If you observed Redmond Mountford’s culinary tastes, you may think he was something of an openminded man. After all, he was seen eating minestrone soup in a restaurant, and on another occasion, he met up with his wife in an area with a cosmopolitan demographic and after she’d done the shopping, they had tea at a Chinese restaurant that he described as “quite good”.
One night, Redmond and his wife, Petula, were scheduled to attend a gathering of a few people from Petula’s work for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and Redmond said he’d collect one couple, not because he did not imbibe alcohol, he did, but to show off his recently purchased Mitsubishi Magna. Dress for the occasion was smart casual, and Petula had him dress in a navy blue jacket, pale green shirt and light grey slacks.
Redmond and Petula arrived at the house of Petula’s boss in the firm, where he found them waiting on the driveway. The Magna’s headlights beamed brightly through the curtains and liners in the couple’s lounge room, where the couple’s sons were sitting, and as a farewell salute, Redmond tooted the Magna’s horn as he reversed it off the driveway.
The drive to the restaurant took around ten minutes and as they approached a set of traffic lights, they saw a woman dressed in a crisp blouse and a black skirt with shoulder length black hair standing beside a Toyota Corona with its bonnet lifted and its hazard lights flashing, a confused look on her face.
“We should stop and give her a hand,” said Petula’s boss. “Just pull up over there, on the other side of the slip lane.”
Redmond inhaled luxuriantly on the cigarette he was smoking. “Nah, I’m not stopping for her. She can look after herself.”
“Do you know her?”
“Nah, and I don’t want to. She’s only-.”
“She’s only nothing, Redmond. She’s a human being who needs some help.”
“Let someone else do it.”
Within two minutes, they arrived at the Chinese restaurant. They locked the car and went inside and a young man, dressed in a crisp white shirt, a red bow tie and crisp black slacks led the Mountfords and the other three couples to a large table with a small Reserved sign on it.
“Would you prefer chopsticks or knives and forks?” the waiter asked.
Petula’s boss, another man from the company and his wife opted for chopsticks, while Redmond, his wife and the others opted for knives and forks.
Another well-dressed waiter approached their table.
“Would you like something to drink?”
“A beer,” said Redmond.
“A beer, I said.”
“Sir, we have Foster’s, Victoria Bitter-.”
“Oh, Foster’s will do!”
The drinks waiter took an order for a bottle of white wine for the other people and headed off towards the cold room.
The food water then returned. Redmond ordered honey chicken and beef and black bean sauce, while the others took orders ranging from Peking Duck to fried rice to other dishes. Redmond took a sip of his beer, before stabbing a piece of sweet honey chicken with his fork.
“Tastes pretty good,” he remarked.
As he finished his first course, Redmond lit up a cigarette and took another mouthful of his beer. After he had eaten his beef and black bean sauce and downed the last of his beer, a tall waiter approached the table.
“Would you care for a dessert?”
“Have you got any cake?”
“Cake? We have Chocolate Bavarian cheesecake, Sir.”
His wife opted for deep fried banana and ice-cream.
“Complimentary tea or coffee?”
“How would you like your coffee, Sir?”
“Milk with one.”
Redmond licked his lips at the thought of the cheesecake, and when it arrived, he attacked it with gusto. As he downed the last of his coffee, he lit another cigarette and raised his hand to call for the bill.
A slender woman with shoulder length black hair and a medium complexion, wearing a crisp cream blouse and black skirt approached the table. Redmond began to wish he hadn’t had what he called “elegant sufficiency” as she looked at him.
As he glanced towards the front door, he saw, standing in the foyer, two solid men one blonde and one with dark brown hair, non-designer stubble on their tanned faces, sunglasses lifted onto their heads. They were wearing navy blue cotton drill long sleeved shirts, navy blue cotton drill shorts, navy blue socks and brown workers’ boots with plaster and dust on them.
“How will we settle the bill?” he asked Petula’s boss, uncomfortably.
“Everyone should pay for themselves,” replied Petula’s boss. Whereupon he asked for the bill and handed over the money for him and his wife.
It was then that he saw the woman with the shoulder length hair approaching the two men in the foyer with a packet containing delicious smelling Chinese food. She bowed slightly to them and one of them, according to what Redmond could discern, said, “Oh, no thanks necessary. We appreciate this,” before they walked out into the night.
“Say, you couldn’t pay for me, could you, old chap?”
“I’ve just got to go to the loo.”
“Oh, all right.”
Upon his return, Redmond hissed, “Let’s get out of here. I’ll see you back at the car.”
He left without a further word.
The woman with the shoulder length hair approached Petula’s boss with the receipt.
“Did you enjoy your meal?”
“Yes, thank you. We’ll have to come back, again, some time.”
As the others left, she asked Petula’s boss, “You can come back tomorrow. I’ll give you some free food.”
“I know what you tried to do. I wouldn’t want to give free food to a man who is happy to eat our food but not help a person who could have been late for work, but for the kindness of the two men earlier.”