Kitchen Prep with Rain and Hail

Kyle Manning
Fiction


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Photo Credit: ADM

For just an hour the rain fell, as in the world there are fleeting changes. It was a Friday evening and Tom and Maria were on as usual, with her punching the register and filling drinks while he cooked one pizza at a time. Maria usually liked those shifts, how they came and went quickly with the rush. But that hour was long, with the constant reminder of everything outside of a kitchen. The rain came and went, and by the time Maria left later that night the sewers had swallowed even that heavy burden.

Just after the rain began, however, just after the wind really picked up and the things outside grew into upheaval as they shook and made noise, somebody shut the front door, and the entire place began to boil in the heat of its own ovens. Tom reached for towels, drenched them with sweat. Maria chewed ice and arranged the dishes that would later need to be cleaned, fumbled around, hoped the heat would end soon, but never wanted to drop slack. Tom was a friend, but it had always been that he had given her this job.

Her eyes did wander. Customers, concerned among tables, their movements synchronized with straightened backs and head turns. Talk of tornado warnings.

For as long as it lasted, the wind and rain only grew. The water came high over the sidewalk ledge, and everyone seemed to catch it like a hint. Plates full of food grew cold, as people either scurried to watch or hide beneath their tables and chairs. The young busboy kept his gray bucket on the counter and just stood by watching the tall windows, more full of action and adventure than a movie screen.

The drone of rain became the knock of hail. Orders stopped coming in, and the seventeen-year-old delivery boy had yet to return from an in-town order. Maria eyed the phone for so many minutes before blocking Tom from reaching the freezer. “Collin should have been back,” she said to him. “Look how high the water is.”

Tom loved Maria, because he had gone through three other girls before he had found her—he said that whenever he could, in a voice as if he truly meant it, to his old friends passing through who just wanted to get their pizzas and leave.

Maria knew those girls from high school, and hadn’t seen any of them in years.

“It’ll pass,” Tom said. “Give it some time, it’ll pass.”

And it did pass—in fifteen minutes Maria was filling orders and the busboy was emptying half-full trays into the kitchen garbage can—but not before she left the counter unattended, took the boy by the shoulders and sat him down away from the window and next to a frightened family. The child was wrapped in the mother, and the father peeked out. The metal roof screamed and the tall windows cried, and it would all be over soon.

At its height, there was some great flash. Seconds later Maria felt a pound—and then a rattling boom—the sound of Tom kneading tomorrow’s dough.

pencilKyle Manning grew up in Highland Lakes, New Jersey, but lives and writes in central Maine. He studies Creative Writing and English at the University of Maine at Farmington, and his fiction and nonfiction has appeared in The Sandy River Review. Email: kmanning016[at]gmail.com

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