The Return of Clovis

It came not upon a midnight clear, but a fortnight before Christmas, that word of the return of Clovis Walcott (Colonel, US Army Retired) arrived in the Café.
This intelligence arrived through the medium of Colonel Walcott’s youngest son, Robbie, allowing in his usual artless manner, as he arrived for his usual Saturday morning shift,
“Hey, Dad is coming home! The Dubai job is done and dusted, he said. He called from Atlanta last night. Got a meeting with some possible clients there, but he’s coming home in time for Christmas.”
“I suppose that Mrs. Walcott is thrilled beyond words,” Richard observed, biting is tongue on his next impulse, to suggest that Sook Walcott, the most ferocious tiger mother in several counties, was looking forward to serving as a sort of bedroom sausage roll, now that her husband was on his way home.
“She is,” Robbie replied, appearing now somewhat mildly anxious, as he tied on his clean kitchen apron. “Oh, hey – Luc? Dad wants to speak to you. About your intentions towards Belle, I think. He sounded kinda serious.” Robbie sent a look towards Luc Massie, who was industriously scraping the grill station, after the breakfast rush. Luc – tatted to a fair-the-well, body-modified with studs and ear-piercings through which Richard could have passed a thumb, topped with a multi-colored Mohawk crest of hair – hardly reacted at all. Luc was, as Miss Letty McAllister allowed, one of those odd children who had never quite gotten the hang of comfortable social interaction with others of their species. A genius at the grill, whose command of the sauté station was above peer and beyond reproach, Luc also doubled as the drummer for a desperately unsuccessful local alt-rock band known as OPM. Which initials stood for anything and everything which began with the letters O, P, and M, since the band members couldn’t agree on an exact definition. Still, having invested in a logo incorporating those letters, and all gotten tats alike – they were pretty well stuck with the letters and logo. Now Brianna Grant, the other teenage apprentice, who was finishing the last of those garnishes required for luncheon service, heaved a deep sigh.
“Luc,” she called across the kitchen. “Belle’s dad will want to speak to you. You know – if you want to work the sex-magic with her. When and if she comes back from New York. You’d better think of something to say, when he asks you if you do. And something to say to her, if you don’t.”
Luc finally glanced up from the grill. He appeared – to Richard’s view – to be comprehensively rattled at having a human-reaction problem presented to him.
Brianna sighed theatrically. “Luc – Belle’s dad is back in town. Belle; you know, you love her, et cetera, et cetera? Her dad will want to know if you are serious about doing the sex-magic with her, or anything more intense. I know – you need to think about this all, before you formulate an answer…”
“I do,” Luc replied, although no one in the Café’s kitchen was entirely certain of which question his answer was a reply.
“My advice to you, Mr. Massie,” Richard cut into the conversation, as it was obviously a distraction to all of his staff, “Is to take one long and searching look at young Belle’s maternal parent, and decide if you wish to be romantically-allied to a woman with her very same qualities in thirty years. As the twig inclines, so will the mature tree, given enough time. No criticism of your mother intended, Robbie; merely a statement of the realities.”
“Mom is a firecracker,” Robbie acknowledged with a sigh and a shrug. “And she was pretty upset when she caught Belle an’ Luc kissing in the boathouse.”
“Upset? Upset is as masterful a bit of understatement as I have ever heard from an Englishman,” Richard shuddered, remembering the epic diatribe following upon that unfortunate encounter. Sook Walcott had not just chastised her offspring, at length and top decibels, but had taken the time and trouble over the following days to lecture Luc (from the street below the windows of the bare-bones flat that he rented from Miss Letty) and to harass Richard himself at the tiny vintage Airstream caravan at the Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm. Until Doc Wyler, the owner of the Café and much else of real (estate) value around Luna City, had called a halt to Sook’s maternal warpath, there was little peace to be had among the stately oaks and Beaux Arts-era facades of Luna City for those who had the ill-luck to be on the periphery of the most ill-judged mésalliance since Romeo and Juliet or perhaps Abelard and Heloise. In the spirit of the seaman in charge of the last lifeboat to leave the Titanic, Richard inquired of Robbie – the fortunately even-tempered youngest son – “I know how your dear mama feels about all this. Any indication that your father will be more … reasonable? Or if not reasonable, at least… considerably less operatically-unhinged about the matter?”
“I dunno,” Robbie confessed, with an expression of honest bafflement on his features; features which merged the four-square and ruggedly handsome bones of his father with the sloe-dark eyes, epicanthic fold and pale olive complexion of his mother, who was alleged to have descended from old Korean nobility. “Dad didn’t really say much, when Mom vented to him about Belle. All he said this time was that he wanted to have a talk with this Luc, as soon as possible when he got back home.”
“I expect that he was hard-put to get in a word edgewise,” Richard still wondered how on earth Clovis Walcott; an otherwise genial and even-tempered man, managed to endure marriage to the tempest of temperament that was Sook. Perhaps – perish the thought – Clovis privately enjoyed the drama.

So, it was no great surprise, three or four days later, when Clovis Walcott appeared; mid-morning, after the rush to serve breakfast and before the rush to organize for lunch. Doubtless the good colonel had consulted with Robbie; a touch of professional consideration which Richard greatly appreciated. The dining room was all but empty; Beatriz and Blanca were attending to the last of the morning crowd, when Clovis walked through the door, accompanied by the silvery jingling of the old-fashioned shop bell attached to it.
Richard, as was suitable for a manager of what he hoped would be the top-line purveyor of excellent cuisine in a charming, historically-significant location, appeared in the dining room – although he was drying his hands on a towel strategically tucked into his waistband as he did so.
“Colonel Walcott – welcome home! So happy to have you back again, among us! Robbie let it slip that you would return soon … a good lad, and a hard worker as well…”
“Glad to be home as well, Ricardo!” Clovis gave every indication that this was purely true, in that he shook Richard’s hand with enthusiasm and brotherly affection. “Might you have one or two of your cinnamon rolls … and a cup of that magnificent coffee as well? I’d like to have a word with your cook, Mr. Massie,” Clovis added, as he took a seat at the big table set before the picture window at the Café – the regulars’ table, or as the Stein’s called it, ‘the stammtisch.’
“Robbie … was good enough to tell me that you would want a quiet word with Luc … seeing that Miss Walcott is somewhat serious about his … umm, their mutually-romantic affections. If you like – the two of you can go out in back,” Richard offered, and Clovis shook his head.
“No, the stammtisch will do nicely – and the conversation won’t take but a moment. Just ask Mr. Massie if he will spare a few moments out of his busy day. There are some things that we have to get straight.”
Clovis Walcott’s face bore a stern expression upon it; Richard hoped devotedly that he would, after all this brief convo was done, that he would have a junior cook available to deal with the lunchtime grill orders.
“I hope that he doesn’t take very long with Luc,” he ventured to Araceli in a low voice as he passed the cash register desk. “Or leave much of a mess. A lot of blood on the stammtisch will be hard to explain to lunch customers.”
“Plus leaving us short of a cook,” Araceli murmured in reply. “But I wouldn’t worry, Chef – Clovis is actually an old softy. Most often he lets Sook be the bad cop; I think they have it down to a science.”
“Just … keep an eye on them both,” Richard advised over his shoulder as he stepped into the kitchen to tell Luc that doom was upon him. “Come and get me if it looks like the conversation is going sideways, or the daggers are coming out.”

(To Be Continued, of course!)

1 Comment

  1. Wonderful! And I have ordered the compendia. I think my mother will enjoy them greatly.