"And Then We Ate Ribs Behind the Dumpster" by Blake Middleton
I was sitting on a milk-crate behind the dumpster at work, drinking a Topo Chico on my break.
Hichiro walked up. He was on the phone. ‘Okay, babe. Yes, babe. I don’t know, babe. You’ll have to take it to Home Depot. No. Don’t go to Lowes. I’ve got to go. Need to sit down and eat. I love you, too. I don’t know.’
He rolled his eyes, sat down on a milk-crate, lit a cigar.
‘Hey man,’ he said.
‘What’s up Hichiro?’
‘These motherfuckers think I’m stupid,’ he said.
He opened his backpack and pulled out a brown bag, pulled a colt 45 out of the brown bag. He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. ‘They make me work eleven until two and have me come back in at four,’ he said. ‘What the fuck else am I supposed to do?’ He unscrewed the cap, took a drink, stared at nothing for a minute.
He was about to go off about something. You could always tell.
‘Fuck them,’ he said, staring at the ground. He looked up at me. ‘Those motherfuckers think I’m fucking stupid, bro,’ he said louder. And kept on: ‘Listen to this shit. They hired this kid. He’s only been cooking four months. Makes the exact same pay as me. Twelve-fifty an hour. And I started laughing. They think I’m fucking stupid. As soon as my truck is fixed I’m going to Southside. They’re paying cooks fifteen an hour. They want to take all the good cooks away from here and bring them there. Make it a destination. The most they pay in this area is twelve-fifty an hour. Because they can. That’s the best you can get. As soon as my truck is fixed I’m out of here, bro. They give me a two hour break. Whatever. I’m going back in trashed. If my truck was fixed I would put in my two weeks today. The fucking battery and the starter go out in the same fucking week. And they took the tips away. We were making two-thousand a week in tips and the owners are keeping it. They think I’m fucking stupid. They say they’re putting it toward health insurance. Bullshit. And the whole time this fucking kid is on the phone because he sells weed. I was like, hey man, I sell weed, too, but you gotta keep that shit out of work. I’m pulling the weight for the both of us, and we’re both getting paid the same. Listen, man. I looked him in the eyes. I said, how the fuck is that fair, bro? He’s just a kid. I know that, but at the same time. Look. You can’t be fucking stupid like that. So after my shift I talked to the manager. And basically, what I said was, I’ve been cooking thirty-five fucking years. I can’t be making the same as this dumb-ass kid that’s only been cooking four months, and can’t stay off the phone because he’s selling. I didn’t tell them about that though. I wouldn’t do that. So they gave me a fifty cent raise. I started laughing. How the fuck is that suppose to help me? I can get drunk at the bar one extra day a week? I started laughing, bro. They think I’m fucking stupid. I have three degrees. I’ve been an executive chef, a sous chef. I don’t want that stress though. I go to work, do my shit, and go home. No problems. My girl says, I want to see you more. I say, you see me more and we’re fucking broke. Or you see me when you see me and we’re not fucking broke. It’s economics, bro. What the fuck are you drinking?’
‘Soda water,’ I said.
‘Here,’ he said, and handed me the Colt. I took a drink. He smiled.
‘But today is not all shit. You know why?’ He pointed at the smoker behind the restaurant. ‘I got some shit on a fucking deal, bro. It was almost fifty percent off. Fucking full rack of ribs. And the rack was fucking sixteen bucks and I paid nine dollars a rack. And I fucking dry-rubbed the motherfucker. And just. Oh my god. It’s been cooking. It's gonna have a good ass fucking flavor. Because it’s got three different flavor profiles and shit.’ He reached for the Colt. ‘Oh man. I gotta down this shit before I go back in.’ He took another gulp.
‘That’s like ten percent, right?’
‘I don’t know. Gets me fucked up, bro.’
‘I used to drink a lot of Colt. A lot of Cisco. You ever heard of that? It’s like, shitty fortified wine. Bum wine. It’s like eighteen percent alcohol.’
‘Holy mother of God--’
‘It’s like four bucks for a seven-fifty.’
‘Oh my god, bro. Yeah. I remember that in college. We drank some of those. Back in college in Indiana. Mad Dog.’
‘Oh shit. Mad Dog. Yeah.’
‘That motherfucker. Oh my god. That’s a headache, dog. You drink that bitch in the heat, an hour later you’re like, oh my god, man, what did I do, you know?’
‘Because it’s so strong.’
‘I used to drive up to Georgia just to buy forty-ounces of Colt.’
‘Yeah I remember, they sold that shit, man. Them forty-ouncers. They had Mad Dog 2020. You want to buy them motherfuckers. Just like that. Mad Dog 2020. You smoke weed?’ He opened his backpack and pulled out a joint.
‘Sometimes,’ I said.
He lit the joint, took a couple hits, then passed it to me, and I took a couple hits.
‘Tony, man,’ he said, breathing out smoke. ‘I can’t believe that motherfucker got fired. For the stupidest shit, too. They wanted him out. That’s all. Nobody fucking gets fired for something like that. You know what I mean? That's something where you’re supposed to council the fucking person. And say, if you fuck up again you’re fired.’
‘Yeah that was over nothing.’
‘That’s why I laughed. I said, you fucking fired him? Barbara fired him?’
‘No, she didn’t want to. Ted made her.’
‘Fucking Teddy wanted him out.’
‘They sent one of the cooks home today. He was going too slow. Billy.’
‘He came out here all distressed-looking. I was smoking a blunt before my shift.’
‘The Chef was in a bad mood today.’
‘Because, uh, you have production in a fucking kitchen. Look. This is what I told him, man. You pay peanuts, you’re gonna get monkeys, motherfucker. You’re gonna get people that are only worth ten bucks. You don’t wanna pay me what I’m worth, that’s okay. But they promised me my fucking rate that they were gonna give me after ninety days. They let me go two days after my ninety days. I didn’t even argue. I just looked at them. I started laughing. Because I knew they were fucked letting me go. I said, listen man, you guys just fucked yourself. But that’s cool though. That’s cool. I don’t wanna be somewhere that I’m not wanted. They said it was Nick. I said Bullshit. Nick’s my boy. I knew Nick five years before I knew any of you motherfuckers. Nick would not throw me under the bus like that, bro. He ain’t gonna do it, you know what I’m saying? I know Nick. I know it was Chef. I fucked up though. I was telling Barbara. Look. I was really high and coked out of my mind. I mean, I was lit, bro. So I fucking told Chef that I could out-cook him.’
I laughed. I was stoned. ‘You told chef that?’
‘Fuck yeah, man. You have to understand his forte. He’s so young still. And his forte is only up to this much.’ He lifted his hand up to his neck. ‘And I’ve been cooking for thirty-five fucking years. I got tricks you don’t even fucking know. You know what I mean? I just laugh, man. Cause there’s nothing else for me to do. But apparently I fucked up. Because Barbara said, Oh yeah, you should have never have fucking said that. I said, yeah, I know I fucked up. He has a big-ass fucking chip on his shoulder. Like he’s the dog, man. It’s like, dude. You went to Japan for a fucking year. Maybe two. I know motherfuckers that went there seven years just to learn shit. You went there two. Big fucking deal. What the fuck are you showing me? You ain’t showing me shit, bro. You can see this shit on the motherfucking cooking channel, bitch. These motherfuckers I know are the ones that cook in cocaine country and go to the villages to learn how to cook. That’s the fucking shit you’re supposed to do. Travel there, man. It’ll change your whole life, you know what I mean? I’m so excited, man. I’ve got another what, hour on these fucking ribs. Fuck yeah, man. I threw it in at nine-fifteen. What time is it now?’ He looked at his phone. ‘Three-nineteen. It’s been in there almost motherfucking, like, six hours. Motherfucking bar-b-que ribs in that bitch. In that smoker right now. Just waiting for me. Waiting for me, bro.’
He took a hit of the blunt and a swig of Colt.
I liked listening to Hichiro talk. I asked him if he’s ever cooked anywhere else in the U.S.
‘I’m originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, bro. So I’m used to high-volume. Fucking extreme stressful situations. Because that’s how you get trained there. If you can’t handle it, you can’t work there. If you can’t work a union job you’re fucked. Then you’re stuck working at the fucking outside casinos where they only pay nine, ten bucks. I work at Caesars Palace. I work at fucking Steve Wynn hotel. I don’t work for fucking Donald Trump’s stupid-ass at the fucking Bullshit Mahal. Caesars Palace is fucking bad-ass. All union jobs. You walk in there. My first job was a fucking egg-cook. Doing breakfast at a buffet place. Maaan, so many fucking eggs, bro.’
‘I know about that shit.’
‘I fucking love that shit, bro.’
‘I used to work Sunday brunch. They’d make frittatas. They’d load up a rack with hundreds.’
‘I love cooking, bro. It’s been my passion. I just can’t find anyone that wants to pay me. Everyone wants to fucking nickel and dime you because you’re a cook. I stopped putting out my resume now. I need two jobs. Because my old lady is up north. She was only supposed to be there for two months because her aunt has three kinds of cancer. She’s sixty-eight years old, man. She’s, uh, she’s taking this medication where she can’t even go to the bathroom by herself. She needs fucking help, man. So my old lady is over there and she just told me yesterday, she’s like, hey it may be delayed another month. So I’m like, damn, I miss my kid, bro. I miss my fucking kid, bro. I’m alone. I’m bored. That’s why I wanna find a second job. I’m just sitting at the fucking house drinking every fucking night. Cause there ain’t nothing to do. There ain’t nothing to do, man. I do my shit and then I’m done. I’m like, putter putter putter putter over there. I’m like, fuck this, bro. So I’ll start fucking pounding beer. Tonight I’m taking it easy. Because I wanna do shit this weekend. We’ll see.’
‘You still go out to the bar or just hangout at your place?’
‘I stopped doing that. It just didn’t make sense for me to spend eight dollars. And then tip every time. Because that’s all I would get there anyways was shots. And spend twenty, thirty bucks, when I know a place close to my house where it’s two four-packs of Colt sixteen-ouncers for eight bucks.’
‘Damn. That’s a good night.’
‘You feel me? It’s like a fucking dollar a piece. So I’m just gonna go home, man. I said, fuck! This is shit! You know? That way I can just sit at the house. I can smoke as much weed as I want. I can get as drunk as I want and nobody’s gonna say shit. Well actually, I like, limit myself to like four, maybe five. Because I get pretty drunk off of them when you’re just sitting down. When you’re moving it’s different. When you sit down, bro, that’s it. You’re fucked. I don’t know why. I can drink this shit on my break and it’s nothing. But I drink the same amount sitting down. I’m gone. I’m gone, man. I’m fucking like this, bro.’ He stuck out his tongue and made a face like he was dead and held up his Colt 45. ‘After two tallboys I’m fucking nearly passed out. It’s like, oh my god, bro. Because look, I’m a little guy. Fuck’s going on, you know?’
‘Colt’s are strong.’
‘And Patron. Oooh, I love Patron.’
‘I drink a lot of wine. I drink whiskey sometimes.’
‘You ever drank D’usse XO?’ He took another drink.
‘Two-hundred bucks a bottle.’
‘Whiskey, man. This shit. It’s the champagne of cognacs. It’s in that family. But it’s called D’usse, dog. It’s fucking smooth. And it’s so fucking strong. If you drink like, four shots, you’re fucked, and you don’t even know it. Yeah man. My brother-in-law drinks a whole fucking bottle of that shit, bro. Drop like two-hundred dollars. But he has a landscaping business so that ain’t shit for him. He probably made that off of like three lawns and he said fuck it, I’m getting drunk tonight. And he’s the same as me. He just fucking drinks at the house. He don’t drive. When you start driving that’s when you get in trouble. I might have a Colt on break but I sober up when it’s time to go home. Fuck yeah. Why leave drunk? Are you fucking nuts? Shit.’
It was quiet for a minute. We passed the Colt back and forth.
‘You want a rib, bro?’
He walked over to the smoker and grabbed a couple ribs. He sat down on the milk-crate.
He handed me a rib.
‘Cheers,’ he said.
He held his rib in the air, out in my direction.
‘Cheers,’ I said.
I held my rib in the air and touched it to his.
And then we ate ribs behind the dumpster.