Adventures of an Assistant Dishwasher
Chapter One

by GJ Caulkins


     I worked weekends as a dishwasher at a busy restaurant. I just helped the regular guy handle the extra
load on Friday and Saturday nights. I guess that made me the Assistant Dishwasher.

      The regular dishwasher, the Chief Dishwasher, was a leathery old man. called "Doc." He looked about
70 years old, but he could have been one hundred... or fifty. His nationality was impossible to discern, but
he spoke in that clipped, not quite perfect accent I associate with American Indians.

     Washing dishes is a shitty job. The work is hot and wet and stinks. No matter how fast you go, you
are always behind. Plates, pots, cups and cutlery pile up at an impossible clip, and you can’t get it clean
fast enough to please anyone. Guaranteed, whatever you just washed isn’t needed, and whatever you aren’t
washing yet is what the kitchen just ran out of.

     Doc never seemed phased. In fact, he loved the job. We’d be way out in the weeds, covered in grease
and gunk, and he’d look over at me and smirk. “Best job I ever had,” he’d say, then lay into a soup pan
with steel wool.

     Best job he ever had.

     “What did you do before this?” I asked, wiping the marinara sauce off my cheek.

     “You’d never believe me if I told you.”

     To tell you the truth, Doc irritated me. Washing dishes and complaining go hand in hand, and it was no
fun to complain with him around. When one dishwasher says, “That fuckin sous chef yells at me one
more time for ramekins, and I’ll give him a stack of ramekins... right up his ass,” the other dishwasher
is supposed to respond in kind. But Doc was unflappable. He’d grin, reach into the frothy sink and start
cleaning ramekins.

     I asked the kitchen staff about him. A couple of the older guys, told me that Doc was actually a doctor
 in his previous life. A line cook pulled his sleeve up and showed me his arm.

     “See that?”

     “What? Your tattoo?”

     “No, asshole. You see how I have no hair growing on my arm?”


     “That’s because I burned it off. There was a grease fire. All this burning grease got spilled all over me.
My arm, my chest, down my legs. I got burned bad. I should be coved in scars. Dead maybe. But I’m
not. Doc fixed me up.

     "You got a problem with Doc? Cause if you do, you got a problem with me.”

     I told him I didn’t have a problem with anybody. The line cook thrust a scorched pan at me like a
challenge. I took the pan and walked back to the dishwashing station without comment.

     The next weekend I asked Doc about it. “I heard you fixed up Julio when he got burned.”

     “Julio likes to exaggerate.”

     “Is it true you were a doctor before you were a dishwasher?”

     “You could say that.”

     “How does a guy go from being a doctor to being a dishwasher?”

     “How does a guy go from being a dishwasher to a pain in the ass?”


     We washed in silence, whittling away at the mountain of soiled dishware before us.

     The night wore on. The torrent of filthy plates and spoons slowed as the dining room emptied.
As the last of the diners were getting their checks, the kitchen started its evening ritual of shutting
down. Instead of cups and bowls, we washed the chafing pans and racks. At one o’clock, we
were done. We were done, but the work was never done. Whatever was in our sink was left for
the morning crew to deal with.


     I stepped into the night air and breathed. I could smell the detritus of a hundred unfinished
entrees on myself. Doc hit the door a beat behind me.

     “I wasn’t a regular doctor.”

     “No?” I tried to sound casual as I turned to face him, but it came out sounding snide.

     “So what? You were a freelance gynecologist? A proctologist looking for an opening in
your field?”

     He straightened out of his slouch just a little, and Doc smiled. Not just with his mouth. It
was like his face unfolded and lit up. His whole being lit up. And suddenly, I felt good The
fatigue in my shoulders evaporated. My feet stopped hurting. I found myself smiling too.

     “No, smartass, I was a medicine man.”

     “You mean like a shaman?”

     “Ya. Like a shaman. A witch doctor. Whatever you want to call it. That’s what I did.”

     “And that was worse that washing dishes?”


     “Where did you... practice?”

     “Someplace that doesn’t exist any more.”

     “And now you are a dishwasher.”

     “Best job I ever had.”

Chapter Two

  Copyright  2007 GJCaulkins

G J lives in Northern California. Easily bored and utterly lacking in focus, he dabbles in everything from pottery, to cartooning, to airbrushing T-Shirts. His
cartoons have been published in both hemispheres and were recently discontinued in the largest newspaper in Yolo County. His work (if you can call it that)
can be found at www.mightywombat.com.

Oh, and Gord can totally kick Steve's ass at any video game you put in front of him... usually while drawing a cartoon, drinking a beer and cleaning his airbrush.
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