Marcel’s day had been an absolute disaster and it wasn’t even 3:00. The health inspector had popped by for an unexpected “visit,” his dishwasher had quit on the spot – flatly telling him that she didn’t like the new schedule – and the seafood truck had been delayed by an apparent road closure in the mountains and hadn’t arrived until mid afternoon.
“So, so, sorry! Very sorry!” the truck’s little Italian driver had shouted, scuttling seafood containers down the reefer van’s steep ramp, through the narrow door of the red brick building, and into Marcel’s kitchen, sweat pooling above his eyebrows and soaking through the back of his uniform. Marcel had never seen the man before – he was expecting the regular driver Karol, a gregarious Polish immigrant – but their routes must have been rearranged. Marcel just sighed, resigned to his unlucky fate. The late truck meant he hadn’t had the opportunity to work the freshest fish into the daily special – he’d been hoping for mussels, crab, and maybe some Mahi-mahi- and he was already making adjustments on the fly, his mind well practiced from years of dealing with the unexpected twists and turns of restaurant life.
Chicken masala would have to be the day’s special, Marcel thought. Yes, that sounded good. An Indian dish always piqued the interest of curious diners, most of whom were white, middle-aged, and unfamiliar with spices beyond salt and pepper. He’d serve it with roti and steamed rice, which meant he’d have to let Melorie know to get started on the flatbread right away. $18.99 a plate, he decided. That should go nicely. That would cover his costs. The seafood would have to wait for tomorrow’s lunch menu.
“Eh, Marcel! The little Italian from the seafood truck stood in front of him, waving his hands back and forth vigorously mere inches from his face. “You alive in there?”
“Er, yes,” Marcel replied, mentally filing away his plans for the menu, and focusing his eyes on the sweaty little man in front of him.
“Invoice,” the man said, shoving an envelope into Marcel’s hands. Marcel nodded. The man smiled and, working quickly, closed up the truck, jumped into the driver’s seat, and raced down the street, no doubt already late for the next delivery.
It was 9 p.m. – after the dinner rush – when Marcel finally got around to opening the boxes of seafood he’d hastily stacked in the large walk-in refrigerator at the back of the kitchen. Unlatching the lid of the first container, he threw it back on its hinges, fully expecting to find mussels, crab, and maybe, if the kitchen gods were feeling benevolent, some Mahi-mahi.
But Marcel didn’t find his seafood for tomorrow’s lunch menu. In fact, there was no seafood in sight. Instead of leaning in to inspect the day’s catch as was his habit (sniff-testing was essential to ensuring quality), Marcel recoiled, stumbling backwards against the dairy pallet. Rather than mussels, crab, and maybe some Mahi-mahi, the container was filled with brick-after-brick of what Marcel knew could only be cocaine.