It’s Sunday night. I make myself a quick supper of pan seared tuna, rice, and green beans. After I eat and clean the dishes I fix myself a light vodka and tonic and head into the living room. I pull a book off the bookshelf and settle into my easy chair. I get ten pages into my book when my roommate comes out of his room.
“You want to watch anything?” he asks.
“Anything you want,” I reply, not looking up from my book.
My roommate stretches out on the couch and flips on the TV. He starts watching a game show. The yelling and screaming on the TV distracts me from my book. Soon I’m watching Deal or No Deal.
“I don’t get it,” I say after a while. “If the woman picks the case with a million dollars she wins?”
“No,” my roommate says. “If she picks the case with a lot of money thats not good.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“You want to get one of the cases with a low amount so the bank will offer you a bigger deal.”
“Ah,” I say. “Hence the name of the show.”
I watch for a few more minutes. It’s all rather confusing. I was never into game shows. The models are cute though. Then again every game show has cute models. Bob Barker was no fool.
I turn back to my book. I read about a man who never existed, living a life thats probably not possible. When I get to the part where the detective pulls his gun the phone rings.
I sigh and close the book. I wonder who’s calling me. I better answer it. It might be important. It might be an emergency. I heave myself out of my easy chair and pad into my bedroom.
Looking at the caller ID I feel a sharp tingle of surprise. Its the Bistro calling. I pick up the phone.
“Waiter?” a familiar voice says. “Is that you?”
“It’s me Louis,” I say cautiously. “Whats up?”
There’s no response. In the background I hear the low roar of a busy restaurant. Somebody laughs. I hear a muffled voice say, “Let me speak to him.”
“Waiter?” the Bistro’s server says. “This is Louis.”
“Larry and Clara want to talk to you.”
My stomach clenches. Larry and Clara were my favorite customers. I was their favorite waiter.
“Put them on,” I say.
There are some fumbling noises as Louis hands over the phone. A female voice comes on the line.
“Waiter!” Clara says. “Larry and I came in for dinner and Louis told us you left.”
I think carefully about my answer. After a few seconds I say, “It was time to go Clara.”
“Larry and I came here because of you,” Clara says.
“Thanks Clara,” I reply. “I appreciate that.”
“Are you OK?”
“I’m OK Clara.”
“They told us you left suddenly,” Clara says. “So Larry and I were worried something happened to you.”
“I’m fine,” I say. “I’m pursuing other things. I’m just sorry I didn’t have time to let you know I was leaving.”
“Louis said you were doing some kind of writing.”
“You never told us you were a writer,” Clara says. “That’s very inspiring.”
“Hang on,” Clara says. “Larry wants to talk to you.”
I wait for Larry to come on the line. Larry’s a good guy. When he showed up with a diamond stud in his ear one night he took my ribbing with good grace. He was always polite, drank Dewars 12 Year, and tipped 30%. But I didn’t like Larry and Clara because they were good tippers. I liked them because they were always interested in me as a person. Thats a rare quality in customers these days.
“Hey Waiter,” Larry says. “You all right?”
“I’m good Larry,” I say.
“I wish you told us you were leaving.”
“No time Larry.”
“You know how these things can be.”
I hear a sharp breath on the other side of the line. “I know,” Larry says.
“You and your wife are good people,” I say. “I’m going to miss you.”
“Listen,” Larry says. “I’m gonna put Clara back on the line. You give her your phone number.”
“We’ll get together for a drink soon,” Larry says. “Then you can tell us what you’re up to.”
“I’d like that.”
“OK Waiter,” Larry says. “Hang on a sec.”
Clara comes back on. We exchange information. Clara works for a vet. She asks how my dogs doing.
“Buster’s fine Clara,” I say. “Thanks for asking.”
“Good,” Clara says. “We’ll call you soon and meet for drinks.”
“I’m looking forward to it Clara.”
I hang up the phone. My chest tightens. My eyes threaten to water. I’ve waited on some horrible people in my time. I’ve made a career bashing rude and obnoxious customers. Sometimes I forget how nice people can be.
I walk back into the living room.
“Who was that?” my roommate asks.
“An old customer,” I reply. “Checking to make sure I was alright.”
“That was nice of them,” he says.
“It was indeed,” I reply.
I take another sip of my drink. The contestant on the game show starts jumping up and down excitedly. I reopen my book and start reading. I think about Larry and Clara. I think about the novel’s detective. Phillip Marlowe’s a character in fiction. Good fiction, but fiction nonetheless. I smile to myself.
I’m a man who exists, living a life where anythings possible.