POW’s of an invisible contagion

The restaurant had been taken hostage by some invisible organism/s which may or may not be present.

The siege occurred five days ago.

Ever since the onset of the hypothetical, immediate threat of possible hostile occupation, the front of house staff has stared out the restaurant’s windows with tea saucer eyes like anxious animals in ASPCA advertisements.

Please, sir, won’t you come inside and have another?

Prisoners of a war that may or may not need fighting.

In the back of house there is a shell called the ‘skeleton crew’.

The chef runs the silverware through the industrial dishwasher twice when we run out of clean spoons with which to reset tables.

The absence of the spoon in her settings, distresses.

So, a hostess gets uppity when she runs out of spoons.

She gets especially uppity when it happens on slow days.

But, today it does not matter.

So, she cares not, just notes it needs doing and notes whose rotation it is to eventually do it.

Today there is no dishwasher. They called him off.

We take turns with the task.

She simply sets tables without spoons;

knowing full well, no diner will be seated at the incompletely set table for quite some time.

No patron will arrive to suffer this mild inconvenience.

Aesthetics suffer almost imperceptibly while the bottom line suffers devastating loss.

But, she goes through the motions automatically.

There is no need to increase hygiene standards.

That shit is always first and formost.

Global freakout or otherwise.

“Funny how the WHO’s commercial guidelines for handling this threat are exactly the same protocols we already follow,” she mumbles to the owner.

“Who do you think is actually the problem?” he asks, through a thick Vietnamese accent.

“Let’s all just wash our hands, not touch our eyes often, and get on with the business of being alive,” she thinks.

She brings him oatmeal with his favorite fixings, without being asked.

Just like everyday, she makes sure a table is spotlessly clean, disinfected with properly diluted commerical cleaning agents.

“What is the real price of convenience and luxury?” she wonders.

The hourly wage of one dishwasher’s full shift.

The daily hourly wage of a line cook and sous chef.

Two hours of a hostess’ time.

One hour of the second in server’s time.

The present guests receive the best service possible.

~

Everyone plays dead for fear of becoming dead if they don’t; but,

a few diehards refuse to sacrifice quality of life for speculative quantity.

And, she bebops, dreamily hosting the modest volume of today’s lunch service.

She notes a newly added sign over the hand washing sink at the server station.

It says: <insert restaurant name here> EMPLOYEES. PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS. IT IS GOOD FOR YOU <insert punctuated, smiley face here>

“No shit.”

She knows the sign is not for the benefit of the restaurant’s staff.

Your server is far more worried about catching something from you.

They wash their hands to keep you off them, not to protect you from them.

~

Her energy always turns over when the clock reads 3:33.

She doubts her shift will last this long.

Her focus refreshes at each daily 11:11.

This occurs approximately eleven minutes after her clock in today.

She renews herself everytime she recalls her own selfhood.

A startling state.

~

A man at the bar counter suddenly catches her eye.

Her mind wanders and the tray perched above her left hand, rocks like a drunkard trying to walk.

A drinking glass full of used water falls and shatters.

Bomb of contagion spraying soaking shrapnel.

It soaks her entire left side.

It sounded crisp. Quite pleasing.

It is her first time dropping a glass in the restaurant; and, she fears she might quite like breaking another.

St. Valentine 2020 (part iii)

I run up and down Main Street. Trying to appear not too insane.

I rush the bank in calculated urgency.

“Do you have an emergency defibrillator machine?”

“A what?”

“An emergency defibrillator machine?!”

“A what?!”

“Shock paddles. For someone having a heart attack?”

“No.”

I keep looking shop to restuarant to bank.

The paramedics arrive.

I return to the bistro.

We throw tables and chairs to clear a path.

~

“We’ve been doing CPR for nine minutes continuously,” says one of the nurse practitioners to the paramedics.

I see the glow of his Bardo.

~

And, yes, by the time I returned, his face had grown green and empurpled with veins.

He looked dead.

The paramedics take out the prize of a pair of paddles.

Finally. The defibrillator has arrived.

Fashionably late to the luncheon party.

They shock his heart.

His exposed chest heaves. He starts breathing.

He exhales; and, from this rest his next interval proceeds.

The color returns to his cheeks, though he remains unconscious.

Lazarus. The corpse reanimated before our stunned, gaping eyes.

~

A woman presents a check presenter containing her tab and a credit card, under my downcast eyes.

“I need to pay for this,” she says.

I respond without thinking, muscle memory taking over in the face of surprise and confusion, “One moment.”

I look up and see the face of Lazarus’ wife looking into me with tea saucers for eyes.

“Oh. No ma’am. We will take care of this.”

“How kind,” she dreamily responds.

~

The paramedics remove him to the sojourn of their ambulance.

I lock the front door.

Everyone decompresses.

Talking to a pair of diners, the owner accidentally drops and breaks a piece of stemware.

The busser rushes over to make ammends.

I reconfigure the dining room slowly.

Until it appears as though nothing happened at all.

I walk to table 12 and tell the pair of practitioners, “Thank you.”

Turns out they are engaged to be married in September.

Trying to enjoy a simple Valentine’s lunch.

The ambulance encasing him remains parked outside for twenty minutes. This is a good thing, apparently.

~

The ambulance drives away.

The staff makes a collective exhalation.

Pneuma.

~

I unlock the front door.

I say, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Welcome. Party for two?”

Wearing eyes like tea saucers.

Appearing disembodied and ghoulish.

St. Valentine 2020 (part ii)

“A man fainted,” the diner at table 7 tells me.

I look around. The fellow I seated at table 1 is lying on the ground. Flat on his back.

It is Valentine’s Day before noon. There are balloons everywhere. A pink and red rose vased at every table.

We just finished breakfast service. They were one on the first lunch service tables.

I had just pulled the jar of freezer jam from their table.

~

I recognize that I am seeing a man in full cardiac arrest.

I fly to the back office and tell the owner.

She calls 911.

When I returned, over him,

a crowd of people stood and stared.

“If you aren’t a doctor or medical practitioner, sit down and give him space,” I yell.

“Nurse practitioners,” says a diner from table 12, motioning to herself and a companion.

He rips the man’s shirt open and begins CPR.

She asks me, “Do you have a <insert gibberish here> machine?”

“A what?”

“A <insert gibberish here> machine!?”

“A what?!”

“Shock paddles. Do you have an emergency defibrillator?!”

“No.”

“Go find one. Try the bank.”

~

And, yes. He already looked like a ghoul, when he entered.

Bloated and sweaty. Too pale.

Fat and very old.

Her companion withdraws from giving CPR and says, “it’s been one minute.”

His female companion resumes CPR immediately.

“Go!” he says to me.

St. Valentine 2020 (part i)

Thursday night, a fellow comes in for a gift certificate to the bistro.

He is from California, visiting.

Getting a gift for his local BampersandB host family.

He drinks an IPA at the bartop.

The bartender, he, and, I talk about a San Franciso hospital.

The one where the bartender had been born.

Where his parents had paid for a brick with his initials to be laid.

The hospital I could see while eating in the Embarcadero, when working in insurance.

The hospital this gentleman could see from his current home.

As he leaves, I happen to be at the entrance.

“I just had the best twenty minutes. Before coming here, I was at the marina by the shore of Puget Sound. Would it be okay if I show you my picture and poem I wrote?” he asks.

“Nothing would please me more.”

We sit on the bench in the entryway together.

The poem is pretty damn good. The first line includes “pilgrim places.” The picture is of the sunset.

The final word is Selah. It is Hebrew.

“It suggests forever; but, it also means like a rock or stop and listen,” he says.

“Like an exhalation or the interval and the rest in musical notion?”

“Yes! If I have a daughter, I will name her Selah,” he says .

“Spoken, it sounds lot like c’est la vie,” I add.

He smiles.

“Fist bump?” I offer my fist.

He makes a complimentary gesture and presses his knuckles to mine.

“Thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for the first bump.”

His chest swells.

He smiles; then, breathes out.

~

Hosting tuesday

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.

Thriving atherium.

Persevering.

~

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.

Perseverance, right?

~

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.”

I overhear

I think

Persevere.

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.

Sweeping up

Sweep me off my feet.:he said.

This was different.

The difference between breathless and breathlessness.

I could set fruit on you.

I’ve been dreaming of restaurant work. Not stress dreaming.

The other night I was seating songs on the dining room floor.

Color swirls and wave patterns that

you could not

visually perceive yet

you still see

And, they made hummin’ noises.

Dreamy little lilts that were not parts of the songs they represented.

I just got off a great yawn of a breath.

Imagine the inconceivable: you say.

Well,: I say: gladly, assuming you recognize

you have requested i prove gödel’s sentence g

[trans. The very constructs of the query are technically

impossible to prove by the rules

enlivening the question as reasonable to me.]

I look up and

my neck cranes over my left shoulder,

to shudder and squint into the sun.

The moon will be in its place soon enough.

Confluence of a hostess.

After days of varying sobriquets

[Dimples, Goldilocks, Curly Sue, At the Bat]

Amber Eyes has become my daily moniker to Shelia and Don.

She grabs me, everyday, this intense mid-eighty year old lady.

Everyday, she grasps my face between her palms,

holding my cheeks to keep my head still.

[Serious(ly).]

She pushes her face inches from mine

and stares into my eyes.

As if to make sure that I am who I appear to be.

Are the eyes, in fact, amber?: I swear I cam intuit her asking herself,

before proceeding.

I take a deep breath, knowing what will follow: secrets.

Heavy ones. Ex-drama teachers seem to always have them.

It is 9 a.m. and I still force myself to meet her eyes and listen.

A man arrives.

Single diners can be sensitive.

Especially when a restaurant hostess says: just one today.

So, I do not say this.

Hi. Good to see you. How can I help?: I say.

He takes my hand as he removes his sunglasses.

He speaks with an accent I cannot identify.

I hear him say: I’d like a date.

Pardon?: I ask. Hand still in his.

I’d like to eat: he says motioning to his mouth.

I smile.

I can help with that. Right this way: I say, leading him to the bar,

hand still held by his.

There is one elder lady at the bar.

He sits five seats away from her.

She collects her things and leaves.

I think nothing of it.

“I love you,” server J. says.

I know: I tease: but what makes you tell me?

You made the racist leave: she says.

Huh?: I am confused.

That was the woman from yesterday. The one who I told you the story about. She took off when she saw him: she says with a big smile.

It was Mother’s day a year ago when this woman revealed her ignorance. Well before I started working here. The story was worse than any I had witnessed in Alabam’.

Point her out next time, so I can tell her we don’t serve her kind here. Many of these old white folks, all look the same to me: I say, not joking.

I get cut when the rush dies.

I stop by the hardware store to buy a pint. Jane is working. She is my favorite.

You must be done working. It’s good to get off your feet: she smiles.

Aww, you remember me. That means a lot.: I say and mean.

We meet so many people.: she says.

I smile.

Yup. Ya know I worked from a chair, in front of a computer, for many years. Turns out I’m better, happier, on my feet. Plus, I am a bit reclusive. It’s good for me to talk to all these people: I say.

We are all actors. You and I are good ones because we are authentic.: she says.

I freeze at her gravity. I look into her eyes. In silence.

You know me. I appreciate you. I also appreciate your help today.: I say.

She grins.

I exit and feel energy coursing.

Next Thing You Know…

No music rights: just homage to a soundtrackscape.

I am sick like dog: I say in my bestest, thickest Eastern European accent to the chef.

I am too ignorant to have a specific dialect, but the rasp in my voice is too deep to not enjoy, even if it hurts.

Ill since three a.m. The tasty haze of the deliciously grey day suits my fever.

Seven

a.m. texts go out.

1. The manager working.

I say: Ain’t well. Looking for a cover. If you don’t hear from me again, it means you guys are stuck with me doing my best.

I include exactly zero emoti-cons.

2. The potential covers.

I say: I’m sick. Host this morning?

No cover expected. Restaurant folk, generally do not rise before the early afternoon, at best, unless they are working. Were situations reversed, I would not come through either.

I sit on the patio and watch the day arrive between seven and eight.

Still and grey.

/Buckle up and endure, now, sweet thing./

I take puffs off my electronic nicotine machine, knowing full well it will help nothing.

My inhaler: I love calling it.

/Cancer for the cure/?

Ya know I can’t cite the source, but I recall a study saying folks are statistically more likely to prefer being shocked with a low charge, over sitting in a room, alone, in silence for fifteen minutes.

So I put on an album called electro shock blues.

I don’t mind stillness. I can shock myself with my own thoughts.

So who is the glutton for pain? The ones who like a bit of shock-pain because being alone is too painful or the ones who get off on stillness?

/well, hee hee hee hee/

/Next thing you know/ You’re eat’n hospital food/

I arrive to work. I am released and sent home after an hour. I think they wanted see if I would show up and try.

It’s good to have reasons to persevere and

over-come:

I say and i mean.

Because I get off on my intent to not let feeling bad make others feel bad or me feel worse.

Seems quite silly to say, as I put it into words now.

I am mostly light and love, but with a little bit of why-don’t-you-go-fuck-yourself for counterbalance.

Back home.

Bare beneath a grey robe.

Leg warmers over calves and most of my feet.

Earl Gray tea with a bit of cream and vanilla extract.

An American Werewolf in London Faux-Fog: I silently entitle the bootleg concoction, in homage of the traditional London Fog tincture.

Back on the patio.

The wind chops and dices the waters of

the Sound

into tiny, white-capped waves.

Little peaks of liquid mountains.

/What/

/What/

/I can hear you/

/I was…/

/Sing the one about the cat that’s always get’n wet/

Comes down the wires, from my tablet, into my Blue headphones.

I giggle.

Collected Strands

Restless a.m.

I

Ayes running through my mind’s eyes like little cottontails scrambling into the brambles.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Robins bobbling around for worms.

The only animals appearing sleepy are tethered. A dog walking a human.

A clot of hair collects about a nail head that is pounded into the railing.

I suppose it is mine.

Strands tugged a’loose like feathers, after the daily ritual of:

arrive home, sit outside, and, let the waves down.

Like little feathers lost only to be reassembled into

a new configuration.

A merkin for the metal.

Hosting Flaneurs

The chill in the air smells like the last time I fell in love.

Knitted woolen leg warmers donned. Chestnut brown and unraveling from overuse.

My sister gave me three pairs, last year.

“You want, like, Flash Dance legwarmers for your birthday?” she asked.

“Yeah, I am standing on my toes these days.”

An hour ’til I walk to the restaurant.An hour of coffee, words, and nicotine.

I will pluck my heavy comforter (trans. duvet) from storage after work.

I seat a one top.

Coffee?: I ask

I insist on it: he says.

We have that in common.

No cream. Bring white sugar if you have it: he says.

White sugar?: I think.

Kat, do we have white sugar already on the table?: I ask, unsure what white sugar means.

Bleached sugar, you mean?: she asks.

Smiling, I say: dunno. He wants white sugar. Those words.

Well, we have raw sugar, nutrisweet, sweat n’ low, and truevia in packets on the tables. We have Splenda packets here, just in case. Brown sugar for breakfast…:

The dishwasher (who provided his own sobriquet [call me MC BlackCoffee: he told me, when I first started] ) interrupts her.

He wants this: he says, holding a shaker the size of two coffee cups stacked on top of each other.

What kind of sugar do you call this: I ask him.

The good kind: he says.

We need to reevaluate your nickname. Sugared coffee is not black coffee: I tease.

Don’t change the color, does it?: he nods, smiling.

Server T. touches my shoulder: the guy at table six has a book for you.

Oh, word. I was hoping he would make good: I say.

How do you know him? He wasn’t sure if you were the right person. Plus, you just seated him.: he says confused and a bit irritated I had let one guy sit at his four top.

I don’t know him. I didn’t recognize him: I reply.

He shrugs. I smile.

Two nights ago, I discovered this server knew philosophy as well as, if not better than, me. And, he discovered a coworker that could keep up with him. We had discussed the very book table six has brought me. He seemed happy.

~

I met table six when he came in for breakfast a few days before. I noticed him reading a Martin Gardner book.

I dig that guy: I say.

This seventyish year old man looked up at me. I recall one eye not opening all the way, although both eyes appear open today.

I found Hofstadter, Penrose, and Feynman through him: I say.

He stared at me.

He wants to be left alone: I think.

I walk away, after offering: I’ll leave you to enjoy.

As he left, he stopped by my hostess post and asked: how did someone your age find out about these guys.

Well, I was ten years younger in Alabama selling collegiate clothing in a boutique and I got very bored.

~

I go up to table six. He has brought me his second copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, thoughtfully wrapped in plastic as it rains heavy. This was a gateway book for me and I lost my copy during my move from AL to WA. I am thrilled a copy has found it’s way back to me.

What kind of restaurant is this? You and my server is a philosophy graduate.: he says, looking quite serious.

One that is open to hiring ex-academic flaneurs: I joke.

I have him sign and date the book.

By the way, your server is also a third degree black belt: I mention.

~

Server T says: Don’t you think it’s funny we were just talking about that book the other night?

Ha, I am surprisingly unsurprised. Things like this happen a lot to people like us, don’t you think?: I respond.

Well, I think there would be some observer bias in such a thought: he says, quite rightly.

But, observer bias is unavoidable by definition because we are observers at every moment. What are your thoughts on metaphysics?: I push him.

I try to avoid metaphysics. Too messy.: he says, walking away.

Yeah, yeah. That’s what all you philosophers say these days. Too messy and too close to mysticism: I call out as much to myself as to him.

Translations for the Deaf.

Douglas Hofstadter wrote about Googel translate not too long ago.

As an American, foreign languages are not the priority of inner city schools, at least not the one I attended. Not, their fault either.

I failed Kiswahili enough times, in college, to blow the socks off of any Kenyan who I meet stateside.

Ninasema Casey.

No one speaks any “Swahili” here. Not enough to even make the general populace know the language is factually called Kiswahili.

Bless you, Bibi Jane. And, bless you end of term oral examiner.

Can I write my responses to your oral questions?: I asked.

No.: she responds.

Shit: I think.

I’ve worked in enough restaurants to learn functional Spanish and Kiswahili.

(A surprising number of Kenyan immigrants in B’ham, AL. Magic City

We got a Nemo walking in: Robert would call to his kitchen, at Tavern on the Summit, whenever a catch of the day ticket came through. Howlarious.

But fish don’t walk, Robert: I’d always say

[After dinner rush, in the alley, smoking a cig.

Me: I thought “fish” was “samaki” in Kiswahili.

Robert: No, dummy. Nemo, like the movie.

Howlarious.]

)

I listened to this show, just now.

A few phrases in foreign languages hooked my attention.

I connect to Catalan, Frisian, and Corsican.

Don’t ask why, because I don’t justly know.

I love playing with Translate ever since the Hofstadter article.

But, I don’t have friends like his, to give feedback on the intimacies of Translate’s inadequacies.

On a cru que les données allaient nous libérer: appears in type face on the screen behind the band.

I make haste to Translate.

To triangulate my linguistic location.

If the phrase is in Frisian it translates to: On a cru que les données allaient nous libérer.

It translates to itself.

If the phrase is in either French or Corsican it translates to: it was believed that the data would free us.

In Corsican, the same spellings translate to: where it’s raw than the others were waiting for release again.

Hot and beautiful. Both.

Désormais ton monde est ainsi fait: appears in type face on the screen behind the band.

I make haste to Translate.

To triangulate my linguistic location.

If the phrase is in Frisian it translates to: this is a ton of things to do.

If the phrase is in French it translates to: now your world is so made.

Howl.

Almost a double ewe.

The British invasion occured today, at the restaurant.
A delightful change of clientele in town for Birdfest.
Aside from the accent, the nearly, overly polite manners gave them away.
Along with the ability to smile and make kindly eye contact despite not having had their morning caffeine.
Who cares if they mean it.
Such civility for the sake of simple decency resonates with my Southern background. The South has little else to offer, currently. Hence, my leaving a few years ago.

(Serving people who have arrived to have their first cuppa in our dining room is always an intimate moment of raw honesty. Coffee, tea, or booze).

They enjoy my accent as much as I enjoy their’s. They laugh when I say ‘y’all’.”

I say it a lot. Habituated.

“Most practical pronoun in American English. Much better than ‘you all/guys’,” I tease.

Server P over hears this.
S/he snags me by my shoulder and, laughing, tells me, “I like ‘y’all’ as much as I prefer ‘they/them’!”

It makes me giggle. It makes me feel good to hear this.

Until today, coffee out ordered tea.
Eight to one.
We run out of tea pots to distribute, for the first time ever.

I convert our decaf urn to a simple pot of hot water, to meet the refill demands.

¤

A solo diner arrives.
I wave as I approach from the rear of the dining room, so he knows he has been espied and will be assisted as fast as my heels can click my steps toward him

“Oh gee, hi there. How are you? It is just me, I am afraid,” he says to the hostess (me) before she (me) has even greeted him.

I break into my you-are-dear-to-me smile, immediately.

He was not British, though he held the manners and demeanor.
He had me in age by at least one and a half decades.
Long lovely fingers, nearly sky eyes but not quite.
Like a mockingbird’s.
Like a seagull’s call, cackling at me, because I kept wanting to mistake him for someone else.
We swap a good moment.

He looks a bit bewildered when I tell him I can seat him at a table or he may sit at the bar.
I have put him on the spot and he does not know which he prefers. It makes him genuinely squirm a bit.

Most American folk are most happy to be asked for their opinion. People love to let you know that they think “this” about “that.”

“Tell you what, our best server is bartending today. You should enjoy her service. Let’s go the bar.”

He blushes, nods; and, again,
I want to mistake him for someone else.

I lead him to
seat 35, specifically.

I watch him as I work, this sweet, little, mockingbird.
He watches me working, when he thinks I am not looking, but my job here is to always be looking.
I watch him try to subtlety watch me.
I avert my gaze, at times.

Eventually, I can no longer refrain.
I walk over to him and say, “I just want you to know you have such beautiful eyes. Exceptional.”

He gives me a look of shock and discombobulated confusion.

I touch my palm to his shoulder and walk away.

‘Exceptional’ because he recalls someone shamefully impeccable.

Last Open Table: Trade Secret Talk

Hey Aimme, I only have table 18 open…: I say, hostessing.

Oh, the four top, newly remodeled to a three?: she says, jokingly but without a smile.

~

{trans: yeah, that guy that joined table 19, without a word, stole the fourth chair from table 18 and has blocked access to table 18.

/Some men appear to need to take up an unnecessary amount of space. The cunt in me thinks they are the same men who feel compelled to drive large trucks with flat beds they will never use/

Additionally, the small dining room of this restaurant is filled with only tables for two and tables for four. This makes table 18 a hot commodity to a hostess. Especially, a patient, thoughtful one working Sunday morning.

But, push has come to shove. I won’t run a waitlist for him, this joiner, unless my server says she thinks they deserve it.}

/some posers know how to tip/

~

[She should have been cut an hour ago.

We should have dropped to two servers already; but the gal closing told her: yeah, we could cut you if I wanted to work harder.

I overheard this. It disappointed; but, there may be reasons such a statement is more reasonable than it may sound to my ears.]

Am I cleared by you to do my thing with this guy: I ask?

She nods immediately. It is louder than words to my ears.

I wonder if she noticed I kept seating her out of rotation, when a table in her section became available. I made sure she did not lose a table because of the joiner.

I don’t mention this.

A table for three arrives.

One moment: I say, wearing a smile, for them alone, that says “I’m gonna let you in on a trade secret.”

I take two steps over to table 19 and begin with

a big, genuine (“here goes no-thing”) smile

{In a way it is my job to do so. /You see, hosti are notoriously flighty. /otherwise they’d be servers, right?/ giggle}

I say: hey there!

[I do panto, panto, panto, then a little soft shoe.]

{Sic. Hosti trade secret}

The entire family at table 19 laughs.

Me and the five year old are now waltzing in a tiny square.

The people standing, waiting, start laughing,

for a different reason.

We should get out of your hair: says the dad at table 19.

{This family had finished eating over an hour ago. We call such folk [campers].}

Well, I do need to get access to that table over there, to seat these fine folk: I say, motioning to actual humans waiting.

Table 19 kindly slide themselves aside while making small talk with the family I am about to seat at table 18.

I am now waiting on the waiting list.

The best kind of professional inconvenience, to me.

Table 19 leaves.

Table 18 is seated.

Thank you: says Aimme.

I am immediately and acutely overwhelmed by deja-vu.

I grab Aimme by the arm and say: I just got the most intense deja-vu I’ve felt in years.

Because, I experience the feeling not infrequently.

Because, Aimme is empathic, too.

Because, it feels so strong it calls into question scales of magnitude.

She stops.

You must be in the right place: she says before springing back into action.

I dig the gravity of her spontaneous response.

Over her shoulder, she calls out: thank you for making sure I got as many tables as the others.