General Humor Western

Anything

Nov. 27, 2018
User Level:
Average Rating: 3.62

"Anything."

"Maybe one of our specials?"

"Anything besides one of the specials."

"I see sir. Well I would recommend-"

“Don't even tell me what it is. Just go, pick anything you like."

Here he was again. He said he'd stop doing this. Whenever he ate alone he got so anxious he couldn't even look at the menu, he couldn't even be polite to his waiter. At least they’d given him a table tucked into the corner. He sat back and watched the kitchen doors flashing open and closed as full trays danced out on carefully perched arms. The tables were closely lit which he felt put eyes on him. The restaurant was about 20 polite conversations loud, and he imagined every word of them as some terrible insult. He knew too he was probably the only difficult patron among them. He knew this with certainty he thought. He told himself there were more difficult customers somewhere, stranger, ruder requests than just ordering anything, and he’d leave a good tip. He always left a good tip. The drinks came out.

"Here you are sir, a glass of our-"

"Please don't tell me what you bring me. It makes me anxious."

“I’m sorry, yes sir.”

"No, no, I'm sorry. Just really bring me anything."

"Yes sir."

"Really, it could be anything; I won't mind."

"I love anything sir."

"Me too."

The waiter poured a glass of water and the red wine. He sipped the red wine much too fast for something to do. It was very good however. He asked for another of the same, and if he could bring another with dinner?

"How about the bottle?"

"That'd be fine."

When the waiter came back he had the bottle but had removed the label. The man smiled, said thank you with especial gratitude while the waiter refilled his glass. The waiter smirked,

"It's no problem sir."

He finished the pour with a final, graceful twist and placed the naked bottle on the edge of the table.

At the end of a glass and a quarter, the waiter brought the food out. He didn't say a word, laid the plate down and stepped back.

"Anything else sir?"

The man studied the food but couldn't identify it, which was perfect.

"No. You're an excellent waiter."

"Thank you, sir." the waiter had a smirk on his cheeks.

He left the man to his meal.

These rare occasions with everything falling into place were why he kept doing this, he told himself. Usually it came out boring, and, despite everything, the man had an adventurous appetite. He was fond of saying, "Variety is a spice." Saying to someone, but he enjoyed new and strange things. Most waiters were cowards. They'd serve chicken Alfredo with peas but tell you anyway. This is our chicken Alfredo- I told you not to tell me what it is.

They'd still get a big tip of course. It's not their fault for being cowards or having his table or for him. Tonight, however, he had an excellent waiter. The dish was one long delicate noodle looped like an unfolded hank of yarn. Strung into the pasta were what he would have sworn were Kalamata olive pits, but when he accidentally bit one, they were soft and juicy like a ripe strawberry. At the center of the bowl, haloed by the pasta, was a medallion of what looked like coagulated blood. He pressed it with his fork; its whole surface cracked like an egg shell, and a buttery pale liquid oozed into the dish. It was delicious. He ate every bite, even the shell. It was chalky and sweet.

When the waiter came to take away his plate and wine glass, empty now, the man complimented him again.

"That was a brave choice. I applaud you."

Maybe the wine or perhaps the food, something. He felt chatty. The waiter showed no chagrin or confusion. He cleared away the plates and thanked the man for the compliment. When the waiter returned he had a finger of liquor in a shot glass,

"I believe this is the perfect way to end the night."

"Would you have one with me?"

The waiter's smirk returned while the man waited for his answer. The man was sitting back in his chair now, enjoying the nearly empty restaurant. The night had gathered closer around the dim table lights. A few giddy families murmured and laughed over the tops of empty glasses, while waiters and bus boys silently put everything away. Bills hung on the edge of tables, hands in one another, and empty bottles all. He soaked it in.

"Sure," the waiter finally answered.

He came back with a glass of exactly the same, and placed it right in front of the one he'd served for the man.

"Do you have something you'd like to toast to?"

"To anything!"

They picked up their glasses and clinked. The waiter pulled his glass up under his lips and spit in it. He looked at the man with an excellent poker face. The man looked back somewhat gravely and then down into his own glass for sometime. Then he sighed with a laugh, pulled the glass under his chin and spit in it as well. The waiter could barely keep his grin on his face. They drank. The man left a tip a little higher than he could afford and took the subway home.

 


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I'm very critical of what I like
cereed27 rated this work:

Nov. 27, 2018, 10:21 p.m.

This is a great character and a great concept. I actually take this same approach whenever I get a haircut because I want to challenge the barber as an artist, and I want to see this tid-bit of a story blown into a full film script just because I haven't seen Paul Giamatti in a while.

But I also don't feel like I really know this character from this tiny window. Is this his escape from a predictable life? The "anxious" explanation doesn't cut it for me because he'd never make it to the restaurant in the first place with that kind of anxiety.

This also needs to be expanded from a structural perspective. The "Anything" demand is the punch line, the shock. Can't start the joke with it (and don't give it away with the title either). Build up to it with some setting and maybe some history of the all the failed attempts to find a satisfactory meal. The soul-mate of a waiter should be a relief and a revelation, celebrated and imagined by the diner as if a new crush. And the exploration of a wholly unexpected, custom-made and first-in-the-history-of-culinary-development meal needs to unfold with the same elation of a six year old kid finding Easter eggs.

Comment Rating: 5.0

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Subtle, I like it
naricorn rated this work:

Dec. 4, 2018, 4:54 p.m.

"The restaurant was about 20 polite conversations loud" is a great line. You have a clear voice and capture the narrator's discomfort in the setting and his paranoia. He's such an odd, interesting character, and I found myself wondering why he is the way he is. I'm not sure if I was able to fully understand him, though. People who want to try new things are often enamored with the discovery aspect (and their role in it,) and I'd think they would be curious about what options would be on the menu. What if he gets something he's had before? Or is he tired of having to make decisions and wants others to make choices for him?

Confused by this line--"saying to someone, but he enjoyed new and strange things." Food descriptions were wonderful. Overall, I think this piece could use more meat to it--it has a lot of potential, but for the ending to feel more satisfactory, you might consider developing the narrator more. Motivation, etc. Is he bored?

Comment Rating: 4.0

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Unique story!
metafrick rated this work:

Feb. 22, 2019, 5:16 a.m.

I really enjoyed this! It's an interesting concept.

In the beginning when he drinks the first glass of wine it reads to me as if the waiter is sitting and drinking with the man, which I don't think is your intention.

"At the center of the bowl, haloed by the pasta, was a medallion of what looked like coagulated blood. He pressed it with his fork; its whole surface cracked like an egg shell, and a buttery pale liquid oozed into the dish. It was delicious. He ate every bite, even the shell. It was chalky and sweet." I'm not sure exactly what he is eating but this is a beautiful description all the same. It reads as casually violent since he doesn't know what he is eating, and I think it lends itself to the mystery of the piece.

I don't know if this is meant to be a standalone piece, but I'd like to see more about the man's mental state. I understand that he's anxious about things and doesn't want to acknowledge specifics around him, but why? What exactly is he afraid of? I don't need to know where this fear stems from but I'd like to know exactly what it is. How does he act outside restaurants? Is it only waiters he is wary of?

I didn't entirely understand the ending, as to why they are spitting in their glasses. I like the image but I'm not sure of their intentions behind it.

Plot

Comment Rating: 4.0

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Building Suspense
eva rated this work:

July 10, 2019, 11:47 a.m.

This short piece offers quite a bit in setting, character development, pacing, and detail - and leaves me wanting more. I love the quirky characters - both the diner and the waiter, and feel that there's room for building them both with more vivid language usage around more personality details that could pack quite a punch. There are plenty of poetic phrases and vivid descriptions throughout, and I'm clamoring for more of that.

Titles and endings are both tricky. Suggestion: Change the title to add more suspense - or add another key word or two to enhance the core concept. The ending feels abrupt. Suggestion: Dive into why they each might spit into their glasses. Clearly, they have some shared language, a shared secret or ritual that could be enhanced. Play with the concept of *anything* more for the finale.

Plot

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Wasn't expecting to relate to this protagonist but here i am
van rated this work:

Dec. 5, 2018, 3:46 p.m.

Your protagonist is such an interesting, memorable character. They say readers will go anywhere with a good character regardless of plot, and this story makes me agree; no matter what the situation, I'm sure the protagonist would make it super interesting! He's got a fascinating mix of social anxiety and an artists' eccentricity.
The only thing that softens these sharp characters and witty lines ("The dish was one long delicate noodle looped like an unfolded hank of yarn") are some run-ons and grammar errors; minor really! And this is super nitpicky but every time I read "smirk" I think of either something condescending or evil and I don't think that's what you were going for with the waiter. Why not smile? Just a nitpicky thing on my part.

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Beautiful prose
mstabel rated this work:

July 10, 2019, 12:59 p.m.

I loved the concept for this story--and the protagonist. It reminded me of "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Melville, or maybe a short story by Poe. A simple, defining character trait (He doesn't want to choose! He wants to be surprised!) that plays out across a single meal and remains mysterious at the end. The waiter seemed delightfully mischievous, or maybe even ominous, to me, because of his smirk and the spitting at the end. Has the protagonist found a compatible mate to complement his quirk, or has he fallen into the clutches of someone who is taking advantage of him? The tension between those two possibilities is well done; it's almost as if the protagonist has finally found someone who shares his "kink," so to speak. There is an edge of danger, but we're not quite sure what it is. The spitting into the drinks at the end highlights that for me, but I do think a little bit more light could be shed on that action, so the reader isn't left completely mystified at the end. My favorite part of this piece was the clear and well-paced prose style. The standout line, to me, was, "The restaurant was about 20 polite conversations loud." Delicious. The food descriptions were beautiful, as well. A tiny tiny detail: the phrase "the waiter had a smirk on his cheeks" pulled me out of the story; I think "smirk on his face" would read more naturally.

Thanks for sharing, I loved it!

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Anything
authortessagray rated this work:

July 11, 2019, 11:25 a.m.

I liked having the setting in a restaurant, but it deserved a much crisper description. In one of the first paragraphs, you used the word 'he' thirteen times. It's important to vary your words-to have great variety in your sentence structure. At times, you might consider beginning the sentence with a verb, instead of always choosing a pronoun or noun. It makes it more enjoyable for your readers. I wasn't clear as to why this man chose NOT to know which wine he was being served. That made no sense to me because wines vary so greatly in price. If he's being served a cheap wine, he should know that so he won't get overcharged. You mentioned that the main character thought most waiters were cowards because they always served certain combinations of foods and rarely deviated. That's more of a criticism of the cook, or possibly, the manager of the restaurant. The waiter would have absolutely no control over that.

I had no physical description of the waiter. The reader should have an idea what he looks like. You talked about the restaurant being '20 polite conversations loud.' I have no idea what that means. Is the room humming with patrons whispering loudly to one another, or is the volume level deafening as people talk over one another. If you rewrite this, it would be effective to do two scenes; one from the customer's; one from the waiters. That way, one of them could describe the other. As you have it written (only from the customer's point of view, it doesn't give you the opportunity to tell your readers what the main character looks like.

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Shaky writing but interesting
river_styx_tango rated this work:

July 11, 2019, 5:52 p.m.

It's a fast but fun piece that's suitable for the flash fiction format. I like the concept, a customer who's demanding in the strangest way, and with some work, you can make this story convey the moment.
Since the two characters are both men that are unnamed, I had trouble figuring out that it was the customer's point-of-view until the middle of the story. You can clarify this by using the moniker you gave him, "the man," in the opening paragraphs. You don't necessarily have to give him a proper name, but at least using "the man" as a proper name could anchor the reader more.
It's also an interesting choice to make the dialogue tagless, but it does come with some confusion too. If you're not too attached to the stylistic choice, adding a "the waiter said" or "the man said" would provide some guidance.
One word that stood out was your use of the word "smirk," which I felt you overused, especially since the word "smirk" connotates mischief when the rest of the piece implies that the waiter enjoys this moment. On the other hand, I did enjoy your description of the dinner, especially since several details (such as the label-less glass) ties into the overall plot and make the description more than window dressing.
Overall, revising your mechanics and digging more into your word choice can make this story better. It does have promise.

Point of View Dialogue Diction

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