Brett had been a waiter at the Morton’s at the edge of downtown San Diego for two years now, but he was just given an assignment for which he felt unprepared.
“Dwight Howard will be dining with us tonight, Brett. We feel that you are ready for this. Focus all your energies on him. He’ll be your only table tonight. Also, remember, we are out of Alaskan King Crab Legs. We won’t be getting any more in until tomorrow night.”
He had no clue what to do with himself.
Howard came in the main door of the restaurant sometime south of 7:30PM and the bulbs popped outside and people whispered and pointed and he soaked it in, smiling all the while. The hostess, Joselyn, walked him back to his seat and Brett watched from a few yards off to see how he handled himself.
The water cup had already been filled prior to Howard sitting down so he gripped the glass and tilted it and took a small sip and sat it down. The cup was sweating and he wiped his wet hand on the leg of his blue Adidas sweatpants. As he did so Brett took one last breath, that breath the deepest of the day, and walked over to the table. Howard was looking at the menu.
“Hi, Mr. Howard, welcome to Morton’s. Would you like to start off with something other than the water?”
Howard looked at the drinks menu.
He turned the drink menu to the back and ran his right pointer finger from the top of the page to the bottom and back to the top again.
“I’ll take an Effen Rasberry. That’s out of Holland. Holland’s cool.”
“An Effen is an excellent choice, sir. I’ll be right back with that.”
Brett turned from the table and took two steps.
“Actually, excuse me?”
Brett stopped and turned around and Howard was still looking at the back of the drink menu.
“I don’t know if I’m really feeling raspberry now that I think about it. What about Ketel One? I’ve seen those commercials.”
“So, a Ketel then?”
Howard looked back down at the menu.
“Actually, no. Tanqueray 10. That’s what I want. I’ll do that.”
Brett stared at him and he could tell that he was still thinking. Howard nodded and set the menu down on the table.
“Yea. That’s what I want. Tanqueray 10.”
“Very well. I’ll be right back with that.”
Brett turned to walk away. He had gotten four steps from the table, then he heard a shout from behind him.
“You know what? Could you just bring an Effen and the Tanqueray 10?”
Brett turned back to the table and Howard was looking at the menu.
“No problem. I’ll get those straight away.”
Brett walked to the bar and the bartender, Jerry, was excited. Jerry was a pudgy man with an affinity for whiskey and Lupe Fiasco.
“What’s he want? What’s he like?”
“An Effen, a Tanqueray 10, and kind of different.”
“He wants both?”
Jerry began to pour the drinks, shaking his head and smiling as he did so.
“If you are what you say you are, huh, Brett?”
When the drinks were made, Brett set them on the tray and headed toward the table. When he turned the corner he saw Howard sitting there, the back two legs of the chair the only two on the ground, relaxed, his hands and fingers interlocked behind his head.
“Here you are, sir.”
“Great. Thank you. Those look good. This is a nice place by the way.”
“Oh, thank you, sir. That means a lot coming from you.”
“How much it cost?”
Brett was standing there, hands clasped behind his back. He leaned down closer to the table, confused.
“How much this whole thing cost?”
“Oh, the Effen and Tanq-“
“No, this place, the restaurant I mean. How much does this restaurant cost?”
“Are you…I’m not sure. I can…uh…I can check for you if you’d like.”
Howard began laughing and rocking back in his chair. He slapped his hands on the table and held onto his stomach.
“I’m just messing with you….what’s the name?”
Howard strained his neck to look at the nameplate on Brett’s shirt.
“Brett. I’m just playing around, Brett.”
Brett laughed a mercy laugh and pulled his notepad from the pouch at the front of his apron.
“Have you decided what you’d like to eat?”
“I have, yea. Knew what I was getting before I came here. I’m gonna go with the Alaskan King Crab Legs.”
Brett looked down at the pad and back up at Howard.
“Oh, I apologize, Mr. Howard. I should have mentioned earlier. We’re out of the Alaskan King Crab Legs, unfortunately.”
Howard was taking a sip of his Tanqueray 10 and let out a cough as the news was broke to him. He sat the glass down and wiped his mouth with the napkin in his lap.
“You’re out of them? I really wanted them, though.”
“Yea. I’m very sorry about that. We are out of them, unfortunately.”
Howard was staring at the table shaking his head.
“I was hoping to eat crab legs, though. That’s what I wanted.”
He never looked up from the table. He was talking to the flickering candle that cast small shadows on the plates and glasses that sat at the middle of the table.
“I do very much apologize, Mr. Howard. If you are in the mood for crab, we do highly recommend our Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.”
Howard continued to shake his head. He pulled out his iPhone from the front left pocket of his sweatpants and flicked the arrow on the bottom of the screen to the right, unlocking it. Brett could see the phone from his position at the side of the table and Howard was going into his messages. He was about to text “Mom Dukes”.
“It’s just, I really wanted the crab legs. Are you sure you don’t have anymore?”
“Well, I was informed a few minutes prior to your arrival that we are fresh out of them, yes.”
Howard sat his phone down on the table to the right of his glass of Effen and crossed his arms. He was still not looking at Brett.
“Could you please check? Just to see? Just tell them I really want them.”
Brett stared back at him contemplating the ramifications of telling this man “no”. He decided against it.
“Sure. Be happy to.”
Brett turned and went to the bar and Jerry was there waiting.
“Did he like them?”
Brett looked at him and raised his right eyebrow and sat his pen down on the counter.
“What’re you talking about, Jerry?”
“The drinks? Did he like the drinks I made for him?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess. He’s drinking them.”
Jerry beamed and tossed the bar rag over his right shoulder.
“Man. Have no fear, the camera’s here. Right, Brett?”
Brett moved from the bar to the kitchen swiftly, barreling through the swinging door without so much as a thought to someone coming on the other side with a tray. He was lucky, and he just missed a trainee on their way out the door with a tray full of Oysters Rockefeller.
He found the head chef, Raquel.
“Excuse me, Raquel? Do we have any of the Alaskan King Crab Legs?”
“Are you serious?”
Raquel placed both hands on her hips and glared at him over the top of the reading glasses she wore at the edge of her nose.
“Brett, were you not informed at the start of your shift that the AKCL’s are the one thing we are out of?”
Brett put his hands on his hips and looked at the ceiling of the kitchen.
“No, I was. It’s just…Dwight Howard is out there and he really wants Alaskan King Crab Legs.”
“I do not care if Jesus is out there, we don’t have any King Crab Legs. He’ll just have to get something else.”
Brett breathed out heavily and popped his neck and thanked Raquel and went from the kitchen into the bar. He walked swiftly and saw Jerry who was opening his mouth to say something. Brett raised his hand.
“Can’t talk now, Jer.”
Jerry dropped his head.
As he walked back to the table, he saw Howard was looking at his phone. Moving closer, he could see that Howard was playing Temple Run.
When Brett spoke those words it spooked Howard and his character stumbled on a stump and could never regain his balance. He was killed by the vulture creatures. He sat his phone down.
“Come on, man.”
“Very sorry. Um. I apologize, but, upon checking, it does appear that we are out of Alaskan King Crab Legs.”
Howard breathed out. He had finished his Effen and he was now grabbing for the Tanqueray 10. He downed the whole glass.
“You know I really wanted those.”
“I do, sir. Very sorry, again.”
Howard reached for the napkin in his lap and picked it up and sat it on the table.
“Well, I can’t eat here now.”
Howard began to grab for his wallet and he stood up. He reached into the wallet and pulled out a $20 bill and sat it on the table.
“Sir, please, we still have many other great dishes. I’d be happy to have the chef fix you samples of anything you like so that you can make sure that you’re ordering exactly what you’ll like best.”
“No. No. I wanted crab legs. That’s what I wanted.”
“I understand that, sir.”
Howard stood and took four steps from the table. He did not push his chair in. He turned around and stared at Brett and he had tears in his eyes.
“I just…I wanted crab legs. I get emotional ’bout this stuff, man.”
A single tear fell from his left eye.
“I understand, sir, but unfortunately we don’t have them at this time.”
“Then you do not have me.”
Howard sniffled and ran out the front door of the restaurant and the bulbs popped just as they had before. Brett watched him get into a cab and the cab turned the corner as the photographers snapped their last few shots of a big man who would not have been the fourth best center in the NBA in mid 1990’s.
Jerry strode up next to Brett and threw his arm around him.
“The world brought me to my knees. What have you brung you? Right, Brett?”
*Oh, none of this is true. But come on. It probably did happen at some point.