Cal trudged through the slush trying to stay dry. It would be a long night at the Palace Diner in wet boots. “Hola, Casper!” Mateo never got tired of antagonizing Cal. He splashed more oil and continued scraping the grill as Cal stomped his boots on the industrial rubber mat. “Fuck you too, Cheech!” Cal grinned. “Hey, have you eaten yet?” Cal stuffed his coat and hat in the overhead shelves, next to the corn flour. “I have a great new idea for jambalaya…I’ll start the Andouille reduction.” Maybe some carmelized onion? “Oh sorry,” he turned to Mateo. “Do you prefer tacos?” Mateo snapped a towel at Cal’s head. “Chinga usted, bolillo!”
“Slab of moo, flop two, twice over! Table 39!” Khean hollered at them as he clipped the order to the ticket rack. Cal and Mateo looked at each other. They’d never known anyone who’d learned English so fast. Khean’s entire village had rallied behind him and he didn’t have the heart to tell anyone he desperately wanted to return to Kampong Cham.
“Reheat?” Khean reached for Simone’s coffee cup and she nodded. He topped up Kenneth’s as well.
“I couldn’t figure out which way the brackets went,” Simone explained. “Finally, I decided the longer arm should go against the wall.”
Kenneth tried not to smile. “Did you use a stud finder?” Simone looked at him blankly.
“No matter,” he said. “Just don’t put anything heavy on the shelves.”
“How was your day?” She realized she was interested in his answer.
“Well, I discovered the construction project manager’s wire fraud.” There’s probably money laundering somewhere in there too, he shook his head. “Which leads to an even bigger problem — I need to hire someone new. Preferably someone who has professional experience or at least education and isn’t a thief.”
“Is that hard to find?” She’d imagined the white collar world was better, but this sounded all too familiar.
“More so than I ever realized,” Kenneth sighed.
“What are you doing Saturday?” he asked suddenly. “I could take a look at those shelves for you.”
“What are you trying to make up for?” she asked, flatly.
“I’m concerned they’re going to come crashing down and you might get hurt.”
“Mm-hm.” She sat back. Waiting.
“You’re genuine,” he put down his coffee cup and looked her in the eye. Grey? Or were they hazel? “That’s sorely lacking in my life.”