The fragrant buns paraded past Kendra as she stood in the kitchen clenching her arms to her chest. It was her first day and she had been ordered to watch from the wall as the morning’s work was loaded up on trays and put on carts for delivery.
“You’ll get squashed like a bug.” Don said rubbing flour between his thick calloused fingers. “It’s better to just stand back and take things in for a couple of days.” He slapped the dough and then fed it gracefully through the rollers.
Jerry smiled from the other side of the rollers, his already round face swelling with the gesture. “It’s a little overwhelming. You’re not going to get everything in a day or a week or a month. A little at a time.”
Once the buns were gone Don waved her over, dough clinging to his knuckles. He handed her dirty dishes to take back to the washer.“Don’t feel useless. We all feel useless when we first start anything. When you feel useless, you start thinking about what everybody else is thinking. Don’t do that. You just got to watch today.” He set down his own load next to the washer. “If you want to know what we’re thinking, it’s this girl is too hard on herself. She needs to give herself time.”
Kendra tried to smile but wasn’t sure if that was the right response. She wasn’t sure what Don was looking for in her. She scanned the corner where the dishwasher rested. It was quiet and plenty of dirty dishes stacked up in racks waiting for someone to do something. Don pushed a red button that hung from the ceiling. Nothing happened and then the green one.
“No juice!” Don’s heavy brows crashed together. “Jerry? Who’s scheduled back here today?”
“Dishwasher?” Jerry’s round face peeked around the corner, his dark hair visible under his paper cap. “Is it Tuesday? I think it’s Tom. He’s bus gets here a quarter after.”
Don nodded as he adjusted his cap that stuck damply to his forehead. “That’s right. He’s got that damn bus. You know how busses are always late?” He shook his head.
“You take the bus, Kendra?”
“Sometimes.” She rubbed her arm scanning the wall for the main power switch. “The bus doesn’t run early enough where I live to get here in the morning.”
“You have a car?” Don asked as he shoved racks aside looking for the switch too. “My mom does. She works swing shift, so I can use it on the early mornings. Though, I also bike a lot of places. If I bike down to 20th, I can catch the train to Laurelhurst and then ride the rest of the way.”
“In the dark?” Don raised his grey eyebrows. They reminded her of an owl.
“I’ve got good gear. Don’t worry.” Kendra smiled. “But my mom said I could use the car if I need to. She has a direct route to her work. Plus, I’ll be looking for my own place eventually. Someplace with a better commute maybe?”
“Tommy is always looking for a roommate.” Jerry said washing the white flour off his dark skin. “Though I’m not sure the commute would be any easier.”
“Hey, you guys talking about me already? I though I’d been good this week.” A voice called from around the corner.
“Yeah, sure!” Jerry laughed. “We got a new girl starting today.”
“Really?” A tall young man with dark eyes stepped into the wash area. He tucked his dark curls behind his ears as he pulled out a red bandana to tie over his hair. “Oh, she’s pretty.”
Kendra felt her cheeks burn. She hated it when adults talked about her like she couldn’t hear what they were saying about her. Plus, what did prettiness have to do with anything?
“My name is Kendra.” She waved at him, trying to fight the impulse to hide behind Don.
Tommy stepped forward and offered a hand. She shook it. His fingers were thin and she could feel callouses on his fingers. Callouses always seemed like a good sign to Kendra. She looked around trying to find an escape out of the corner she found herself. Both Jerry and Tommy were blocking her exit.
“I should probably get out of your way.” Kendra looked away from Tommy’s grin. “Nothing like being in everyone’s way the first day.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Don about buckled Kendra’s knees as he laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. After working balls of dough bigger than her for years, the man just didn’t know he’s own strength. Jerry and Tommy who were both a few years older than Kendra were looking at each other in some form of communication as they parted to allow Don and Kendra through.
She breathed easier out in the open. Don chuckled. “It’s been awhile since we’ve had a girl here.” He wagged his owlbrows at Kendra. “No worries. I’m always in favor of it. Makes the young fellows get to work on time and makes them work harder.” He chuckled again.
Great. She sighed to herself. “Where’s the bathroom?”
Don smiled and pointed to a hallway. Kendra needed a few moments of alone time. Too many things to take in today.
Photo credit: Stacy Spensley