Sometimes, in the kitchen putting together dinner for a bunch of people, it feels like a carefully choreographed dance – stir this time that preheat the oven lay out the ingredients bring this to room temperature put that in the freezer move this pot to the back burner remember the left front doesn’t work scrub the table get out the plates. On and on. You’re moving within a three-foot radius and every movement is tight and controlled. We are all, every one of us, so good at so many things, and we do those things over and over and over. Why are there not more poems by plumbers and welders and daycaregivers and quilters and tree trimmers? So much applause goes to the public and famous and not the short-order cook, when I know that what I’ll remember, and love, and miss when the time comes, is this: the beautiful ordinariness of days.
– Jim Daniels
An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.
I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He ain’t no average joe.
The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop spit spit…
The counter girls laugh.
It is the crucial point-
They are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fries done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
“Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries!”
They look at me funny.
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success,
thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.
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