Judy and Deborah and I have a culinary three-way happening. We meet up every few months to catch up. This isn’t the first time we’ve come to the, ah, well, let’s call it the X-Café. It’s located halfway between their workplace and my home (ie, my workplace.) There are tables outside, so we settle in. They have made me a few color copies of the cover of my book Lillian’s Last Affair (Deborah executed the cover for me; Judy was an early reader) and hand them to me in a manila envelope which we put down to hold the table while we go in to order.
There is the competent wait person and there is the incompetent wait person. No, they don’t have white bread for my BLT but they do have sourdough bread. No, they’re out of the brioche buns for the hamburgers, but they have chapati which, the incompetent one assures me, is identical to brioche. Once we all locate some things on the menu that they actually have, we return to our table where I find the envelope soaked in some kind of oil – salad dressing? – that had managed to escape the cleaning of the table that apparently never happened. I immediately look at the left sleeve of the red Chico shirt I just bought online, on which I had been leaning while waiting for my friends to arrive and yes, it too is spotted with oil.
This leads to flurries of suggestions from the competent, now very embarrassed, wait person. She brings me a wet washcloth, offers soda water, while the incompetent one says, “Soda powder. No soda flour.” Baking soda we say. That’s it. Judy and Deborah say, “Shout!” and I know just what they mean. We settle in to wait for our food.
Out comes the incompetent one. There isn’t sourdough bread after all. What about 7-grain? Me, I’m a white bread girl. Period. I’m flexible about a lot of things, but I want my bread white. I go back into the restaurant to reorder. In the end I go for a Greek salad.
Food arrives. Judy picks up her wrap sandwich and it explodes in a waterfall of tomato colored juice splattering down the front of her lovely white blouse. That’s two shirts we’ve lost to lunch. Deborah’s grilled veggie sandwich eventually arrives, with an incongruous side of mashed potatoes – which is, in the end, the tastiest morsel on our table (not counting Deborah and Judy, of course.) The owner comes out to make sure everything is okay. We say, fine, fine. The competent wait person brings me back the money I paid for the BLT. No charge today.
And then the bees arrive. One. Two. More. Around the food. Under the table. They summon their friends to come swarm. Judy starts clearing away the plates. We can take a hint. My friends invite me to come to their office to make a photocopy of something I’ve mentioned. We’re laughing over the disaster in their office when Deborah suddenly clenches her stomach and says, “Oh, no”, charging for the bathroom. The bees may have gotten our leftovers, but Deborah has clearly brought home something to remember the lunch by.