A Tall Order

The Washwater Hotel: Chapter 3

Saturday, the Previous Day

Brian walked through the doors of the Washwater just past two o’clock. He adjusted the bill of his baseball cap over his eyes and looked back and forth for any guests about. The sole person near the front desk was a short, dark figure in what looked to be the hotel’s uniform, on his knees and scrubbing the dark trim at the base of the fixture. Brian peered over the desk before leaning down to the worker. “Excuse me?” He asked, deepening his voice into a reassuring tone.

Horatio jerked up upon his knees, then to his feet, holding his hands at his either side. He stared up at Brian, his wide eyes not seeming to process a further thought.

“Uh…” Brian stood back up and rubbed at his light colored stubble. “I’m sorry to have interrupted you. Is the owner here? Or perhaps your manager?”

Horatio’s eyes finally lit up and he ducked around the corner, shunting his way back through the swinging gate separating the front of the lobby and the back office. He disappeared for a few moments, later returning with Mr. Wash.

Obidiah treaded out calmly while the short fellow tugged on his sleeve, jutting out a finger at Brian as he made eye contact once again. The bald manager brushed off Horatio’s hand and presented himself properly behind the counter. “Good day to you, welcome to the Washwater. Are you here to check in?”

Brian shook his head and marched forward to the desk, fiddling with the contents of his front pocket. From his jeans, he took out the rolled-up flier. “Actually, I’m here about the job position. The live-in cook? I saw this by the chamber of commerce’s board.”

“Ah yes.”

“Is it still available?”

Obidiah clapped his hands together. “Why, yes. It’s been up for a quite a while actually.”

Look at that baby face. Cute and contemptible. He’s trying to play adult by keeping all that fuzz on his cheeks.

Obidiah looked Brian over. “I’m surprised someone as young as yourself would be interested in working in the culinary world. It can put on the years quick, I’ve heard.”

Brian tilted the brim of his hat down to hide his smile. He noticed Horatio staring at him with shiny, fixed eyes from over the gate at the side of the counter. “Uh, well.” He said, attempting to force out a fake drawl. “My pops says a kitchen is honest work.”

Obidiah pushed Horatio to the side and walked out from behind the counter. “No harm in that way of thinking. Come, I can show you the kitchen to see if this sort of place will suit you. Oh, I haven’t asked your name yet. You may address me as Obidiah, or Mr. Wash if you’d like.”

The hopeful cook perked up. “Oh, Brian. Brian… Gates. Brian Gates. Thank you, Mr. Wash.”

Obidiah began to trudge through the lobby with Brian following after. The dining room was being vacuumed by one of the older maids, who smiled at Brian as they passed.

“May I ask, Mr. Wash… who has been staffing your kitchen so far?” Brian asked as they headed into the far sections of the hotel’s ground floor.

“Oh, well…” Obidiah sighed, tilting his head back and forth. “Breakfast service is nothing too fancy- just some bread and pastries put out by the maid on duty. Lunch has been a no-go for a while. Dinner, well, eh- we’ve been getting certain orders in of ready-made meals that only need a toss in the oven racks or the steamer.”

“Ah, I see…” Brian hummed, grimacing at the idea.

Past the lackluster stainless steel and wood of the dish stations, the set of double swinging doors led into the kitchen. The facility was a mixture of old and not-so-new appliances. The walls behind the pair of ranges were stained, the pans hanging above missing chunks of Teflon coating, and the utensils and knifes were all mixed together in big bins. Brian dragged his fingers across the surface of the twin-doored fridge that did not seem to match with anything else.

Obidiah took a seat upon the kitchen’s only stool at the rickety metal island inside the cramped kitchen. He looked across to Brian, who gazed up at the dusty vents and hanging pots above. “Needs some TLC.” The young man said with a shrug.

“Indeed. How about a trial run, if you have the time? I’m aware this isn’t the most proper of interviews.”

Brian looked about, scanning his options. “Well, I don’t mind…” He stepped to the hand-washing sink and took carefully care of each digit before drying them on the meager stack of paper towels nearby.

From the nearby rack, he took one of the sloppily folded hand towels and strung it over his shoulder before moving to the fridge for a primary look. Inside was a bulk carton of eggs, packages of toast, butter, and several cartons of milk. He looked back to Obidiah who sat upon the stood patiently, his eyes not focusing on one single spot. “I’m prepared for whatever you might make, my lad.”

If only you said such words about my cooking back in the day, dear.

Brian nodded and went back to the fridge, pulling out a pair of eggs and a pack of butter. He dashed to the center island and pulled down a bowl, cracking both eggs in quick succession in one hand while reaching for a whisk with the other. With the whites and yolks successfully homogenized, and a little bit of salt added, he turned back to the fridge for the milk to introduce next.

Ohh, fancy. Better not eat too much, Obi. Your pants will stop fitting.

Brian scanned next the racks for a pan that still had a proper layer of black Teflon, bringing it down and placing it upon the burner. With a few loud clicks, the fire began dancing beneath the pan. He rubbed down the sides liberally with the end of the butter before tossing in the egg to follow.

With furious movements, he stirred the carefully forming curd before suddenly pulling away the second it had began to settle into a neat layer. Removing it from the flame, he began tapping the handle of the pan to form up the sheet of gently cooked egg into a neat oval roll. Obidiah had brought out a plate and placed it expectantly on the island in front of Brian. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the young man had produced a perfect French omelet.

The cook slid the plate back to Obidiah, who was already waiting with a fork. “Well,” He said, eying the simple dish. Taking a corner off the neat roll with his fork, he introduced it to his mouth. The owner’s eyes lit up. “Quite excellent!”

Brian removed his cap while turning the burner off. He scratched at his forehead while taking in a deep breath. “Thank you, sir, Mr. Wash.”

Obidiah finished a few more bites before looking up to Brian. “Brian, I believe you’re hired. That is, if you so wish.”

That’s no ordinary cooking, you know.

“I’d be delighted.” Brian nodded, carefully putting his hat back on.

Obidiah stood, taking the plate and fork with him. “I’m in no hurry, but you may start today if it suits you. We won’t need much out of the dinner service for another day or so, so if you wish to start making the space your own, feel free to do so. You may ask Horatio- you met him earlier- if you need any help.”

Brian clenched his teeth. “Oh, I think I shall manage…”

“Oh, and one last thing, the pay- I shall get you a form to sign in the coming days. Are you fine with keeping track of your own hours until then?”

“Yes, that is fine…” Brian sighed, gathering up the used dishes.

“Very well. Four pounds per hour to start, plus room and board. Allow me an hour to sort our your room.”

Brian bowed his head. “Thank you very much, sir.”

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