The room was all soft lights, Italianate flooring, thick, creamy linens, and sweet, soft jazz in the background. The air, redolent with reductions finished with sweet butter, the barest hint of tarragon, an undertone of gamay beaujolais. Silverware clinked lightly against china. The relaxed murmur of conversations, the low, throaty laughter of beautiful women and impeccably groomed men swirled through the space.
Albert's gaze swept the room--no detail would escape his scrutiny, a misaligned fork, a half-empty wine glass were like pimples on the rump of Michelangelo's David. Invisible, but always present. The wants and whimsies of frequent clientele were catalogued in his voluminous memory bank. To call Albert a waiter was like saying Toni Morrison was a typist. Discretion and tact were hardwired into his DNA.
A party of 4 has just been seated at table 12.
While the busboy filled the water glasses and the sommelier took their wine order, Albert took a moment to inspect the party. A man of Latin descent, superbly clothed in an Italian suit which, by the way it draped over his strong, broad shoulders, could only be custom tailored. Dark eyes flashed beneath hooded lids and the mouth hinted of the kind of arrogance which comes from a finely honed intelligence.
The woman was a stunning example of that rare breed known as the Black Irish. Raven tresses and emerald green eyes in a delicate face that bore traces of a history of pain buried, but not forgotten.
To her left, an unassuming man in a clerical collar. The suit, a bit shiny from wear, spoke of a simpler, less ostentatious life perhaps than the other two. Still, an aura of grace hovered in the air around him. There was a palpable kindness in his posture.
Albert's gaze lingered on the last member of the party, possibly the most hirsute individual Albert had ever laid eyes on. At least, that part of him that was visible beneath the porkpie hat pulled low over his brow and the tinted lenses of the oversized glasses perched on a remarkably snout-like nose. The gentleman even kept his gloves on at the table. Possibly a medical condition, Albert surmised.
The sommelier left and Albert approached the table.
"What is this `Black Buck Loin' you have on the menu? Explain this!" the first man demanded before Albert could finish greeting the table.
"It is a venison specially raised..."
"Was it tortured?"
"Sir, I am sure the animals are raised in the most humane..."
"There is no gray here. I asked a simple question. Are you an idiot?"
"Sir, I did not personally participate in the slaughter of this particular animal."
"Slaughter? You admit it was slaughtered. I am outraged, outraged that this establishment would participate, no condone, the slaughter of helpless animals.
Bring me a salad."
Albert smiled warily and turned to the woman.
"The Kumamoto oysters, please. Raw."
"Madam. My apologies. The chef has just informed me that, unfortunately, the oysters are very popular tonight and they are no longer available. Might I suggest..."
With a smile so seductive it would put Lauren Bacall to shame, the woman leaned forward and motioned Albert to her side. In a voice so low he had to lean forward to hear her, she said "I suggest you get your motherfucking ass into the fucking kitchen this fucking second and tell that fucking fuck of a chef that I know he has an order set aside in a corner of the walk-in and if those fucking oysters don't appear in front of me within five fucking minutes I will personally go back there and rearrange his internal organs so that he shits out of his nose."
Albert, barely, managed to straighten his body and merely nodded. Looking towards the minister, he thought surely the worst was over.
"Brothers and sisters, let us pray, meditate, think deep thoughts, ponder the elusive lint in our navels, and ask humbly, what in god's name is this man's fucking problem. We are here to break bread, commune in fellowship with good company, yet we are faced with the most unimaginable horror and famine.
Got any waffles?"
Albert, at this point, was prepared to tell them all to get thyselves to an IHOP, when an ear-splitting howl emitted from the fourth and last member of the party.
"Soooshee. I lyk sooSHEE. Gif me SOOOOSHEEE NOW-ow-ow!!!!"