“Fluvio wants you,” Maria, the busgirl, shouts.
“Tell him I didn’t do it whatever it is,” I shout over the din, frantically trying to assemble ten cappuccinos.
“He wants to know why your table outside’s pissed off,” Maria continues.
“They said you’re a horrible waiter,” Maria giggles. She loves seeing me in trouble.
“Christ. What now?” I moan heading towards the front.
“Boloni you screwed up the table,” Fluvio barks as I arrive at the hostess stand.
“What happened?” I ask.
“The man wanted a chocolate torte and you gave him an apple pie.”
“My bad,” I say, “I’m so busy I had a busgirl run the dessert out. I must’ve handed her the wrong plate.”
In my peripheral vision I see my ten top wondering where their cappuccinos have disappeared to.
“The guy says you’ve been screwing up his table all night,” Fluvio presses.
“His date wanted a half order of pasta and you gave her a full order!”
“She ordered a full portion.”
“She says no.”
“It’s right here on the pad man,” I say showing Fluvio my ticket book.
“Whatever. We’ll charge her for a half portion anyway,” Fluvio grunts.
I head out onto the veranda to smooth things over. When I get to the table the lady starts in on me immediately.
“I ordered a half portion,” she says.
“I’m sorry madam. I must’ve misheard you,” I reply.
“Didn’t you write it down?” she sniffs.
“Yes, I wrote down what I heard,” I say politely.
“Well I’m right and you’re wrong,” she bitches reaching for her fourth chardonnay.
This lady’s a semi regular customer. She’s a well known attorney. Being right all the time is part of her DNA. It’s a shame aging gracefully isn’t. I’ve being watching this woman slowly disintegrate for years. She used to be pretty. But the demons of drink and a high powered lifestyle have exacted their Faustian toll.
“My apologies madam,” I say.
“Whatever,” she sighs dismissively.
Not to be outdone her date, another attorney says, “And my espresso’s cold!” This guy’s had five scotch and sodas.
“Let me get you another sir.”
“And why did you send me an apple pie when I wanted chocolate cake?” he asks. I feel like I’m on the witness stand.
“A simple mistake sir. Easily fixed,” I say soothingly.
The real incompetent is the doctor who did this guy’s hair transplant. I decide to keep that observation to myself.
“I’m sorry,” I repeat for the umpteenth time.
“You’ve ruined my entire evening,” Bad Hair pouts.
I’m a little waiter in a little bistro. I wrecked this high powered lawyer’s night. I never realized I wielded such power.
“Desserts on us,” I say. I need to shut these guys down. I have other table waiting.
“Take this,” Bad Hair says shoving his espresso towards me.
I run inside and make the man another espresso. My ten top yells. “Where are our cappuccinos?”
“Coming right up!” I shout back.
I place Bad Hair’s demitasse on the table. He pretends not too see me.
I’m pissed. I don’t like being called incompetent. My mind races with devilish schemes of revenge. But then I look at Bad Hair. His face is pockmarked and the flesh of his nose is starting to spider with busted capillaries. I don’t need to do a thing.
Life’s punishing him far better than I ever could.
I bang out my ten top’s caps and try and catch up on my tables. Through the window I see Bad Hair signaling for his check.
When I deliver the bill he hands me two credit cards. “Spilt it,” he says.
Way to go studly. Make the lady pay for her share.
At the credit card terminal Louis is busying processing a mound of checks.
“Those assholes giving you a hard time?” he asks.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” I reply.
“They’re quite a pair,” he observes.
“They deserve each other.”
“Those two have been dating for years but they always split the check. What’s that about?” I wonder aloud.
“They split the check so they can submit the charges as a business expense,” Louis says.
“So they’ve been eating here, for years, on the company dime?” I reply.
“Well – they are lawyers.”
I return to the outside table. They sign the receipts and get up to leave. I sneak a peek at the checkbook. 16%. It could’ve been worse.
As the legal eagles start walking down the street the woman looks at me over her shoulder.
“I was right about the pasta,” she says drunkenly.
She just can’t let it go. Maybe that’s why she’s such a good lawyer. Maybe it’s why she seems so miserable. A person’s greatest strength is always their greatest weakness.
Silence seems the best response.
I watch the couple walk down the avenue. I notice they don’t hold hands. They keep a healthy distance between each other. The woman’s heel catches a crack on the pavement and she stumbles slightly. Her date makes no effort to steady her.
I shake my head and go back inside the bistro.
Those two are doomed.