Two Sisters Writing and Publishing

Winning Writers' Stories

"The Waiter" by Claude Clayton Smith

CHARACTERS

Charles; middle-aged, distinguished

Yvette; middle-aged, attractive

Waiter; silver-haired, observant

 

SCENE

Midnight, a corner table in a nearly empty restaurant.

WAITER

Encore du café?

CHARLES

Non, merci.                 

YVETTE

Moi non plus.

WAITER

Trés bien.

(Bows, leaves)

YVETTE

We're going in circles, Charles.  We have to settle this. I didn't mean to turn our anniversary into a referendum on our marriage. But the question remains, why’d you have to gawk at the hostess who seated us?

CHARLES

I’ve apologized, haven’t I?

YVETTE

An apology won’t cut it. I need an explanation. It’s our anniversary, for Pete’s sake. Our twentieth!

CHARLES

We’re in Paris, Yvette.

YVETTE

That’s no excuse. Not after twenty years together. I am not moving from this table until you—

CHARLES

—account for the way I looked at that young hostess.

YVETTE

Was it guilt? Regret?

CHARLES

Or something else entirely . . . Hey, I’ve got an idea.

Let's consider French films. When in Rome—

YVETTE

—do as the Parisians do?

CHARLES

The answer could lie in those French films we’ve seen over the years. About men and women. You be the contestant. I’ll be the MC.

YVETTE

Fire away.

CHARLES

I've got one. Before we met. I forget the title. In fact I forget everything about the film except the beginning. This guy comes home from work, a middle-aged businessman. He walks into the kitchen. His wife’s making dinner. And he confesses he made love to another woman.

YVETTE

Just like that?

CHARLES

His wife’s standing there dicing carrots with a sharp knife in her hand and her husband walks in and confesses he made love to someone else.

YVETTE

And . . . she stabs him with her knife!

CHARLES

No. She continues dicing carrots. Maybe potatoes, I can't remember. Then she tosses them into a pot and says, without so much as looking up, "My poor husband. Are you feeling old.”

YVETTE

Interesting . . . And so?

CHARLES

That threw me for a loop. I was young, impressionable. I expected a fit of jealousy. Just like you did, thinking she’d stab him. But she reacts in terms of his age. As if it's normal for things like that to happen.

YVETTE

I . . .

CHARLES

Does that help? Any . . . applause?

YVETTE

Do I applaud after each film, or at the end?

CHARLES

Whenever.

YVETTE

Then I’ll withhold judgment for now.

CHARLES

Fine.

YVETTE

Next film.

CHARLES

Let's see. The category is French films about men and women. To help shed light on our . . . little problem. Ah! Un Homme Et Une Femme.

YVETTE

Ugh. Sentimental drivel. I pass.

CHARLES

You're the contestant! You can't pass. But . . . I respect your opinion on that one. They remade that film, by the way. Same characters twenty years later.

YVETTE

Let's stick to our own twenty years. Our anniversary, remember? That’s why we’re in Paris.

CHARLES

Amen. Another film, then. Let's see. Cousin, Cousine. We saw it on video years ago.

YVETTE

Yes. It takes place at a party. Was it a wedding? And this guy gets the hots for his own cousin.

CHARLES

He's talking to another relative, telling him all about her. She’s out in the yard riding on a swing.

YVETTE

—without her underpants.

CHARLES

Oui, oui. Sans culottes.

YVETTE

Some women don't wear bras, some don't wear panties.

CHARLES

On a swing? With their dress blowing up in their face?

YVETTE

Apparently.

CHARLES

What about you? Tonight?

YVETTE

I'll never tell.

CHARLES

I'll find out later.

YVETTE

Not unless we account for that look on your face! The way you looked at that young hostess.

CHARLES

Ah yes. The Expression That Threatened A Marriage. Our very own French film.

YVETTE

Sounds more like a Japanese horror movie.

CHARLES

Let’s stick to the French. Any applause for Cousin, Cousine?

YVETTE

Yes. The sound of one hand clapping.

CHARLES

Touché! And why is that?

YVETTE

Because a woman who’d ride a swing that way could just as easily flirt with a handsome man entering a restaurant.

CHARLES

She could! She could! We’re making progress!

YVETTE

I’ll be the judge of that.

CHARLES

Merde!

YVETTE

My turn.

CHARLES

O.K. I'll be the contestant.

YVETTE

That film with Yves Montand. Remember?

CHARLES

Vaguely.

YVETTE

About this attractive young woman. Yves Montand’s her older lover. He loves Bach and takes her to cultural events. He's mature and charming as hell. Just like . . . you.

CHARLES

And at the same time she's got a second lover, her own age.

YVETTE

Younger, I thought. Her boy-toy. She's torn between them, loves them both, and they're equally wonderful.

CHARLES

How’d it end?

YVETTE

The two guys get together at a house in the country, and the woman shows up to reveal her choice. She jumps from the car, opens the gate, and heads up the path . . .

CHARLES

——and the damn film just stops in a freeze-frame!

YVETTE

It ends with that look on her face. That sad, worried look.

CHARLES

That sad, worried look! Just the way you looked when you caught me gawking at that hostess.

YVETTE

I . . . we're getting nowhere, Charles. Let's call time out.

CHARLES

More coffee?

YVETTE

Yes. No.

CHARLES

New category? How 'bout world capitals? Let's start with Paris.

YVETTE

You're not funny, Charles.

CHARLES

I'm not trying to be funny. I'm just doing whatever it takes to get my wife upstairs to bed. Because it's late, it's our twentieth anniversary, and I’ve been ambushed by youthful beauty in a Parisian restaurant.

YVETTE

Here comes the waiter.

CHARLES

Hey! I've got another idea. Let’s ask him what he thinks. He's French, isn't he? And we'll abide by whatever he says. We'll take it as a sign. From the horse's mouth. OK?

YVETTE

When in Rome . . .

CHARLES

—do as the Parisians do! Attendez, monsieur. Expliquez-nous, s'il vous plait. La France. Paris. Les femmes.

YVETTE

Exactly.

(The WAITER turns on his heels)

CHARLES

Where’s he going?

YVETTE

Patience, Charles. Our marriage is riding on this.

CHARLES                       

All twenty years?

YVETTE

Each and every one.

CHARLES

Ah! Here he comes.

YVETTE

That didn’t take long.

WAITER

(Bows, holding a book for YVETTE)

Madame.

CHARLES

Hey! It was my idea. O.K. O.K. Your French is better than mine.

YVETTE

Merci, monsieur. It's by Valéry. (Reads to Charles.) Paul Valéry. French poet, critic, and intellectual leader, 1871-1945.

CHARLES

A man of learning. Just like . . . me.

(The WAITER hands the book to YVETTE,

opening it to a bookmark)

WAITER

Voila, madame.

(YVETTE reads to herself)

CHARLES

(Anxiously.)

Well? What does it say?

YVETTE

Give me a sec. I've got to translate.

(CHARLES sits upright, looking

to the WAITER, then YVETTE)

CHARLES

Well?

YVETTE

(Finally.)

OK. I want to get this right. (Quoting slowly) The ardor aroused in man . . . by the beauty of women . . . can only be satisfied . . . (SHE smiles in acknowledged wonderment) —by God.

CHARLES

(Quietly relieved.)

Amen. It's all in His hands.

YVETTE

(Closes the book with a satisfied snap)

Or Hers, Charlemagne. Or Hers!

(All smile. Tableau. BLACKOUT)

CURTAIN 


About the Author: Claude Clayton Smith is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of two others. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. For further information, see his website: claudeclaytonsmith.wordpress.com

 

Contest Claude Clayton Smith budfoto2.jpg

 

Catherine Greenspan