Sixth and final part of the excerpt from The Lies Have It - coming this November!
Sunday, 7:51 pm
“You know we have a dress code, right?” Shane asked when I walked through the back door into the kitchen of Pastiche. He shook his head at my scruffy sartorial choices. Shane was standing over a hot stove stirring a curry coconut broth for the mussel dish featured on tonight’s prix fixe menu.
“Yeah, I don’t exactly class up the joint, do I? I can eat in the kitchen.” I said.
“Pass me a bowl.” Shane pulled a tureen out of the refrigerator, and ladled out a serving of the soup du jour. He had his back to me and busied himself for a moment adding this and that to the dish.
I ate standing up, leaning against one of the prep tables. Not the most elegant way to eat soup, but gift horses and choosy beggars – and I eat at Shane’s place for free. A bit of cool soup dribbled onto my shirt. I left it there; I thought the stain might lend me some unkempt credibility with the street kids I was planning to canvass after dinner.
“Damn, this is good. Sweet and spicy? I can taste lemongrass.”
“Yeah. Chilled Spicy Thai Watermelon soup with Crabmeat. There’s lemongrass, cilantro, Serrano chilli, and ginger. You like it?”
Shane knew he didn’t have to ask. The fact that I was practically inhaling the bowl showed how much I liked it, but Shane is a chef and he loves to hear feedback on his latest creations. “A mouthful of heaven,” I said.
“This week, except on Thursday when we’re having the Nealson party, the restaurant’s doing a theme on Asian-inspired dishes. With a twist, of course. You can try some mussels if you want.”
“Bring ’em on.” We chatted while I ate and Shane cooked and fretted, and occasionally barked at the kitchen staff. Frankie, the line cook, told Shane to take a flying leap, to which Shane said something about hell freezing over. It was all good-natured. A salty, weathered army vet, Frankie – probably more so than anyone else on staff – keeps Shane from completely losing his mind on busy nights.
“You know, Sasha, the Asian menu theme reminds me of my friend Percy.”
“Do I know him?”
“Probably not. A good guy. We worked together years ago at that Italian place in Woodbridge?”
“I remember the place. That’s where I got food poisoning.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that wasn’t my fault?”
“I lost five pounds in less than a week.”
“It saved you the trouble of going to the gym, didn’t it?”
“Yeah right. Anyhow, what about Percy?”
“He opened a pan-Pacific restaurant called Monsoon a few months ago. He’s pretty sure someone on staff is ripping him off.”
“Theft in a restaurant? No, you must be kidding.” I was well aware of how often restaurateurs got robbed blind by their employees. “Give him my number and I’ll see what I can do.”
Sunday, 9:12 pm
After dinner at Shane’s place, I made the rounds of the blocks near the Eaton Centre. A crazed old gummer, wearing a white terry cloth robe and misshapen top hat, and holding a crucifix made out of tinfoil, was standing on a crate while warning passers-by about the pending day of reckoning. I wondered if the aluminum wrap interfered with the telepathic messages being sent to him from homicidal zombies in New Jersey. I flashed him a peace sign as I passed. He curtsied and then spat at me. I fleetingly contemplated the symbolism of the moment, but came up empty.
A gaggle of kids in faded jeans were playing hacky-sack in Dundas Square. They hardly stopped playing long enough to look at Macy’s photo. I talked to anyone and everyone who looked to be in Macy’s age group, but scored exactly zero. My feet were getting sore from all the walking. The pool halls and coffee shops I popped into didn’t net me so much as a nibble, but there was no reason to expect that they would have. It was safe to assume that Macy didn’t have a lot of cash, so she wasn’t likely to be anyplace that cost money.
A few of the punks hanging out in front of the Evergreen Centre for Youth were borderline helpful.
“I know for sure I seen her around here a coupla days ago,” said a guy in a hoodie. He passed the photo to the freckle-faced girl standing next to him.
“Yeah, for sure, it was yesterday,” she said. The girl looked about fifteen years old, and about six months pregnant.
“She asked about places to hang out, you know, the scene.”
“I’m flattered you think I’m hip enough to know the scene, but I haven’t got a clue what you mean.” There is nothing more humbling than vocalizing one’s unhipness. If I were going to spend much more time talking to the under-twenty crowd, I’d have to bone up on current slang. An Urban Dictionary tutorial might be in order.
“She asked about scoring some Clarity,” said Preggers.
“Clarity?” it was anything but clear to me.
“You know, Adam, the Love Drug, E.”
Ah yes, E. Ecstasy, the latest drug to capture the attention of teenaged morons. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine – short form: MDMA, which explains the street name “Adam.” I’m unsure what would explain the nickname “Clarity,” but I sensed I’d have to actually try the drug to understand, and I’m just not that dedicated to my job.
“And where might she find that?” I asked.
“Where can’t you find it is a better question,” said Hoodie. He had me there.
“Well, if you see her, give me a call,” I said as I dug in my purse for one of my business cards. Preggers pocketed my number. “When are you due?” I asked her.
“He’s s’posed to pop out on December twenty-fifth. He’s gonna be a boy.”
“I’m very happy for you,” I said. Actually, I wasn’t. Call me old fashioned, but I think there should be a checklist before people are allowed to reproduce. Finishing high school would be the first parental criterion. A fixed address would be number two. “Have you chosen a name yet?”
“I’m gonna name him Noel, like, you know, for Christmas?”
“That’s a good choice,” I said.
“Yeah, you think so? I think so too, but what if he doesn’t come exactly on Christmas Day? Would Noel still be a good name?”
“Well, if he comes out on December twenty-sixth, you could think about calling him Rocky.”
“Uh, maybe…” she said.
I admit the Boxing Day reference is rather oblique.
“Here,” I said, passing her twenty bucks. “Grab a bite. You’re eating for two.”