Monday, July 16, 2012
It was almost midnight when the last customer left, and Marita Rivera could finally get off her aching feet. Today had been the busiest Sunday the restaurant had seen since the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in May, and although she was thrilled with the profit, every last bone in her body screamed surrender. Two busboys and a cook had quit this week, and her best waitress had called in sick, leaving Marita to man the kitchen, as well as take orders and occasionally clean tables. "You see Marco," she scolded to the urn near the fireplace, "hard work is all it takes! You want success, you got to earn it. You just wait and see what happens, necio! This place will be packed seven days a week!"
She retrieved a bottle of tequila from the kitchen, and poured a goodly amount into a tumbler. Toasting her husband's urn, she tossed the glass back, and let the liquid burn down her throat. By next month, the Town Council would vote unanimously to issue a liquor license to Su Casa Restaurant, and she could make bigger and better plans. Using an old napkin, she sketched a design she had in mind for a roof top patio, similar to the kind she had seen in Cancun. The roof would need to be re-enforced before any patio could be installed, but when business increased, as she knew it would, the cost of the remodeling shouldn't be a problem. She'd check with that McKreedy woman about the tax issues regarding adding to the building. Her property taxes already seemed out of line for such a small establishment, but what did she know about accounting and tax law? She'd let the professionals handle that, and worry about the day to day problems she was more comfortable with.
Marita thought about her visit this morning and smiled smugly. How she wished she could have been there when the package was found. What a sight that must have been! Pouring herself a second drink, she sipped this one slowly, her eyes closing and her body relaxing for the first time in a week, thoughts of colored patio umbrellas still lingering in her head.
She wasn't lost in this reverie very long, when she heard the sound of breaking glass, followed by the acrid smell of smoke. Worried about a grease fire, she hurried to the kitchen in the back of the restaurant, where the smoke was thick and heavy. She could feel the heat before she reached the entrance, and knew better than to push the door open.
Reaching into her empty pocket for the cell phone, she remembered that she had left it on the prep table inside, and the only land line was on the kitchen wall next to the freezer. She'd need to call the fire department from the grocery store down the street. She grabbed the money from the register and headed toward the restaurant's front door. Despite turning the lock, the door remained stubbornly shut, as if it had been nailed from the outside. Pounding and kicking the heavy wood, she screamed for someone outside to help her, but heard nothing but the roar of the fire, which now had escaped the kitchen.
Coughing on the smoke, Marita grabbed the chair she had only awhile ago been sitting on, and smashed out the window in the front. The incoming draft caused the fire to explode behind her, and she quickly squeezed her way out the small panel. As she lay on the grass in front of the burning building, she could hear the sound of fire trucks racing toward her. It was in those seconds that she remembered the urn next to the fireplace. Marco's ashes! Not thinking about the risk involved, she pushed her way back into the smoke and flames. The urn was near the corner closest to the window, and if she could just reach around, she would easily be able to grab it through the broken pane
And that plan would have been a success, if not that the roof had decided to give in at that very moment. When the fireman arrived just moments later, the building was a total loss, and there was no sign of Marita Rivera.