After the Wedding Party
To dance in a grand hotel – the flagship
of a family business! To dine and toast
under vintage chandeliers! The grandson
– a third generation in the business –
got married here last weekend. The “associates”
had to see that everything was perfect.
And now it’s Monday. The heir wakes
with his bride. Maids and chefs head
to another shift, or second jobs. Today, of all days,
the inspector shows up, headed for
the seventh-floor kitchen. She passes
bored young cousins from out of town –
tired now of bland aunts and uncles.
The restless boys wander the halls,
with permission to fill the ice bucket, or go
to the lobby gift shop for postcards,
Twizzlers and gum. While snorting
about tuxedos – the ruffled shirts men
had to wear – they hear plates being racked
behind a door. It opens. They gasp to see
silky fishnet diamonds – the black hairnet
on a dish washer’s brow. That grown man
leans out, for a moment of cool air, while
the dish machine steams behind him.
The boys’ eyes meet his for a moment. Then
they elbow each other to the elevator, to
be alone with their wondering mirth, their scorn.
Floor seven – the inspector opens her notepad.
She studies the aftermath and wonders:
where to begin?
She sees crab claws reclined in a sink, at the
edge of bacon grease glaciers. Stout mixing bowls
overflowed with leftover frosting
never to crown a famous cake.
A flour bin’s wheels were stained purple
from rolling over sliced beets. Bottle caps
floated like battleships in yellow barrels,
above plastic bags collapsed in melted ice.
Stirring sticks and doilies stared from
the floor. The porcelain sink was clogged. It
seemed to whisper credos about exceeding
expectations, as if battered white tulips could hear.
The party was over. Over. She imagines
pastry chefs on amphetamines, porters
seized by St. Anthony’s Fire. An enormous
spigoted aluminum pot was tilted but didn’t fall.
They’d stuffed a cake with striped icing into a box,
piled stained linens against the west wall; dropped
cashew nuts and dinner roll crumbs onto
measuring spoons and ladles, then
froze – it seemed – punched out, and went home.
Now a bus boy reads the paper in the basement
locker room, then changes into blue coveralls.
On the freight elevator floor rest three tapered
baby carrots who attended the wedding ball. All
ride together silently. He knows such carrots
are like aristocrats. They keep their green,
fringed foliage – it sets them apart
from the mass. He often reads the heraldic
signs around him, along with postings about
the rules and his rights. He remembers
a full wall of ceramic beer steins
on display at a place he worked nights.
Once he picked one up for a closer look,
carefully lifting its pewter head. It played
an old world tune over and over – How we danced
on the night we were wed!
Too Long to Stop Now
All winter Michael’s had placemats
with facts about the ancient Greeks.
columns, a broken bust of Zeus –
something to look at
till the eggs and hash browns come.
Look down at thin-skinned Zeus –
sporting huge pectoral muscles –
or across to Maurice –
who watches the door or CNN.
June’s new mats feature games
and puzzles for children. Strange –
families rarely eat at Michael’s.
Here are six cartoon fish
festooned with goofy fins –
differing in small details, but two
are alike. Which two? Maurice
isn’t somber today, but his eyes
are cast straight down.
Not gloom this morning – I don’t
think so. Often, but not always.
I look down myself – then I know – but
to confirm, I tap for his attention:
Maurice, are you solving the fish?
and he nods yes.
Sue Blaustein lives and writes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Last summer, she retired from the Milwaukee Health Department after 25 years as a food safety inspector. She also served as an officer of her union (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) local. She volunteers in the Community Science program of the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center and does storytelling with Ex Fabula, a group that “Strengthens Community Bonds Through Storytelling”.
Sue Blaustein’s bio and publication credits are at www.sueblaustein.com.