The Other Silver Key – part 1

Our newest dishwasher, it seemed to me, was an odd one. Restaurant kitchens have always been a magnet for the transient, the marginalized, the socially unfit, particularly restaurants in seasonal tourist towns like ski resorts, or by the sea, as was ours, along the wild and rugged coast of Maine. He showed up in mid-June, not quite the beginning of the tourist season, but far enough along that we had already lost a few cooks and swabbies and chop-chop boys to general attrition; the young, especially, who had no idea what kind of workplace madness they were getting into, tended to come and go like the tides. He was tall and sinewy, dark in a Middle Eastern way, and sported a thick, drooping moustache. He had a hook-nose and deep-set eyes that were black, cold and unreadable. He had appeared at the kitchen screen door, carrying a backpack, a bedroll, and wore a black watch-cap over thick, dark curls. Elmer and I went over to greet him, hoping he was looking for work. Elmer was our Mad French-Canadian kitchen manager, a middle-aged veteran of a thousand kitchen nightmares, and a notoriously bad judge of character. I noticed the air had become cold and damp as we approached him, standing just inside the screen door, like a sudden bank of sea-fog had just rolled in from the North Atlantic.   “What can i do for ya,” Elmer asked, ” you don’t look like a salesman. Mebbe you’re looking for work, eh?” The stranger’s smile was full of teeth, his eyes like two black holes. He shrugged off his backpack and set it down. The strangely empty smile faded.  “What can you offer me?” He leaned against the door frame and folded his arms across his chest.That was easily enough to send Mad Elmer into a rage.  “What I got to offer you?! I got a fuckin’ job an’ a fuckin’ paycheck at the end of the fuckin’ week, is what I got! Mebbe you want a fuckin’ written invitation, eh?!” The odd non-smile returned to the stranger’s dark face. “I’ll take it”, he said….. Elmer was right, of course, when I voiced my reservations later, after he’d given the guy his obligatory application and told him to fill it out and bring it with him in the morning when he started work. I told him the guy just had a bad vibe about him and wasn’t to be trusted. Elmer just pointed to the posted work schedule, and the holes in it, and said simply, “Bus Tours.”  We had scheduled bus tours and unscheduled bus tours, and each one was like a Keystone Kops routine that usually degenerated into total clusterfucks without enough help either out front or in the kitchen. He had reminded me of a particularly gruesome night just the week before, when we had expected a relatively slow night and had put a twin-lobster special on the menu. Four unscheduled, off-the-menu bus tours had dropped their hungry tourists at our door, intent on genuine Maine lobsters. “You coulda used another guy boiling lobsters for you that night, eh, instead of getting so buried in the weeds you was cryin’ like a baby!”….he had a point, but still, this new guy gave me the willies.The next morning, right on time, the stranger showed up for work. ….When asked his name, he replied: “My name is Omari. I am the great great grandson of Abdul Alhazred, known by all as the “Mad Arab.”

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About j. j. marino

As a creaky & cranky a-social agoraphobic anchorite, living in seclusion in the Great North Woods & keeping centered by the Power of the Written Word, a blog would seem to be a fat pitch in my strike zone.

Posted on January 23, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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