Excerpt from Hot Flash by Kathy Carmichael
Birthdays are like a box of Tampax.
When the box is new, you thoughtlessly reach in and grab another but as the box empties you start worrying about running out before you’re ready.
Not only was my Tampax supply getting low, but it was my fortieth flipping birthday, and did I mention I was bloated, too?
I stood in my bathroom, styling my hair and trying to get ready for a night out with the girls when my phone rang. My stomach sank as I read the caller ID and saw it was from the hotel restaurant where I work as sous chef.
“Jill, you’ve got to get down here. Right now.” Big E, the pastry chef’s words quickly tumbled out.
I put down my blow dryer. “What’s wrong now?”
“Chef Radkin is what’s wrong. He’s always what’s wrong.”
“It’s my birthday,” I whined, but I knew my protestations were useless. The five-star chef, while incredibly talented, was equally gifted at creating problems — especially when I wasn’t at La Papillon to discourage him from drinking. For some reason, I was the designated problem-fixer. “Can’t you handle the disaster du jour?”
“You’re the only one who he’ll listen to.”
“I don’t want to be late to my own birthday party. Can you put Radkin on the phone?”
“That’s not possible. I’m sorry, Jill, but if you don’t come, Juan will freeze to death. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?”
I hate it when he appeals to my inner guilt and makes me feel like I’m responsible for what happens there.
Within a short time, I entered the kitchen at La Papillon, only to observe Chef Radkin standing in front of the huge restaurant freezers, swinging a saucepan at one of the dishwashers who looked as if he was trying to open the freezer behind the mad chef.
As I stepped close, sure enough, I could just make out a very blue and probably frost bitten Juan through the tiny freezer window. Surely that wasn’t an icicle dangling from his nose?
“So, Radkin,” I said boldly, counting on his creepy crush on me to keep him from smashing my face in with the shiny pan and hoping that I was far enough out of reach for him to grope me. Did I mention that was one of his favorite pastimes?
“Jill!” He stopped mid-swing when he saw it was me. “Happy Birthday!”
“I left my birthday petite fours in the freezer,” I said as casually as I could, again hoping to preserve my facial features. “Mind letting me through?”
He looked a little mulish over the idea and I made a mental note to not actually go into said freezer for fear I’d soon join Juan in his frozen hell. “Please?”
“Anything for you, Jilly,” he said, turning and opening the freezer with a gallant flourish, fully intent on feeling me up if I took a step nearer.
However, he’d temporarily forgotten his captive. Juan spilled out and Big E quickly enfolded him in a few crisp white tablecloths while a cook rushed forward with a cup of coffee for the close-to-stiff man.
I turned to Radkin. “Thanks.”
Unfortunately, I’d let my guard down and the chef took full advantage by grabbing my left breast. However, despite his smarmy smile, he must have gone heavy on the sauce celebrating my birthday because he slowly sank to the floor in an unconscious heap.
I’d need to bathe for a week to get the imprint of his hand off my mental body. “Clean up on aisle five.”
After making sure he was safely stowed in his office and that Juan was okay and didn’t plan to sue, I headed out, only a little behind time for meeting my friends for dinner and contemplating whether there was time for a quick shower first.
The Irish poet, Thomas Moore, said, “What though youth gave love and roses, Age still leaves us friends and wine.” Updated for our current millennium, that means ‑‑ hit forty and it’s all over except for friends and good saki.
I hope he’s wrong, but with fabulous friends and enough saki, who cares if he’s right?