Just a bit disturbing. Maybe the little fellow is only sleeping.
Readers of the first installment of this sordid series of tales, “The Night I Cooked for the Mob,” may recall that my job at our local fast food fried chicken establishment in Cullman, Alabama, was to man the deep fryer, a stove sized implement that held gallons and gallons of deep frying fat. I say “fat” because that was the only word on the label of the package that contained the possibly hydrogenated substance we used in our deep fryer. Oil and lard were too expensive, apparently, and so we had this shortening like concoction that came in large, paper wrapped blocks. Even then, our manager guarded it as if she had been the supervisor of prisoners at the Bastille. No one touched her fat without her permission.
Because of the hydrogenated nature of the “fat” we used, the contents of my deep fryer would congeal every night, after I turned off the gas to the thing. When I had the day shift, I would come in and turn it on, and it would liquify, and gradually warm up to the 350 degrees that it needed to be. Then it was time to fry some chicken for the unwashed masses.
On this particular June day I was greeted by a visitor to my fryer. A dead visitor. A series of tiny footprints lead to the middle of the fryer, where my late friend the mouse had apparently hit a soft spot in the shortening. The little guy had drowned in fat. In fact, he was as dead as a cliche. He did have what appeared to be a slight smile, so I suppose he died happy, like a mouse in fat should.
Be that as it may, this was definitely a job for our manager, who loved making executive type decisions. I interrupted her daily reading of the Cullman Times with a knock on her office door, and said, “Manager manager manager, there’s a dead mouse in the deep fryer.”
“Expletive,” she said, as she put down her paper. “Not another one. I’ll show you how to take care of this.” This was a teachable moment, apparently.
She took a look into the fryer at our dead mouse, and said, “Go to the pantry, and get that biggest stainless steel spoon we have. You know which one it is?”
“Yes, Manager,” I said. I assumed she wanted me to get the spoon that was larger than all of the others. As it turned out, it was a real beauty.
When I got back to the kitchen, she said, “That’s it. Now scoop out the dead mouse, but get as little of the fat as possible. It’s too expensive to waste.” I scooped out the mouse with very little fat. Then she said, “Take it across the street, and throw it in the dumpster over there. We can’t have people thinking that we have mice in here.”
“Good thinking,” I said, and headed out the back door.
The street behind our restaurant was a busy one for our town, and crossing it was compounded by the problem of having a dead mouse in a spoon. I thought this might one day make a great Olympic sport, crossing busy streets with a mouse filled spoon. I took my time, ran across the street, and backhanded the poor bugger into the dumpster. I was going to win on style points.
On my way back across the street, I suddenly thought that the mouse had to have crapped all in the fat when it died. My suspicion was confirmed when I got back in the kitchen, and saw all the mouse sized black pellets that were in the fryer. It was time for another executive decision.
I knocked on the manager’s door again. I said, “Manager manager manager, I think the mouse did something in the fat when it died.” Now she was reading the paper, and having a smoke.
She didn’t even look up from her paper this time. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “It will cook out when you turn the fryer on. No one will ever notice, or even know about it.”
“Yes, manager,” I said.
I think I gagged a bit when I turned on the fryer. That was the last day I ever ate anything that came out of that kitchen.