The waiter in the next restaurant refused to bring them more drinks as
1) the son looked pale and faint.
2) the boy was too young to drink alcohol.
3) the restaurant was closing soon.
4) the waiter got angry with the son.
The last time I saw my father was in Grand Central Station. I was going from my grandmother’s in the Adirondacks to a cottage on the Cape that my mother had rented, and I wrote my father that I would be in New York between trains for an hour and a half, and asked if we could have lunch together. His secretary wrote to say that he would meet me at the information booth at noon, and at twelve o’clock sharp I saw him coming through the crowd.
He was a stranger to me — my mother divorced him three years ago and I hadn’t been with him since — but as soon as I saw him I felt that he was my father, my flesh and blood, my future and my doom. I knew that when I was grown I would be something like him; I would have to plan my campaigns within his limitations. He was a big, good-looking man, and I was terribly happy to see him again.
He struck me on the back and shook my hand. “Hi, Charlie,” he said. “Hi, boy. I’d like to take you up to my club, but it’s in the Sixties, and if you have to catch an early train I guess we’d better get something to eat around here.” He put his arm around me, and I smelled my father the way my mother sniffs a rose. It was a rich compound of whiskey, after-shave lotion, shoe polish, woollens, and the rankness of a mature male. I hoped that someone would see us together. I wished that we could be photographed. I wanted some record of our having been together.
We went out of the station and up a side street to a restaurant. It was still early, and the place was empty. The bartender was quarrelling with a delivery boy, and there was one very old waiter in a red coat down by the kitchen door. We sat down, and my father hailed the waiter in a loud voice. “Kellner!” he shouted. “Garcon! You!” His boisterousness in the empty restaurant seemed out of place. “Could we have a little service here!” he shouted. Then he clapped his hands. This caught the waiter’s attention, and he shuffled over to our table.
“Were you clapping your hands at me?” he asked.
“Calm down, calm down,” my father said. “It isn’t too much to ask of you — if it wouldn’t be too much above and beyond the call of duty, we would like a couple of Beefeater Gibsons.”
“I don’t like to be clapped at,” the waiter said.
“I should have brought my whistle,” my father said. “I have a whistle that is audible only to the ears of old waiters. Now, take out your little pad and your little pencil and see if you can get this straight: two Beefeater Gibsons. Repeat after me: two Beefeater Gibsons.”
“I think you’d better go somewhere else,” the waiter said quietly.
“That,” said my father, “is one of the most brilliant suggestions I have ever heard. Come on, Charlie.”
I followed my father out of that restaurant into another. He was not so boisterous this time. Our drinks came, and he cross-questioned me about the baseball season. He then struck the edge of his empty glass with his knife and began shouting again. “Garcon! You! Could we trouble you to bring us two more of the same.”
“How old is the boy?” the waiter asked.
“That,” my father said, “is none of your business.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said, “but I won’t serve the boy another drink.”
“Well, I have some news for you,” my father said. “I have some very interesting news for you. This doesn’t happen to be the only restaurant in New York. They’ve opened another on the corner. Come on, Charlie.”
He paid the bill, and I followed him out of that restaurant into another ...
“How old is the boy?” the waiter asked. “That,” my father said, “is none of your business.” “I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said, “but I won’t serve the boy another drink.