Larry Runs Afoul at D’Amato’s Delicatessen

In 1964 Larry lands his first job working at the highly popular D’Amato’s Fried Chicken in the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall in the United States.

Mrs. D’Amato is a buxom, expensively dressed woman with a stern Margaret Hamilton expression frozen on her face and thick heeled black shoes that warn of her impending arrival. Sylvia D’Amato is paranoid that her workers might steal a drumstick and eat it on the job. She has even demanded she smell an employee’s breath when her chicken pieces’ count is one short.

Larry is 15 and making minimum wage - 75 cents an hour. Saturday is clean the walk-in cooler day. Larry arrives at D’Amato’s at 7:00 a.m. ready to work a 12 hour shift. Under the keen eye of Sylvia D’Amato, it is Larry’s job to convert the cooler from a foul gallinaceous morgue to gleaming stainless steel immaculateness.

Normally, raw skinned chickens sit on myriad shelves on three sides of the walk-in cooler, but since Saturday is clean the cooler day, there is nothing on the shelves, but slime. The angled trough on the floor is full of stringy chicken guts, fowl skin debris, and slimy bits of raw poultry meat floating in stomach-churning liquid. Once Larry cleans the shelves, it is time for him to hook up the pressure pump to blow the chicken guts down through the pipe at the bottom of the trough and then through the attached hose that runs out through a hole at the bottom of the cooler door several feet into the kitchen and down the floor drain.

Larry attaches the pressure machine to the pipe, pumps it once, and pulls the trigger. Nothing goes through because the pipe and hose are blocked with entrails. Larry pumps the pressure machine a good 50 times thinking that will produce plenty of pressure to blow the chicken guts through the trough pipe and hose.

Larry pulls the trigger, and “alleluia,” the enormous pressure sends the avian offal blasting down the trough pipe and through the hose.

That sure did the job, Larry thinks. Maybe old lady D’Amato will reward me with a nickel raise.

Larry opens the door to exit the cooler and stops dead in his tracks. In the kitchen long slimy chicken entrails hang from every light fixture and chicken guts stick to the walls and tables. The enormous pressure from the pump blew the hose out of the floor drain and made it come alive like a cobra, spraying chicken innards everywhere. It’s a scene from a horror movie.

The guy whose job it is to cut up chicken looks at Larry wide-eyed and says, “You are in deep shit, kid.” As chicken cleaver man is finishing his sentence, Sylvia D’Amato clomps in.

“PORCA MISERIAL!” she screams. “Larry, what have you done! Clean this up and clean it up as fast as you can. The health inspectors come unannounced all the time and if they see this mess, we’re done for.”

It is 8:00 p.m., closing time at D’Amato’s. Larry and another young employee must make sure the counters are wiped clean and the floors shine before locking up for the night. Larry is mopping his way out the door of the kitchen’s adjoining room that houses a large sink that sits on long metal legs at the opposite end of the room. Mrs. D’Amato stomps up behind Larry ready to inspect the room.

“Don’t walk in there, Mrs.D’Amato,” Larry says. “I’ve just mopped the floors and they are still wet and really slippery.”

“Hmmpf,” says Sylvia D’Amato as she strides past Larry, falls on her ample backside and slides all the way across the room until arriving feet first under the standing sink.

“Safe!” calls Larry, making the horizontal flat two-hand sign the umpires do when a ball player successfully crosses home plate.

That is Larry’s last day of employment at D’Amato’ Fried Chicken.

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About the Author

Julie Peterson Freeman, née Wren Dubois, has been spotted in dark piano bars and tiny cafes in the oldest sections of cities around the world. At the beginning of her career, one was most likely to find her strolling the cobbled streets in the 18th Arrondissement of bohemian Paris. I spotted her arm in arm with the notorious Amantine Dupin (better known as George Sand), exiting Le Tagada, a quaint and popular bar among artists and eccentrics in the famed village of Montmartre. It was here where the flâneur was created. Bien sûr, none of this is true, except in Julie’s imagination.

Julie Peterson Freeman
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