Tres Peces – Flash Fiction by Andrew Conlon
I wrote this story remembering a few years I spent working as a waiter, bartender, and cook. I loved the work and, in one way or another, met and worked with a few of the people appearing here.
Waiting tables will transform a person into a charming devil almost overnight, and if you’re the best like me, you eventually make head waiter and direct an entire dining room at your whims.
At Tres Peces, I rule the front-of-the-house as king over all my denizens: three waitresses, a busboy, and the señora who papers the tables after they are turned over and cleared. I manage all of this while running my own seven-table section. Customers adore us and our reservations are always full, from fear or love – it is always up to them. We always give the people exactly what they ask for. (This may sound confusing and like a lot of braggadocio, so I ought to give an example of our ways.)
If a customer orders off-menu, wanting a dish we do not offer, we make them fearful because the chef will not like this and it will show in the dish. If the customer relents and follows our lead, we show them love, and so does the chef; the dish is magnificent and a free dessert or bottle of wine may appear…there are all manner of rewards for those who do as they are told. For stubborn customers who insist on an off-menu dish, we will perhaps forget about them and let their rage sweep them from our midst. They always return, so we make no show of their departure. The boy will clear the table, señora will paper it. Newcomers will arrive to satisfy us. Love is fleeting. And this is how it always was.
We did not need another waitress and I was satisfied running the dining room and waiting on my section. Adrian saw otherwise. He said I was too busy; no one should have to run the room and wait tables. I complained for days, and the waitresses and the boy and the señora suffered greatly. For a week before she arrived, I exhausted them all, collecting many tears from the women, especially from the señora, who once fainted in the kitchen from exhaustion and sorrow. The boy, I was easy on him. A crying young man is an embarrassment, though I myself have felt like weeping in her presence.
Alyana. Before we opened for what would be a torturously busy Friday night, Adrian introduced her to everyone. Alyana, though beautiful, appeared unsure. The head chef and his sous chefs were smitten while I wished for her to fail miserably, which would justify my week-long ill treatment of the women and cause Adrian to rethink his strategy. I would regain my section.
All night long, Alyana allowed customers to order off-menu and wooed the kitchen, speaking Spanish to the chefs, winking, smiling, and making passes at the window with her chest out so they all stayed in love with her. The customers, men and women alike, were fascinated by her; she made them all laugh, and she danced through the room, waiting her seven tables with graceful ease. Every time I pulled her aside to advise her on the rules of the room, she ignored me and kept about her business. She was kind to the señora, tipped the boy twice what I would, and at the end of the night the other waitresses gathered her up and took her for drinks at a club down the street, leaving me to stew in the wrath of a king deposed.
It has been like this ever since. Alyana has become queen of Tres Peces. Alyana rules with compassion, and Alyana does not fear her king.
I have fallen in deepest love.