Saturday, March 14, 2020
Our knife supplier enters the kitchen. We’ve used him for years. He arrives between lunch and dinner every Saturday. Today is no different except we don’t hear him sing or see his smile when he puts a variety of razor-sharp knives on the table.
“Today’s my last day,” the knifeman says to nobody in particuliar.
Chef lifts his roux off the stove. He shouts for one of us to turn down the music.
“What did you say? I couldn’t hear a thing over the music,” Chef says shooting a look at one of the prep cooks.
The knifeman unzips his jacket. He rubs the skin below his eyes.
“Today’s it for me. Everyone is hibernating. After you, I have one more stop then my day is finished.”
Chef picks up one of the French knives. He runs his finger the length of the blade.
“You’re the best in the business. Are you serious about stopping?”
The knifeman nods his head.
“There is no more business, so it doesn’t matter who is the best.”
The knifeman pulls a small yellow pad out of his jacket pocket. He writes down what we owe and tears the paper off the pad. Chef puts out his hand.
“Thirty-five dollars. The next stop’s bill comes to thirty-seven. That’s seventy-two dollars for the day. Before this craziness, every day had a minimum of ten stops. Six days a week for twelve years. That was a third better than my father’s best year and he owned this business for twenty-one years.”
The cooks stepped away from the stove and claim their knives. None of them knew what was going on and Chef didn’t say anything to anyone.
Then the knifeman looked at Chef.
“So, what are you going to do?”
Chef scratched his head.
“You heard Miami closed their beaches to prevent the spread, right?”
Chef looked at the invoice.
“Our takeout is picking up, but we’re having a hard time getting food containers. If you hear anything, let us know,” Chef said realizing he’d probably never see the knifeman again.
“Absolutely,” the knifeman said tapping his foort on the floor.
Chef asked a line cook to finish cooking the roux before getting the knifeman’s thirty-five dollars. Out of habit, the cooks began bringing the knifeman knives that needed sharpening.
Knifeman shook his head.
“This is it for me, boys.”
Everyone looked at each other. Stunned looks on their faces, which is when Chef returned to the kitchen. He put three twenties in the knifeman’s hand.
“That’s the best we can do for you. Hope everything works out.”
The knifeman zipped his jacket, turned and pushed open the kitchen doors. Chef watched the knifeman leave the restaurant. His head down, hands in his pocket. Not another soul on the sidewalk.
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