Krieg’s Marina was a two-level restaurant that had sprawling back terraces overlooking the Senneville quays and boardwalk, way out on the western tip of Montreal. When I was twenty-three, I got a job there waiting tables. Krieg, the owner, was a biker who rode in every day on a gold Harley Davidson, apparently from a compound somewhere near the American border. He was in his fifties, squat, with a salt-and-pepper beard. He always wore floral-patterned shirts that hung over his belly, as well as thick-soled engineering boots that made him look a little taller than he was.
Frequented by golfers and bikers alike, the West Island elite crammed into Kreig’s Marina’s elegant upstairs restaurant on warm summer evenings, and packed the ground floor club Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Patrons snorted coke in the bathrooms, or tried to get swinging bells on the video lottery machines, as songs ranging from “Sailing” to “Low Rider” blared from the speakers. And everyone sang along (and enjoyed half-price Sea Breezes) if Krieg’s favourite song “King of the Road” played.
I got hired because they needed waiters to work lunches and Sunday brunch. None of the regular staff who were my age wanted those shifts. The money wasn’t nearly as good, so I ended up slotting in with some of the older staff—all in their forties—including Yan and Carla, who were waiters, and Shelley, who worked the upstairs bar and had been at The Marina since it opened in the 1980s. The three of them preferred the day shifts because they were a lot less stressful. As Shelley put it, she was “past all that shit.”
Krieg was always around in the daytime. After working on accounts in his office, he’d come out and sit at Shelley’s bar, sip Sea Breezes, and stare at her breasts. He’d say things to her like, “My dear, would you mind turning the volume up a notch?” She’d say, “Sure, doll,” and as she bent over to access the stereo, he’d lean over the bar to get a better look at her cleavage. He’d then add, “Take your time, darling” or “While you’re down there…” He’d always look around to see if anyone found his jokes funny while Shelley would force a smile.
The day manager was a tall fellow in his thirties whose name was Danny Gretsch. Everyone called him Gino, for some reason. Lots of guys at The Marina looked like Gino: blonde hair slicked back but short on the sides, goatee, golf shirt, slacks. But the whites of Gino’s blue eyes were always red, and he had a tattoo on his bicep that crept out from under his sleeve. One time, while cleaning up one of our private group rooms during a lunch shift, Gino was watching me and then came over. I thought he was going to tell me how to set up the room. Instead, he pulled up his sleeve and flexed his bicep. I could see the whole tattoo—a black eagle carrying something in its talons.
“Hey, Al,” he said. “I bet you don’t have any tattoos.”
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“Yeah, I figured,” said Gino. “You haven’t lived much, have you?”
I didn’t answer him. He leaned in close. “I bet you never heard the sound of a metal baseball bat ringing off a guy’s skull. Have you?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Gino said. He walked away, leaving behind the image of him bashing someone over the head.
I went to the waiter station to get some more cutlery for the tables. Carla was there, punching an order into the cash. “Don’t mind Daniel,” she said. “He’s a little…off.”
“That’s what I call him,” she said. “We dated for a while, back in the day. He’s slept with almost every girl on staff.”
“Mm-hm,” Carla said. “But you didn’t hear it from me.”
A voice from the kitchen shouted, “CARLA!” It was Red, the chef of Krieg’s Marina—so named because of his massive head of rust-colored hair and beard. I don’t know what his real name was. Herman or something. I tried to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible, ever since I saw him yell at a bus girl and call her a “stupid cunt”. She ran out of the kitchen crying and quit on the spot. Krieg and Gino liked Red a lot. They played golf and drank together. “GET THIS FUCKING LOBSTER OUTTA HERE, CARLA!”
“Coming, Red,” she said, putting her order pad into her apron.
“YEAH I’LL MAKE YOU COME,” I heard Red say.
Carla rolled her eyes and headed in.
Over the course of four months, I saw a lot at Krieg’s Marina. One afternoon, when it was September and the restaurant was dead, a group of men came in. They had no reservation and insisted on using one of the private rooms in the back, even though the section was closed for the season. I set it up according to Gino’s specifications (one head seat, space on either side of the header, no chair at the opposite end) and Krieg told me to take good care of them and to make sure that Mr. Graph, at the head of the table, always had his drink topped up.
There were about eight of them, mostly wearing the classic Marina outfit—polo shirts, slacks, and loafers—but a couple were wearing black bomber jackets and jeans with Doc Marten boots. Whenever I came into the room, Mr. Graph stopped talking and nodded his head after I filled his glass of water or wine. There were financial papers on the table, and I overheard them talking about budget and recruitment. I assumed they were a small firm of some sort, and the two guys in Docs were warehouse workers.
At the bar, Shelley served me their drinks. Her jaw was tight, and she seemed nervous.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
She glanced around, then answered me in a low voice. “I’m Jewish, you know.”
I did know. I had heard Gino make fun of her nose.
She leaned over the tray of drinks. “Have you heard of the C…?”
I said I hadn’t, as Krieg walked into the room for his first Sea Breeze of the afternoon.
“Well, there are your drinks,” Shelley said. I took them away with Krieg eyeing us both.
A little later, when we were alone in the dining room, Shelley told me that CGC stood for Crystal Guard of Canada. “They’re Canadian Nazis,” she said. She was trying to keep her voice down, and it was making her cheeks flush. “They hold their meetings here every few months. Fucking losers. You think I want my two girls to grow up in a world where people like that are still around?”
I could see why she didn’t like them. I didn’t think much of them either; apart from their orders, they never said a word to me—and Mr. Graph only tipped me twenty bucks on a bill of over three-hundred.
I was laid off at the end of October, but was rehired in the lead-up to Easter, since Easter brunch was one of the busiest days of the year. It was April 1997, and a golfer named Tiger Woods was making the rounds at the big Masters Tournament. I wasn’t a golf fan, so I didn’t understand what the big deal was. But a lot of our clients were golfers, and they would check out the television screens over Shelley’s bar, watching how Tiger was doing. He was way ahead of everyone else.
On the final Sunday evening of the tournament, after all the clientele had left, I was doing my cash at an empty table. Krieg, Gino, and Red sat at the bar, sipping drinks and watching the TV. They were organizing one of the staff golf tournaments that took place several times a summer. I always worked on those days.
“Can you beLIEVE that?” Gino said as Tiger drained another putt.
“No monkeys on the links!” said Krieg, and the others laughed.
“Shouldn’t he be using a black ball?” said Red.
“He’s already got a couple of those,” said Krieg.
They all laughed, and I did too. Then I looked over at Shelley, who was shaking her head. I stopped smiling and went back to my cash-out.
As I was leaving, Shelley stopped me at the stairs. “Mind you don’t get caught up in their bullshit,” she said. “You’re better than that.”
“You mean their jokes?” I said.
“I mean that, apart from me, everyone here is white. Or hadn’t you noticed?”
I hadn’t. There were a few Bangladeshi guys working in the kitchen, but she was right: there were no non-whites in the front-of-house. Shelley was Jewish, but she looked white. Maybe that’s why Krieg kept her on for all these years.
That, and the fact that she was attractive.
Another day, Yan and I were cashing out. Krieg was on his fourth or fifth Sea Breeze, and Gino was behind Shelley, with his arms around her waist as she was stocking the bar for the night staff. “Just like the good old days, eh?” Gino said.
“All right, Danny, that’s enough,” she said, writhing away from him.
Krieg chuckled and said, “One more for the road, Shelley darling.”
Yan was smoking a cigarette. He glanced at me and lifted his eyebrows. I saw him write something on the back of a bill and pass it over to me. It said, “He drinks in the daytime cause he knows no cops will pull him over.” I nodded. I knew that Yan drank a lot and that he probably knew what he was talking about.
Then Gino came walking over, so I crumpled up the paper. “Hey Al,” he said. “Stop what you’re doing for a second.”
I put the crumpled up paper in my apron and looked up at him.
“Let me ask you something,” he said. “What’s going on with your head?”
“What?” I said. I looked over at Yan, who was tapping numbers into his calculator.
“What’s going on with your head?” Gino repeated. He put his hand in front of his eyebrows, like a visor. “Your face is normal up to here, but then you’ve got this enormous forehead,” he said.
I just sat there. Krieg was giggling to himself. Shelley was about to give him his drink, then stopped and looked over at us.
“And I saw you changing in the staff room, Al,” Gino said. “What’s going on with your body? It all just kind of hangs off you.”
“Leave him alone, Danny,” Shelley said.
“He’s a big boy,” Krieg said. “He can handle himself.”
“Yeah,” said Gino. “How old are you, anyway? Nineteen? Twenty?”
“I’m twenty-four,” I said.
“Holy shit,” Gino said. “You’re twenty-four? You look like that teenage doctor on TV. What’s his name? Oh yeah… Doogie Fucking Howser.”
“Come on, Gino,” Yan said without looking up.
“Don’t you start with me,” Gino said, leaning over Yan. “You just do your fucking cash and keep your mouth shut. You want me to start in on you, eh? Haven’t you learned your lesson?”
Yan didn’t say anything. Nobody said anything. I couldn’t understand why they were being so mean. I hadn’t done anything wrong, to my knowledge. To keep myself from crying in front of everyone, I got up and went to the staff room.
When I got there, I looked in the long mirror. It’s true that I was a few pounds overweight, and that I looked like Doogie Howser. I tried to brush my bangs down over my forehead, but they were too short. Men working front-of-house had to have close-cropped hair.
I suppose I could have quit right there, but soon after that, I started getting scheduled more—including some of the coveted night shifts. It was strange.
Things ran smoothly through the summer. After work, the restaurant staff would gather at the upstairs bar for Quarters: a game played by spinning a quarter on the bar, then calling out whether it was heads or tails. Whoever was in the group that had the fewest calls (heads or tails) was safe, and could stop spinning. Those remaining had to continue calling heads or tails until there were only two people left. Both would spin, and one person would call evens or odds (either for matching heads or tails, or for an odd pair), and whoever ended up losing had to buy a round for the entire group. Because just about everyone who worked nights would play, including Gino and Red (only the Bangladeshi guys didn’t play), and drinks were seven dollars a pop, the final tally would be upwards of a hundred dollars, plus a twenty percent tip to the barmaid. That was basically a night’s wage. Plus there was the fact that everyone would laugh at the loser, and the more drinks that got drunk, the more people would laugh.
It was the night of Krieg’s birthday, a Saturday in September which he was celebrating at the upstairs bar, wearing a suit instead of his usual floral get-up. I ended up losing a round of Quarters, but it felt like some kind of initiation or right-of-passage. Krieg was in a good mood, and he even came over and patted me on the back, saying, “Now you know how it feels, squire.”
The guy I felt bad for wasn’t me. It was Yan. He had been working a lot of double shifts and got hammered every night. He apparently lost at Quarters often, and that night, he lost three times. Such bad luck. Gino was the worst, and really let him have it: “It’s Yan again! Can you beLIEVE that?”
After Quarters was done, Yan and I ended up getting really drunk in the downstairs club. I wanted to console him, so I ordered us rounds of rye and ginger—his favourite. He was shouting at me over the noise, “This place is hell!” It was crazy busy down there with mostly older people. Yan told me that the barmaids had been giving us double-shots every time. After a while, with everyone singing along to “King of the Road”, I started to feel sick and tried to make my way upstairs to the staff bathroom. I didn’t make it, and I threw up on the carpeted stairs.
Gino was quick to act and got me out the front door and onto the street. Yan followed. “Take care of him,” Gino said. There was a lineup of people waiting to get into the Marina, and I was sitting on the pavement off to the side, my head between my legs.
A Senneville security cop came up to us and asked if we had been drinking inside.
“No,” answered Yan.
The guard looked skeptical. “Are you sure about that?” he said.
“We were at my place,” Yan said.
“Where do you live?” the cop asked.
Yan gave him the address. It was nearby.
“You better bring this guy there,” said the cop. “He can’t sit in the street like that.”
The next thing I knew, Yan was walking me somewhere. We arrived at a house, and he put me on the lawn to sleep. He needed to go back to the Marina for something.
When I woke up, I was in a bright bedroom with lots of windows overlooking the lake. The furniture was all light-coloured wood, and I was in a king-sized bed, naked except for my underwear. I looked beside me, and Yan was there asleep. I detected a bit of movement beside him on the floor and looked over. There was a German shepherd on his back, wagging his tail, waiting for a tummy rub. I recognized him: he was Danny’s dog, named Prinz.
I had a shower, and Yan woke up. He explained to me that he was looking after Prinz while Danny was staying with one of the barmaids. Yan had washed and dried my clothes. We both had to work brunch, so we hurried over to the Marina together. It was cold out, and I wasn’t looking forward to facing any of my bosses.
We got there and headed upstairs. Krieg and Gino were in the dining room. So was Red. They all were smiling, and Krieg walked right over to speak with me.
Here it came. I was going to be fired. Shelley and Carla had expressions that made me feel like a kid again—my mom looked at me that way whenever I hurt myself.
“How you doing today, squire,” Krieg said.
“A little shaky,” I answered.
“Why don’t you take the day off,” he said. “Go on outside and have some brunch. It’s going to rain. I don’t think it’ll be too busy today.”
“Okay,” I said. I couldn’t believe it.
“You could use a good meal. I’ll get Red to fix you up something nice.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Red said, and he rushed off to the kitchen.
So, I sat out on the back terrace, and Yan and Carla served me. Everybody came by to check on me. The cool air and hot coffee did me well—and Red made me a special dessert of trifle with whipped cream that he brought out himself.
Krieg came by again and looked out at the water. “Look at that,” he said. “Isn’t that beautiful?”
I turned around and looked out on the quay. A shining white yacht with silver trim was leaving the locks and easing into the lake. Its name was the Seekapper.
“Sure,” I said.
We watched it for a while. “Why don’t you head on home and get some rest, Al?”
“All right,” I said, standing up. “Thank you, sir.”
“By the way,” he said. “Do you want to know the three shortest books in the world?”
“Okay,” I said.
“The French Book of Knowledge,” he said, “Italian War Heroes…and Negroes I’ve Met Whilst Yachting.”
I laughed, even though I really didn’t want to. Krieg chuckled to himself and put his hand on my shoulder again. I really noticed his hand there, and it made me feel weird.
“Listen, Al,” he said. “I’m having a few people down to the compound after our golf tournament tomorrow. Gino and Red will be there, Yan too, a few of the ladies from the club. Oh, and Mr. Graph, who you served a while back. Would you care to join us?”
I didn’t say anything, at first.
“Sorry, sir, but I can’t,” I said. “I’ve got university starting up again soon, and I have to—”
“Ah yes,” Krieg said, interrupting me. “You just reminded me of why it is that I don’t like you.”
He turned and walked back toward the restaurant. His engineer’s boots thumped on the whitewashed wood deck as he went.
Out on the water, the Seekapper had cruised out of sight.
It was my last shift at Krieg’s Marina the following Friday. Gino had told me on Tuesday that the season was over, things were slow, and they wouldn’t need me anymore. It didn’t come as much of a surprise.
Friday lunch was busy, and the Moral and Religious Education council of Quebec was holding a meeting in my section. They were a party of twenty and were mostly people of colour. They laughed at my jokes—especially when I told them I was the first person at my high school to almost fail M.R.E. At the end of their lunch, two of them—a Haitian couple—announced their engagement, and everybody at the table cheered and gave them hugs and two-cheek kisses. I went to the bar and Shelley poured sparkling wine into two flute glasses for them. I wrote Félicitations on their cocktail napkins. The final bill was $575, and they tipped me a hundred bucks—the biggest tip I’d ever received.
As they sat chatting over coffee refills, I stood at the bar where Krieg was finishing his first Sea Breeze of the afternoon. “I don’t think I’d want those people deciding on the moral education of my children,” he said, looking at me. “You know what I mean?”
I knew exactly what he meant. “No, I don’t,” I said.
“Well, look at them,” he said.
I looked at the group for a good, long while, then back at him. “I don’t know what you mean, Krieg,” I said.
He stood up. “Well, I can’t make myself any clearer than that,” he said, talking to himself.
I looked at Shelley, and she smiled at me. “I’m going to miss you, doll,” she said. “You’re a good kid.”
There was another ring of laughter from the party. The engaged couple were unwrapping gifts. Someone had bought them a photo album with white birds on the cover. I think they were seagulls.
Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband and father (four kids, all seven-and-under), who teaches acting and writing for a living. He's had stories published in Canada, the US, and the UK, and has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology, to be published in 2021. Adam is currently working toward an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University, UK (distance), and his debut collection of stories, Harmony Street, was released in May, 2020.
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