The work could not have been more mind-numbing, and McGee reveled in it. One potato, two potato, three potato, four hundred. After who-knows-how-many hours, he had achieved a Zen state: the last potato is gone; the next potato does not exist, and may never. The sum of all reality is the potato you’re peeling right now. McGee giggled at his meandering mind.
As he worked, he observed the other man. The strings of vulgarities became part of the music he hummed between them, as he mopped floors, washed dining trays, and scrubbed counters. At all times he saved every last drop of wastewater possible. McGee wondered what became of all that graywater. Would it be used to water plants in the greenhouse? Or perhaps to flush toilets?
Then McGee noticed he was still giggling, and so did his companion. “Boy, you haven’t slept in awhile, is my guess. You’re sun-silly.”
He sat down with a potato peeler and the two finished up together.
“You’re a worker, at least; I’ll give you that. I keep getting these damn career-changers on shifts. Motherfuckin’ MBAs. Sheee-itt. I needed a floor mopped once and the dude offered to draw me up a goddamned workflow analysis. Bopped him on the head with a ladle and got my ass chewed by security.”
McGee laughed. “You’re Navy, aren’t you? I can spot a lifer anywhere.”
“Thirty years and some change. Senior Chief Curtis Greene, chief messman aboard the Nimitz. Retired, obviously.” Greene offered a handshake. “Charmed.”
“Danny McGee,” he smiled, accepting.
“McGee… not that McGee? You the new cop?” Greene said, eyes transmitting his disbelief. “Ha- ! I’ve got a celebrity in the pot shack. Who’d-a thought you’d be the best damn kitchen hand I’ve had so far?”
McGee’s grin was genuine but a bit sad. “I may be a full-time kitchen hand after I finish this presentation. I don’t think the Assembly’s gonna like this. You’re a member, right? Everyone is?”
“I am. I go to Assembly. Now and then, if it’s anything I give a shit about.”
“Something tells me that’s not often.”
“You are an astute man,” chuckled Greene. “I don’t go as a rule; not much ever gets decided that affects me in any way. But you’ve got me curious; I’ll be there.”
Greene gestured at a wall clock. “Speaking of. Don’t you have someplace to be?”
McGee looked. He had about a half hour.