In my first draft of LIVING HALF FREE Zachariah does not know how to be a waiter at the beginning of the novel. He was taught very quickly by the slaves that worked in Mr. Burch’s restaurant in New Orleans. For those of you who have read LIVING HALF FREE, you will know that in the published version Mr. Burch runs a tavern. I decided to change this because it quickened the pace of the novel. However, I really like this scene so I’ve decided to include it here for your reading pleasure.
**Disclaimer–being an extra, this is unedited and unreviewed! It has not been touched since I cut it from my first draft.**
Being hired out to work in Mr. Burch’s restaurant was better than Zachariah had ever hoped. Charles acted like a pa to Zachariah. The man always made sure he got more than his share of the leftovers.
David walked in, his eyebrows furrowed and his lips tight. “Dere’s a man out dere who insists he be waited on by Zachariah.”
Zachariah’s eyes widened. “But I doan know what to do.”
“I’ll walk out with you. You just take his order, tell the cooks what he wants and remember what he ordered so you can take it to him once it’s cooked.”
Zachariah nodded. “Yessuh.”
His heart raced as he walked out into the restaurant. He tried to block out all the fancy dressed people. He felt everyone gawk at him like he was a walking medicine show. As he headed towards the tables in the back he concentrated on making words come out of his cotton dry throat. He rubbed his clammy hands on his trousers. When they stopped in front of the table, the corners of Zachariah’s mouth curved upward slightly.
“What would yuh like to order suh?” he asked in a clear, polite tone.
“A fried pork chop, two fried eggs and a biscuit with butter, not gravy,” Galloway said.
Zachariah nodded. “Would yuh like coffee, suh?”
The corners of Galloway’s mouth turn upwards slightly. “Yes.”
“I will bring yo’ meal soon as it’s ready,” Zachariah said, then turned and walked back into the kitchen. “How’d I do, David?”
David laughed. “Fine, just fine.”
“Well, what’d he orda, boy?” May asked.
“A fried pork chop, two fried eggs, a biscuit wid butter and a cup of coffee.”
May nodded and cracked two eggs into her pan.
“Think yuh can carry all that without spilling the coffee?” Robin asked.
Zachariah swallowed. “I huv to. I think my life depends on it.”
“What yuh mean?” Charles demanded.
“Ma massah ordered it. I think dis is a test. If I spill de coffee, I’s spend the rest of my life pickin cotton. If I do it right I’s work in his restaurant in Kentucky.”
Charles shot David a pleading gaze.
David hesitated and looked at the door. There were customers waiting. But this was important. He pulled Zachariah aside and showed him how to hold the tray.
Charles put a dirty glass filled with water on top of the tray. “Walk around now.”
Zachariah took a few steps towards the back of the kitchen. Water went everywhere. Horror flashed across Zachariah’s face as he stared at the mess.
Charles pressed his lips together, his worried eyes directed at David.
“Stand up straight, Zachariah,” David instructed. “Hold de tray level and walk bery slowly.”
“Yuh doan walk like dat,” Zachariah said.
“I’s done huv years of practice.”
Zachariah took a deep breath. Again he picked up the tray with the glass of water. He concentrated and deliberately placed each step. After several attempts, he finally made it across the kitchen with all the water still in the glass. He beamed.
“Once ain’t enough,” Charles said. “Keep practicin’ till de pork is done cookin’.”
Zachariah nodded and walked around the kitchen again.
“Yuh can do dis,” Dorothy said. She took the glass of water off his tray and replaced it with the plate of food and cup of coffee.
David held the door open for him.
Zachariah was on his own. With each step he concentrated on not making a mess. He held his breath as long as he could, exhaled then held his breath again. His master was sitting in the very back of the room.
Galloway watched him closely as he approached.
With his left hand, Zachariah took off the cup of coffee and set it on the table in front of him then he handed him his plate. He breathed a sigh of relief afterward, then started to walk away.
He stopped and turned around. “Yessuh?”
“Always ask if there is something else you can get them.”
Zachariah’s forehead wrinkled. “Yessuh. Can I get you something else, suh?”
Galloway shook his head, smiling. “Relax, boy. You did a good job.”
Charles, Dorothy and May all smiled when Zachariah entered the kitchen. “I know yuh could do it,” Charles said, patting him on the back.
“He hasn’t given me the job yet.”
“He will,” Charles said reassuringly.
Zachariah resumed his job drying dishes, trying not to think about it to avoid potential disappointment.
A little while later, David entered the kitchen carrying a heaping tray of dirty dishes.
Zachariah couldn’t believe how much he carried.
“Mr. Galloway’s finished eating. Yuh can pick up his dishes now,” David said.
Zachariah nodded and walked out into the restaurant. He held his head up.
Zachariah’s eyes widened when he reached the deserted table. On the plate was half a pork chop.