I cannot help licking my lips as I watch Gary cover the sponge cake with dark-chocolate frosting. There is a certain finesse in the way that he applies each layer, just gentle enough to kiss the surface, but merciless enough to make sure that it stays on. I know that there is work to be done, and that in approximately four minutes and twenty-three seconds, Chef Pierre will be screaming out my name for not having done the dishes. This would be followed by him thundering into the room, picking me up by the collar and rattling me like a toddler’s toy. I should know - we’ve followed the same pattern of events every Christmas eve, for the past eight years I’ve been employed here. Despite that, my gaze is fixed on the piece of art that Gary has been perfecting for the past three hours. And as I stand there, hiding behind the thick curtain that separates my kingdom of grease-laden pans, grimy cutlery pieces and soap suds of various shapes and sizes, there comes the booming voice calling out my name. “Georggggge….!”. I sigh loudly. Not because of my name being called out incorrectly. I sigh because a large blob of glistening dark chocolate frosting has broken the ranks and smoothly slid onto the floor, where it will soon form a dark, brown pond of melted chocolate liquid, which is of no good to anyone. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to taste that delicious cake that is being constructed!
But wait! Where are my manners? Let’s start again. This time with an introduction. My name is Jorge. Jorge Gabriella. And I’m all of ten years old. And before you call me ‘George’, let me stop you - it’s pronounced ‘Hor-hey’; Yes, I understand the difficulty. And yes, I blame my immigrant Colombian parents too. At least, I think they were Colombian. You see, I’ve never known my parents. I grew up in an orphanage in Jersey, and when I was two, I was kidnapped and then sold to Roberto Maquis, the owner of this grand restaurant that I work in. Or so I've been told. And today, I reign as the undisputed leader of the ‘Clean Pots, Utensils and Pans’. Or the C-PUPs, as I call them.
I know what's passing through your mind. Why don’t I run away? There is a good reason for that. In exchange for my cleaning the PUPs, I get all the leftovers that I want and a comfortable bedding made from the empty sacks that the onions come in. I don’t go to school, but I do get $10 every week, something I have been collecting for as long as I can remember. I also don't run away Mr. Maquis says he has a lot of connections and that he would find me, break every bone in my body, and not give me any food. And if I’m honest, I don’t want to risk it. Plus I don’t really know where I’d go if escaped.
But there is something that I’ve always wished for. To celebrate at least one Christmas like how they show in those movies. With friends. With family. Waiting for Santa. Opening presents. Have a nice roast for lunch. Watching lots of television. Drink lots of egg-nog. And then go to sleep with a tummy full of food and heart full of warmth and love. Not that I don’t enjoy my Christmases. I have a day off on Christmas. But since there is no one to look after me, I’m usually locked up at the restaurant. I know it sounds awful, but it really isn’t that bad. Gary usually leaves a piece of roast chicken with some mashed potatoes in the fridge for me to have on Christmas Day. Of course, Chef Pierre or Mr. Maquis doesn't know about this. They’d fire Gary in a heart beat if they come to know. Thankfully, they both leave early on Christmas Eve, so it’s usually Gary closing up.
I normally spend the rest of my Christmas Eve up in my little corner in the attic of the restaurant. It gets quite chilly there at night, but I like to sit by my little circular window and look outside. Last year, I even tried to stay awake through the night, so that I could catch a glimpse of Santa as he slid down ‘The Humberg’s’ chimney to deliver little Ethan his presents. Sadly, I fell asleep. Not this year though.
Gary has offered to take me to his apartment this year. He even got me a camera - a shiny, red one - so that I can capture a photo of Santa delivering presents. He also told me that I shouldn’t be upset if I don’t actually get to see Santa. But I’m sure I will. Gary lives in a really, tall building across town - one of the tallest, he says. I like Gary - he’s the only person here who cares about me. He gets me presents and cooks me nice meals, without any one else knowing. I wonder why Rachel told me to be careful around him. Rachel, is one of our station chefs by the way. She likes to make up stories about people, sometimes. I asked her why, but she wouldn’t tell me.
I must go now. I need to finish those vessels before we close for the day. And then I shall go home with Gary today. He has promised to make sure that I have a good time. And maybe I will spot Santa this year, after all.
[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.] Image courtesy : HDwallpaper.com