meat. She mutters to herself, “Salmon… Halibut… Beef ribs, oh those look decent… Filet mignon, more expensive than usual… Turkey cutlets… Ah pork chops.” The butcher behind the counter finishes arranging a line of pork roasts before looking up at Ann. His freckled face brightens at the sight of her. “The usual?” he asks with a cheerful smirk.
“Yes,” she replies, “and 35 of the chops.”
“You’re late today,” he says, stacking pork chops on the scale.
“Traffic worse than usual. I’ve got to get going or all the good tomatoes will be gone.” She says, smiling, because she knows that’s how she’ll get her way with the butcher.
“Can’t have an Italian place without tomatoes, can you?” He smiles, hands her a sagging bag of meat, and turns to help another customer.
She floats across the market, from vegetables, to spices, to breads. She manages to make up for lost time, and it’s a good thing too, because she has hours of prep work waiting for her back in the kitchen.
All day long she slaves away, chopping vegetables, stewing tomato sauce, marinating meats, and stoking the pizza oven. The hours pass by… 1, 2, 3, suddenly her humbly small staff shows up for dinnertime. “Alright folks, let’s have a good night tonight. I want flavors, I want hospitality, and for God’s sake I want al dente pasta.” Customers come and go, a few couples, a family or two. It’s 6:45 and business picks up. Pork chop specials are a hit. At 7:00, the smoke detector screeches as all the power- the lights, the refrigerators, the appliances turn off. Only the glow of the brick pizza oven lights the kitchen.
“Shit. The generator won’t be delivered until next week.”