Forty to fifty people work at the Frolic during the week, most of them part time. Over a year lots of people come and go. Mac gets along with all of them and they get along with him. He’s not one to make waves. It gets a little unwieldy sometimes. The boss hired Marla to oversee the staff. He moved her from the kitchen to the front desk. She writes the schedule for the waitresses and bartenders and hostesses. The boss hired Skipper who used to cook at the Frolic to manage the kitchen. Skipper went to the Culinary Academy in the Bay Area and came back to the Frolic afterward because it was his favorite place to be and all his friends were there. He and his buddies combined resources to buy a piece of local real estate and build their own houses. They created a place like Roy’s but different.
Mac is in the garden with Sandy, one of the other dishwashers. They are moving old railroad ties for the flower and vegetable beds. Sandy has a beard and carries a large knife and drives a thrasher BMW but sounds like a girl when she talks. She uses the women’s bathroom. Marla thinks she should use the men’s bathroom. Mac doesn’t know what to think. Sandy’s on one end of a railroad tie and Mac’s on the other.
“Hey, Mac, slow down, that tie is pinching my tit,” says Sandy. That’s when Mac decides Sandy is a girl.
When Hawley owned the Frolic he grew potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb in the garden behind the restaurant next to the house. He had a trick for growing potatoes. He set the seed potatoes on the flat ground and covered them with straw. When the new potatoes were ready, Hawley picked up the straw to get at the potatoes. They weren’t even dirty. Henrietta uses the rhubarb to make pies. The boss thinks the horseradish is too messy to deal with. Processing it makes his eyes water and his nose run. The Jerusalem artichokes are not worth the trouble according to the boss so Mac and Sandy are changing those beds to grow something else.
Later Mac tells Marla what Sandy said and she cracks up. “I still think she should use the men’s room. What do you think, Mac?” asks Marla.
“I don’t know,” says Mac.
“Well, I guess that’s the way God made her,” says Marla and shakes her head. “I guess it’s okay for her to use the women’s room.”
Mac doesn’t think there is a God and if there is Mac doesn’t think God cares which bathroom Sandy uses. But Mac keeps his mouth shut. It’s usually the best way. Sandy wrecks her motorcycle late one night as she drives home. Because of the way she looks, no one stops to offer help. When she tells Mac it confirms his suspicion that most people don’t really believe the God they talk about anyway.
Marla is one of the old timers like Dolly and Melody on the floor, and Henrietta, the baker, and Lorna on the front desk. Marla’s husband Gerald is a bartender at night and a barber during the day. His shop is across the street under the apartment where Laing Chambers used to live. On the nights before he works as a barber Gerald gives last call early, around eight o’clock. He always says the same thing. “I don’t know about you folks but I’ve got to work tomorrow.” Then he turns the lights up and walks out from behind the bar to pick up all the empty glasses. One night a woman sits at the bar. She falls hard for Gerald. When he walks by to pick up glasses she slides off her stool into Gerald’s arms. “I love you,” she says. Her eyes glisten as she swoons toward him. Gerald just walks on past. “I gotta work tomorrow,” he says. The poor girl falls onto the floor into some lotus blossoms weaved into the Persian carpet. Mac and Brin watch and laugh. “Gerald is pretty set in his ways,” says Mac. “He sure is,” says Brin.
Some of the waitresses go by special names like Dancing Water or Feather or Meadow. Mac guesses it’s a sign of the times. Black Joyce got her name because she’s the only black girl in town. She’s funny and sexy and is the only waitress that can hold her own with Dolly. She has a closet full of wigs she changes with her mood. She’s a good waitress and the boss doesn’t want to lose her. When she loses her place to stay he lets her live in the extra room in the house he and Brin live in behind the restaurant. Mac asks Brin what she thinks about that.
“I trust my husband. I have to with all these women around in the restaurant and the bar,” she says. “Besides, I know Joyce and she can take care of herself. She wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.”
Mac knows Brin is right.
One morning while Mac washes dishes he hears everyone talking. He hears engines roaring outside. “What’s going on?” he asks Dolly.
“Hell’s Angels,” says Dolly with a sly smile on her face. “This is going to be trouble or fun. We’ll know soon.”
Mac walks out to the dining room and up front by the windows. Sure enough here come the motorcycles up Lansing Street two-abreast in tight formation headed straight for the Frolic. Mac has heard about these guys, the chains, the shades, the dirty Levi’s with the winged skull patch on the back of their denim jackets. Just like some of the waitresses they have their special names except the bikers’ names sound like rat names from a Disney movie: Little Jesus, Terry the Tramp, Fat Freddy, Tiny Tim, Filthy Phil. They could be trouble, he thinks as he watches them park.
The girls ride with their arms wrapped around their man. The girls dress in matching fashion but without the jackets. They wear tight pants and blouses with lift-up bras, gaudy lipstick, dark glasses and boots. One thing Mac notices right away when they come in is the smell. Not good. Mac remembers a story Shirley Martin told him about how the Hell’s Angels came in once a few years ago. They left without paying. Hawley walked out and confronted them. They paid but it was a tense moment. Shirley says she heard they knifed someone down in Point Arena on the way home.
The bikers stream into the Frolic. Dolly and Black Joyce are the waitresses in the dining room. Lynette is in the Coffee Shop. It’s pure luck these three are on. They are the best ones to deal with this crowd. The Frolic is besieged with long hair, beards, bandanas, earrings, tattoos, armpits, chain whips, and swastikas. However safe these guys might be individually, thinks Mac, they are sure threatening as a group. They don’t fit and they don’t care. That’s their style. Mac is happy to be invisible.
“You get your woman and your bike and your banjo,” Mac hears one guy say at a front table, “and you’re on your way.” Then he plays his banjo.
Mac tells Lorna who is on the front desk to turn off the music. No use competing with these guys. Mac eyes the girls, tender young blonds with lobotomy eyes out for a good time with a big sign on their foreheads that say “Stay Away” if you’re not one of us. Mac looks for a sign in the dining room that says “Don’t Feed The Animals” but there isn’t one.
Mac is repelled but he’s also attracted. He wonders if they are the ones that truly have the answers, that are wide awake to the everyday horrors of life that surround all of us. If he were thoroughly awakened would he do the same instead of the ordinary boring things that are expected of him every moment of the day? How many times have these guys kicked and punched their way out of rumbles with their boots and their fists? He considers such a life for one short moment until his sanity returns. He’d never make it in a group that this. They are hooligans, no more, no less—murderers, drug addicts, rapists, troublemakers. He knows the stories. He was young but he was at Altamont. He looks around and sees the wary expressions of would be intelligent human beings turned mean and nervous from too much bitter wisdom crammed into too few years. Best be on guard, he says to himself.
Dolly, Black Joyce and Lynette move skillfully from table to table taking orders, smiling and displaying their chests to maximum effect, taming the roughneck bikers with the skill of circus trainers.
“We get treated good here,” says a six foot 200 pound brute with massive arms, a full beard, shoulder-length greasy black hair and a wild, jabbering demeanor.
“Yea,” says his sawed-off sidekick with a chilling smirk. “Most other places we get thrown of town.”
The guys around them laugh.
“And, you know honey,” says the brute to Black Joyce, “what we do when they don’t let us into a place? We come back later and tear it apart.”
Laughs all around.
Linda steps out from the kitchen and stands by Mac. “They say some of these guys, the ones the call the Filthy Few, eat dead rats,” she says. “From the look of them, I don’t doubt it.”
Mac thinks he’s about to retch but he holds it in.
“Where are you from?” asks Lorna innocently as she passes out menus to four guys at the front round table. They look at each other as if she asked the $64,000 dollar question.
“I don’t have no home town,” says a skinny creepy looking guy with deep dark eyes.
“We’re from around,” says another.
The guy with the banjo up front sings.
He thinks he’s an outlaw but he’s just a loser.
Ain’t no renegade, just a boozer.
Hired a slut so he could use her.
Then off he went on his Harley cruiser.
“Hey Billy,” says the saw-off kid to the banjo player. “Is that for real?”
“What’s real?” smiles Billy. “Right here, right now. That’s real.”
“Shut up about it,” says the brute. “Let’s eat.”
After lunch they all get up and leave. As expected they don’t pay. The boss says he’s not going to let them get away with it. He starts to head outside.
“Don’t go after them boss,” says Mac. “It isn’t worth getting beat up or worse.”
“I’ll go,” says Black Joyce. And she does. And they pay without an argument. They razz her about her “beautiful boobs” but she just smiles. She knows how to handle guys like that.
The Hell’s Angels roar away and the Frolic quiets for the afternoon. There is a wine tasting for the staff in the back of the dining room. The boss thinks the more the staff knows about wine, the more comfortable they will be making recommendations. Some good ideas have come from the tastings. The wine list is now a wine book that includes some of the labels from the bottles. “Wine label art is very popular,” says the boss. “Bill Zacha, who started the Art Center in town, does the labels for Edmeades wines. When he comes in to eat, he signs his labels in the wine book. Those labels disappear quickly. I don’t know if that helps wine sales but Bill gets a kick out of it.”
One moment it’s the Hell’s Angels, the next it’s a wine tasting complete with designer wine labels. Mac just keeps his head down and washes dishes, focuses on his work. He replaces the rubber coupling on the motor of the dishwasher to prevent a break down before it gets busy. He checks the laundry bags to make sure the dirty greasy towels don’t self-combust. He cleans up the garbage area and makes sure everything is out of sight so customers don’t see a mess when they drive up. There are lots of things he does that people probably don’t know.
When Mac wakes up the next morning he’s on the floor. He doesn’t remember falling out of bed but here he is on the floor with a bruised arm and his legs are twisted around the bed. He is very distressed about this but doesn’t know what to do. Myrna tells him he stares a lot, blanks out just for a few seconds. He wonders if he’s been drinking too much.