This post is a response to May 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.
“There should be a reservation for two under Carroll down for 7pm,” said Troy.
The maitre d’ scanned through the book at the host’s stand, his eyes darting back and forth across the scribbles on the page.
“Ah yes,” the maitre d’ said, “I see it right here. Good evening Monsieur Carroll.”
“Good evening,” replied Troy. “Is Gustav around? He usually waits on me whenever I have dinner here.”
“I’m so sorry. Gustav won’t be in for a few weeks.”
“Is everything alright?”
“He’s fine. I believe he’s home taking care of family. His daughter got hurt by an escaped kangaroo at the zoo last week.”
“I didn’t realize that was here!” Troy exclaimed. “If you talk with him, please let him know that I’m happy to help him out however we can. My firm has some fantastic injury attorneys if he’s in need of one.”
“I’ll be sure to do so, Monsieur Carroll,” replied the maitre d’. “Please, let me take you to your seat.”
Troy followed the well-dressed host to a white linen cloth-covered table about two-thirds of the way back in the restaurant’s main room. The maitre d’ pulled out a chair, offering Troy to sit down.
“Thank you,” said Troy. “My other party should be here soon. If you could bring them back when they arrive, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
“But of course.”
Troy had been coming to this restaurant for years. His father had helped him to make reservations here for a pre-prom dinner with friends back in high school. Since graduating college and joining his uncle’s law firm, Troy had brought countless clients and dates here. Most of the client dinners were successful — he wouldn’t have worked his way up to being a partner without at least some positive meals. That said, the dates were hit and miss.
He was hopeful for tonight though. It was a blind date, yes, but Troy trusted the instincts of his assistant, Monique. If Monique said someone was a good person, they nearly always were. Her faith in this date gave Troy confidence. He needed it. It had been months since he’d had anyone to cuddle up with, let alone have a serious relationship with.
After a few minutes, the host led a tall man in a dark grey suit back to the table.
“Monsieur Carroll,” the maitre d’ said, “your guest has arrived.”
“Thank you very much,” replied Troy as he stuck out his hand to shake. “Troy Carroll. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Asher Wetzel,” the man in the dark grey suit mumbled back in a gravelly voice.
Troy and Asher sat down at the table and began looking at their menus. A waiter came by and began filling their water glasses.
“If you’re looking for something off menu,” said the waiter, “the chef’s appetizer for the night is honeydew chunks with a sweet and spicy lime drizzle. The soup of the day is chicken and escarole. The entrée of the is our Friday standard, Matzetti’s famous prime rib with glazed carrots, grilled asparagus, and a potato puree. And, if the mind or the body desires dessert, we have freshly made carrot cake or tiramisu. Might I bring you two some wine?”
“I’m fine with water,” Asher quickly responded.
“Are you sure?” asked Troy. “It’s on me.”
“I’m sure,” he replied.
“Just leave us water for now,” continued Troy. “Perhaps we’ll decide on some wine once we’ve decided on food.”
“Very good, sir,” replied the freckled waiter as he turned on his heels and walked away.
Asher picked up his menu and held it closer to his eyes. Troy gave him a few moments to review the menu before breaking the silence.
“Monique has told me that you’re quite the exciting person.”
“She said that, did she?” retorted Asher.
“Indeed,” Troy replied. “She said you’re the regional vice president of sales for your co…”
“Vice president,” Asher interjected. “No regional. It can’t be regional when your region is the entire world. Why have the extra words at that point?”
“I…I guess that would make sense. That’s pretty exciting.”
Asher flashed a small smile towards Troy and went back to looking at his menu. In his suit pocket, Troy felt his phone buzz. Likely Monique checking in on how the date was going, Troy figured.
“So,” continued Troy, “what do you do for fun?”
Asher looked up from his menu, his face covered in a perplexed and frustrated look.
“Do you run all of your business meetings like this?”
“There’s a reputation to the firm name Carroll, Carroll, Holmes, and Trumbull,” said Asher. “If you need a shrewd, hard-ass lawyer to protect you or your company from an untimely downfall, that’s how you contact. It doesn’t matter why, they’ll take care of you. That’s what everyone told me. Yet here you are cozying up to me like two teens at a slumber party.”
“I’m going to step away and use the restroom. Either have your shit together when I get back or I’ll become someone else’s client.”
Asher got up from the table and walked across the dining hall toward the corridor that housed the restrooms. Once he was out of sight, Troy grabbed his phone from out of his pocket and peeked at the screen. Sure enough, Monique had sent a simple ‘good luck’ just a few moments prior. Troy quickly unlocked his phone and dialed his assistant.
“Hey!” Monique shouted excitedly on the other end of the line. “Aren’t you on your date?”
“I am,” replied Troy.
“Then why are you calling me?”
“Because he doesn’t seem to think this is a date.”
“Asher. He thinks this is a client mee…”
“Oh fuck,” repeated Monique. “Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck.”
“Got it. There’s a lot of fuckery going on,” Troy stated. “Care to let me in on it?”
“You and your uncle both had things at 7pm tonight. Your date is supposed to be with a guy named Paul.”
“And I’m going to guess Asher is my uncle’s business meeting?”
“Okay, this is easy enough to fix,” said Troy. “Is Uncle Rick here?”
“He should be,” answered Monique. “Do you see him?”
Troy stood up from his chair and scanned the room. He knew his uncle’s face anywhere, what with having seen it on a near-daily basis for the past forty years. Yet picking out one bald white guy in a suit in a sea of bald white guys in suits wasn’t nearly as easy as he expected it to be. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Asher making his way back from the restroom.
“I’m not seeing him,” Troy said, his rate of speech growing faster as he began to panic. “What’s Paul look like.”
“Everyone’s sitting, Monique.”
“Right. Latino, I think? Curly black hair. Probably the only non-staff member there under 40.”
Troy scanned the room and quickly noticed Paul, as well as his uncle.
“Good!” Monique replied. “Now just go over and explain the mi…”
“And now they’re kissing.”
“I…I’m sorry. I’ll sort this out.”
“What should I do about Asher?” asked Troy.
“Tell him there was a mix up and that he was supposed to meet with your uncle? Offer to comp his dinner and tell him that we’ll sort it out on Monday.”
“And how do I get the image of my uncle making out with someone thirty years his junior out of my head?”
“I’ll send you some kangaroo mating films,” deadpanned Monique.
“I’m not sure that’s an improvement. I need to go.”
Troy hung up his call and watched as Asher sat down at the table across from him.
“Are we ready to talk business?” asked Asher.
“Yes,” replied Troy. “Well, no. I’m very sorry, there’s been a mistake.”
“How so?” asked Asher as he raised his water glass to his lips, the small ice cubes floating within it clanging against the walls of the vessel.
“I’m one of the Carrolls of Carroll, Carroll, Holmes, and Trumbull. I’m Troy Carroll. I just called my assistant and it sounds like you were supposed to meet with my uncle, Richard Carroll.”
“That would make a lot more sense. So where is he?”
“He wasn’t able to make it,” replied Troy.
“So they sent you in his stead?”
“No. I was here waiting on my date. A blind date. That I wasn’t given a name for.”
Asher sat his glass down and began to chuckle to himself. After a few moments, his light chortle grew to a hearty, full-bellied laughed that nearly brought Asher to tears. He did his best to regain his composure and talk.
“Oh, that’s so good,” Asher said between breaths. “My daughter is prophetic about these kinds of things.”
“I’m sorry,” replied Troy. “I don’t follow.”
“Every time she sees me in a suit, she asks me if I’m bringing her home a new mommy or daddy.”
“Did something happen to your wife?”
“No, my wife’s usually in the room when she says it. I just have a snarky grad student for a daughter.”
Asher lifted the water glass to his lips and downed the remainder of the drink before setting the glass back on the table.
“Listen,” said Asher, “I’m sorry to interrupt your date. Have your uncle give me a call on Monday.”
“Would you like some dinner?” replied Troy. “I’m terribly sorry for the confusion. It’s the least I can do.”
“I’m going to get a greasy hamburger on the way home. It sounds better than chicken and escargot or whatever the soup was. Good luck on your date.”
Asher shook Troy hand, then walked toward the exit of the restaurant. Troy reached into his pocket and grabbed his phone, hoping to tell Monique that everything was alright. As he did so, he felt a hand touch him on the shoulder. He turned to see the curly haired man who had been sitting with his uncle a few minutes prior standing next to him.
“Hi,” he said, “I’m Paul. If you’re half as fun as Monique has said you are, this will be a great evening.”