Chapter 2.

 

Mendocino is a tourist town.  Once it was an artist community and before that an abandoned mill town and before that a flourishing mill town and before that a home for the Pomo Indians for several thousand years. The Pomo are mostly gone, exterminated and ravished by those who followed.  The loggers and mill workers remain but are in decline.  They’ve made an uneasy peace with the counterculture types-hippies, back to the land folks, artists and craftsmen.  The tourists arrived and changed everything raising prices and making housing unaffordable for people like those who live at Roy’s.

 

In 1850 a famous shipwreck off the Mendocino coast led to the discovery of the giant redwoods and development began.  Mac walks into the Frolic Cafe named after the ship that wrecked. 

 

“Rafan tells me you’re living at Roy’s ranch.”  Devon looks Mac over.  The young man seems capable enough for simple duties … like washing dishes.

 

“Was,” said Mac.  “Just moved out.”

 

Devon is always looking for reliable help.  There is a lot of turnover in the restaurant business.  Mac arrives at a good time.  Devon fired the dishwasher Tom the night before.  It was the first time Devon had fired anyone.  He took over the restaurant on the first of the year.  Tom was a fine guitar player but a lousy dishwasher with a bad attitude.  Tom’s girlfriend, Cherry, was one of Devon’s best waitresses.  She tried to quit when Tom was fired but Devon wouldn’t let her.

 

Firing Tom was traumatic.  Devon had to down two shots of bourbon to get the courage to walk into the back of the kitchen.

 

“You’re fired!” he told Tom.

 

“Right now?” said Tom with puzzled look on his face.

 

“Right now, get out.  Here’s your check for the week.”

 

The next day Tom returned to The Frolic and told Devon:  “Thanks for firing me.  I hated that job.”

 

“I know,” said Devon.  “It showed.”  They shook hands and everyone walked away happy.  Devon learned that things don’t always turn out as you expect.  He and Tom would remain good friends.

 

“I need a dishwasher,” Devon says to Mac.  “Are you interested?”

 

Mac is focused on a metal diving helmet and other nautical paraphernalia scattered around the restaurant.  There are old musical instruments, advertising tins, copper pots and other nostalgia.  He is in a coffee shop.  Looking ahead he sees a larger dining room, a stack of five wooden wine barrels in the middle.  He sees a red coffee grinder, a ceramic chess set, old iron stoves, paintings and such.  It feels strange to be here but he’s not sure why.

 

“Hey, wake up.  You want the job or not?”

 

Mac tries to focus.

 

“Sure, but I need to find a place to stay first.  That might take awhile since I have no money.”

 

Devon considers the situation.  He needs someone now.  The summer rush is coming.

 

“We can work it out.  There’s an old storage room upstairs that isn’t being used.   It’s got a shower and a toilet.  You can have that and meals in exchange for washing dishes.  You’ll make tips.  Later, when you get on your feet, you can find another place.”

 

Devon gives Rafan the key to the storage room.

 

“Show Mac around, Rafan, and help him get set up.  As soon as you’re ready Mac, Rafan will train you on the dishwasher.  You start today.”

 

The storage room is up some stairs in back of the restaurant.  It’s more organized than Mac expects.  Rafan says the boss lived up there for a while after he bought the restaurant.  Now he lives in the house behind the restaurant.  Rafan tells Mac something else about the boss.  He’s sweet on one of the waitresses, a girl named Brin.

 

“Stay away from her or you’ll get fired,” says Rafan.  Rafan looks around the room.  “They say there’s ghosts in this room,” he says.

 

Mac shakes his head.  “Don’t believe in ghosts.”

 

It was the first time Rafan heard Mac express an opinion.  “Well, maybe that’s how you lost your memory, bro.  Maybe there’s a ghost in your head who stole it.”  Rafan laughs as he says this.

 

“Bullshit,” says Mac in an angry tone.  “Don’t mess with my memories.  I might have lost’em, but they’re still my private shit.  Okay?  Go back down.  I can get myself settled.  I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

Rafan walks to the door.

 

“Stop,” says Mac.  He gives Rafan a hug.  “Hey, you saved my skin in Albion and looks you got me a job and a place to stay.  Didn’t mean to dump all over you.  I’m still a little shook, that’s all.  Don’t want no ghosts to bother me if you know what I mean.  But, I owe you.  Thanks.”

 

Rafan loosens Mac’s grip on his shoulder and heads down the stairs.  He yells to Mac.  “Yea, you do owe me.  As the boss likes to say, there ain’t no free lunch.”

 

Mac puts his things away.  All he has is what Billy left that Rafan packed up for him.  He sits on the bed.  A thought flashes into then out of his mind.  An accident.  A crash.  Something too vague to get a handle on.

 

Mac hears the ambient noise from the restaurant below.  Voices.  Dishes banging.  The bell in the kitchen when an order is ready.

 

“Sound the bell!”

 

“Put the helm to port!”

 

Everything goes black.

 

Next thing Mac knows, Rafan is at the door.

 

“What the hell are you doing?  This is no time for a nap.  Come on, the boss wants you washing dishes pronto.”

 

Mac follows Rafan down the stairs.  Girls are running in and out of the kitchen in blue skirts with white peasant blouses and red aprons.  Two women are in the kitchen cooking.  A girl stands by the sink at the end of the kitchen cleaning calamari.

 

Mac watches the girl.  Cleaning calamari is something familiar but he can’t remember why.

 

“Hey!  Mac!  Come on.  I need to show you how to wash the dishes,” says Rafan whose patience is now exhausted.  He pushes Mac toward the dishwasher.

 

“Here, put on this apron.”

 

Mac does as he’s told.

 

The kitchen is busy and noisy.  People walk in and out.  Mac focuses the dishes.  He hears one of the cooks yell.

 

“Jesus Christ Linda, you can’t leave in the middle of lunch!”

 

“I can’t help it, Marla,” says Linda, “my dog’s delivering pups right now.  I gotta go across the street to check on her.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

 

“Dammit!  That bitch is gonna be your undoing,” growls Marla.  She’s the head of the cooks.  “Get over here and help me get these orders out Aimee.  Those squid can wait.”

 

Mac keeps his head down.

 

Half an hour later Linda is back in the kitchen.

 

“I hope you washed your hands,” says Marla.

 

“Seven pups.  Beautiful and perfect,” gloats Linda.

 

After awhile things settle down.  Mac catches up on the dishes.  He sees an empty counter and he sits down to rest his legs.

 

“Hey, you,” says Marla.  “What’s your name?”

 

“Mac.”

 

“Well Mac, you can’t sit on that counter.  That’s Henrietta’s counter.  She keeps her baking stuff underneath.  She’s real particular.  If she notices anything amiss in her space there will be hell to pay.”

 

Mac goes back to the dishwasher but there are no dishes to wash.

 

“Are you hungry Mac?” asks Marla.  “You can have something to eat on your break.  I can make you a burger or you can have soup or a sandwich.”

 

“Thanks,” says Mac.  “A burger sounds great.”

 

The kitchen functions with a rhythm all its own.  When things are busy everyone moves at a fast pace and knows exactly what to do.  There is no sympathy for slackers or dumbees.  When things slow down everyone’s mood changes and the practical jokers come out to tease the newbees.

 

“Take off your apron and have a seat in the coffee shop,” says Marla.  “Dolly will bring your burger to you when it’s ready.”

 

Dolly is a buxom brunette, tall and sturdy and pretty.  It’s obvious she is the waitress in control.  She’s worked at the Frolic longer than the others.  She sits a plate in front of Mac with a burger that has one bite taken out of it.

 

Mac looks at the burger then looks at Dolly.

 

He notices a gap between her front teeth when she laughs.  “We always test the food to make sure it’s okay for the customer,” she says.

 

Mac looks at her.  He picks up his burger and takes a bite.

 

“Good,” he says.

 

He passed the test.  Now he’s one of the crew.  A tall black kid sits next to Mac.  Dolly arrives to take his order.

 

“What do you want today, Al?”

 

“Bread.”

 

Dolly brings the bread in a basket with butter and sets Al up with a paper napkin and silverware.

 

“Soup,” says Al stretching out the vowels in his deep low voice.

 

Dolly goes to get the soup.

 

“Salad,” he says when she returns.

 

Dolly puts her hand on her hip and looks crossways at Al.

 

“Big Al, I’ve told you before, order everything at once.  All you have to do is say ‘bread, soup, salad’ in one sentence.  Is that so hard?”

 

Long pause.

 

“Roquefort.”

 

The coffee shop is where the locals hang out.  Everyone knows the routine.  Bus drivers, contractors, fishermen, artists, employees from the local stores.  Mac watches as a lady named Ina arrives.  Rafan told him she works at Mendosas, the grocery store up the street.  She orders a small green salad and a glass of water.  When she thinks no one is looking she takes a can of tuna out of her purse and sprinkles the fish all over her salad.  Dolly and Marla watch from the kitchen obviously amused.

 

Mac finishes his burger and goes back to the dishwasher.  If the walls in this place could talk, he thinks, they would have a lot to say.  Maybe they could tell him who he was and where he’d come from.  He is lost but now he has a place.  He relaxes and looks forward to whatever is coming.