“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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