Modus Operandi

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Modus Operandi graphic

The madras dragon with the dog-gold eyes is waving.  And so, once again, I go to his table.

The dark-haired young man stood in the back of the restaurant.  Leaning against the wall abutting the kitchen, he loosened his copper-toned bow tie, smoothed the wrinkles in his matching cummerbund and pleated trousers, and contemplated the restaurant’s ubiquitous brownness from beneath the glow of the wall’s torchiere light fixture.  If not for his white shirt, he thought, he could blend in with one of the mahogany, faux-leather booths.  A complete and perfect camouflage.

“Yo, David!  Table six wants you.”  One of the servers walked past the kitchen, snapping her fingers.  David followed her to the drink station and hovered by the ice machine while she poured herself a cup of coffee.  Cindee’s thick, tri-colored hair was sectioned into six braids which were coiled like cinnamon rolls, three behind each ear, and welded to her auburn roots by an army of bobby pins.

She is my age, and also new.  I should ask her opinion.

“I offered to get them more water or coffee, but the man wants his waiter.  Waiter — that’s what he said.  Actually, we’re servers, right?  I’m not a waitress; I’m a server. I forget all the terms sometimes, not that it matters, right?  This is my first week and stuff. There’s gotta be an easier way to keep hair out of the salad bar.”  Cindee fussed with her bobby pins and tugged at a link of suicide blonde hair that had escaped its braid.  “Is it all right for me to do that?  I mean, it’s casual around here, right?  I can help another table if I’m passing by and they need something, right?  And it’s not like I’ll ask you to split the tip or anything?”

“Yes, that’s fine.  Thank you.”  David reached into his back pants pocket for his ticket book.  “He wants his check.”

“Again?”  Cindee dumped three packets of artificial sweetener into her coffee and glanced at her wristwatch.  “I can take my dinner break in the little girls’ room, right?”  Not waiting for a reply, she snapped her fingers in a goodbye salute and sauntered toward the employees’ lounge.

“Problem, hon?”  Angela, the evening line cook, called to David from the kitchen window.  Standing on tiptoe, she leaned her muscular, freckled forearms across the stainless steel counter.  “Every time I look, you’re writing on that pad.  I expect ten chef’s specials to come back at once.”

“I only have one table.”  David felt momentarily soothed by Angela’s chocolate pudding voice and mother’s-milk eyes.  He exhaled audibly and allowed his shoulders to soften.  “They want their check.  I gave it again, but now I have to give them another.  They keep asking. I know I didn’t lose it.”

“One more reason why we need double carbons; you mention that to Larry sometime.  Order up, Jason!”  Angela added a sprig of parsley to a plate of fish ‘n’ chips, set the plate under the counter’s warmer lights and hit the call bell.  “A ticket’s an easy thing to misplace.  One time at Jimbo’s Hickr’y Pit they slipped the tab under my napkin, and I wiped my mouth with it.  Barbecue sauce all over the total, which was fine by me.”

Angela straightened her hair net and shooed David toward his customers.  “Don’t let ‘em fuss you.  Two halibuts, two Caesars, side dressing — it’s the only ticket you’ve sent back this shift.”


“Thanks, again.”  The woman at table six parted her lips and bared her shiny, bonded teeth; David assumed she was forging a smile.  She picked up the check and waved it casually back and forth in front of her face.  “Such a teensy bit of paper.”

“Easy to lose track of, no doubt.”  The man sitting next to her scrutinized David’s name tag.  “Are you new here?”

“No,” David lied.  His eyes never left the check; he watched the woman inspect it in the feeble light of the table’s votive candle and drop it in front of the sugar dispenser.

“How about a warm up?”  She tapped a chunky, crimson fingernail against her coffee cup.

Twenty seconds later, when David returned with a coffeepot, the man arched his eyebrows and lowered his voice.  “Now, if it’s not too much trouble, son, we’d like the check.”

Speak with confidence, not accusation.  You are not a deer in this fool’s headlights.

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Robyn Parnell's C&W song, "If You Can't Live Without Me Then Why Aren't You Dead?", mercifully remains unpublished and unrecorded, while her fiction and other writings have appeared in over eighty books, magazines and journals (several of which have not filed for Chapter 11 protection). Notable publishing credits include her children's picture book, My Closet Threw a Party, and her collection of short fiction, This Here and Now. Current projects include adult and middle grade novels, a second short fiction collection, and whatever else might be found at