Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pantry Girl -- Part Three - The Dastardly Case of the Predator Chef Boy

Pantry Girl, Pantry Girl
Gets her panties in twirl
Pantry Girl, Pantry Girl
makes the waiters wanna hurl
Look out! Its Pantry Girl!

(to be sung to the tune of the Spider Man Theme)

Did I mention Allen’s was incestuous? Our daily proximity led to noble alliances, camaraderie, crushes, and secret trysts. The Pantry Girls tended to stick together and because we were for the most part 16 and 17 years old, the men in the kitchen had fun with us, but they knew their boundaries...most of the time. Innuendo flew around the kitchen constantly and some of it was lost on us girls, but much of it sank in. The head chef who worked side by side with Wayne was Mike -- Mike was every Pantry Girl’s Dream Boy and he knew it. He toyed with us with no intention of ever getting tangled up with us. He was 27, maybe 28 years old and he had a beautiful girlfriend who would visit the kitchen occasionally...her showing up was always a dose of reality for us Pantry Girls. Mike’s girlfriend was a Woman, we were skinny blond kids. But he took every chance to play on our affection for him. He’d come over to our side of the kitchen on slow nights and eat ice cream out of the freezer with us and brush up against us. When he caught one of us staring at him from across the kitchen, he’d wink....this of course, would make your face flush and you would quickly find that more coffee needed to be made or that the counters needed to be wiped down, anything to make it look like you had no interest in the guy. But it was all in good fun.

It was a similar story with the waiters. While I was enamored of Mike’s good looks, I was somewhat tortured by a crush on Fred. His resemblance to John Cleese was part of the attraction, as I was mad for Monty Python. And his lanky tall being had a pull on me too -- he was strangely handsome with a boney face and a Pink Panther way of going. And he was in a tuxedo every night...what girl could pass that up? But mostly, he was nice to me -- he made jokes throughout the busy nights and always kept me entertained. And he never lost his patience with me if I messed up an order -- he just waited for me to get it right. But he was years and years older than me and so I felt that I had been born at the wrong time...I would lament that I wasn’t a contemporary to Fred the Waiter. Of course I was blind to some of his faults - there was the fact that he only rode a bicycle and had no driver’s license, probably due to the law taking it away from him years before. And he was really a neerdowell -- he worked summers at Allen’s and spent his winters in Florida with Ray betting on race horses. Fred knew I had a crush on him and he handled me very kindly -- it all came crashing down at a staff pool party at Ray’s house. There was quite a bit of debaucherie going on and I took the opportunity to follow Fred into the pool. I was 17 and thought for sure Fred would give in and kiss me...nope! Fred swam away and said “Sorry kiddo...may I call you kiddo?” and that was the end. I recovered quickly though and ran off into the bushes with one of the bus boys, who was a was hardly Fred, but I could finally claim that I had partaken in the kitchen incest games.

But things turned serious for me my second summer at Allen’s and without Wayne’s all-seeing eye, I could have gotten hurt. Wayne hired a young chef named Brody -- he had just graduated from CIA, that’s the Culinary Institute. He was probably 22 or 23 years old. Everything about him was a bad mood -- he was taut and built like a steeplechase jockey...sinewy and quick. He had an ugly face, it was gaunt and scarred from acne. There wasn’t a thing about him that I liked. I seem to recall that the kitchen staff was wary of him -- Mike was all business with him, things were a bit more serious with this guy around, he wasn’t funny. About a week or so into his employment, he started asking me out after work. He would catch me in the walk in freezer or on my way out the door and ask me if I wanted to go have a drink with him. I always told him “no, you’re too old for me” of course, I never would have said that to Fred who was even older than Brody, but it was the answer I always gave Brody. He kept at me. He asked me out every night and every night I said no. I told no one in the kitchen that he was bothering me, not even my best friend Kathleen. There was something about his pursuit that embarrassed me, made me feel ashamed. And I thought if I kept saying no, that he would just leave me alone.

But he didn’t leave me alone. He followed me out to the old red barn where we kept various supplies -- I managed to collect the boxes of things Wayne had asked for and thwart Brody’s advance on me. Wayne was a hunter -- he sometimes hung freshly killed deer out in the barn. He knew this was always a bit of a shock to the Pantry Girls and he would send us out there in the dark for fun to give us a little scare. You’d go into the dark barn and while feeling your way around for the lights you would bump into a carcass -- it was awful, but again, it was all in sick fun. But there was a night I went out to my car to find someone had tied a deer heart to the door handle, a la The Godfather. I yanked the bloody thing off my Volkswagon bug and drove home. I knew of only one person who could have done that to me and it was Brody.

One night I was walking out to my car -- it was close to 1 A.M. and the parking lot was desolate. Brody followed me out there and caught me before I opened my car door. He pressed up against me, I could feel the door handle digging into my back. “How about tonight? You gotta say yes some day. You can’t just keep running away, you know.” I was really afraid, I felt powerless. But out of nowhere came Fred. Maybe he was back in the marsh smoking pot, who knows, but he appeared and Brody released his hold on me and I took the opportunity to open my car door and get in. Fred towered over Brody, “Did I interrupt something?” Brody backed away and I replied to Fred while rolling my window down, “No, not at all, I’m tired and going home. Bye guys.” I peeled out of the dark parking lot and left Fred to deal with Brody. I remember going home that night and getting out of my fish-laden clothes. I stood in my underwear by the washer machine in my grandmother’s was the middle of the night and I was crying. I didn’t want to go back to work.

But I went back to work the next night. Pantry Girls had various jobs. One of them was to wash hot saute pans in the big metal sink that sat at the end of the kitchen. Wayne or one of the chefs would holler “Pans!” at us and you would run over and hand wash the steaming pans. You had to do this several times on busy nights or the chefs would run out of pans. Occasionally a chef would come up behind you with a pan to add to the water -- he would say “Hot Pan” and you would step aside as he put it in the soapy water. The pan would make this horrendous searing sound as it hit the water and you would wait a few seconds for it to cool before you resumed washing. It was an unpleasant and hot job. This night was especially busy, it was an early June Saturday night and the place was packed. There was no time for me to worry about Brody, everyone was doing their best to keep up with the orders. You could barely hear yourself think with all the chaos. Mike hollered “Pans!” and I dropped what I was doing and went to my station at the sink. I was scrubbing away, sweating into the soapy hot water when all of the sudden a red hot pan slid down my forearm. My arm practically caught on fire -- I could smell my skin burning. I turned to see Brody grinning at me...he never warned me, just branded me with the pan, I was terrified and furious all at the same time. He leaned into me and said, “Maybe next time you’ll say yes...” My skin crawled. I turned on the cold water and ran it over my arm. I thought nobody had seen what had happened. But Wayne did. He saw the whole thing. He waited and came over with another hot pan, “Watch out kiddo, I got a hot pan here.” I backed away and he slid the pan into the water. The steam exploded all around us, “You okay? That’s gotta hurt!” I nodded and bit my lip. I didn’t want to cry in front of everyone. Wayne handed me a fresh towel, “Listen kiddo, you go upstairs. There’s a first aid kit up there, put something on that. I’ll finish these pans.”

Later that night, I was mopping the pantry floor and Wayne came over. Almost everyone had left for the night. The kitchen was finally quiet, except for the murmurings of people out at the bar drifting through the kitchen doors. “How’s the arm kiddo?”

“Its better Wayne, thanks. I’ll be alright.”

“You got a horse show tomorrow don’t you?” I did have a horse show the next day. Wayne knew I rode horses and he always asked how my horses were and congratulated me when I won a ribbon or two.


“Well, before I let you outta here early, so you can rest up for your horse show tomorrow, I want to ask you a question.”

“Okay...” I figured he was going to ask me to work more hours over the next week, switch my schedule around somehow.

“Is Brody giving you a hard time? Some of the staff said he might be giving you a hard time...”

“Um, Brody? no, not really. Nothing I can’t handle, I guess. ” I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to bother Wayne with my troubles. But he could see I was shaken. I could barely keep from crying.

“Listen kiddo. Here’s what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna take a few days off and then I want you to come back and Brody will still be here. I want to you to be brave and just work like nothing happened. We’ll watch out for you -- don’t walk to your car alone or go out to the barn alone. And then in a couple of weeks, I’m gonna fire him. But I don’t want him to think I’m firing him cause of you. Can you handle that?”

“Yes Wayne. I can handle that.” And two weeks later, Brody was gone. All very quietly like nothing had ever happened. Life Lesson Number 543B -- the badly behaved can be taken care of quietly and painlessly.

Next? The Power of Whip Cream!!!!!!


Robert said...

It's no small thing to tell a story well. You're really good at it.

wolfy said...

Thank You...