Barrett had been searching the classifieds for weeks when he saw the job opening for a night cook at The Emporium, the only bar in Creston.
PM COOK NEEDED
The Emporium is looking for a night cook.
Burgers, wings, quesadillas, etc.
Must be able to make chicken dinner.
$10 per hour to start.
Apply in person Tuesdays 4–7pm
There weren’t very many jobs in Creston, especially right after harvest. Usually the only employment opportunities during that time were with the string of fast food restaurants situated right off the freeway on the western end of Creston. Barrett had worked at each one, and after six off seasons he had cycled through all of them. Usually the only choices after harvest were to find a job in Chico and make the thirty mile drive twice a day, work at one of the fast food places, or go on unemployment.
He had to get this job.
The following Tuesday at 4:15 he appeared at The Emporium wearing crisp wranglers and stiff Justin boots. The bar’s owner, a wealthy retired farmer and landowner named Mr. Graham, was sitting in the back reading the Wheels & Deals.
“You’re gonna need to do a test run. Make a chicken dinner,” Mr. Graham said thickly “Another fella got here right when we opened, so you’re gonna have to wait.”
“No problem sir!” Barrett called back, trying to hide his confusion by tugging on his belt loops. How hard could it be to make a chicken dinner?
Barrett waited for almost an hour while the other applicant banged around in the kitchen. Finally the man burst out of the swinging doors with a plate full of sizzling fried chicken. It looked delicious, but before he even set the plate on the table Mr. Graham stood up.
“Wrong!” the old man shouted. “Wrong!”
The man froze. The sizzling of the chicken was the only sound.
Mr. Graham looked at Barrett, “Everything you’ll need is in there,” he said flatly as he gestured toward the kitchen.
Barrett walked through the swinging doors, heading towards the meat refrigerator.
“Good luck,” the other guy mumbled to him as he stumbled out the back door.
The meat refrigerator was filled with chicken of all kinds. Whole chicken, chicken breast, wings, game hens, thighs, liver. This was a test. Barrett only had to pick the right type of chicken in order to get the job. The other guy took the easy way out. How hard was it to make fried chicken?
The pantry had almost every cooking ingredient one could imagine. Barrett decided to make butter roasted chicken, which was his speciality. It was an odd request but if all he had to in order to land a job just a mile from his house was to cook a simple chicken dinner, he’d do it.
Barrett took his time. He took so long that other applicants arrived, waited, grew impatient and left, but he didn’t care. After two and a half hours he came out of the kitchen with a whole roasted chicken, perfectly browned with pools of butter and juice gathering underneath.
Mr. Graham stood up.
“Wrong!” he shouted. “Wrong, wrong, wrong!”
Embarrassed, Barrett slapped the chicken down on the table and left out the front door. Unemployment couldn’t be more embarrassing than this.
“Jesus Christ!” Mr. Graham said as he pulled a wing off of Barrett’s roast chicken, “Don’t any of these rednecks know how to make a hard boiled egg?”
-For Michael Champlin