Installment 6

Susan was in a snit. She marched into her kitchen, her Jimmy Choo’s announcing her arrival before the Brazilian prep cooks even heard her customary string of curse words. “Which of you assholes left the dumpster open?” she sputtered, her accusation as sharp as the aluminum edge of a Number 10 size can of Roma tomatoes.  “For chrissakes, if we get another visit from the Health Inspector, I’ll have all your butts deported!”

It was almost impossible to run a restaurant these days, between the stupid lowlifes who worked for her, to the upstairs condominium owners who hated having a restaurant in their building, (until they wanted a reservation for Saturday at 7:30). And the customers were even worse. “Everybody thinks they’re a chef,” she fumed.  But most of all, Susan hated slovenliness. Finding the dumpster half-open ruined her day just as much as feeling a thin sheen of grease left on a table top, or some idiot forgetting to dead-head the geranium pots on the sidewalk patio. Incompetence made her ballistic. In a funk, she strutted to her office in the back of the restaurant, wondering why was never once had she come in to her restaurant and found everything the way it should be. What was wrong with these idiots?

“She looks like an ugly Chihuahua when she’s angry, “ muttered Santos, the head prep cook, stifling his snorts of laughter with the back of his hand, and imitating Susan’s prance in his chef’s clogs. “Aiiiiie!! She’s such a bitch, but she signs my checks…” he finished, going back to hacking up heads of romaine with a cleaver, little laugh tears caught in the crinkles of his eyes.

Susan always parked her car in the same spot in the back alley behind her restaurant, right next to the dumpster. She hated the smell of the dumpster, but she liked the convenience of being two steps away from the back door kitchen entrance – rather than having to walk though the front door where all of her customers could gawk at her – especially on the days she was on her way to the salon instead of coming in with her roots glowing gold. When she wanted to make an entrance, she certainly could. Today was an especially stressful day. She had one hour to make sure that everything was under control before she started getting herself ready for Belinda’s big do. They were sold out for the evening with normal reservations, plus two huge graduation parties booked in the private rooms. One group was a family from New York; The other, a family of Saudi mega-zillionaires in town to watch their little princess graduate from B.U. (If her family could see their little princess on the other nights she came in to Bistro Susan, with her coked out eyes like pinwheels, her Haitian boyfriend, and her clothes covering less than the new platinum and diamond Pathek Phillippe her grandmother was giving her as a graduation bauble.)

Where was her fucking GM, Jeffrey? What a flamer! He should have known to be here early today to go over the menus with Susan. He knew she wasn’t going to be around to back him up tonight. Likely, he was still in La-la land with redheaded bartender he hired for her impressive professional resume. If those losers in the kitchen screwed up tonight, she’d send them back to El Salvador or wherever they came from so fast their checks wouldn’t have time to clear. Susan had exactly forty-five minutes before her hair appointment to make sure everyone understood exactly how much pain there’d be if tonight went off the rails.

A quiet knock at the door. A shy waitress poked her head in. “Excuse me, Susan, but there’s a customer who insists on speaking to the owner…” Susan snarled, but she flipped open her compact and re-applied her lipstick. She had to make the best of it. She wasn’t up for seeing her public just now, but angry customers come first, especially when your GM isn’t on hand to run interference.

The waitress waited in the hall, and led Susan over to the table. From his back, Susan could only see the outlines of a tall man, in good shape by the look of his shoulders. As she rounded to the front of the table, she saw it was Alain. Unmistakable after what? Twenty years? Of all the gin joints in all the world…

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