"You don't need a silver spoon to eat good food."
-Paul Prudhomme

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three - Apartment in the back of Ann's Restaurant

With the cold and the snow, lunchtime at Ann's restaurant was dead.  Only a few hours after she opened, she tells her staff to go home and stay warm, assuming that all of her customers are doing the same.  She flips the hanging "OPEN" sign to "CLOSED," and heads out back for a cigarette.

She stands on the steps outside the backdoor, her rubber chef shoes crushing the rock salt that she put out this morning.  Taking a deep drag on her cigarette, she is mesmerized by the falling snowflakes, dainty and dreamy as they float down to the ground, then heavy and wet as they meet the dirty slush of urban wintertime.  Beyond the dumpster lot of the restaurant, she sees Dreamwood Avenue, covered in a slick blanket of ice, unfrozen and re-frozen by the friction of car tires and the bitter cold, respectively.  Across the white ice blanket, Ann sees a dog leap out the front door of Dreamwood Terrace, its little paws meeting the hostile ice without welcome.  The poor animal slips and slides as it tries to regain its balance.  In a somewhat-comical and somewhat-pathetic spectacle, the dog makes it across the street, and meets Ann's gaze from across the lot.  
"It's a small dog," she thinks, "not capable of any real harm."  The dog holds Ann's gaze and cocks her head to one side.  In doing so, the dog throws off her own balance and goes toppling into the slush beside her.  
"Do I help it?" Ann says to herself.  "What if it attacks me? What if when I pick it up it claws me with its razor-sharp claws and bites my hands?  I need my hands to cook.  I can't help that dog.  It's just going to have to figure its own shit out.  Dumb dog."  The dog shakes off the dirty slush and begins to make her way towards Ann.  
"Why is it coming towards me?  Why do its eyes look so weird?" She thinks, tossing her cigarette into the slush.  She puts her hand behind her back to grab the doorknob, only half sure about whether or not she's going to go back inside and leave the dog in the snow to freeze.  
"Glossy eyes, that's a sign of rabies I bet," she rationalizes.  "Better leave it alone to be safe."  She goes back inside and locks the door- both locks, just in case the dog is tricky with doors.  

A few minutes later she hears a scratching at the door, and a whimpering to follow.  She walks over to the door and, very carefully, peers out the window.  The dog is sitting on the doorstep, wet and shivering.  It's big glossy eyes meet Ann's, and for a minute or so, her fear vanishes.  She stares at the odd dog through the glass for a while, and then turns away towards the kitchen.  She grabs two oven mits for protection and returns to open the door for the pitiful animal.  The dog topples through the doorway and lays down, right in the middle of her apartment living room.  With one mitted hand, she leans over to pet the dog on its back.  Its stomach growls, making Ann jump.  
"I guess you're my only hungry customer today, huh?" she chuckles.  She disappears into the kitchen and returns with a bowl of ground beef and pepperoni.  She sets the bowl a few feet from the dog.  Immediately the dog stumbles towards the bowl and practically inhales the meat before laying back down and closing it's glossy red eyes.  
"You know pup, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you look high as a kite! Stumbling through the snow, eating all my food, and then passing out in my living room? I'll call you Mary-Jane."

Ann hears a knocking at the front door of the restaurant and hops up to see who it is, praying for the dog's owner.

Monday, January 12, 2015


It's 1am when Ann sets the last clean dish back on its shelf.  Her wake-up alarm for the next morning is already set for 5, when she'll begin the prep cooking for the day.
"Four hours of sleep?" she thinks, "I might as well stay up."  
Tossing her chef jacket aside, she heads out the back of the restaurant, through the kitchen, through her tiny apartment, and out the back door.  

A meteor shower, or meteor downpour rather, greets her eyes when she steps out into the balmy air.  The lights flicker and propel across the sky, then slow as they dither away behind the silhouettes of stocky buildings.  Ann heads down Main Street to O'Harley's tavern, passing the leaky fountain that she usually only sees from behind a restaurant window.  

The bar is far from empty.  Bar stools and pool tables are occupied by a plethora of characters, from community college fraternity kids to drunken motorcycle men with grey, stringy beards.  For as many years as she's lived and worked in this town, the only people she's truly gotten to know were the butcher at the market and regulars at the restaurant, so fresh faces are a pleasant change.  One face, however, is not so pleasant.  A man sits wedged in the corner of the room, scanning every single person as if he was searching for a murderer.  Three sips of chilly beer later, a woman sits in the vacant stool next to Ann.  The man across the room moves his gaze towards Ann and the stranger.  The woman's bright red hair twists, curls and whips every which-way, orange freckles dapple her cheeks and nose, and her voice is that of a leprechaun, distracting enough for Ann to forget for a moment about the man staring them down.  
"Do ye mind if I set with ye?" she asks Ann with a crooked smile.
"Not at all," she replies quickly.
"What breengs ye teh the bar this leht in the evenin'?"
"Just needed a change of scenery, I guess, and you?"
"Well, teh be quite honest with ye, I'd much like teh have a smook, but I've told mehself I'll only be a soocial smohker, that wehy I don't do it too often ye know, so I came luhkin' fer someone to smook with- so it becomes a soocial event, ye know.  Does that mek sense?"
"Oh sure.  Would you like to go outside for a smoke?" she says, beer in one hand and her own pack in the other.
"I'd like that very mooch!" the redheaded woman replied.  

Out on the patio, the two stood, gazing at the falling stars, sipping their cigarettes and chatting about nothing in particular.  Unbeknownst to Ann, a little boy, no more than five years old, creeps out from behind an empty discarded keg and tip-toes towards Ann's purse.  For only a fraction of a second, the redheaded woman's eyes dart to the boy and back to Ann's, locking eye contact with her, holding her in an inescapable gaze.  The boy delicately reaches into her bag, fiddles only for a moment, and retrieves her wallet- without a blink, without a sound.  At that exact moment, the back door opens from the inside, and a man, the one that was staring at Ann from across the bar earlier, literally catches the boy red-handed.  He grabs the boy's skinny, freckled arm and yells in his own leprechaun voice,
"Winsley, me oown nephew, what on earth are ye dooin'?"