It’s a slow lunch. Fluvio’s running around, attending to the million details involved in running a restaurant. Since his wife’s at work, he brought his four year old son Liam with him.
“Listen,” Fluvio says, coming up to me, “I’ve got to go out for half an hour. Can you watch Liam?”
“Sure Fluvio,” I say, “No problem.”
“Uncle Waiter’s gonna watch you,” Fluvio tells his son, “When I get finished we go to the movies.”
“Movies!” Liam shouts.
“Be a good boy,” Fluvio says.
“I’ll be back soon,” Fluvio says, giving me a look that says, in effect, “Take good care of my boy or die.”
“Relax Fluvio,” I say, “Maria’s here. We’ll both watch him.”
After Fluvio leaves I sit Liam down by the hostess stand. Maria, one of our busgirls, brings him milk and cookies. Maria’s babysat Liam in the past and has small children of her own. Between me and her we’ve got the kid covered.
After Liam eats his cookies he wants to play with Matchbox cars. This kid really likes cars. He’s so into them that, at four, he can identify the makes of cars as they drive past. This kid knows the difference between a Honda and a Chevy. I couldn’t do that at his age.
We play with his toy cars for a bit. Then Liam tells me how he dreamed about taking a train trip with his mother to see Santa at the North Pole. Santa, not aggravated that some little kid was interrupting his vacation, gave him lots of presents. Ah, the mind of a child.
“What’s that?” Liam says, pointing to my newspaper.
“You know what this is Liam,” I reply, “Tell me what it is.”
“It has pictures!” he exclaims, pointing to a photo on the front page.
“Yes it does.” I reply. I notice he’s pointing to a picture of a man weeping. The caption says the poor guy lost his son in some terrorist bombing. I flip the paper over. I don’t want Liam asking why the man’s crying.
“What’s in the newspaper?” he asks.
“Sometimes it’s about nice things,” I reply, “Sometimes it’s about not nice things.”
Liam seems satisfied with my explanation and returns to smashing toy cars into one another.
The door chimes. A couple walks in the door.
“Oh he’s so cute!” the woman exclaims, pointing to Liam, “Is he yours?”
“No,” I reply, “He’s the owner’s son.”
“So he’s gonna be your boss one day,” the man says.
“Probably,” I chuckle.
I get up, seat the couple, and return to Liam’s table. As I look at him I remember Fluvio’s excitement when his little guy was born. I remember the first time I held Liam. I’ve known this kid all his life.
Maybe Liam will be my boss one day. You never know. I do some math in my head. When Liam’s my age I’ll be 78. Odds are I won’t even be alive, much less waiting tables. But who know what life will bring? What will Liam and I become when we get older? What destiny awaits us? Sometimes that wondering can create anxiety. But sometimes, in that sense of possibility, lie the seeds of hope.
“I have to go pee-pee,” Liam says, interrupting my reverie.
“You have to go pee-pee?” I repeat.
Ugh, I was afraid of this.
“You know how to go pee-pee by yourself?” I ask.
“Yes,” Liam says proudly.
I take Liam to the bathroom. He goes in by himself. He’s a big boy. But I peek inside to make sure he’s alright anyway. Yep, he’s on the bowl singing a little song. He’s fine.
A few minutes pass. I stick my head in the door.
“You all right?’
“Yes,” Liam replies.
I wait another minute. Then another. This is taking too long.
I poke my head into the bathroom.
“Liam,” I ask, “Are you going pee-pee or poopie?”
“I need my Daddy,” Liam says. Uh oh. I’ve cleaned some children’s backsides in my time. But, in all honesty, it’s been a while.
“Maria!” I yelp, “Get over here!”
“What’s up cabron?” Maria asks.
“Liam went poopie.”
“Could you take care of it?”
“Why should I?” Maria says with a big smile. She’s obviously enjoying my discomfort.
“You have little kids.”
“Pretty please?” I beg.
Maria laughs, goes into the bathroom, and cleans Liam up. He emerges from the bathroom happy as a little boy can be.
“I almost did it by myself,” Liam says.
“You’ll get there kid,” I say, “You’ll get there.”
Liam goes back to playing with his cars. Fluvio returns.
“Ready to go the movies?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I reply, “What are we gonna see?”
“Sorry,” Fluvio says, “You’re staying here.”
“I never get to have any fun,” I grouse.
Fluvio bundles Liam into his coat. As they’re walking out the door I say goodbye.
“I’m going to the movies,” Liam says, clapping excitedly.
“Have a nice time.” I say.
“Bye bye,” Liam says, waving.
“I’ll call you when I get home,” Fluvio tells me.
“Sure thing boss.”
I watch father and son as they walk down the street. Liam’s a nice boy and Fluvio dotes on him. I smile to myself and go back to work.
The rest of the shift was deadly dull. Yuppies in, Yuppies out. I was bored out of my skull. But you know something? Spending time with that little boy was the highlight of my day.
Except for the poopie part.