Chhhhh. The patty hisses as it hits the flat top, followed by the press of the spatula, expelling its remaining vitals onto the heated slab. It soon becomes an acrobat, flipping and twirling in the air, sticking the landing.
“The judges give it a perfect 10!” Hartland screams.
“Ey, Harty, dammit, can you keep it down? I mean I’m all for ‘avin fun in the workplace, sure, but we’re packed out there,” a voice calls around the corner to the kitchen.
“Oh right, yeah, sorry boss, right,” Hartland sheepishly calls back around the corner, gazing downward at the circles looking up at him, arranged into what looks like a game of connect four. He pushes them around, flipping them occasionally, until he’s made a giant, smiling face gazing up at him. He chuckles to himself until he’s brought out of his trance by a familiar voice.
“Christ Sake Harty, come on man, I’ve heard of playing with your food, but you’re the guy cookin’ it. This ticket has been waitin’ for almost 20 minutes now for two burgers, now get it together.” Hartland’s boss leans under the hot light looking at his back, “Are you even listenin’ to me?”
Hartland flips a burger above his head, catching it behind his back on a bun. He puts two plates in the window, garnishing the burgers with the array of garden veggies he finds at his cooking station.
“Two burgers, extra well done, lettuce, tamatahs, pickles, mustard, and pure 100% American cheese from right here in Wisconsin. Order up,” he calls out, tapping the bell with the spatula in the window next to his boss’s irritated face.
“Dammit Harty, just cook the fuckin’ food. It’s a business, not a playground,” the face spats.
Hatland is the best fry cook in Madison, not that it really meant anything to him, he just loves to cook. He scrapes the gristle and grease from the face of the grill.
“Good as new, and might I say, you look fabulous this evening, my dear,” he winks at his lover, blemishing her profile once more with another round of puck-shaped meat. He turns back around, gazing at the line of tickets dangling from the window under the heat lamp.
“Two rodeos, a grease monkey, and an Elvis, all medium,” Hartland calls out down the line to the other cooks. They respect Hartland, his enthusiasm reminds them how much they love cooking on their dimmer days.
“Heard,” both call back in unison, a choir to Hartland’s ears as he presses the meat down for the priming of the cymbals.
“How am I looking on ticket 12?” The boss’s voice rings out once more, bringing Hartland’s symphony to a decrescendo. Hartland flips the burgers once more and begins to layer them with their appropriate garden attire.
“Comin at ya fast, boss,” Hartland calls out, putting the burgers in the window awaiting their french fries. He gets a rush out of sensation of unknown that accompanies working in the kitchen. Each night, a different set of orders, a different challenge that he has to overcome.
“That was the last ticket, good job tonight guys, thanks for hangin’ in there. Go ahead and close it down,” the voice from the other side of the window says, disappearing around the corner with the plates of food.
“Heard,” all three voices in the kitchen call back as Hartland’s hand reaches up and turns off the heat lamp.