Working Title: No Dogs on the Patio
Each step was made with precision. His shoulders were pulled back and his charcoal suit creased in agreement. He didn’t smile at the others on the sidewalk yet his lips curled upwards just enough to feign the presence of politeness. He had an analytical stare that was never wrong. The weak minded would know that he had figured them out, causing a quick darting look to wherever he wasn’t. They would exhale and their muscles would relax after he was a safe distant away and spent the rest of their day with anxiety’s breath clung to their necks. There were many restaurants downtown, high priced and funded by the business men who found solace in proximity. It was 6 o’clock and dinner time. The streets were crowded with well dressed people and the asymmetrical symphony composed by unaddressed business calls. He stopped in front of Cherice. The french decor and lit patio that looked out onto the side walk made it a popular destination. The patio was fenced in by cast iron intricate gate that supported polished wood flower boxes as well as a painted metal sign that read,
NO DOGS ON THE PATIO
The sign had not been recent addition for it was edged with rust. A leather leash looped around its chain and was attached to a german shepherd. He looked the dog in the eyes with furrowed brows, the dog lifted his head from his paws and the bulbed lighting reflected from it’s eyes. The man reached for the door and walked inside.
The lighting was dim and the interior burgundy. He walked to the mahogany hostess station. A girl with strawberry blonde hair and a name tag that read, Lynette smiled at him and blushed.
“Welcome to Cherise! How many in your party?”
“Just one this evening”
She smiled and brought her shoulders together, revealing her cleavage,
“Can I have a name please?”
Her eyelashes fluttered like a moth entranced by a bug zapper.
He knew he should have been flattered, that an attractive young woman wanted him but the zit on her forehead stared at him so intensely that it could have been an attempt at seduction.
“Dean… I like that “ She smiled again, this time giggling.
Dean clenched his jaw as his lips curled. She stared into his eyes waiting for a flash of light and warmth. But his eyes remained marbles. Her pepto-bismol pink lips parted into a desperate smile,
“Booth or Table”
“The Patio would be ideal”
Her eyes enlarged and her too pink lips puckered into a pout,
“I’m sorry Dean but the patio is actually full right now are you sure you don’t want to sit inside “
Dean hated it when people used his name as if they knew him. The purpose of giving her his name was to simply make it easier to differentiate between parties, it was not an offer towards friendship and most definitely not courtship.
“But… Dean it will be at least a half hour, it’s packed”
“You just want to keep me company don’t you!”
“No. That’s not it. But I did say I would wait”
Her smile wavered for a second and quickly recovered. her eyebrows vibrated in confusion and the zit placed perfectly between them quivered with the increase in pressure.
“If you insist, I guess the weather is nice this time of night, and maybe it is worth waiting for?”
Dean turned around and looked at his watch, 6:07. The hands ticked over the gold plated roman numerals. The tick was loud and could pierce through a room long before a silence settled. Men sitting on the burgundy leather would smile politely at their lover as they stopped listening to them and searched for the source of the tick. The sound bounced through their ear drums, creating a dull ring that could not be ignored. They would look to the men next to them but no solution was found.
Dean stood upright in the corner. He never slouched nor leant. He scanned the restaurant. The waiting area had 19 people, 12 male and 7 female. Their estimated yearly income would average at 72,614 dollars. Their clothing was top of the line and luxurious yet it was well worn and creased from long trips to the suburbs. He caught Lynette staring at him, instead of looking away when Dean met her gaze she smiled open mouthed. He stared back expressionless except for his innate smile. He held this gaze until she looked away in embarrassment. At exactly 6:27, Lynette pranced over to Dean. Her white button shirt was down another button and caught the attention of 18 people none of which were Dean. Her round face looked up at him and her zit met his gaze. The pimple pulsated with each syllable that escaped from her mouth,
“Dean, follow me your table is ready”
Her white teeth flashed as she turned around and revealed her body. The black pencil skirt hugged her hips as her heels clicked on the hard wood floors of the crowded restaurant. He couldn’t see her smile but he knew it was there. He knew that she knew exactly how pretty she was, but confidence did not make up for her lack of overall depth. He wasn’t impressed that she could approximate time adequately or find her way to the patio all by herself. She had poor economic sense;Using her charm on him was pointless, she was a hostess and no money would go her way even if he was interested. Her oily face was reason enough to ignore her advances, if she couldn’t adhere to basic hygiene she couldn’t be worth his time. Also this was a classy establishment. Her warmness and 1950‘s name belonged at a Denny’s where she could charm truckers into showing her the world and sleep with her customers. Her voice interrupted his thoughts,
“Here’s your table! I guess the wait wasn’t so bad huh! I’ll go grab the drink menu!”
Dean’s table was in the middle of the patio. It was covered in burgundy linens and the appropriate size for two. He took the chair angled towards the door to the patio and the sidewalk. The women clung their gem colored coats to their bodies as the cold nights of fall seeped into their skin. The men pulled down their sleeves and buttoned their suit jackets as they walked into the heart of the city. A brown haired girl with soft eyes and her lover glanced at Dean. A gentle smile appeared on her face as if to say, “It’s ok you won’t eat alone forever”. Dean didn’t mind eating alone, he preferred it. No idle chat or loitering just dinner and his thoughts.
“Sorry about that Dean! Have you decided what you would like for dinner?”
Of course he had, if he didn’t know what he wanted to eat he would have never gone to dinner in the first place.
“I’ll have the..”
A howl broke his thought mid order. Dean looked and it was the german shepherd tied to the gate. Its black ears pinned back as a panicked smile pulled back its jowls.
“Sorry about that Dean! That’s why we don’t let dogs on the patio”
“Have you always had that rule?”
“Ever since I’ve worked here. So for at least two years. It’s the funniest thing because the owners are some of our regulars but I guess its not breaking the rules, and they tip well… So what can you do?”
“I’ll have the broiled chicken and a side of roasted vegetables, and water with no ice.”
She shook her head like an etch a sketch, and erased her previous thoughts.
“Oh I was just making conversation I’m not a server, silly!”
“I wouldn’t make it habit of asking people what they want to eat if you can’t do anything about it.
Her eyes widened and her jaw tightened. She tucked her hair behind her ear and then grabbed her elbow.
“I’m.. I’m sorry. I’ll get you your server”
“Thank you Lynette”
She turned about face towards the restaurant with a quick uneven step and disappeared behind some potted foliage. Dean turned his attention to the dog. The german shepherd had his paws against the gate and barked at the people ignoring it on the patio. No one turned to look, or acknowledge, they looked at each other with forced comfortability as if their dinner partner had just turned into a third-time breast feeding mother. He read all of their faces, not a trace of guilt, no furrowed brows, no downturn of the mouth, no nervous glances, just annoyance.
A young man with a smug look and protruding chin approached Dean’s table. His nostrils flared as he introduced himself,
“Good evening sir, my name is Marcus, I will be taking care of you tonight of course that is if you will have it”
Clearly Lynette had gone and cried to Marcus, a man that had no doubt made passes at her with no luck and was using this opportunity to cat claw his way out of the friend zone.
“It’s because of my facial spacing and great display of wealth, and I will have broiled chicken, roasted vegetables and water with no ice”
“What was that?”
Dean handed him the closed menu that had been sitting on the edge of the table,
“Which part must I repeat for you”
“I got your order sir”
“Remember that’s no ice, I wont say it again”
“What wont you say again?”
“I already told you that I won’t say it again”
Marcus face began to turn red and his shoulders tensed as his fists closed. The volume of his voice escalated,
“The part about your face and wealth. Say it again. Just say it. Say it damn it!”
People on the patio turned and stared at Marcus as well as a group of men sitting at a table behind the window overlooking the patio. The german shepherd growled and yelped as it writhed in its collar. Marcus turned red once more but this time from embarrassment. Another waiter stood holding a pitcher of water as her customers stared at him and whispered into each other’s ears. Dean left his eyebrows suspended for three extra seconds before responding,
“Oh that I don’t mind saying one more time. I was giving you an explanation as to why your dear hostess friend Lynette preferred me over you. I could see the thought was the flint for the fire behind your eyes and I thought it right to offer you an explanation. My facial spacing compliments the size of my features, which you do not quite share because your nose all though in the right place, is far too small. Also my display of wealth, for example my suit makes me an ideal candidate for procreation. You are welcome for the answer to your question, but I must be direct and inform you that I will not be leaving a tip if you do not put in my order in the next two minutes. It is 6:42 and you have till 6:44.”
Marcus opened his mouth to speak but decided against it. He put his arms to his side and disappeared behind the same foliage as Lynette. The other members of the patio met Dean’s gaze and smiled and shook their heads in disbelief. Mutters of “Some people” and nervous laughs bounced off of the wooden deck. Dean met their reaction with a blank stare and slight nod as he continued to scan the patio. He met the eyes of the dog . Its ears perked up and its eyebrows raised as a bark rested on its tongue. The tension dissipated and the restaurant goers settled back into their meals. His watch ticked and served as a metronome to his thoughts. He stared at a young couple at a table 12 feet from him deciphering if this was their third or fourth date but each thought was interrupted. Every half beat a brush of the concrete would pull him out of his hyper analysis. Dean looked up and 13 feet away on the other side of the gate was the dog still staring, but now wagged his tail at the simplest form of acknowledgement. The longer Dean stared the quicker its tail moved back and forth. The dog’s lips quivered restraining a bark.
Marcus pivoted out of the doorway and walked to Dean’s table. Marcus stood pressed against the chair keeping a two foot resolve between him and his customer as he put a chilled glass filled with water in front of Dean. Marcus stared for a second, expressionless except for the clenched jaw. He wasn’t a large man, he was 5’10 and thin except for his stomach that protruded enough to draw attention. He turned with abruptness and the other tables soon remembered his rudeness. Marcus paused when he realized the customer’s whispers were about him once more. His eyes pleaded to another server but she quickly turned and gave a smile to an elderly couple who had just handed her their check. Marcus looked down as he walked back into the restaurant.
A ten minutes later a middle aged blonde woman brought him his food. She was wearing a black button up and no name tag. She was no doubt the manager and had assigned herself to the problem customer. She smiled politely but could not conceal the doubt in her eyes as she placed his broiled chicken in front of him.
“Do you need anything else?”
She shook her head and her treated hair followed a second behind. She straightened her back and placed her hand on her hip. Her mouth opened but soon shut as her attempt at speech turned into a brief nod. As she turned away from Dean, he placed his focus on the food. He took a bite of the seasoned asparagus and was pleased. He cut the corner of his chicken breast and brought it to his mouth. Half way through his bite he heard panting. He looked up and saw the dog. Now its eyes were big and open and saliva dripped from the edges of its mouth. Dean looked at the dog and shook his head side to side and wagged his finger left to right. He took a bite with no remorse. It was adequate. Eight minutes passed and he finished his meal, wiped his face, and finished his water. As he placed the cup down the blonde woman came with a brown pleather folder with his check inside. He pulled his card out of his breast pocket and handed it to the manager. She smiled even though her left eyebrow twitched with discontent and disbelief. This time she leaned forward performed a slight bow before disappearing. Four and a half minutes passed before the woman returned with his card. The total was $24.69. He wrote in the total as $28.29 and signed it Dean Gould. He placed his card back in his breast pocket and walked to the gate that lead to the sidewalk. The german shepherd looked at him as he pushed the gate outwards and came willingly when Dean slit the leather leash and continued south on 5th Ave.