Ms. Coolidge hadn’t even waited for Malcolm to finish buttoning his new uniform before she was marching him around the kitchen, giving him notes on everything he saw.
“You don’t need to have any contact with the residents. You work the kitchen. If they need a new blanket or their pants changed, tell them to take it up with another Harker Home employee.”
She was exactly the person you wanted running a kitchen that catered to as specific a palette as the seniors at the center were likely to have. Indeed, notes she rattled off from memory on the residents’ menus were astoundingly strict.
“Ms. Gulch never eats anything winged. Other than that, any meat well done is fine. She also won’t drink straight water. Bring her juice.
“Mr. Steinsson is a pescatarian, but he won’t eat just any fish. On Sundays he gets electric eel. You have sushi training, right? Good, take point on that.
“Mr. Impala will only ever get the steak tartar and wine that his nephew drops off weekly. For the sake of everything holy, don’t let that scrawny idiot in the kitchen. I swear, he’s always filthy with bugs.”
It went on like that. Malcolm struggled to remember it all as he delivered dinner to each resident.
Mr. Marsh wasn’t in his room, and he recalled Coolidge saying he spent a lot of time at the pool. Resolving to make a good impression, he wheeled the food cart outside.
The bottom of the pool was black – one of those fancy lagoon pools – so the moonlight glinted off the water strangely, illuminating the palest man Malcolm had ever seen, reclining on a pool chair nearby.
“Mr. Marsh?” Malcolm inquired.
The pale man sat up slowly. “No, I’m Mr. Impala.”
“Steak tartar, right? You like it bloody,” Malcolm said triumphantly.
“Ah, the new cook. Well remembered,” replied Mr. Impala. Something about the way he pressed his thin lips together in a grin made Malcolm uneasy. “You may leave Mr. Marsh’s food here. He may not be up for a few minutes.”
Malcolm nodded and pushed the empty cart away. Mr. Impala whispered after him, “Welcome to the Harker Home for Retired Monsters.”