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*****


The Other Waiter


When Jean-Claude LaSalle asked the man at Table Twelve what he would like to drink, the man said something about Dolly Parton's breast milk and told him to take a hike.

Jean-Claude did not move a muscle. "Would you like to see a wine list, sir?" he asked smoothly, extending a leather-bound folder toward the bloated big mouth.

The customer swatted the list aside with the back of his puffy hand, knocking it to the floor. "What part of 'take a hike' don't you fuckin' understand?" he said.

Jean-Claude sniffed but remained rigidly in place. In his twenty-plus years as a waiter, he'd dealt with worse customers than this one. "Excuse me, sir," he said coolly. "Is something not to your liking?"

"Yeah," said the man. "You."

"Perhaps I should bring over the manager," said Jean-Claude, bowing slightly at the waist.

When he turned, he saw that the manager, Mr. Darcy, was standing less than three feet behind him.

The man at the table snort-laughed, wagging his baggy jowls. "That was quick," he said. "Too bad you're so slow on the uptake yourself, boy."

Even though Darcy was near, Jean-Claude half-turned at the remark. Aged forty-six years, with not a trace of black remaining in his slicked-back silver hair, he could not imagine what grounds anyone could find for calling him "boy."

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