Mary Kate’s Christmas – part 7

Mary Kate’s Christmas © part 7
By: Wayne Engle

Mary Kate took the couple menus and her best smile.

“Good evening, folks! Welcome to Dinty Callahan’s, the best meals in South Boston!” she said.

“Humph! I should hope so, with these prices,” groused the old man, eyeing the bill of fare.

“Kind of expensive, for the kind of place THIS looks to be,” added the old woman, without a trace of a smile.

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Mary Kate. “But you’ll be enjoyin’ the meal, no doubt.”

Old Hilda peered through the window in the kitchen’s swinging doors and remarked to one of the other waitresses, “Would ya look at the two sour pickles Mary Kate’s got on Table Four? They’d take vinegar with their tea, I’d wager.”

The couple ordered the most expensive meals on the menu, then complained about everything. Their coffee wasn’t hot enough. The soup was TOO hot. The steaks were too rare. Then they were too well done.

The restaurant cat, Puss ‘N’ (remember Puss ‘N’ Boots?) sat and regarded the visitors for a time. For all the world, as he put his head on one side, then on the other, Puss ‘N’ seemed to be thinking, “Why do these humans seem so unhappy? The food here’s great — best kitchen I’ve ever mooched from. And who could ask for a better waitress than Mary Kate? Faith, I’m a cat, and even I can see how beautiful she is!”

This was before the era of snoopy health department and OHSA inspectors. Puss ‘N’ was clean and orderly in his habits (he WAS a cat, after all), and he was sudden death to any rats and mice who came around the restaurant.

Puss ‘N’ was a big, friendly ginger-colored cat, and quite the pet of all the staff and regular customers. Mary Kate even caught Black Mike unaware once, petting the cat and talking gently to him back in the pantry. She backed out of the room silently and never let Black Mike know she had seen. She didn’t want to damage his reputation.

Puss ‘N’ stared at the visitors until the old lady caught sight of him.

“Eeek!” she screamed. “Waitress, cats make me sneeze and itch! Get that awful beast out of here at once!”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Mary Kate, scooping up Puss ‘N’ in one easy motion and heading for the kitchen with him.

“Purrrow?” inquired the cat, looking up at Mary Kate with his green eyes.

“Sorry, old chum, but the customer’s always right,” she whispered, stroking him. “I’ll get you a nice tidbit in the kitchen.”

Of course, Puss ‘N’ stayed in the kitchen only so long as it took Mary Kate to return to the dining room. He slipped nimbly between her feet, unbeknownst to her, as she came through the door. Stealthily tiptoeing to a dark corner of the dining room, Puss ‘N’ sat and grinned, unseen, at the old couple.

“You put me out, but you couldn’t KEEP me out, you old crosspatches! This is MY restaurant. I just let Dinty put his name over the door because he’s a decent man, and all …”

Mary Kate’s tone with her fussy customers remained civil, and she even made an attempt to be friendly — to no avail.

But Old Hilda looked at her sharply the next time she returned to the kitchen. Her cheeks were pinkening up, her eyes were starting to change color, and most ominous of all, she had stopped humming.

The only other time the staff at Dinty’s could remember Mary Kate’s hum falling silent was just before she had stormed at Black Mike over his treatment of Teresa Quinn.

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