These are some things you should know:
I did not steal soymilk from dry storage, if by dry storage you mean the utility closet stuffed with exploding sacks of paper bags, white foldout bakers’ hats and retired cash registers, a wadded-up rubber mat turning floor space into mountains. I did not steal dehydrated organic apples or wood-ear mushrooms, either.
I did not forget to make the special order of maple bacon donuts, which Anthony Bourdain may or may not have eaten during his radio show. I made them, in fact, while you stood in the doorway with the former Dunkin Donuts employee you hoped to recruit. I made sure the maple bacon donuts were packed up and left in the same space as always.
I do not know how they disappeared overnight, but I assure you, they were there when I left.
I did not steal fryer oil. I did not sell recycled fryer oil to the vegan punk couple carrying a chihuahua in a tote bag who begged me for biofuel. The money was attractive, but I told them we used palm oil shortening that would solidify when it cooled.
I did not break the donut glazer. Not by dropping it on the floor, as you suggested, nor by yanking its wide mouth open and then shut with unnecessary force, nor by taking the blunt end of the broken faucet to its pins.
I didn’t split the profits with the driver that day I made six-dozen extra donuts and he sold them to the hipster cafes popping up all over the Mission. Thirty-seven of those donuts were blueberry, the most expensive flavor. I ended up with twenty-five dollars because he carried the bigger risk, and a week later you fired him, but not me.
I didn’t trade donuts for drugs that day I saw the guy flashing eight balls of coke behind the laundromat that kisses our back door. I didn’t give him a cup of baking soda so he could cut his stash. I didn’t take the drugs to the house I used to live in, just up the block, the one with rotting lemons all over the cement backyard. I didn’t call your girlfriend and invite her over, and she didn’t ride her shiny blue bicycle twelve blocks without a helmet to meet me.
I didn’t go through a box of gloves in a week because I’d gotten a fungal rash from the side towels, which were never clean, no matter how many times you washed them or how often we soaked them in a bucket of barely-bleachy-water, the sides of the bucket rimmed with fat residue and black specks from your experiments with wok coffee bean roasting. The rash appeared below the fat pad of each thumb, twin markers, and it itched like poison ivy. I didn’t tell you about the rash because I knew you wouldn’t believe me, and how would I prove it except to rub your hands in the stash of filthy towels, one by one, a pile growing on the busted countertop?
You said the Chinese couple who used to own the take-out joint went mad and hacked up the counter with cleavers. That’s why there were giant teeth missing along the swath of counter you swore you’d replace. Now we use the cleavers to carve chunks of palm oil shortening for the fryer.
I didn’t call you up to remind you we needed bleach, because I’d been telling you for the last three weeks that we were low, then almost out, then seriously almost out. We ran out the day before the health inspector came, and yes, he didn’t check, so you were lucky.
I don’t think you will ever notice the one thing I did do, and please don’t assume I’m proud of this.
It was a long, hot day, and something had gone wrong. Something often goes wrong; I know.
I was washing dishes when I found the metal mixing paddle. I held the paddle aloft, gleaming, and then I swung it downward into the edge of the range. I wanted the blunt force to reverberate within me, but instead the paddle gave when it met the stove, just enough.
A pouty lip of metal turned out where it should lie flat.
Unless you examined the paddle closely under natural light, unless you rubbed your fingers down its sides, you’d never realize it.