From “The Beaufort Diaries” by T Cooper
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“Three waters on twenty-two, Beaufort!” the manager hollered. It was a constant refrain since I somehow managed to land the job at Nobu.
I filled up three glasses — one-quarter ice and three-quarters water — and carefully wiped the condensation off the glasses like they showed me, then raced over to table twenty-two without looking like I was in a hurry.
The three men at the table didn’t look up at me when I approached. I placed one glass in front of the curly-haired guy, then went around to the next one, but just before the glass reached the table, I felt something on the floor making me slip… It was one of those goddam Zen rocks that the customers rest the ends of their chopsticks on. The glass of water spilled all over the goateed guy’s lap.
“What the fuh — ?!” he yelled, bolting up and brushing the water off his expensive-looking jeans.
“I’m so sorry, so sorry,” I said, but he just stood there staring at me like maybe we’d met somewhere before. His eyes were totally disarming, the hue of translucent, early-winter ice. I repeated, “I’m really sorry,” and headed toward the staging area to fetch a towel, again trying to appear calm and centered while crossing the dining room.
“Do you know who that is?” one of the waiters asked. It was the first time he’d ever spoken to me outside of barking demands in my direction.
“The guy you spilled on.”
“I don’t know. No.”
“You’re so fired. That’s Leo,” he spat.
I went back to offer Mr. Leo the towel, but by the time I got to the table he was already reseated and laughing riotously with his buddies about something. The other customers in the dining room looked over, trying to look like they weren’t looking.
“It’s okay, man. Chill out,” Mr. Leo said.
“Can you sit down for a sec?” the third, sleepy-eyed guy asked, pulling out a chair. “Let me pour you some sake.”
I glanced back toward the reception area where the manager was scowling at me. “I can’t, I really need to — ”
“Dude, you’d be perfect for this film I’m doing,” Mr. Leo interrupted. “Are you green?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, sometimes my fur turns a little green when the algae content goes up in summer.”
All three of them laughed some more.
“This is Tobey, that’s Adrian. And I’m Leo.”
“My name’s Beaufort.” We shook hands and paws.
“Here’s my direct line.” Leo jotted a number on a chopsticks wrapper. “I’m serious. You and me, we could really make a difference.” I stared into his crystal eyes. They kind of killed me. “I gotta get back to work.”
I didn’t have a telephone connected at my place yet, so I didn’t try to call Leo. Everybody at Nobu said he was probably a phony anyhow, and that I shouldn’t feel special that he gave me his personal number. But a few days after the ice-water incident, Leo’s assistant phoned me at the restaurant while I was setting up for lunch.
When I came out to the front desk, the day manager hissed, “No personal calls!” as he tossed me the handset, and then as soon as I pressed the receiver to my ear, that mean waiter whisked by and whispered, “Fired,” while making a hand gesture that looked like he was slicing his own neck with a finger.
“Uh, he-hello?” I stuttered like a madman into the phone.
“Can you come in for a screen-test at four-thirty this afternoon?”
* * *
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– T COOPER’s most recent book is the graphic novel The Beaufort Diaries, the inspiring story of a polar bear who escapes extinction by going Hollywood. Cooper is also the author of two regular old novels, Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes and Some of the Parts, as well as co-editor of an anthology of short stories entitled A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing. Cooper’s fiction and nonfiction writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, One Story, The Believer, Electric Literature, and some others. He lives in New York with his family. More info: www.t-cooper.com
Credit: Animation by Drew Jordan, art by Alex Petrowsky.