“I wouldn’t if I was youse, I really wouldn’t. Besides, Bolivar says I should make youse come in today, the cappuccino machine wasn’t cleaned last night,” he says Ralphy, taking a long drag off his cigarette. When he’s mad, he blows the smoke in my face; his power move. Ralphy smokes about four packs on busy nights, and two on weeknights
“It’s my day off. I’m going.” I fake left and veer right, my flip-flops kicking up dirt in my wake.
I work at an upscale Italian restaurant converted from an old English cottage, along the northern bank of Georgica Pond known as ‘The Creeks.’ The waiters like to tell newbies that the mafia is a silent partner, that they clean our linens for free. In truth, a few tan, older, Italian gentlemen with big watches eat alone here. They always wear bright neon sweaters (in the summer) and slacks no matter the season. They kiss Ralphy on both cheeks and eat a few hours before dinner service a few times a week. Tonight is one of those nights.
When the restaurant was bought, the contract stipulated that our owner purchase the work rights to Bolivar a stocky hot-tempered expediter who serves as a father figure for the dozen Central Americans working in the kitchen. Bolivar lives with two different women in a house the restaurant owns. One girlfriend, Marta is fat and colorblind. The other, Maria is thin and buck-toothed. Bolivar has 7 rug-rats with these women, sharing a house with 20 other people. He calls me “Shemo,” to my face and “Boracho,” behind my back.
The owner also bought the rights to the canoe that sit son top of our compost heap out back. Ralphy says the canoe serves as a good lid to seal the worms in. Ralphy does not understand how compost-heap’s work.
Today’s my day off, and boredom is right up there with guilt as the worst feeling a human could have, so I decided to have an adventure. Co-worker Sam, an eager Englishman approaches me with a drink, our custom on work nights. We’re busboys…
Along with a recent summa cum laude business major, and a millionaire’s son, we clean scraps off tables for a living. “Eat off the bussed plate while still on the dining room floor in view of the customer,” and “who can piss off the Romanian head waiter the most in a single shift,” are some of our favorite games. On more than one occasion I have crooned “I Believe I Can Fly,” to customers.
Sam and I walk the canoe to the edge of the pond. Ralphy follows us, a smile forming on his ashen face. “Youse better watch out for Freddy.” ‘Freddy ‘ is the bogeyman of the Creeks, a mythical beast known to terrorize anyone who dares trespass. The Adriatic waiters hear Ralphy’s proclamation and leave their duties folding napkins. They run to the screened-in porch and howl at Sam and I like hyenas. Discernable by their eyes, the guys from Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia stare right through me, hollow, and slightly dead, the result of witnessing things that humans should not see. They know what awaits me out on the pond, but they refrain from hinting any further, wanting me to suffer.
Sam and I put the boat in the water and shove off with our oars. I sit up front, because I know the area. “I heard there’s a crazy billionaire who lives at the estate and has armed guards patrolling his dock…you wanna check it out?” I ask Sam. Sam strokes his chin, wondering what to do.
“Say he shoots us. Or shoots at us. Is litigation an option? Can we sue?”
“Yeah Sam. We can sue.”
“Then by all means, let’s dance.”
We veer to the left, passing a brown speckled swan leading her herd of 6 gray babes. The swans follow us to the banks of the estate designed by Alfonso Ossorio and first owned by Albert Herter. The back patio to the main house reaches out and almost drops into the water. We crane our heads, looking for spooks and find a paunchy bald man in khaki pants and khaki collared shirt, emerges from behind a pine tree and stares us down. He does not carry a gun.