I walk in the back door of the kitchen to the little bistro.
Announcing hellos to the line and the singing chef.
“What are we going to do today, Casey?” the chef asks me.
“Same thing we do everyday day, Hector. Try to take over the world,” I reply.
He resumes his singing in Spanish.
Ponchito sings harmony.
The Beach Preservation Busy Body Society is buzzing on coffee at 10:00 a.m.
“Thanks for asking, Judy. Not great, but I’ve switched to Metamucil,” says Jeanie, still recovering from hip surgery, amongst other things.
“Perseverance!” says Judy.
I start a fresh pot of decaf. I snatch up the urn of caffeinated, good stuff (Tony’s, Songbird blend).
I go around warming up people’s morning cup as a priest pouring sacrament.
Paul, an ex-New York state prosecutor, is holding court at table one. A two top right by the window.
“What the hell are you doing at this table?!” I tease.
He never eats at Table 1. He does breakfast at table 6 when playing chess and he does his business lunches at table 21. Both in the back, albeit opposite sides of the dining room. Table 21 is in the bar. Table six is not.
“Well, I figured if I sat up by the window, I’d attract people in for you,” he says.
I don’t recognize his companion, but after five months I know Paul well enough to say, “You are a pretty thing.” Turning to his companion, I say, “He is, right?”
The man squirms; Paul cracks up.
“He usually eats there or there,” I say motioning directly. “Fancies himself something of a local celebrity,” I add, walking off.
Coffees warmed, tables reset, and empty plates cleared, I perform my morning ablutions: sweeping the front mat in the entryway, cleaning the glass free of sticky smudges from syrupy fingers.
Showing the nearly hundred year old building extra love and attention.
It’s all in the details, innit?
Polished brass and dusted, wooden ledges.
I sweep the outside mat, leading directly off of Main Street.
“Hey, it’s the auctioneer,” one of a pair of joggers says.
The locals finally accept me.
The line to the bistro regularly overflows onto the high street.
I usually run a waiting list by ten a.m.
The best system I’ve uncovered is to yell from the sidewalk:
Table for so-and-so going once.
Table for so-and-so going twice.
Table for so-and-so SOLD to the next party.
It is a pragmatic thing.
For when that absentee party I called, invariably returns, angry that their table has been given away, I have multiple witnesses who will enjoy laughing and saying, “Oh, she tried to call you.”
The other jogger notes the unfilled dog bowl we leave out.
“You need to put water in that,” says Jogger two.
“Why? You feeling thirsty?,” I think, but do not say.
I slowly reset table four in order to better eavesdrop on table three’s conversation.
What writer doesn’t revel in moonlighting as a thief of the conversations of others?
“She never asked me not to leave,” he says.
“Didn’t you say anything?” she asks.
“No. It wasn’t my place.”