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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Waiter Chronicles: Last Day (redux)

Friday, February 08, 2008

By 1:00 the dining room was dead, so I took off my tie and apron and printed my batch report. Fifteen dollars on three tables: bad. Really bad. So bad that I take a moment to feel some sympathy for Grandpa, Pepe, and Junior. This is what I'm leaving them.

A couple parties of two wandered in a little after 1:00. Grandpa could handle them with his eyes closed, but something sentimental inside made me re-don my apron and take "one last table." Easy stuff. A pizza, a ravioli, coke, iced tea. The women linger over their lunch, and as they do I'm thinking ahead to the rest of the afternoon. I texted Pepe earlier to come up and see me, but he never responded. Oh well.

The rear doorbell rings, and around the back corner comes Junior and What (as we've come to call one of the bussers). Pepe follows soon after, and it becomes clear that they're here for a reason. Finally, the other Owner arrives, windblown from a motorcycle ride from the city, and places are set around table 43. Wine glasses are set and appetizers are ordered.

It's a lunch. The Owners, the waiters, the bussers, and me. I'm choking on the realization.

Pepe asks me what I want to eat, and I tell him, "Whatever you think I should have."

"You ever had the lamb shank?" he asks.

"No." He turns resolutely to the computer and taps in the order, grinning and eagerly pulling at the few hairs that protrude from his chin.

I clock out and ceremoniously return my card to The Owner, who receives it with a broad smile. We all sit and enjoy a fabulous lunch. The Owners have a gift for "la bambina": a pair of baby booties and a Target gift card. I'm touched.

The Owner mandates that I will say a blessing over the capasante, gamberi con fagioli, and calamari that Nando (the other busser) is placing on the table. This is a dear thing about him that I have loved from the beginning. A man of deep skepticism and loud objections to institutional religions, he has a fixed insistence upon the celestial order of things and our part in petitioning the heavens. His pleas for me to pray for him stopped seeming like jokes months ago.

I return thanks for good friends and good gifts, and I ask God's blessings on all of us in the days ahead. At the "Amen," Pepe feigns emotion, placing a clenched fist to his chest and moaning through pursed lips. I pat his shoulder and laugh. All that's left to do is to enjoy the table. Tell funny stories, laugh over-zealously, and pour more wine. It's beautiful, and I don't deserve it.

It's a living tableau of grace, given to the clumsy by the Hell-bent, and shared among people who, months ago, had no reason to care about the existence of one another. When the wife unexpectedly arrives to join in, it can't get any better.

And so it doesn't.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:15 PM

6 Comments:

Thank you.

Thank you for writing about your experience.
Thank you for allowing us to catch a glimpse.
Thank you for the transparency.
Thank you for the honest wrestling.
Thank you for showing us what the hard work of building community looks like.
Thank you for not giving up in the calling God has given you.
Thank you for realizing that your call does not end although a paycheck from a church has.
Thank you for showing us that community can be built anywhere.
Thank you for shining Christ's light in the world.
Thank you for being vulnerable.
Thank you for you.

Thank you.
commented by Blogger Landon Whitsitt, 7:02 PM  
Thanks for the beautiful, touching ending to a very entertaining journey. God bless you as you begin anew at the church...
commented by Blogger Jerilyn, 7:22 PM  
Thank God for the Whitsitts.

I mean seriously.
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 8:04 PM  
It's posts like these that remind me of two things: what a great writer you are and how much I miss you.

I have enjoyed every story, every hurt and joyful moment, every single word you wrote about this experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing us all to be part of it, in a small way.
commented by Blogger stephanie, 8:44 PM  
Thank you for your support and avid readership.

I love Stephanie Nelson.
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 9:52 PM  
Awww...catching up on all of the things I missed...this made me get goose bumps. Rocky, you are a great person! They will miss you as much as we do in KC.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:26 PM  

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