Mid afternoon was definitely the busiest time in the kitchen. The head chef, along with most of the staff, spun about the room like a bunch of chimes on a porch when a stiff breeze from the sea is sending them a-clatter, and the busy cooks probably made more noise than even that. After lunch ended, the daily ritual of rush and noise that was the preparation for dinner began.
Mr. Dower, the assistant chef was a thick, kind, unintelligent-seeming man, the exact opposite in every way of the head chef. It was his job in the afternoons to make and organize the delivery of the snacks that pupils and teachers ordered. So, amidst the chaotic preparations for dinner he and his small crew of three delivery boys prepared and delivered snacks to order.
Today was unusual, because there was a stranger in the kitchen. A tall, narrow lad in his late teens, wearing a navy blue suit coat that was only lightly dusted with flower, had positioned himself on a bench against a wall, and sat with his glossy dress shoes pulled up in front of him. He sat still, watching the traffic flow about him, like water flows around a pebble on the beach—being careful to give the intrusion space. He smiled slightly as he spoke; “Do you remember, Mr. Dower, back when I was one of your assistants? Bellboys, they used to call us.”
A loud ding-ding-dinggg issued from the computer at the table next to the teen and Mr. Dower immediately came over, some of the flower from his shoulder fell on the boy in the suit as he bent to see the screen. His large hand completely encased the small mouse, and his rather sweaty arm-pit came close to the teen’s face, causing the teen to grimace then grin.
“Kendal’s ordered her usual!” the large man bellowed after scanning the brief e-mail that had arrived. One of the delivery boys jumped into action. “Roasted Tostitos with hot salsa.” He added for the teenager’s benefit.
“When I worked here, we still used the old air pressured tube messaging system… none of this e-mailing. And there was only one head cook who made dinner at the same time as delivering snacks. You were wonderful at it all Mr. Dower.”
“Wonderful, perhaps. Worn thinner than a well used pair of gloves I was too. Took some getting used to—being second in command, I won’t deny that, Jimmy. But it’s better this way.” The big man paused his busy work and leaned toward Jimmy to whisper conspiratorially “Now I get to sit by and watch Mr. Harble, or Hardboil, as the lads like to call him, the new head cook, run around like a crazed racehorse minus his jockey.” Bellows of laugher followed this comment.
Jimmy suddenly had an idea. “Can I deliver the Tostitos?” he asked. “Just like old times?”
“You are a sentimental lad! Alright, I suppose. Benny, give the Tostitos here.” The boy passed him the tray containing the Roasted Tostitos and salsa.
Moments later, Jimmy was heading out the door with the tray in his hands and lots of instructions.
He spoke quietly to himself has he walked down the hallways. “Last day at this marvelous school and I’ve gone all the way back to my very first day. Well, no, technically I started work my second day aboard The Golden Thrush.”
When he arrived at the designated door, he realized that he had once known someone who lived in this suit—room number 356. But he couldn’t quite remember who it had been.
He knocked lightly on the door. It opened almost before he had finished knocking and a girl who looked to be somewhere between 10 and 13 peered out eagerly. She was clearly expecting someone shorter and looked up at Jimmy with considerable surprise. Jimmy noticed that there was also disappointment in her surprise and quickly put two and two together—this girl liked the usual delivery boy… what was his name…
“You’re not Benny!” she said.
“Nope, I stole his job. No worries,” he continued quickly when he noticed an angry ‘but…!’ forming on her lips, “it was just for today. I’m graduating today you see. My last day onboard. In fact, my last few hours,” he handed her the tray and glanced at his watch.
“Oh,” she said. “I see. Well, all the best with your future, or whatever I’m supposed to say.”
He grinned at her. This girl had spunk.
She brushed a stray blond lock out of her face and stuck out her free hand, (which happened to be her left, not her right), “I’m Kendal, nice to meet you.”
After a quick moment of adjustment, he took her left hand with his and shook it firmly. “I’m Jimmy. The pleasure is mine.”
“Well, gotta get back to work. Tell Benny I… oh nothing.” She backed up and closed the door quickly. Jimmy grinned again and headed back to the kitchen, whistling quietly to himself.