• TAD

The Tools of My Trade by Samuel Verdin

The Head Waiter of Le Plume is a man named Long. Long is rope - bound and wound tight into a black waistcoat and a lengthy white apron. He elegantly glides amongst the tables situated within the restaurant’s main floor (Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!). The room is crimson and dignified and the hooks of its walls hold portraits of cultural titans and a couple of dogs.

Long is not a nice man.


Table I


Two children sit between two empty seats. They are innocent, available and without supervision.

Whilst reaching into his pocket for a pen, the tips of Long’s fingers play, out of sight, only to be found shortly after covered in ink. ‘Bien,’ he thought, ‘ma memoire devra faire,’ and with that his memory wipes the sleep from its eyes, rolls out of bed and puts the kettle on, rather annoyed.

“Bonsoir, Monsieur, Madame! Aimerez-vous voir le menu des vins?”

Inside Long laughs and leans his head back displaying to anyone who happens to look a condescending grin. The children stare up. Their eyes begin to tear.

No experience that these children have had could ever answer for why Long smiled in such a way. This left them in his mind without trial, as naked and fruitless as the branches of November.

His memory sips at its tea whilst one of the children weeps. The second child asks for a tissue as Long drifts over to the next table (Heave! Ho!).


Almost there…


Between

these spaces

Long longed to

fill

happened a small,

slight

inconvenience.

One that

he nor

I

had expected.

A glass of

average size

fell to the crimson,

s h a t t e r i n g

into a

million,

billion,

trillion pieces everywhere and unfortunately for Long he shrieked and all the portraits in the room had worried faces and fear swept across him, drowned him, frowned him and pushed him into the back of the room along with all of the other wasted imaginings of what people may say, think, do, whisper, giggle, judge, preach and wonder and why, he would ask me, would I make such a thing happen when he would feel, if he could feel at all, to be as if a Sancho to me as I a Don to him and I would say,

Shhh…

My poor Long.

Everything

is

going to be OK.

Imagine,

just imagine,

that every

single

person

in the room

is naked,

and you are not.


An elderly woman sits alone in her birthday suit finishing her desert across from him, careless to the removal of her clothes. She has existed for over a century and now only worries for others.


Table II


Long gathers himself from amongst the shards of glass and makes his way to the next table, passing a judgemental glance to the old woman – her cracked, low skin and the purple veins around her ankles. The portraits rest and resume their pose: the dogs looking up to a man holding a pheasant, heroically, and the rounded faces of white women sit above their blown-up gowns, a look of unwarranted decency held in their eyes.

At the second table sits a writer, a critic, casually swirling, smelling and sipping his wine. One leg rests over the knee of the other. One hand holds his glass. One hand holds a pen independently noting anything that occurs.

“Monsieur, is everysin OK wis se wine?” Long asks.

“Yes,” the man replies, “I’m ready to order.”

“And what will you be having sis evening, monsieur?”

“The lamb.”

“Ah…” A look of memorable pleasure slides across Long’s lips until one corner peaks. His memory rubs its hands together in excitement. “An excellent chois, monsieur…”

Long takes the menu, bows, ever so slightly, pauses for a moment and gives the order to the kitchen through a door just to the left of the table.


The Elderly Woman

PART I


Several metres from the second table, the elderly woman is speaking with Long. The critic’s hand and pen work in ultimate unison as his eyes survey the silent conversation. It lasts for one minute and thirty-three seconds. As the service bell rings in the kitchen, demanding Long’s attention, the critic’s left ear turns to face the door.


Kitchen


VOICE 1: I told you! We don’t have enough fucking lamb!

LONG: You never mensioned anysing!

VOICE 1: I did!

VOICE 2: We only have five, Chef, and they’re taken by the pre-order.

VOICE 1: Fool! Who is it for?!

LONG: I believe it is for se infamous Jacque Burdon.

VOICE 3: The critic?!

LONG: Oui…

VOICE 1: FOOL!


A moment of silence passes.


VOICE 1: It’ll take time. He’ll have to wait thirty minutes… James!

VOICE 3: Oui, Chef?

VOICE 1: Tell reception to call the party and see if we can change one lamb.

VOICE 3: Oui, Chef.


The Elderly Woman

PART II


The elderly woman sits at her table using her varnished lips to skin a mouthful of crème brûlée from a spoon. Her appearance leaves no secrets to the imagination, concealing only her organs. The candle on her table flickers a little as the critic approaches her, his right hand resting in the palm of the other behind his back. A friendly expression warms his face as she looks up to him, polite but indifferent.

“Madame,” he nods.

She swallows. The critic hears it go down. “Good evening, young man.”

“May I ask, if it is not too rude, what it was that you spoke of with the waiter? Pardon me, I am an inquisitive soul, you see…”

“Oh, I don’t mind. Nothing really. He wanted to ask why I wasn’t wearing any clothes.”

“I see… And, if you don’t mind such an interrogation, why aren’t you?”

“Well,” she chuckles to herself, looking down at her desert with artificial patience before returning her attention to the man, “if I’m honest, I was about to ask you the same question.”

“Oh, really?” Replied the critic.

“Well, of course,” she continued, “you’re writing about all of us, aren’t you?”


FIN.


Notes:

Fear: 12.83% of this text focuses on Long’s embarrassment - an inaccurate representation of Long’s insecurity as he is generally considered to be rather worried about a lot of things. But we weren’t talking about fear then. We are now.

31.1% of Long’s daily mental and physical reactions are due to fear. Coincidentally, this is the same percentage of Long’s French dialogue and his French heritage (his grandfather lost an arm in the war – Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!).

Here are Long’s fears in chronological order: Fear of bad breath; fear of missing a spot; fear of being hit by a car; fear of James Farrelli, a Chef de Partie at Le Plume whose criminal record is extensive; fear of forgetting; fear of never being pictured on the walls of Le Plume, fear of choking; fear of dropping something; fear of uncontrollable bodily functions; fear of a change in sexual appetite and the social ramifications; fear of his junior colleagues’ failing to perform their duties to a satisfactory level; fear of being blamed; fear of alcohol; fear of being hit by a car; fear of slipping in the shower; fear of leaving something on; fear of swallowing a spider during his sleep; fear of being forgotten.

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