I was happy there on the bench, sipping my Tom Yum, watching the people walk by. And when the smiling man came out and asked if I wanted to sit in the garden it was more out of disbelief than intent that I asked “Can my dog come?”
Before I knew what had happened I was walking Althea through the small, empty restaurant, one hand gingerly clutching the pint of scalding-hot soup in a to-go container. “That’s very gracious of you.” I was saying to the smiling man and woman who ushered me through, carrying my empty paper bag and napkins.
The garden was empty. The smiling woman turned the lights on and piped in some Peter Cetera. Althea and I settled into the far corner. Tiki candles burned on the perimeter. The smiling man promptly showed up with some ice water.
“Do you want a bowl?” he asked indicating my plastic spoon and takeout container.
“Oh, no.” I answered emphatically. Some ecological sentiment clunking around noisily in my brain.
“Are you sure?”, he asked.
“Absolutely sure. If anything a bowl for the dog.” I said, indicating the ice water. “So I can give her some water.” It was still 90 degrees at 9:30pm.
“How about a small container?”, he replied, showing me an approximation on the container’s size with his cupped hands.
“That would be great! Thank you so much.” I meant it.
Althea lapped up the small container of water and I refilled it from my chilled glass. I stared at the empty garden, sweating over my Tom Yum and vaguely wondered how I had been convinced to leave the spectacle of the street for this dull, empty garden.
It’s illegal to have a dog anywhere in a restaurant in NYC. I knew that this place had ‘re-opened’ recently with a new name and redone decor. They must really be desperate for customers. Why else would they go so far out of their way to be nice and accommodating to a guy who only wanted a cup of soup to go?
Within a few minutes I realized the true reason for their hospitality. I swatted mosquitos off my ankles and crushing them is bloody smears as they landed. I swore their deaths as Althea chased them off her legs. We were deep in it. The smiling pagans had sold us out, sacrificing us to their mosquito gods. The soup was extremely hot, but I poured it down my throat so quickly I felt ill. As soon as I could I dumped the rest of Althea’s water and yanked her back through the restaurant out into the street. We were covered in bites and the smiling people had disappeared.
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