Henry Peck had never been to this restaurant before. He knew he would never return, but that’s not all he knew. The menu had no prices listed. He can’t afford it. Maybe if he dined by himself, didn’t order dessert, left a meager tip, he could indulge himself once a week. Another thing he knew, Sheena strode this palace with a confident sway, the entire staff knew her…perhaps intimately. From the eager young hostess to the practiced mature waiter to the what do you call them in a fine restaurant? The impassive old Maître d’ sensed my attention turned his pointed beak.
Each employee had the same genuine smile for me. A Sheena smile. The hostess attended to my date with deference and to me with kindness, allowing me to pick my chair and pulling it away from the elegant round table. After deliberating with me on an appetizer, Sheena summoned the waiter without signal and pointed, where upon the order taker complimented the choice but wrote nothing, seeming to have foreknowledge.
Escargot cooked with garlic butter and parsley in a shell, no doubt a popular request here, but rare to Henry’s palate, rarer than pate, and his rarest aperitif since jellied moose nose, but presumably the only thing Sheena found of interest. Once the appetizer was selected, she didn’t comment on the entrees, even when queried. Once the dish arrived, she put on a rapid display of her expertise for handling the mollusks without the special tongs and fork. Holding the shell in one napkin-ed hand, extracting the tiny carcass with minimal drip, splash or difficulty, plunging the morsel swiftly and fully into the simmering drawn butter placed between them, with voracious anticipation, making it ascend and disappear with one almost frightening motion.
Henry’s technique, clearly unfamiliar, unpracticed and patience, resembled that of a boy embarrassed at his first restaurant outing. Actually, he did OK. He semi-mastered the tongs and fork approach, forgoing the napkin, self-conscious of his unsure etiquette with the alien utensils. He liked the exotic taste but he made a note to avoid them in the future so that he might maintain a modicum of adult table manners.
Arriving back at Sheena’s place, they stepped cautiously through the muddy parking lot, she adroit in her measured prance, Henry looking for new tracks, fresh animal tracks, he having decided the unfamiliar large beast tracks from earlier were that of a bear, a big one too! And hungry. They mounted the steps, Henry avoiding the hand rail consciously, Sheena moving up the flights unconsciously, with seeming urgency.
Once inside her apartment, the two faced each other in the smart sparsely furnished living area. The short silence prompted Henry to say something stupid.
“What do you want to do?” asked Henry.
“What I want to do, what I’m going to do, is beat you” replied Sheena.
Sheena cocked her head to the left. Henry could see into the half opened shadowed closet, lengths of something, probably leather, like a belt, he surmised. These lengths were hooked to the closet door by something metallic, like a buckle, he guessed. After him torturing by tong the tender escargot, was she going to torture him? Hold on now, not that drunk, yet.
Sheena saw the error in Henry’s gaze and nodded again, this time with more emphasis. He followed her invisible nodded line past the foreboding closet, further past the innocuous glossy closed door, to the entrance of the kitchen. That’s what she was referring to – he identified a jumbo climate controlled storage unit – a refrigerator.
Henry mauled her words in his mind. He looked at her and saw the “good” smile, with maybe a smirk mischievousness. She told him she was going to beat him. She clarified to him that she would beat him with something, but not something from the closet. She would beat him with something from the kitchen. Something normally found in the kitchen. In the refrigerator…
“Sausage” Henry guessed nervously.