Bill Capossere

The Waiter Museum

Old Man Received by a Gentleman in an Oriental Costume by Gabriel Engels

In the Waiter Museum lobby they stand stiff and encumbered in unsullied tuxes—six staring figures bearing paper and pad and laden-down trays. Mannequins all and you sense as you enter that this is not the place you meant to shepherd the children into. Not it at all.

Now though, it’s too late. The twelve dollars gone—three apiece for two under twelve, the one still sullen at being made to pass, still muttering as you think to yourself he should take advantage while he can.

You ask just in case about the races with trays, miming as you speak the stacking of glasses one on top of the other open fist over fist. But the attendant only sniffs “try the Waiter Hall of Fame,” as he clips your tickets then turns away, so scornful you wonder if he’s part of the exhibit.

You step into a swelter, the air-conditioning not working, the air too damp, like moving through soup and you can’t help it (waiter, waiter,  there’s a fly in . . . ) as you hasten the boys along past the small dioramas of Hebe and Ganymede then John’s head on a platter, spinning for effect. That last one a problem. It’s the thin ribbon of simulated blood spewing from the mouth that makes the youngest throw up and as you stand cupping the back of his head while he leans over against the corridor wall, you remember how once a world away your hometown’s single formal restaurant used to revolve atop its building to show the city sights, until the sights grew too tall and all you could see were office windows behind which moved the bent silhouettes of the cleaning staff vacuuming the day’s debris. You and your wife-to-be seated on the outer rim of tables, dressed in jeans, laughing. Your waiter’s disapproving stare, so when he turned his stiff back you placed your coffee cup on the cherrywood sill where it slowly moved around the room, the two of you watching it until you lost sight. And standing here now, you wonder if that night waiting for the cup’s glacial return, you mistook that slight circular movement for the whirling orbit of love.


About the writer:
Bill Capossere’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in multiple anthologies and journals, including Man in the Moon, Short Takes, In Short, Colorado Review and AQR. His work has garnered several Pushcart Prize nominations and been listed in the Notable Essays sections of Best American Essays. Previous stories in this Museum cycle have appeared in Rosebud, Cezanne’s Carrot, Chautaqua, and the anthology Short Takes.Capossere currently live in Rochester, New York.

Image:  Old Man Received by a Gentleman in an Oriental Costume by Gabriel Engels (1592-1654). Oil on canvas. 52.2 x 65.5 cm. By 1654. Public domain.