“Saravana! Chicken 65! 2 more orders! 10 minutes!”
“Bastards” thought Saravana, as he diced the meat. “No creativity. There are 15 other items in the menu, but nobody looks beyond Chicken 65”
“In their defense, I think that’s what tastes best with the alcohol” chimed Kural, the kitchen assistant.
“I’m just saying. It’s only 4 o clock and I’ve already cut up 6 birds”
“Is that a new knife?”
“You noticed! Yes yes, it’s new. I got it only today. It’s designed for cutting meat. But the way things are going, it’s going to get blunt by the end of the night.”
“Yea yea. Now’s the time those underaged kids come. Morons. They’re the worst. Don’t know how to handle alcohol and end up puking all over just when the actual customers come. It’s becoming more like TASMAC with each passing day.”
“Haha. They’re very entertaining. Especially those girls. Imagine what would happen if their parents found out”
“I have a feeling they already know. Yesterday, I saw this girl at table 2 drinking with her father.”
“Hahahaha! Chancey illa! How’d you find out?”
“I don’t know – she looked 19 and he looked 45. I just assumed.”
“Don’t assume Kural, these days, anything is possible”
“Chicken 65, 2 plates, order up!” Saravana called out.
“I’ll go” offered Kural as he took the heavy tray into the smoky pub. The kitchen ticket said Table 4 and as he neared his destination, he smirked. Underage kids. And it looked like a birthday party – there were 3 boys and 3 girls, none of them older than 20 and they had an enormous cake already on the table.
“Eii! Your order has commmee. Get me another drink already!” said one of the girls in a high pitched voice. She seemed particularly drunk. Must be the birthday girl, guessed Kural.
“I want….I want…one laaarge vodka. Laarge. You understand?”
“Yes Ma’am. With?”
“I don’t knowww. Eii, what should I have it with?” she asked, poking the boy sitting next to her.
“How many rounds did you have?”
She started counting her fingers. “Onnne. Twoo. Three. Three! Three rounds onnnly”
Some friend, thought Kural. It was clearly this girl’s first time and he was already overloading her.
“Okay. I want one laarge vodka. And one redbull okayy?” she trilled.
“Yes Ma’am. Anybody want anything else?”
“Ohhh!” interrupted Birthday Girl. “I want a knife! I have to cut the cake. It’s my birthday” she smiled.
Kural nodded and headed back into the kitchen. Saravana was cutting up another bird.
“Can you believe it?” he asked. “Another 3 plates of Chicken fucking 65! I quit.”
“I want your knife”
“I know customers can be assholes sometimes Kural, and I have thought about it myself a few times too, but murder is simply not the answer.”
“Thoo. Some drunk 17 year old wants to cut her birthday cake. Give me the damn knife already.”
“Why such a hurry? Figure aa?”
“Chi. She’s piss drunk. It’s her birthday after all. Let her cut her cake before she pukes on it.”
“Yes officer” smiled Saravana as he washed the knife and handed it over to Kural. “Make sure you get it back! It’s brand new!”
35 more orders of Chicken 65 later, it was closing time. Saravana was cleaning up his work area when Kural plopped on the table next to him, exhausted.
“Man I hate Wednesdays”
“Tell me about it”
“Your knife! I forgot to get it back!”
“I knew I wouldn’t get it back the moment you took it. I’ll get a new one tomorrow. If there’s anything I love, it’s billing the management.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes yes. Need to get it first thing in the morning tomorrow.”
“First thing in the morning? What’s so special about that knife anyway?”
“Nothing. It just cuts so well.”
“Shrinidhi! Could you get the door?”
“Yes Ma, going”
“Must be Kamala Maami” Prabha mumbled. “Varshaporuppu and she shows up half an hour late. Why is it so hard to get a cook these days”
“Sorry I’m late! Bus-ey kadaikala” said Kamala maami, half sprinting into the kitchen. “Varshaporuppu also. What are you making?”
“I’ve already started on the thaligai, maami, but why don’t you get going with the Paayasam. It’s the neivedyam. I’ll ask Shrinidhi t o help you”
“Aiyyo, its okay. She’s just a child. Let her stay away from the kitchen.”
“Just a child? Maami, she turned 19 day before yesterday.”
“Oh yes oh yes, I forgot. What did you all do?”
“Nothing, maami. She said she was going out with her friends. She went out and showed up one whole hour after the time she said she’d be back. Didn’t talk to me, or even her sister. She just went straight to sleep.”
“She must have been tired. ”
“Ennavo maami. It was the first time we even let her out that late. Next day we took her to the temple.”
“Nice. Where is the Jaggery?”
“Third shelf. Oh, when you’re cutting it up, make sure you don’t use the red knife.”
“Illa maami, it’s just that I use it to cut onions. I don’t want the same for the neivedyam you know?”
“What about this one?” Prabha looked carefully at the knife Kamala Maami was holding – it had a long black handle and what seemed like a very sharp serrated edge.
“I don’t remember seeing that knife. I don’t know, it must be new….Oh what the hell, I don’t remember cutting onions with it, so go ahead.”
Kamala maami shrugged and went ahead dicing the jaggery. She stopped after a few cuts and took a long hard look at the knife.
“What happened, maami? Is there anything wrong with the knife?”
“Nothing. It just cuts so well.”