Tucked firmly behind the safety of the bar, Professor Duke strikes me three more times with his order pad.
“We’re off to the most rotten of starts since…ever!!”
“Calm down, man!” I grab him firmly by the shoulders and give him a little shake. “You started it, with all that ‘no poetry allowed in here’ nonsense.”
“Well, I was most concerned that the bugger was about to recite one of his rude rhymes,” the Professor replies, calming down a little. “One simply cannot go around saying things like that to a Headmistress.”
A filthy-sounding cackle erupts from Head Porter’s table, scaring the pianist and causing him to make a few unplanned amendments to his recital. We look over to see The Headmistress delicately covering her mouth with a napkin, trying unsuccessfully to suppress her mirth. Even from here I can see the twinkle of mischievous glee in her eyes.
“It looks like she is quite taken with his poetry,” I say, delightfully stunned.
“That’s it!” exclaims the Professor. “It is not the poems that are wrong, it’s the women. Head Porter is quite clearly in need of a lady who appreciates a naughty poem.”
“No man is going to refuse a naughty Headmistress” I agree, nodding.
Before the Professor can share his thoughts on this notion, we are roused by an impatient hammering from the far end of the bar.
“Excuse me! Waiters!” A portly gentleman with an eye-catching waistcoat and fearsome beard is trying to attract our attention. “It’s like a desert over here, I say! What has a man to do to get himself a drink?”
We exchange only slightly worried glances before heading over to our customer. On the way, the Professor grabs a cloth from the side and proceeds to earnestly clean the spot in front of the bearded fellow.
“I’ve seen bartenders do this in films,” he whispers from the side of his mouth.
“Good evening, Sir! What can we get you?” I ask in my best serving wench voice.
“I’d like a SideCar*” he replies.
Cocktails are really not my specialist subject. Thankfully, the Professor comes to my rescue.
“An excellent choice, if I may say so!” he beams, oozing confidence and charm. “I shall fetch it quicker than you think I can, since you’re in the desert.”
The Professor scoots to the other end of the bar and deftly begins an elaborate performance of putting together the mysterious drink. I look across to Head Porter and The Headmistress and they seem to be getting along famously. No one is wearing any food, at least. Although that is because they haven’t got any food yet. Perhaps I should go over and take their order…
The Professor returns with a glass the size of a goldfish bowl, filled with a dark liquid and nearly a dozen umbrellas. The only way I can describe the smell is evil. Our customer eyes it suspiciously.
“Are you sure that’s a SideCar?”
“Absolutely!” replies the Professor, cheerfully. “It is a house special, you know. We do things our own way around here, don’t you know.”
“I’m not so sure.” The customer picks up the glass (a feat requiring at least two hands, if not more) and takes a cautious sip.
An expectant pause.
An arc of liquid evil launches impressively from the customer’s mouth and careens right over our heads, landing spectacularly on the marble floor behind us. It is almost balletic… although not quite.
“Are you trying to poison me, man?!” the customer splutters, his cheeks puffed and crimson with fury and near-death experience. “That is not a SideCar. I’m telling you now.”
“And I am telling you, Sir, that there was most definitely a SideCar in there. Somewhere. Amongst a few other things, sure, but it was definitely in there.”
I quickly hand the poor man some napkins and grovel profusely, inviting him to return to his seat with the promise of complimentary champagne being delivered to him at once. Turning to the Professor, I am met with an imploring expression of wide-eyed innocence that I have no doubt he has deployed on many occasions previous.
“What in buggery did you put in that?”
“See, I have no idea what a SideCar is,” he replies “But I thought, if I just put a bit of everything in a glass, then logic states that there will be something of a SideCar in there somewhere. He obviously doesn’t have a very refined palette or he would have tasted it.”
Our cocktail debacle has drawn the attention of quite a few of the patrons, who seem to be waiting keenly for the next spectacle. The concierge is giving us the beady from across the room and I rather fear we may be thrown out quite soon if we don’t start doing something useful.
I brandish my order pad with aplomb and arm myself with a pen. It is time to be the best damn waitress that I can be.
*The Sidecar originated in France during the inter-war years, allegedly first appearing at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Comprised of Cointreau, Cognac, and lemon juice, the Sidecar is a unisex favourite that crosses boundaries. Tangy and sweet, and just a bit tart, the Sidecar’s a great way to build a buzz while maintaining an air of sophistication and class. (According to the internet)