It’s a busy Sunday and the place is jumping.

Awaiting my delivery, three tables worth of entrees are racked and stacked in the kitchen. The pickup bell is ringing insistently. I am in the zone. The Zen-like state where I am aware of everything, no movement wasted; kitchen and floor in harmony.

I am gliding down the aisle with sea bass piccata in one hand and venison with mushroom white wine sauce garnished with foie gras in the other.

Then the phone rings.

The hostess is not at her station; probably smoking a cigarette, blabbing on her cellphone somewhere, or taking a dump.

I have four rings before the answering machine clicks on. If its the owner calling from whatever casino he’s in and he gets Muzak – I’ve got trouble.

I gracefully deposit the entrees, smile broadly, say “buon appetito” and turn on my heel and bound over to the hostess station. A blast of static greets my ear as I pick up the phone. An overwrought matron screaming on a cell phone with spotty reception is lost and needs directions. I tab up Directions on the reservation computer. The door chime rings. I look up and a pleasant middle aged couple asks for a table for two. A smile, “Please wait one moment,” and I look back down toward the monitor………

………straight into a steaming plate of venison.

I am wondering why a pile of deer flesh is where the computer screen used to be when the voice connected to the arm holding the plate shrieks, “It’ raw. It’s not cooked! How am I supposed to eat this?” I groan inwardly. I know that voice. It belongs to Mrs. Dorflinger. She ordered the venison rare.

Mrs. Dorflinger, a regular customer, sends back everything at least twice, thinks nothing of screaming your name across a crowded restaurant when displeased, has small psychotic break until the matter is resolved and is, basically, a consummate pain in the ass.

I snatch the plate from her hand without looking up and say, “I will take care of it madam.” place the entree on a side table, and give the directionally challenged customer the route to the bistro. Grabbing two menus I escort the waiting couple to a nice table right next to venison lady. The man coughs, looks at me nervously, and whispers, “Anywhere but next toher.”

I smile and take them to only table I have left next to the men’s room. They are happy to take it. Their drink order in hand I run into the kitchen. The sous chef is screaming at me to get my shit out to the tables. I deliver all of them. I fetch the drinks for the new table. I tell them the specials. Meanwhile Mrs. Dorflinger’s roadkill is experiencing entropy.

My Zen state has taken a decidedly satanic bent at this point. I return to the front and Mrs. Dorflinger is flapping her arms like a hurt bird stammering, “My venison. My venison!”

The hostess has returned and I give her my best “Where were you bitch?” glare. She is holding the plate of Bambi, nose wrinkled in disgust. “Ugh. I am a vegetarian.” Then she adds, redundantly, “I don’t eat meat.”

“That’s not what it says on the bathroom wall.” I feel like saying but I let the moment pass.

I take Mrs. Dorflinger’s plate to the chef and say. “Guess who?” “PUTA!” he grunts and snaps the chops off the plate with a pair of tongs, throwing them into the oven. He grabs a fresh plate, arranges a tower of vegetables and potato, and places the meat back gingerly on the pile. Sauce, a couple of slices of foie gras, and a perfectly presented entree is reborn.

“I hope she chokes on it.” the chef says handing the plate to me. Elapsed recook time – 60 seconds.

I bring the barely warmed plate to Mrs. Dorflinger who looks like she is about to stroke out. During all her histrionics her husband stares ahead, quietly masticating his bass. I realize how he survives his marriage. Learned obliviousness.

Mrs. D greedily takes a bite and her features relax like a heroin addict whose mainlined smack has just hit the brain. She smiles, looks at me and says, “Perfect.”

“Enjoyyyyyyyyy.” I purr and walk away.

All this for something I see dead on the side of the road every day.

I need to get out of here. Prostitution and drug dealing are beginning to look like viable career alternatives.

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