I’m driving to work when a wave of nausea hits me.
I break into a cold clammy sweat. Every bump and swell in the road threatens to propel the contents of my stomach on to the dashboard. I have to throw up NOW.
I pull my car into a gas station.
“Where’s your bathroom?” I ask the attendant getting out of the car. I must look green.
The turbaned Sikh thinks I’m drunk at ten in the morning. Shaking his head disapprovingly he hands me a key chained to a hubcap.
I race into the bathroom. As soon as I see the toilet nature takes its course. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say I have to change my shirt.
I emerge from the bathroom still shaking from the effort. I hate throwing up. I walk into the small convenience shop attached to the station to buy some gum. Out of the corner of my eye I see the Sikh walk over to the men’s room to inspect the damage. Hey. I cleaned it up.
I get back in my car and head home. Once inside I call Fluvio and tell him I’m sick.
“What’s the matter with you? You pregnant?” Fluvio says. I can almost see him grinning on the other end.
“Must have been the sushi I had last night,” I say.
“Forget working lunch,” Fluvio says, “But can you come in at four? I have to go somewhere tonight.”
I’m sick and tired. I need another day off. The prospect of sitting home and watching old movies while dining on saltines and ginger ale is suddenly very appealing to me. But I can’t.
“I’ll be in at four,” I say hanging up. I go and take a long nap.
Feeling much better I walk into the Bistro at four on the dot. Louis is already there doing prep work. He looks terrible.
“What’s the matter with you?’ I ask
“I don’t feel good,” he replies.
“My ulcer’s acting up again.” Louis moans.
“Have you been to the doc?” I ask.
“Yeah, she put me on all sorts of drugs. They’re kicking my ass.”
“Can you work tonight?”
Louis shakes his head, “Negatory,” he says.
Great. Just great.
I tell Louis to go home. I ask Beth, who worked lunch, to stay for dinner.
“What else can go wrong today?” I mutter to myself.
I learn later it’s not wise to tempt the Fates.
Fifteen minutes before closing a drunk guy walks in the door. I curse silently under my breath. A few more minutes and we’d have been home free. The man sits down and immediately wants a drink.
“I’m sorry sir, you’re visibly intoxicated. I’m not allowed to serve you.” I say.
“Whaddaya mean I can’t have a drink?” the man sputters. Telling a drunk he’s cut off can always be a tense moment.
“Just a small one.”
“Oh fur ch-ch-Chrissakes.”
“Try eating something. You’ll feel better,” I tell him.
Giving up on the drink the man orders some pasta. I deliver it to the table. He eats it slowly, his movements wooden. When he’s finished I go over to the table.
“How was your meal sir?” I ask politely.
The man replies by regurgitating his pasta all over the table.
“That good huh?”
The young couple sitting few tables away looks on in horror. I think the boy’s date is gonna hurl.
Moaning, the man slumps back in his chair, eyes glazed over, looking at no one in particular.
A busboy races over to the table with a garbage can. His cleanup method is simple. Pulling the four corners of the tablecloth together he wraps everything, cups, plates, and vomit, into a bundle which he dumps, dripping, into the trash can. Another busperson brings up the rear with a mop and bucket. In a minute it looks like nothing ever happened.
That is, except for the bile hanging from the guy’s chin.
“Ok, time to go buddy,” I say.
“Uhnnnnh” the man groans.
“You gotta go now.”
The man hands me his wallet. I extract his Amex card and run the bill. He makes his mark on the receipt and stumbles towards the door. I notice he’s fumbling with his car keys.
“Did you drive here buddy?” I ask.
“I drive a Lexus,” the man answers stupidly.
“Not tonight you don’t.” I say taking the keys away from him.
“Hey….” the man protests.
“Where do you live?” I ask. The man tells me.
“I’m calling you a cab.” I dial the number for the car service we use. They’re good for getting drunks, upset girlfriends, and coked out hookers off the premises in a pinch. We’ve used them before.
The cab pulls up and I dump the drunk into the backseat. I pull a few bills out of the man’s wallet and tell the cabbie the address.
“Have a good night pal,” I say tossing the keys and wallet in his lap.
No response – he’s out like a light. I bang on the hood. The cab takes off.
Back inside the bistro I comp the young couple’s dessert and apologize for “the unpleasantness.”
I started my day with puke. I ended my day with puke. Lovely.
I go and retrieve the drunk’s checkbook. Of course – there’s no tip.
Now I feel sick.