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Rated: ASR · Assignment · Contest · #2014954
Describe a setting. Use all five senses and make your reader experience the setting.
Madonna was told rather abruptly by the ranch owner how long she would have to work to pay off her car repairs. It was embarrassing to admit that she took off on this job hunting road trip so woefully underprepared. She felt fortunate that she even found a working ranch out here in the middle of nowhere that was willing to help her in her emergency state. The ranch owner was not kind. He pointed his finger at his foreman and ordered him, “Crusty, get her set up. You know what to do.” She sheepishly looked at the short grumpy man referred to as Crusty and felt totally foolish as she listened to a string of uncomplimentary epitaphs from the ranch owner who was retreating back to his appointed task in the pastures. Madonna was only 5’5 inches tall herself, but could look the foreman in the eye, and he looked like he was straight out of a western movie with his bowed legs and bushy gray mustache and floppy hat pulled low over his eyes.

Crusty looked her straight in the eye and curtly told her, “The name is Duane Sanford. You can call me sir, or Mr. Sanford. Do you understand?” Madonna bit her lower lip and nodded. “The mess hall is over here. I will have it unlocked at 5:30 every morning and lock it at 4:00 every day. You will prepare breakfast and lunch, and food boxes for the overnight and weekend crews. Your hours will be 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and as needed for weekend events. “

Madonna had the impression that Mr. Sanford had given this same speech numerous times as he seemed to have it down by rote. “What happens on weekends?”

“Hold your horses.”

As they got to the building with signage identifying it as the kitchen, Duane stopped and pointed to a metal triangle with a metal wand attached with twine to the triangle. Crusty gruffly said, “That’s for emergencies, not for calling the men for meals or any other reason. There will always be someone close enough to hear it. Do you understand?”

Madonna nodded wondering why he was so irritated. He opened the rough-hewn wood door and allowed her to pass through first. It was nice to get out of the hot dusty heat. The dust mixed with sweat and left a weird dirty salty taste on her lips. Upon entering the large room, she moved to the right noting that there were two round tables in the dining area that could hold eight people each. One of the tables was set off in what appeared to be a small kitchenette area. “There are three overnight workers and two weekend crews and they eat in this area. You will stock the fridge with three lunch pails by the end of your shift Monday through Thursday , and two lunches and suppers for the weekenders every Friday. Make sure the breakfast cabinet and coffee station is stocked every Friday. Only the weekenders, overnights and you have a key for this fridge and this cabinet. We let the men use the coffee maker and microwave. You will be responsible for keeping this area stocked and cleaned. Do you understand?”

Madonna’s nose wrinkled as she nodded. “When was the last time that coffeepot was cleaned?”

“Cain’t say. Why?”

“It smells … odd.” Madonna moved over to the kitchenette area, found a cup and poured a little ‘coffee’ into the cup. She cautiously took a sip of the brew and quickly spit it into the nearby wastebasket. “And tastes moldy.”

“Guess you got yourself another job to add to the list.”

Crusty did not see Madonna’s jaw drop because he had turned to point to the pass through wall that divided the eating area and the kitchen. It was set up cafeteria style with the trays and cutlery on one end, two pass-through windows with roll down metal dividers, with a bussing area on the other end. As he walked down the service area, he pounded on the metal grids and said, “You will pull these down and latch them at the end of your shift.” He walked over to the bus area and said, “This screen will be pulled out during meal service. No one wants to see the garbage pail or dirty dishes when they are eating. Do you understand?”

This time Madonna said “Yes, sir. But I want someone else to take out the garbage. That stinks. And it’s too heavy.”

Crusty cleared his throat as he walked back towards her and mumbled, “One of the men will do that.” As he got back to the side of the room that Madonna was on he said, “Your work space will be in here.” He unlocked and held a metal swing door open for her to follow him through. She noted that there was a restaurant quality dishwashing machine on the kitchen side of the bus service area. “The men know to clean their trays and put them in the rack. If you manage your time, you will only have to wash dishes once a day.” Madonna walked over to the dishwashing machine and looked it over.

“I have not worked with something like this. Will there be training on how to use it and clean it?” Crusty nodded. Madonna dragged her left hand along the steel counter and sink next to the automatic dishwasher. She rolled the squeaky trolleys that were used for moving heavy items or a lot of small items were stored under the counter. She pulled open and inspected the contents in the steel drawers where the counter turned. This is where the knives, towels, spices, and cookbooks were stored. She opened the overhead metal cabinets that went from the far wall, and ended over the stove and oven. She noted a variety of pots, pans lids, mixing and baking items. She played with the knobs of the Garland gas range. “Mr. Sanford, I’ve never worked with a restaurant quality range before, will there be someone to train me?” Crusty nodded, “My wife can do that.”

“Can you have one of the guys oil up that door and these trolleys. They squeak something awful. It’s very annoying.”

“Yep, I can take care of that.” The backdoor was to the right-hand side of the stove. She tugged on the door, and ran her fingers over the smooth metal by the doorknob, searching for a lock, but could not open it. Crusty walked over and showed her that the lock was at the top of the door and that it had a magnetic stop that would hold it propped open for deliveries or if she burned something. Madonna’s eyes twinkled when she quipped, “My guess is you would not be saying that unless it happened.”

Crusty half smiled and said, “It is also why the dinner bell is for emergencies only. You are expected to put out a small fire by yourself. Do you understand?”

Madonna laughed and nodded when she heard the dry wit tone in his voice. “Yes, Mr. Sanford, I understand. Does that fire alarm work?”

Crusty rolled his eyes and allowed he’d heard it go off a time or two … or more. “Let’s just say that some of the cooks were dumber than a box of rocks. After the first one tried to burn the place down, boss made sure that everything near the stove was metal, right down to the spoons.” Then he pointed to the two rooms to the right of the back door. “This one is the pantry, this area is the assembly area for what you cook and this is the walk-in cooler. There is a chest freezer in there. “

Madonna poked her head in the pantry and put her hand over her nose. “What’s that smell?”

Crusty shrugged his shoulders. “Cain’t say. Why?”

Madonna shook her head and sighed, and then entered the walk-in cooler. She again put her hand up to her nose and had to leave. As she came back into the middle of the kitchen she tentatively asked, “I’m sorry to say this but both these rooms have an odd smell, will there be someone to help me clean them out?”

Crusty had at least looked somewhat embarrassed as he said, “My wife can hep with that. Um, oh! This island is on rollers if you need to move it.” Duane pulled open the only drawer in the island and said, “Keep your inventory on this clipboard and I will enter what you used at the end of the day. If you have a special request, you just ask. Alright? Don’t go orderin nuthin without my say so. We buy in bulk, so plan it out and use dry or canned when you can. We cain’t be goin into town every day because you messed up. Um … next … um …. cain’t say it any plainer than this: you will eat your meals in here. There is no time that you will eat with the crew. Do you understand?”

Madonna was still smiling and said, “Yes, Mr. Sanford, I understand that there must be historical reasons for those rules”

Crusty warmed up a little and offered, “Lord knows that ain’t the half of it. And you can call me Duane if you have a mind to.”

Madonna held out her hand and said, “Duane, thank you, I won’t let you down. My friends call me Donni.”

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