The Question

by Jadell Forman

So, one day, many years ago, I’m waitressing at The Happy Chef…

I have the section by the bathrooms.  I don’t like this section.  My friend/coworker once complained about that section, listed all her reasons, and started me thinking the same.

It’s the place where big parties usually sit (and big parties usually make a big mess but rarely leave a big tip); and if there are kids in high chairs and booster seats, they eat crackers and leave an explosion of crumbs.

At least it’s mid-afternoon, when business is slow.  The hostess, after moving together several tables, passes by and tells me to expect a party of fourteen.

Oh, yippee.

As I’m preparing water glasses, four of the party enter my section.  Three thirty-something men and an older woman, all with jet black, wavy hair, and not from my small town.  Two of the men are clearly brothers, almost identical in appearance, pretty darn cute, and the spitting image of the woman I assume to be their mom.  The other guy is normal height and not cute at all, yet…interesting, in an attractive way.

The other three defer to him, choosing their seat after he chooses his.  He sits at the end closest to my waitress station, with his back toward me, facing the plate glass windows.  The mother sits across from him, facing but not noticing me.  One son sits next to her; the other, next to odd-ball guy.

Immediately after everyone is seated, the woman catches the odd guy’s attention and does sort of an Eastern bow.  She joins her hands in a prayer position, closes her eyes, and bows her head.

And I’m thinking, Now that’s weird.

The odd guy says, “What do you want?”

With her hands still joined, she raises her head, meets his eyes, and says, “Give me your word that my sons will be your right- and left-hand men when you take over.”

Take over!  Take over what? Images of President Carter and foreigners holding hostages come to mind. 

The brothers look at the woman, with huge eyes, dropped jaws, and amused grins, as if to say, Dang, Mom!  That’s ballsy of you! Then they look at take-over guy, eager for his response.

The guy says to the woman, “You have no idea what you’re asking.”  Then he looks at the brothers.  I’m not sure if he’s mad, or considering if these guys can handle the job, or what.  But I expect him to say something.  Something like, Can you handle the job?  Or, Did you put your mother up to this?  He’s looking at them intently. I can tell, because when he and the brother next to him look at each other, I see their profiles.  Then he speaks to the brothers: “Can you drink the cup I’m about to drink?”

Omigosh!  The water. I’d forgotten all about it, fourteen filled glasses, setting on my tray, which I promptly pick up, with a turn toward the table.

“Sure, why not?” the brothers say with a shrug and glance at each other.

As I step out of my waitressing station, I step into their drama, but act like I haven’t.  “Hi, my name’s Jadell…” I glance at the brothers, now in non-silhouette light—and, holy moly, they are cute!  Blushing like all of us waitresses do when Mike the new cop comes in, I set down their water glasses, and their mom’s, while finishing my schpiel.  “…I’ll be your waitress today.  Would anyone like coffee?”  I set down take-over guy’s water, and look him in the eye.

He’s smiling at me, glances at my name tag, and smiles again, as if he knows me.  Everything inside—bones, blood, organs—turns to warm wax, and I want to be his friend, and sit down at his table and talk.  Now that I’m looking at him straight on, he doesn’t look like a take-over guy.

“Maybe later,” he says.

I return his smile, sure I’m his favorite person or something.  And I wonder if he’s heard good things about me from the hostess.  I continue setting down glasses at the other ten place settings.

What a great day.  What a great section.

Pretending to focus on my job, I watch him out of the corner of my eye.  He’s leaning back, with one arm draped over the back of his chair, using his other hand to twist his glass of water in quarter turns while it sets on the table.  Looking, turning, as if looking at different angles of a thought.

“Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup.  But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business.  My Father is taking care of that.”

Okay, so, it’s a family business.  That’s safe.  That’s cool.  Nothing earth-shaking.

At this point, I thought I could relax.  But that wasn’t true, because the earth sure shook when the rest of the group showed up.

I’ll tell you about that next week.

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One response to “The Question

  1. Pingback: The Question, Part 2 | The Neighborhood Café

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