Ice queen lunches.

Convince me with your theatre, Ishmael. There! I’ve called you by the sobriquet of your own request.

What if the difference between AD and BC occured when we split that first atom; and, now, we all live in the year that never was.

Perpetual year zero?

And the sun is Janus.

And the moon is Janus?

Æ surfs the space between the crest and the trough which forms this wave of now; I sleep.

Æ asks: did you dream in my absence, last night?

Aye: I respond.

I dreamt manager/server J. took a reservation for one for this Friday morning lunch. Which she would never do. Which she would fuss at someone for doing. I read the book of reservations and see:

1- The ice queen. 12:00

The other servers fuss at J.

The dream succinctly ends.

~

In waking lucidity

I bequeathed her the name: the ice queen. She is a once a month or so regular at the bistro.

Perhaps late sixties. Strangely beautiful in an unconventional sense. Odd eyes. But, her presence is thicker than most. Her gravity is a strange currency. Her aura strikes me as a juxtaposition of sharp black and crisp white. No hint of true colour.

She dresses in full capes and cloaks, seemingly tailored for her, specifically. Scarlets, golds, and greens scantily distributed over dense black threads. She always dines alone. She speaks purposeful and hardly at all. It took me four visits to elicit a hint of a smile or any warmth from her voice.

On the other hand, it took server K. one visit to make her smile!

I think of her as the ice queen because I doubt she is ever cold, despite appearances to the contrary.

~

And?: Æ queries, foot tapping in impatience.

And, at lunch service today, I had exactly one available table. Every table was sat except this one table for two, in the back of the dining room and adjacent to the servers’ station.

In strolls the ice queen. Unannounced, of course, as the reservation was just a dream and not in the book.

I seat her. The table is in server J.’s section.

I tell J. this story. She seems less than impressed.

As I clear the empty soup bowl from her table, the ice queen asks me: have you entered this clam chowder in the Clam Chowder Cook-Off?

Hum. I don’t know. I did not know there was such a thing!: I reply.

She says: Well, it happens in February but the deadline for entry applications may already be closed. You should look into it, though. This is excellent.

And, before I can ask, she proffered: Talk to B. X. You can find him…{she gestures up the street and left across the avenue.}

Outsider-Insider speak.

Three Smartass Hostess Hums

Can I make them laugh at themselves?

Instead of just me laughing at them or me howling silently at them, with a smile, as I eat shit?

Giggle. People act strange towards the staff of restaurants.

Especially when they feel decorous enough to go to a destination restaurant.

I host the front of house. Like it is one big dinner party and all the diners are my invited guests.

But, it is my dining room, punks.

HUM ONE

Two people are seated at table 9.

Seat 1 flags me over with an urgent come-hither wave.

How can I help?: I ask.

Yes. Is this all you have right now or are there other things available?: she says motioning to our lunch menu clutched between her paws, and held open.

I smile an I’m-sorry-to-disappoint smile.

Yes. There is another menu available. Unfortunately, it’s only available to our special guests, at this time.: I rib her.

She laughs.

HUM TWO

Two girls in their late teenage years wear way too much makeup for 9 a.m.

They try to order alcohol unsuccessfully.

As they finish their breakfast, I stop by to ask how everything was.

Fine, I guess: says seat two.

Would you like me to wrap your leftovers to take home?: I ask.

Are you gonna spit in them?: she asks.

I pause.

I lean in.

Do you want me to?: I ask too quietly, with a strange smile.

No. You can wrap it.: she responds with downcast eyes.

Her friend snorts.

HUM THREE

There are thirteen people total milling around the front of the restaurant,

on the list,

waiting for a table to become available.

Three tables leave at the same time.

One of those is the best table in the house.

I have the busser clean it first,

anticipating.

I do panto with the next table on the list.

We’re just about ready for you. Best table in the house opened up.: I chat.

Oh. Um, actually…see, we’re trouble makers. We were hoping for this table.: one says.

They motion to the newly vacated, worst table in the house. Right by the front door with its constant draft of frigid, rainy air. Loudest place in the joint, too.

Bemused they would turn down the window adjacent, water-overlooking table, I sincerely say: Oh, we like troublemakers here! No problem.

I bus, set the table, and seat them.

I’ll be back with water. Do you like ice?: I ask.

Actually, she will have a lukewarm water, with a quartered lemon. Not multiple smaller wedges. I would like freshly made coffee. Please throw out the pot and boil a fresh one. We’re known to send things back.: the man says.

Certainly: I say.

The coffee was just made and no restaurant slices lemons in quarters: I think.

His lady smiles: he meant to say we are high-maintenance.

I laugh: Thank you for the heads-up. Now, I won’t feel bad if I have to tell you ‘no’ in the future.

They both crack up.

I cut a lemon and prep his coffee.

I return to the front of the restaurant.

I tell the next table waiting: Your timing is impeccable; that table is yours.

I, again, motion to the best table in the house.

They nod and smile.

The high maintenance man steps over and interrupts.

I know we said ‘no’, but it’s hard to hear. Can we move to that table?: he asks.

Motioning to the table I’d previously offered him, the table he just heard me offer

to another party.

No.

: I, simply, say.

Æ smile with a pointed, closed mouth grin and

arched eyebrows.

Bad dog: I think.

He does not laugh.

Bite my honey.

Flower saying to bee, “bite my honey.

A flower from a bouquet which served as centerpiece to a surprise, marriage proposal between two dinner guests, last night.

Table 21.

It was re-gifted to the little restaurant.

The lily stunned me when I saw it this morning upon arriving to host.

The Undercutters: Chapter One- Why Effie lost her job.

Prologue

Introduction

“She was always such a sweet girl, but she just lost her shit,” bar patron 1 says, at 9:00 a.m., to the responding P.D. officer.

He continues, for the benefit of the record, “No, I wouldn’t say she was provoked; but, the old woman she was trying to seat was being a real bitch. They walked to three different tables; and, more and more people kept accumulating at the door; and, when that old biddy said ‘no’ to the third table she offered her, she just…”

“She just lost it!” interjects the diner at table 14.

“Yeah! Her face went all cartoony. Like in those old(e) Warner Bros. cartoons, when you realize the sheep is actually a well-dressed wolf in sheep’s clothing. Like, all pretty smiles and dimples until…,” bar patron two adds.

“Exactly like that. Then she just reared back and clocked that poor, elderly woman square in her jaw. I mean, she coulda easily been 70 years old.” says the indignant wife of afore mentioned diner at table 14.

“Right?! And, that lady just slugged her. It was fucked up!!” the thirteen year old kid to her right nods, grinning wildly.

“Justin!” the wife chastises to her oblivious son.

Justin continues, “Yeah, and that old lady dropped like a fly hitting a bug zapper. Zzzzppp!!!” he illustrates.

“Justin!!” Mom responds.

The P.D. officer asks the group-at-large, “Then what happened?”

The group-at-large goes silent.

Finally, Justin elaborates as the others nod in strangely silent agreement, “Everyone and everything went all silent for forever. Until. Until, the host lady started laughing all hysterically and real loud.”

“That’s right, Just,” says mom, patting his shoulder.

Serving Specters

Come.

Sit by the fire in the hearth.

I will put my chin on your knee, stare into the ether and let my thoughts run.

Perched upon your feet, keeping your toes warm.

Sitting on the floor.

Closer to the earth.

The storm passes, the rain relents, and the sky above the Sound nearly recovers.

The air outside remains cold.

Locals say this place is cursed.

I’ve seen enough tragedies in others in my four months here, to believe it.

Heard of even more.

Yet, here shall I establish my residence.

A mid-thirty year old,

amongst the retirees still seeing themselves as inhabitants of Stellar Street.

Mick and Keith working the corner shop.

The wealthy snow birds hum, at the restaurant where I work, about migrating to the South for the winter.

Winter homes.

“Guess how old I am”: he says.

His wife giggles.

Howl I loathe this game.

But, this pair is old enough to not take anything personally.

78: I guess.

The correct answer is 97.

He proceeds to tell me experiences from both the first and second world wars.

I am captivated.

They do not take their leftovers to go. They turn down the offer of free bread.

°

The less well-to-do appear even more non-corporeal.

No winter homes to which they may abscond.

Disembodied spirits of bodies that no longer exist.

To serve and host at this restaurant requires second sight.

Many of these people long ago became invisible to most.

Are you Irish?: he asks.

No, I’m from the South.

Oh, I was stationed there with the good old boys. They went to bars during their off-time. I went to museums and landmarks. But, I was odd.: he tells me.

He shares stories of being an 18 year old from Montana who ended up in the South during George Wallace days.

I am captivated.

He and his wife take their leftovers home in a box and ask for extra free bread

which they are given.

Period Pains – Homework (Peel Session)

No rights: homage.

/Do your homework/

/hand it in/

/do your homework/

/you can’t win/.

The newly hired, seventeen year old busser arrives for her fifth shift.

I have been training her; and, she is under the mistaken impression that she answers to me.

She walks up to me and says: I know I’m supposed to wear all black, but I felt like wearing green today.

She wears a lovely army-style green button down shirt.

Am I busted or does it really matter?: she asks.

Yeah, it matters: I laugh: They’re gonna make you go home and change, I bet, but talk to J.

J. sends her home to change clothes.

I think: she’s gonna fit in just fine, on this isle of misfit toys, if she can deal with wearing the uniformed colour.

A hallow on the high street.

I arrive at the restaurant through the back door.

I walk through the kitchen into the back office to drop off my coat and purse.

A book of poems by René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke sits on the employee table. I know it has been dropped off for me to take and read.

But, there is no note and no one says anything of it.

I do not bring it up.

The community blocks off the high street this evening.

No cars are allowed. Only hoards of costumed pedestrians.

The restaurant is booked. Chock full of reservations.

We are situated in the heart of the affair.

The previous owner, who retired two years ago arrives

to distribute candy with the new owner.

I introduce myself and

open with: so you released this place two years ago?

Yup. After twenty one years.: he shrugs.

Did you found the joint?

No. We inherited/bought it from the previous owners.

Was it called the same name when you took over, or did you change it?

Yup. It was called by the same name.

Do you want some hot tea to take with you? It is cold out there.

I want a glass of chardonnay at exactly seven o’clock, when this ends.

I make a sticky note reminder and post it where it will continue to catch our bartender’s eyes and thus,

Attention.

The seemingly ancient regulars begin arriving. None of the regulars made a reservation

for

Tonight.

Every reservation includes a note: window table requested.

Specters at a feast, watching the separate feast of the youngest generation,

through our looking glass.

The tables have been rearranged. The layout of the floor altered to allow more tables to be in front of the huge frame windows.

I intuit how unwelcomely our regulars perceive this change.

Understand the regulars eat every night here and have done so for over a decade.

Well, I suppose we’ll sit at this table. We want to watch the trick or treaters.: they huff, already walking towards the desired table.

In anticipation of this, i have placed placards on tables reserved for those who called ahead.

It bears their name and time of arrival.

I fear this one is reserved. I can seat you here or here. Anywhere there is no placard.

But, we never call ahead: they protest.

A lot of people did: I say.

I think: how do you not know what to expect tonight? You have been eating here for decades.

None of the reservations do I recognize.

The aura of the restaurant becomes maroon instead of its usual sunset orange.

{I hear a whisper say: tulpa.

I whisper: heyoka reads, tulpa.}

An exasperated, decorous but uncostumed, regular flags me over.

She and her companion dine with a couple I have not seen before.

[Trans. They planned to impress their friends here, this evening.]

She has been painstakingly doing panto. Craning her neck, trying desperately to espy the youngbloods in the street.

Yes, Misses ______?: I say.

I don’t know any of these people you have given the good tables to. All these people made reservations?: she accuses.

Yup. They all did. And, they all specified they prefer a window seat. You know, I don’t recognize any of them either, yet something led them here. Kind of magical, huh?

If those people leave, can we move to their table?: she responds.

Perhaps.: I allude, walking away.

These reservations are specters of the feast of the specters at the feast of future ghosts.

To them, i am tonight’s hostess.

Like them, I remember I have died before, will die again, and

I forget to remember it.

I will wake up.

I will fall asleep.

I will sleepwalk.

I will lucid dream.

I will remember to not forget that I am going to fail to remember

Again and again.

In delicious, concentric, Socratic circles,

Ever issuing out to the ether.