Chapter 1

Moses Lake

Peeling potatoes at 4 o’clock in the morning to the hum of a refrigerator compressor was hypnotic.  The kitchen of Nona’s Café was hot, even with the back door propped open to the summer night. I sat on an upside-down, empty five-gallon shortening can, fighting sleep, placing peeled potatoes into a French fry cutter. With the pull of a handle the fries fell into another five-gallon shortening can filled with cold water and a chemical called Potato White, which kept the spuds from turning brown.  The formaldehyde in it also kept the salads looking fresh.
        I had to have all the potatoes ready before the construction workers and farmers showed up for breakfast.  The hash browns were steamed, grated and heaped on plates in the fridge ready for the cook to reach in for a handful to slap into a puddle of oil on the hot grill.
        Before long, the French fries were ready.  I dragged the potato sack to its place in the back of the kitchen.  I could feel the cool morning air drift in through the open door.  It brought with it the scent of fresh desert air and the color of sunrise. But there was no time to rest.  Soon the jukebox kicked in filling the café with popular music, and the waitresses shouted orders into the kitchen, “ham an’ over easy”, “short stack,” while “order up” came back from the cook.
        Sleep was forgotten as the kitchen went into

Return     - 1 -     Next