“We have enough to make it through today?”

Story 13

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Chef arrived late. Our produce guy waited in the kitchen. His hands squeezing the hand truck’s handles.

“What the hell happened?”

Chef pulled off his jacket and you thought the two would square off.

“What are you talking about?” Chef asked.

“You’re late. You’re never late.”

Chef rubbed his hands together.

“We waited an hour for a test,” Chef said.

The produce guy squinted.

“Didn’t the governor say something about 700 testing sites?”

Chef took the packing slip from the produce guy. He scanned the four boxes on the hand truck.

“Andrew from Queens says a lot about a lot of things.”

The produce guy shrugged his shoulders.

“You sick?”

Chef told us to put away the delivery.

“My girlfriend,” Chef said.

The produce guy put the delivery ticket in his back pocket. He turned his hand truck and was leaving but stopped.

“It’s getting bad. Isn’t it?”

Just then the day manager entered the kitchen. He carried a cup of coffee.

“We worried about you,” the manager said to Chef.

Chef walked to the coffee machine. He took a cup from beneath the counter.

“This is crazy,” Chef said filling his cup with coffee. “Nobody’s riding the subway. The death count gets higher and higher.”

Chef’s voice trailed off.

The manager finished what remained in his coffee cup.

“Twenty-six New Yorkers are now dead. Every time I hear sirens it drives me nuts.”

Chef walked over to the ranges. He turned on the ovens then rubbed his hands together.

“What do we have going on today?”

The manager pulled his iPhone out of his pocket. He scrolled messages.

“We’ve got a problem,” said the manager.

Chef scratched his chin. He stared at the manager without saying anything.

“Our guy can’t find food conatiners.”

Chef cracked the knuckles on his left hand.

“What are you talking about?”

The manager rolled his eyes.

“Everybody is looking for food containers. There’s not enough to go around.”

Chef set a pot of water on the stove.

“We have enough to make it through today?”

Suddenly the manager’s phone vibrated. He took the call turning his back on Chef. Once finished he faced Chef.

“That was our supplier.”

“What’d he say?”

“He’s doing his best,” said the manager.

Chef left after seven that night. His girlfriend’s test came back positive. Chef told us to shut it down once we ran out of food containers.

Lucky for us-if you can call it luck, we made it through service without having to shut it down. Only later did we start wondering if we needed to get tested, too.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/19/nyc-coronavirus-cases-continue-to-grow-with-nearly-4000-infected-26-dead/

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For contact info: Remler-Robert@gmail.com

“The death rate will get higher.”

Story 12

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The cases are soaring. Everyone is on edge, so much so that if someone coughs or sneezes you twitch as though a fighter plane is circling over Manhattan.

Today, the Mayor, went on television and said 1,871 people in New York City tested positive for Co-vid 19 and 11 people have died.

“You heard that too?” Chef asked.

Nobody answered.

We are down to a staff of two in the kitchen. Chef wears the same jacket he wore yesterday, which must drive him nuts because he always insisted on starting work with a clean jacket. But, Chef has more on his mind than the tomato stain on his white jacket.

Suddenly a cell phone vibrates. Chef stops deboning the case of chickens. He props his phone against a sauce pot.

“I hate these damm Zoom calls,” Chef yells to nobody in particular.

The restaurant manager’s face appears on Chef’s phone screen.

“Can you believe what’s going on?” she asks.

“Almost twelve hundred positive cases and eleven deaths, right?”

“That’s double yesterday’s count,” the manager said. Her voice without tone. Her face lacking that glow when she used to stand in the dining room and greet customers.

“Did you get the case of chickens?”

Chef picked up his knife and continued deboning chickens.

“Working it now.”

The restaurant manager smiled, but Chef wasn’t looking at his phone anymore.

“How much longer do you think we can keep this going?”

The restaurant manager didn’t know, or she wasn’t saying what she knew.

“Last night we did forty deliveries. That’s not going to be enough to get us through this madness. You do know that, right?”

Chef didn’t wait for the manager to respond. He worked fast. One chicken after another. First, Chef put the chicken on his cutting board, with the chicken breast side down and the legs towards him. Next, Chef ran his hand over the chicken’s skin until finding the backbone. Once Chef found the backbone, he ran the tip of his knife down both sides of the bone, which made an awful sound. Then Chef cracked open the keel bone and folded the chicken open with his hands. Finally, like a boxer standing before a speed bag, Chef sliced the chicken separating the thighs breast and legs. Chef put each chicken part into a different container.

He always warned us about talking on the phone while working, but today he forgot his own rule.

One chicken remained while Chef spoke with the restaurant manager.

“You have any ideas?” Chef asked.

“Ideas about what?”

Chef sharpened his knife with a steel.

“Our income is dropping 75 percent everyday we stay open while our operating costs remain and the death rate is going to get higher.”

Chef never finished his sentence. The tip of his knife sliced his left index finger, splattering blood on the cutting board. Chef cursed then wrapped the bottom of his jacket around the tip of his finger. It didn’t take long for Chef’s blood stain to mesh with yesterday’s tomato stain, which is when Chef ripped off his jacket.

“Tell me we don’t have another clean jacket anywhere,” Chef said.

Nobody said a word.

And that included the restaurant manager, whose cell phone battery died soon after Chef cursed.

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/03/18/new-york-coronavirus-latest-how-many-cases-in-new-york-city-over-1800

https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-03-18-20-intl-hnk/index.html

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For contact information: Remler.Robert@gmail.com

“It’s a very big step.”

Story 11

Tuesday, March 17,2020

“This is what hell looks like,” Chef said.

He wheeled his bycycle to the back of the kitchen muttering, not aware only two of us came to work.

“Biked past the New York Hilton and it looked like the day after a nuclear attack. Nobody on the sidewalk. Not one effin taxi zooming up Sixth Avenue. Not one person on a street corner waiting for the lights to change. You can take a hundred hits of acid and never see anything like what I saw this morning.”

The back doorbell buzzed.

“Who’s that?” Chef asked.

The porter walked toward the door. The bell buzzed again, and the porter shouted in Spanish.

Our produce guy wheeled his hand truck into the kitchen, stopping in front of the pickup station. Chef looked at him then at the boxes on the hand truck. A case of Driscoll strawberries. A flat of raspberries. Ten heads of chicory. Five heads of radicchio. A ten-pound bag of green beans and a dozen eggplants.

“What’s all this for? You know we are closed except for takeout and pickups,” Chef said.

The produce guy slid his hand truck away from the boxes, which stood between him and Chef.

“Who the hell ordered this crap?” Chef asked.

The produce guy took out the delivery ticket from his back pocket and put it on the pickup station.

“You need a pen?” the produce guy asked. “I swiped this one the day I got released from Rikers.”

Nobody laughed because he told us about Rikers the first time he brought us stuff.

“First tell me who the hell ordered this crap.”

The produce guy rubbed his chin and took off his baseball cap.

“You going to sign for this, or what?”

Chef tapped his fingers on the table.

“Tony must have ordered this fifteen minutes before we laid him off. Remind me never to hire a horse player again. Those guys never tell you nothing.”

Chef used the produce guy’s pen. When finished he wiped his hands on the side of his pants.

The produce guy wheeled his hand truck out of the kitchen. He went maybe five yards then turned and started speaking.

“Who’s this guy Fauci?” Donald J is putting alot of faith in this doctor nobody heard of. You know anything about him?”

Chef picked a strawberry from the flat and popped it in his mouth.

“What did Donald J say?”

“Lockdown is a big step.”

“That’s what DJ said ?” Chef asked.

The produce guy laughed.

“What are you laughing about now?” Chef asked.

“You should wash that stuff before you eat it,” he said. “That’s how people get really sick.”

https://nypost.com/2020/03/17/major-hotel-chains-shutting-down-due-to-coronavirus-pandemic/

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For further information contact: Remler.Robert@gmail.com

“This is a national problem…”

Story 10

Monday, March 16, 2020

“Nine deaths,” said the sommelier.

She sat at the bar with Chef and our restaurant’s owner. One looked worse than the other, yet none of them had a problem sipping the Dom Perignon Vintage 2010 the sommelier brought up from the cellar. The restaurant’s owner looked so distressed he didn’t seem to mind she poured a champagne listed on our menu for $450.00.

Chef brought the champagne flute to his lips.

“You know what I heard?” Chef said.

They sipped the champagne not noticing me mopping behind the bar.

“No, what,” said the restaurant’s owner setting his champagne glass on the bartop.

“New York’s already got nine hundred and fifty cases and Jersey’s got almost a hundrfed fifty.”

The sommelier took a second sip and then a third of the champagne. She reached for the bottle and topped off everyone’s glasses. The owner looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar. Then he turned and gazed around the dining room. Twenty empty tables set for tomorrow even though we’ll be closed.

Nobody said anything until Chef finished his champagne and asked if anything was left in the bottle.

The sommelier lifted the bottle off the bar and filled the glasses for Chef and the owner.

“Thirty thousand a month,” said the owner. “That’s what it costs me to keep this place going.”

They let him talk without interruption.

“I’ve given this place three years of my life and something like $2 million dollars.”

Chef looked at his watch, tapped his fingers while watching me push the mop bucket back into the kitchen.

“So, if customers can’t come to us, then we’ll go to them,” Chef said.

They lifted their glasses and sipped what little champagne remained.

“You got to be crazy,” the owner said. “You think I am going to make my nut by having you serve up take-out orders?”

He looked at the sommelier as though she had a better idea.

“Well,” she said. “Nobody is telling us we can’t sell and deliver what wines we have in our cellar.”

The ran a hand through his long dark hair. “Yeah, that will work perfect, just like writing a letter to a congressman and asking for help.”

https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/during-coronavirus-briefing-governor-cuomo-issues-executive-order-allowing-state-increase

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“They’re Shutting Us Down.”

Story Nine

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Chef returned home from work an hour later than usual. All the lights off in his apartment. His girlfriend asleep on the sofa while ‘The Hunt,’ starring Emma Roberts, Betty Gilpin and Jason Blum played on their television. Chef looked at the screen for a minute then walked over to their liquor cabinet. He reached for a bottle of gin, which is when his girlfriend awoke from her sleep.

She sat straight, starring at the television screen then at her watch.

“You’re late.”

Chef poured gin into a glass.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Drinking,” Chef said.

“You’re drinking it straight?”

Chef finished the gin in two gulps then poured more into his glass.

“What the hell is a matter with you now?”

Chef sat in a chair facing the television. He looked at the screen then at his girlfriend.

“Can you shut this crap?”

She reached for the remote.

“What the hell is your problem?”

Chef sipped the gin.

“They’re going to shut us down. It sounds nuts, but I know they are going to shut all restaurants and bars because they are worried. The City now has 329 confirmed cases.” Chef said.

His girlfriend rubbed her eyes and leaned back against the sofa’s cushion.

“You worry too much.”

“Really?”

The two of them didn’t say anything to each other for five minutes. Chef finished what was in his glass then walked back to their liquor cabinet.

“Drinking isn’t going to help. You know that, right?”

She reached for the remote and continued to watch ‘The Hunt.’

‘What’s this movie about anyway?” Chef asked.

Chef’s girlfriend smiled for the first time since he came home.

“I don’t know,” she said sort of laughing. “Something about a bunch of strangers who wake somewhere and they don’t know how they got there or how they are going to get out of there.”

Chef laughed, but it wasn’t one of his loud laughs.

“You know another four died today,” said Chef taking yet another sip of gin.

She didn’t know that four died today, but she watched the news and remembered hearing about 329 confirmed cases.

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