Twenty-five or so years ago we would close down the restaurant around nine or ten, pick up our dates and when the bars closed around two in the morning we would re-assemble at DeVinci’s. We had keys and the alarm codes and since we caught a beer delivery guy trying to cheat us and pocket some money for himself we had a regular blackmailed keg that cost the owners nothing.
It was Shangri-La.
One day we were there till four or five in the morning. I had to open the restaurant the next day. I couldn’t pull it off now, but in my twenties this was no big deal. Sleep was optional. That night we lost somebody – not lost as in died. He was there one moment and then he wasn’t.
The missing was a guy known as Tanko and he was about as affable a fellow as you are likely to meet. We assumed he just decided that enough was enough and in the miasma of blasted music (even then it was Otis Redding,) beer, cigarette smoke (wink, wink,) whisky, whiskey, and the never ending debate over semiotics (no idea why but pizza parlor employees will not shut up about semiotics) we missed his goodbye. No harm no foul.
Anyway, the next day my youthful self is showing no signs of the deserved hangover as I turn on lights, restock beers, ice down salad ingredients, and all the mundane background stuff that makes up a restaurant morning. Right at opening a table of six came in.
Competent restaurants number their tables. That way info can be spread from waiter to waiter and life is made easier. We have a table number chart somewhere, but I have no idea where it is and we have no idea what it says anyway. For a brief while we named the tables instead of numbering them. You might have a two top at Bill and a party of three at George. The table of six sat at Horatio.
Maybe he was kicked. Maybe he heard them speaking.
The six who were seating themselves at Horatio suddenly stopped and looked under the table. Tanko arose. He’d been sleeping there.
I wont say he mastered deadpan because it just came naturally to him – no effort needed.
“Ya’ll enjoy your meal.” he said. And then he left. The six looked at me for an explanation. I had none. “Can I bring you something to drink?” And that was that.