Prompt: 10,000 Spoons
…When all you need is a knife might not be ironic, but it is unfortunate. Add your own verse, stanza, or story of badly-timed annoyance to Alanis Morissette’s classic.
We were so far behind in our preparations that we didn’t open the order and check it until the day of the wedding. Nancy did not even turn up that morning, since her grandfather had just passed away, leaving her the ten million dollars that he’d won the previous week in the lottery. She told us to stuff it. We never really liked her much, but to leave like that with no notice was rather inconsiderate.
Tommy arrived late, dripping wet from the downpour that had started at dawn. “Sorry,” he said, removing a soaked overcoat. “Traffic.” Even traffic couldn’t explain an hour’s worth of late, but I said nothing. Tommy was loopy and distracted, but could set up an elaborate table for twelve in under three minutes.
I was using a box cutter to slice through the heavy clear wrap on the palette, revealing almost twenty white plastic crates of utensils. Polished stainless steel, with a rosette pattern at the base of the handle. I almost put my back our hoisting the first crate, full of soup spoons, onto the dolly, and then another of teaspoons.
Dicky and Maureen were almost finished laying the white linen tablecloths. They usually brought their kids to help on the weekend, but hadn’t done so today, when I really needed an extra few hands. I debated firing the two of them, but decided to forgive them, at least until this wedding reception was over and the last tables were cleared.
Under the temporary fluorescent lighting in the ballroom, Dicky looked pale, almost undead. It was hard for me to believe that I had once fallen so hard for him. But the luminosity of his skin, combined with the azure eyes and waves and waves of amber hair, had frozen me in my tracks, lustful and reckless and determined. Until trailing behind him, there appeared Maureen, his wife and the mother of their seven children.
“Break!” called Anna, who was following Dicky and Maureen and laying gleaming silver chargers at each place setting. She always called ‘break’ when she needed a smoke or the toilet. It was a rule, but only she followed it. If everyone did, it would have made things run more smoothly, but anyway, no one did, so she looked foolish.
She was only gone for a few seconds, and returned scowling. “No smoking, not even outside the door, and I’m not wandering thirty feet into that rain,” she mumbled. Anna was miserable when in need of nicotine.
Tommy came out of the staff area, where he’d hung his raincoat alongside all the rest. The room smelled of mould. He and his team began dealing spoons, as they called it, since the action was so swift and coordinated. Jim tossed the spoons from a crate, Tommy caught it and placed it. Betsy pushed the dolly, and she was never idle for long; that’s just how fast the boys were.
By that time I had unloaded the dessert spoons and serving spoons. Feeling slightly uneasy, I shuffled a few crates aside. I felt the blood drain from my cheeks. I was as white as a linen tablecloth, as white as Dicky.
I believe I screamed, because Tommy came running. Tommy always came running, because he was my second in command. It’s true that this was not the first time I had screamed during set up and prep: once we’d found fruit flies floating in all the poured glasses of champagne, just a minute before the guests were to arrive. That was a tough one, but this was impossible.
They were all spoons. Every single one. No knives of any description, nor forks. Either we pureéd all the prime rib, halibut steaks, and camembert quiches, or we got the right utensils, fast. Tommy ran to call Harry while I wondered if there was a blender big enough for all the food laid out in the kitchen. We always had a plan B.
Tommy came running back. “You’ll never believe it!” he said.
“I know,” I said. “But tell me anyway.”
“Harry is a grandfather! Or was,” Tommy said. “He was flying to meet his first grand daughter in Houston, his very first time on a plane, and the damn thing crashed. Harry is no more.”
“Oh, bugger,” I said.
Anna, who liked nothing more than misery worse than her own, was hovering near by. “We’ll have to call it off,” she said, as gleefully as she said anything.
“The biggest wedding of the year?” I said. “No way.” Everyone was frozen in place, watching me. “Back to work!” I shouted. “Tommy, get the van, the big one, we’re going to Harry’s now. We’ll be back in an hour and a half with the rest of the order.”
“It can’t be done!” cried Anna.
I slapped her. “Of course it can. Tommy will be doing the biggest, fastest deal of his life. The guests will arrive. The chandeliers will drop, the toasts will be made.”
I jumped into the van, and urged the Tommy to hurry, telling him there would be extra in it if he broke the law. So he went 40 miles per hour in a school zone. And passed a car at an intersection. He drove past wet pedestrians at a bus stop, spraying them with water from a puddle. After we reached the depot and we had filled the van with as many crates as it would hold, he drew the doors shut and we sped back. He passed on a double yellow line, and ran a stop sign.
We got stopped by a police constable as big as a barn, or I would have considered murdering him to save time. Tommy got a $240 ticket, which I felt compelled to pay.
Tommy and Jim did the biggest, fastest deal of their lives, in all of catering history. The champagne was poured, the chandeliers dropped, and the toasts were made. It will go down in legend as the greatest catering feat of all time.
Anna sued me for slapping her.