by A. F. Knott
were cheap but worked: Wooden cross beams, hanging fiasco baskets and a faded copy
of the Mona Lisa propped against a back wall between two trellis panels, the restaurant
tacked on the end of a sooty two-up two-down row
house one block short of the traffic circle. Maître d' extended his arm, even
gave us a little bow but
creepy as fuck with dark clouds around his eyes and not from lack of sleep. We
followed him over to a table by a frosted window which was fine, as who would
want to see outside anyway. He turned away and grimaced as if taking a shit for
the first time in a week and snapped his fingers at a blond standing by the bar looking
like she was waiting for a
firing squad to take aim.
us could say a word, our waitress mashed her finger down into my menu: Salmone puttanesco.
I said fine and she copied the order slowly, sticking her tongue out. We both
see her two tattoos, one on the wrist, the other above her left elbow, both
crooked crosses encased in thorns and we’re looking at each other because there’s
this second waitress, two tables away, a chisel-faced brunette, staring at the
blond, the peregrine falcon looking at a field mouse. Chisel-face moved around the
room more comfortably than our blond but never
smiled and brought us our drinks without making eye contact. After finishing
the order, the blond looked back over her shoulder toward the kitchen, looked
back at us, was on the verge of saying something but didn’t.
a good one, turned out. At first, the
sauce looked too rich, tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives but it wasn’t. I could taste
the fish. Same with their calamari fritti:
Not chewy, and they used just enough batter.
clears our plates and hurries away before we
could order coffee and across the able Angela is biting a fingernail.
she says. “Off as fuck.”
to make a
joke. “The blond’s been sold into white slavery,
the brunette just crawled out of a pod and
the maître d', he’s been. . .” I didn’t get to
finish. The portions were so big, we asked them to wrap up the carrots
and salad and that was when chisel face brought all of that out. We had already
decided to go through the drive-through at Costa for coffee and maybe split a
slice of lemon cake.
would come back
but won’t order bread or calamari, just a main course.” Angela said and put the
container into her purse. I agreed and we waited another few minutes, our waitress
still not back with the
check. Something clattered in the kitchen. Then something else clattered. We got
up and went over to the cash register on the bar. We heard a loud groan and I looked
at Angela. An older woman behind the bar,
hair bone white but probably no more than fifty, stared at the kitchen door. We
stared too and heard a grunt, not a good one.
and said, “You have a good cook.” The woman jerked her head and looked at me
like I have two prawns sticking out
of my nose.
He’s a chef. And he’s the boss.”
hand up and down as if to suggest the boss was tough,
then almost smiled but didn’t, or couldn’t. She half-turned toward the door
again, holding my money, and we listened to what
sounded like a seven hundred pound big bull frog croak. Bone white pursed
her lips at the maître d' and tossed her head toward
did the salmon
well,” I said.
the boss,” bone
white repeated, handed me the change and froze, hand outstretched. A plate
shattered. Something metal scooted against the floor then there’s another croak.
I felt sorry for our waitress, so I put five pounds on the bar and pushed it
forward. The woman glanced at the money, mumbled, “grazie,” and turned to stare,
this time at the wall, listening.
maître d' slipped through the kitchen door, he opened
it wide enough for us both to see a man
in a white apron, a big man, down on his knees,
meat cleaver laying in blood on the floor beside him, his hand stuck inside
our blond waitress’s mouth. She’s holding his wrist and thrashing her head back
and forth like a shark. Blood was pouring over her chin, the big man’s blood.
was already pulling me in the direction of the front entrance. Metal pans
clattered in the kitchen while we waited for a family of ten to get through the
little front alcove. Grandma stood in the doorway and held her walker, tut-tutting
a toddler in front of her.
lot was full. Popular place, I found out later. As
soon as we got in the car, a black BMW screeched to a stop behind us and in the
rear view, I watched the man our waitress had eaten stumble out the back door, apron
looking like it’d been dipped in marinara. He’s was holding the meat cleaver in
his good hand and pressed the chewed one against his belly. The maître d' followed
him outside with a dish towel.
Angela is watching through her side view.
got out of the BMW and “the boss” shoved
him back toward the car, swinging the cleaver over his head like he’s starting Le
Mans. The boss moved into the BMW’s headlights, held out his hand. Three
fingers were gone, the important ones. The maître
d' started to wrap the towel around the boss’s hand but the boss pushed him
back toward the kitchen. The red-haired man was back in the BMW, reversing,
the police but they called Red,” I said
and started the car.
Angela said. I looked down.
the floor of the back seat. She’d covered herself with our extra-large shopping
bag from the sports place. Sticking out of her
mouth were the three fingers. The boss watched
as I’m backing up and I give him a thumbs up. He stared, almost taking a step
forward then turned and kicked the door of the kitchen in. I didn’t say
anything until we were out on the road.
still going to
wouldn’t mind,” Angela said.
across the seat and poked the waitress. She’s still laying there covered in the
choice, salmone puttanesco.
I left you a tip. Tip?”
at both of us.
Costa. COSTA? You want coffee, something to wash the fingers down with? Double expresso?”
the fingers are still in her mouth, you cunt.
She’s probably in shock.”
up, craned her head to see where we were, supported herself on one hand and let
the fingers fall into the shopping bag. She wiped her mouth with the back of one
arm but still looked like she was five and had gotten into her mother’s
“Sì. Un caffé.”
A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage
writer, and cofounder of Hekate Publishing, whose mission is to unite artists
and writers and represent the under-represented. Sometimes he sells collages in
New York City’s Union Square Park. His work can be found on flickr.com/photos/afknott/
, among other places. He welcomes the exchange of ideas: Anthony_knott@hekatepublishing.com