When the cocktail hours are done, we report to the kitchen. The host? Client? Guy in charge is making a speech in the dining room, but we can’t hear him because Christine is giving us our orders. She’s set up the trays for the first course. One tray per table. Six plates per tray, six tables total. The first one of us out of the kitchen goes to the furthest table. We don’t have to synchronize, because that would be an absolute disaster if we tried, but the hope is we’ll be close enough.
It goes well. I like when everybody gets the same thing. Especially at catered functions where you order in advance, people forget what they ordered. Asking them if they’re sure they didn’t order the chicken. Tonight, I can just wordlessly place the plates in front of the guests. I don’t even have to tell them what it is, because until we lift the covers, I don’t even know.
When all the plates are placed, the host nods at us. We lift the covers as he announces, “Mermaid sashimi.”
I imagine there are places where the waitstaff are stone-face like the guards at Buckingham Palace. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but we’re a bunch of fuck ups. Pardon me, I meant to say fucking fuck ups. I’m sure I didn’t keep the revulsion from my face. Prudence, who already compromises her vegetarianism, looks like she was going to puke. The fact that we all manage to calmly walk back to the kitchen makes us heroes. We’re all looking pretty shaken.
Except for Anne. She seems elated.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. This is so fucking illegal. I knew it, I knew it. Such a scoop. Do you know who those people are? Such a scoop.”
Christine glares at her. “Arf, who exactly are you?”
“Did you just call me Arf? You’ve all called me a lot of different names, but that’s not even a name.”
“It suits you,” says Christine, “I take it, you do not intend to have a long and prosperous career with us?”
“I’m a reporter.”
“Well, Arf, tonight, you are my employee, and I need six servers. Not five servers and one reporter. At the end of the night, we will determine how to shut you up, but for now, I need your hands.”
“But this is cannibalism.”
“Mermaids aren’t people, they’re fish.”
“Right, so dolphins are best.”
“We don’t eat dolphins.”
Christine laughs, “Of course not, dolphins are adorable. Why are you even suggesting eating them? Bloodthirsty, you are.”
“The rest of you don’t have a problem with this?”
The rest of us kind of shrug. We have a problem with it. It’s disgusting, yeah. The people in the dining room are monsters. But we knew they were monsters all along. They underpaid employees, didn’t pay their taxes, bought blood diamonds. Hell, our own employers underpay us, and don’t pay their taxes. But Prudence still needs to pay for masseuse school, and Crystal is getting the money together for a demo tape. And Todd probably needs to buy some pot after work. I like to believe that we’d take a stand, but our lives had shown us where that gets you.
“Can you at least tell us what we’re serving before we unveil?” I ask Christine, “Just to help us mentally prepare.”
“Guess, there’s no harm now.”
A delicate salad with fairy wings. Sasquatch spare ribs. Fire lizard skewers. And the main course, Vampire filet. It makes sense. A symbolic transfer of power. The ultra-rich eating the four elements, and man’s fiercest predator. But there’s still a visceral reaction to eating other humanoids. Nobody wants a vampire for a neighbor, but it doesn’t mean you want a vampire burger.
Anne, seeing that none of us are going to revolt, plays along. I see her snapping pictures of the diners when she can. I think Christine knows that there’s no way to shut her up. She’s probably already planning her exit strategy. The company accepted this gig, and they’ll take the fall. Keeping her name out of the article will be her primary concern. I’ll make the jump too.
By the end of the night, we’ve all agreed to go out and get stoned. I even invite Anne.
“Really? I figured you guys would be pissed.”
“Oh yeah, this is going to suck. No question. But you worked with us, you can get high with us. Also, Prudence is going to practice giving you a massage, and Crystal will ask you to profile her band in your paper, so we’ll have our revenge.”