An elegant restaurant, a special date…and it all goes downhill after meeting the chef. A tale of aversions. My current story bite.
This week I’m re-reading a book I first discovered almost 40 years ago: The Outermost House, by Henry Beston. He spent a full year on a Cape Cod beach over 90 years ago.
What I’m Writing This Week
Another story bite I’d like to share with you. Thanks for reading.
After six months of waiting for the right moment, Raymond Martin had finally asked Rose Malloy from the marketing department out on a date. She said yes. He made reservations at the posh Owl Tree restaurant, offering fine dining and live music.
Raymond and Rose stood at the hosting station at Owl Tree as a maitre’d in a one-size-too-small black suit confirmed their reservation while simultaneously giving them the elevator glance to determine if they were worthy of eating there. He found them worthy. Barely, by the pinched smile on his face. He led them to a booth near the kitchen. Raymond was about to object to the kitchen proximity when Rose said she loved the plush seating.
Their table featured tented white napkins and a flickering tea light. A server took drink orders immediately, then brought a tiny tray of even tinier rolls and butter.
“This is delightful, Raymond.” Rose smiled, glancing around at the dimly lit dining room. Crystal chandeliers graced the large room. At the far side of the room a jazz trio played quietly over the hushed conversations of the patrons.
Raymond lit up. “I’m so happy you like it. I’ve never been here before. It’s actually a bit elegant for my tastes.”
Oh god, did he just say that?
“You seem pretty elegant to me,” Rose said, as she sipped her white wine.
Raymond felt his face redden. He hoped she couldn’t see it in the dark.
The server returned to their table. Rose chose a seafood pasta. “Does the accompanying salad use only organic greens?” she asked the server.
“Only the best, miss.”
Raymond said, “I’ll try the oven-braised chicken meatballs.”
Halfway through the meal, the chef, resplendent in white jacket and toque, approached their table.
“I am Maurice, the chef here at the Owl Tree. I hope you are pleased with your meal?”
Raymond waited a second for Rose to reply. She did not. He said, “The chicken meatballs are cooked perfectly. Very tasty. Thank you.”
“And you, madame?” The chef looked to Rose.
Rose was staring wide-eyed at a stain on the chef’s sleeve, something a deep red and quite obvious.
The chef followed her gaze. “Ah, forgive me. I splashed sauce on myself. It is quite impossible to remain spotless in a busy kitchen.”
He promptly rolled up the offending sleeve, then the other. Rose stared wide-eyed at the chef’s two arms, covered in tattoos, black ink from his wrists to above his elbows.
Rose looked away. She covered her mouth with her napkin. She was trying not to wretch. The chef glared at Rose. He stepped back, turned and hurried off to the kitchen. The server dashed over.
“Is everything all right, miss?”
Raymond attempted to hand his napkin to Rose. She brushed his hand away.
In a weak voice she said, “I can’t stand tattoos. They disgust me. I can’t eat any more. Raymond, take me home.”
She rose, grabbed her purse, and headed for the door.
The maitre’d now approached. “Are you all right, sir?”
“Apparently not,” Raymond said to no one in particular. “A couple of tattoos just ruined my dream date.”
The server said, “May I box up your meals?”
“Yes, please,” Raymond said.
He gave his credit card to the server and looked for Rose. She was sitting in the lobby.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“No, I am not okay. I hate tattoos. I find it disgusting that someone would be covered in ink and cook for the public.” She was still holding the napkin to her face.
“I have to get out of here,” she said.
“Okay. I’m waiting to get my credit card back…and the takeout containers.”
“Takeout? Seriously? Do you want me to throw up in the car?”
Raymond sighed. “I paid a lot for this food. I’m taking it home.”
Rose stared at him. She reached for her phone. “I’ll call Uber.”
He nodded. Sat down next to her. Why do I do this to myself?
What I’m Reading This Week
While clearing out some boxes in the garage, I came upon a cherished book I had not seen in years. The Outermost House, By Henry Beston, first published in 1928. Beston spent a year in a tiny 20’x16′ house on the beach in Eastham, near Nauset on Cape Cod.
Inside the book I found my original receipt, dated June 25, 1982.
I began re-reading the book a few nights ago. I’d like to quote one paragraph from the book. Beston is describing the sounds of surf.
“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. I have heard them all, and of the three elemental voices, that of ocean is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied. For it is a mistake to talk of the monotone of ocean or of the monotonous nature of its sound. The sea has many voices. Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear in it a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp rifle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea. And not only is the great sound varied in the manner of its making, it is also constantly changing its tempo, its pitch, its accent, and its rhythm, being now loud and thundering, now almost placid, now furious, now grave and solemn-slow, now a simple measure, now a rhythm monstrous with a sense of purpose and elemental will.”
A long quote, but marvelous and insightful in its scope. I once spent a week with friends on the beach in Plymouth, MA, sleeping in a screened-in porch built onto a small cabin. The time was early summer, the weather moving between cloudy and sunny. What I remember most of that week was the sound of the surf. The slap of small waves, the crash of larger crests. Surf always making its presence known.
Henry Beston, in listening to the surf daily for a year, has captured in words what few of us could: the widely varying and awesome sounds of the surf. His was an enviable opportunity, to spend a year at the beach.
Try my books, available on Amazon.