Chapter 2: Flynn’s Olde Boston Eating & Drinking Establishment
Part 9: “What Do You Do, Belinda?”
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asks, “What do you do, Belinda?”
Belinda says, “I work for Zizyph. Zizyph Software? It’s a computer software company.” She bursts out laughing. “Of course it’s a computer software company. That’s why it’s called Zizyph Software.” She laughs again and shrugs and looks at Matthew, and he realizes again how nervous she must be, meeting his pals. Then another look crosses her face. She looks puzzled. It occurs to Matthew that she might be wondering why on earth she should be nervous about the impression she makes on his old friends, wondering something along these lines:
Why should I be trying to impress them? Why should I be trying to impress anyone? After all, I’m vice-president of a company with a snazzy logo and up-to-the-minute office decor, not a hidebound toy company. Maybe Matthew and I have been going out too long. I’m beginning to act as if I’m serious about him. I’m behaving like a prospective second wife. Soon one of these people is going to ask me if I have children. They’ll want to know whether my children would be a burden to Matthew.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard of it,” Belinda says.
“Oh, I certainly have heard of it,” says Richard. “I wish I’d bought some of your stock when you went public. You guys are a howling success.”
“Well, the company has grown,” says Belinda, nodding her head, “very fast. It’s—exciting.” Matthew can see that she’s flattered. She looks down and smiles a modest smile, but when she raises her head that odd look comes over her again for a moment, and Matthew wonders again what she’s thinking.
“What do you do there, Belinda?” asks Jack. His tone is polite, but this is beginning to seem like an inquisition.
“I work in new-product planning.”
“She’s head of new-product planning,” Matthew says. The pride in his voice surprises him; Belinda, too.
“Well, that’s not so much,” says Belinda. “When I began working there, I was new-product planning. I was also the customer service department. And personnel. And I helped in accounting. They used to keep their receipts in cardboard cartons. It was insane.”
Richard: “You’re kidding! They weren’t using their own software to run the company?”
“They didn’t have an accounting package then. They used—ah—a competing product.”
Matthew says, in a tone much like a proud papa’s, “Belinda actually designed the accounting software—”
“No, that’s not really true. I—”
“It really is true,” he insists. “I don’t mean that she wrote the program, or anything like that, but she wrote out a set of requirements accounting software ought to meet—”
“I was really just reacting to the shortcomings of what I’d been using.”
“—and that became the manifesto for ReCount. Zizyph commissioned somebody to write it, and it’s now their most successful product. They would have been a one-product company without Belinda.”
“And were you involved in the development after that?” asks Jack.
“A little!” Matthew is out of control. “She organized all the field testing. She really guided the development of the whole product. Don’t be so modest, Belinda.”
A smile from Belinda. Matthew thinks she’s secretly quite happy to have him trumpet her this way while she hangs back modestly.
“That’s great,” says Effie.
“Do you have any children, Belinda?” asks Richard.
Before Belinda can answer, the waitress, now accompanied by a couple of assistants, arrives with huge trays of food and begins delivering it with dispatch. Only the one who took the orders knows who ordered what, so the efficiency of this trio is low. The lieutenants stand around wearing the looks of friendly concern they were taught during employee training.
“What the heck is this?” asks Jack.
“Food,” says Matthew.
“Did we order food?”
“Once upon a time,” says Richard.
None of them can, with complete certainty, remember what kind of potatoes he or she ordered, and the waitress in command seems not too certain, either. For the few moments that the delivery takes, the five of them watch, helpless, befuddled by this sudden rapid activity. They try to gather their thoughts, focus them on the food, notice whether they’re getting what they want and what they ordered, and then suddenly it’s over. The waitresses are all gone, and the group is left to itself again. The table’s crowded with dishes large and small. Where a moment before there had been nothing, there is now a heap of food, bounty, plenty.
It’s a traditional sort of plenty, probably just what a bunch like this would have ordered ten, twenty, forty years ago: clam fritters about the size of golf balls, a Flynn’s trademark, served in a basket lined with a napkin translucent with grease; prime rib; fried scallops; fried haddock; baked stuffed shrimp; french fries, baked potatoes, Delmonico potatoes; coleslaw, carrots, green beans, beets, baked beans; a platter of onion rings for the table; a basket of corn bread, rolls, and sticky cinnamon buns; celery, carrot sticks, sweet gherkins, olives; and salad for the table served in a huge crockery bowl, another trademark.
When they’ve begun to eat, Jack says, “Hey, where’s my lobster?”
He begins lifting the baskets and napkins and bowls in front of him, looking for his lobster. “Anybody see it?” he asks. “I’ve got my french fries here, my coleslaw, corn bread, onion rings, salad, pickles, and all this other shit. I’ve got my lobster basket and I’ve got this lobster-ripping thing and this cracking implement. I’ve got my bib here—”
“It’s got a picture of a lobster,” says Effie.
“Yep, it’s got a picture of a lobster, and it’s got this Flynn’s logo on it. I’ve got a stack of napkins, and a condom—”
“That’s a moist towelette,” says Effie.
“No kidding?” He examines it. “Uh-oh,” he says. “I may be in some trouble back home. Anyway, I’ve got all this stuff, but I have got no lobster.”
“Maybe there just wasn’t any room for it,” Richard says.
Everyone begins lifting things as Jack did, as if hunting for the lost lobster, snorting and giggling like naughty kids.
The trio of waitresses returns, bearing lobsters for Grandma and the group of ten. Matthew and his pals follow the trio with their eyes, their heads swiveling as one.
“You know something?” says Jack. “I’ll bet one of those lobsters is mine.”
“I’ll go get it for you,” says Effie. “Which one is it?” She actually gets out of her chair.
“Effie,” says Richard. There isn’t a touch of humor in his voice. Only caution.
Jack looks at Matthew. When he sees that he’s caught Matthew’s eye, he mouths, “Dickhead.” Belinda sees it; she snorts again.
All of a sudden the waitress is back again, looking baffled, holding a tray with a mammoth old lobster on it. “Anybody missing a lobster here?” she asks. It strikes four-fifths of the table as the funniest thing they have ever heard.
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Reservations Recommended is published in paperback by Picador,
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Copyright © 1990 by Eric Kraft
Reservations Recommended is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
Now available in paperback from Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Alec “Nick” Rafter, the author’s earnest agent.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.