Soup

Hector had reservations about the upcoming dinner date with his eccentric friend, Jasper. Just humour him, said mutual acquaintances, and all will be well. Fine as that advice was, the dinner with Jasper was going to be a long, embarrassing occasion. Hector had to go, it was his turn in the rotation policy of their unit to play along with the madcap antics of an old friend.

The two friends embraced on the steps of the Astoria restaurant. So far, so normal thought Hector. After signing in they were led to their seats. A waiter appeared and mimed holding a bottle of wine. He said.

“Would you two gentlemen like a little wine before you order.”

“Yes, that would be great, old boy.” answered Jasper.

Putting the bottle on the table the waiter produced an imaginary corkscrew from his pocket which he inserted into the cork. Twisting his hand he made a popping sound with his mouth then lifted the bottle and poured Jasper a drink into an imaginary glass.

“When.” Jasper raised his hand to stop the pouring. The waiter then poured Hector a drink. Hector looked on exasperated. The waiter kept pouring then hesitated and looked at Jasper before pouring more tentatively.

“You’re going to need a bigger glass.” said Jasper. The waiter stopped pouring then walked off looking over his shoulder at Hector with an angry frown. Jasper picked up his phantom glass and took a healthy slug then smacked his lips in a satisfied manner.

After a short while they ordered their meals and normality resumed with mature conversation. Hector hoped that the little aberration early in the evening was going to be the only peculiar event of the meal. Although, Jasper was continually taking sips from his nonexistent glass.

The waiter came over with their starters: two bowls of soup. These two bowls of soup were invisible. Jasper lifted his soup spoon and delved into an imaginary bowl of broth.

“Tuck in Hector, before it gets cold.” said Jasper while breaking imaginary bread into his soup and stirring the intangible liquid.

Hector surveyed the room. No one seemed to be bothering about the strange goings-on at their table. And although all the patrons were eating real food, and a neighbour even gave him a friendly smile, there was nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary was happening. I can’t believe I’m going to do this, said Hector to himself. He picked up his spoon and slowly scooped up some imaginary soup.

“Whoa, Hector, you’re spilling some.” said Jasper with a little grin on his face. The grin of a pantomime villain.

The first course successfully navigated the next three followed the same ritual. They were pretend eating. Jasper and the waiter both acted completely natural as if nothing was amiss. Humouring him, Hector also played along, receiving a lot of barbs from Jasper along the way.

-I hate it when you scrape your knife along the plate
-Wipe your chin, Hector, it’s full of sauce
-Try some of this banana fritter, here, take this piece on my spoon. Don’t worry, I’ve no germs

Hector was almost tempted to fight fire with fire and hit back with a choice cut of his own. He resisted as he didn’t want the insanity to be infectious and thought that all in all this was not too bad a gig compared to what the others endured. The only annoying thing was that Jasper kept ordering more wine and then acted as if blind drunk. So much so that the waiter came over and gently ushered Jasper outside to an idling taxi.

Phew, thought Hector, thank heavens that’s me back at the end of the rotation. Just as he was about to leave he could see that the charade was not over yet as the waiter appeared with a, more than likely, imaginary bill. But no, it was a real receipt and it was handed to Hector.

“One hundred and eighteen pounds and forty pence!” exclaimed Hector.

“That’s correct, sir. Excluding, of course, the tip.”

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