Snakes and Pills

212 - butter sun

The kitchen was hot and uncomfortable. The workers bustled amongst each other preparing various foodstuffs for cooking. The sous chef, Roland, kept his head down, focused on the tasks set in front of him. He used the towel slung over his shoulder to wipe the sweat from his brow.

The restaurant was busy tonight. That was a good thing. Roland tried to fool himself into thinking that the influx of customers would put his boss in a better mood. He could certainly understand why Cooper got upset when the place was empty. Being both the head chef and the owner was a lot of pressure. Every dish, every patron, mattered.

Roland felt that they mattered, too. But Cooper always reminded him that he could never be equally concerned, since he had less skin in the game. Roland disagreed, as he wanted to get ahead in the culinary world, and being attached to a successful kitchen would help him greatly in that endeavor.

Yet Cooper insisted that, at the end of each day, busy or dead, Roland took home the same paycheck. If the restaurant went under, he would just be out of a job. Cooper, on the other hand, would be out on his ass, destitute.

Roland could see the point, and thus forgave Cooper for some of his outbursts.

With half of the dinner service done, Roland thought he might be in the clear. Cooper's diatribes came almost nightly, but once in a while he caught a break.

Then he glimpsed the fire in Cooper's eyes, and knew that no respite was to come tonight. Roland focused on his work, trying not to draw his boss' attention. Chefs often speak of putting themselves on a plate, and right now Roland truly wished he could disappear into the dish he was cooking.

"Roland, Roland. Look at me," Cooper said. Roland finished saucing the plate with nonchalance, pretending nothing was wrong. "Yes, chef?" he asked meekly.

"What the hell is this?" Cooper asked him, holding another plate out toward Roland. He looked the dish over. It was one of the curry specials that Roland was responsible for tonight.

"A curry special, chef?" Roland answered. He was careful to never assume what answer his boss wanted to hear. Surely enough, Cooper was unsatisfied. He angrily shook his head and blew out air past his lips.

"Don't play dumb with me! Of course it's a fucking curry special! But do you notice anything in particular when compared to the curry special I showed you how to make?" Cooper asked.

Roland examined the plate carefully. Everything looked fine to him, and occasionally Cooper tried to use trick questions on him, so he answered honestly. "No, nothing stands out, chef," he said.

"Well, it looks like fucking shit, for one thing," the head chef said, his rage in the last possible moment of containment.

"Sorry," Roland began, but Cooper quickly continued. "And that doesn't even touch on the topic of taste. Have you TASTED the garbage you're sending out there? Pure, total dog shit! No wonder we can never get customers to come back!" he yelled, loud enough for everyone in the dining room to hear.

Of course Roland had tasted his dishes, like any good chef. He thought the flavor was quite delicious, but he would be the first to admit that he did not yet have the sense of nuance that his boss possessed.

Cooper grabbed a spoon, jammed it into the curry, and extended it toward Roland. "Taste it, now! I want to hear you say that this dog shit honestly tastes good," he demanded.

Roland took the spoon.

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