New Year Buffet

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The day arrived--New Year's Day! Manlio Viselli had circled the date on his calendar and declined other commitments. The reason? The all-you-can-eat buffet lunch special at his local Italian restaurant! Yes, $49.95 was a lot to pay for one meal. And it didn't include drinks like beer and wine.

But Manlio was determined to eat lunch at the restaurant on New Year's Day! He staked his pride as an Italian on it! Manlio checked his wallet to confirm he had enough cash (because the restaurant accepted cash payment only) and left his apartment at 8.45 AM. He arrived at the restaurant at 9 o'clock promptly and waited at the door for the restaurant to open.

YES! Manlio pumped his fist. He was the first customer in line this year. When Manlio tried to eat at this restaurant on last new year's day, he arrived too late, and the line of would-be patrons had snaked around the block. Even though there was only a one-hour seating limit per guest, the restaurant could only seat two dozen patrons at a time. The special buffet was available from 11 AM to 3 PM, meaning that only 96 customers could take advantage. Unfortunately, more than 100 people were waiting in line last year. Thus, Manlio didn't bother to wait.

But this year, Manlio learned his lesson and arrived first! Soon, people came and started waiting in line behind him. He smiled and nodded politely at his fellow patrons, and they reciprocated in turn.

A cool breeze blew through the street, and someone sneezed.

"God bless you," Manlio and some other people said at the same time.

"Thank you," a young man muttered.

Manlio shifted his hips slightly and bounced his knees to keep blood circulating in his legs. It was chilly this morning. He wore a down coat, but only one pair of pants. Thus, his legs could freeze if he didn't move.

The time slowly ticked away as the bitterly cold wind tested the resolve of all the people waiting on line.

"Ah, screw it!" someone yelled and trampled away.

Somebody chuckled.

Manlio checked his watch and discovered another 90 minutes remained until the restaurant opened its doors. He continued moving and shaking his body to stay warm. He will not be deterred from his mission today!

The next hour passed with more people leaving the line.

The lights in the dining room of the restaurant finally turned on.

Suddenly, a couple dressed in expensive clothes approached. An arrogant looking middle-aged man wrapped his arm over a lady's shoulder. "I'll give you ten bucks to take your place in line," he offered.

Manlio looked at him coolly. "No."

"How about twenty bucks?" the man countered immediately.

"No."

The people behind Manlio overheard the conversation. "I'll do it!" someone said, and more people made the offer to leave the line.

The couple gave Manlio a vicious stare and harrumphed as they walked down the line.

Manlio put them out of his mind and continued moving his body until the restaurant finally opened.

"Happy New Year!" greeted the worker who opened the door.

Manlio nodded sharply. His eyes were keen like an eagle. He quickly veered toward a small table in the back near the kitchen doors. Why? Because for this buffet, patrons had to ask servers to bring the food. Some other buffet restaurants had sections for guests to take food and serve themselves. However, this Italian restaurant was too small for that self-service style. Manlio chose to sit closer to the kitchen so that the server could bring his food faster.

Other patrons had the same idea. They shot him anger looks when they saw Manlio taking the best seat in the house.

Manlio smiled faintly. As the first person in line, it was natural for him to choose his seat first.

A young man dressed in a green vest over a white shirt and black pants arrived with the menu. "Are you here for the buffet or a regular order?" he asked with a thick Italian accent.

"Buffet," Manlio answered.

The server nodded and placed two menus on the table. "What would you like to drink?"

"Water is fine." Manlio quickly glanced at the offerings in the menu. "I'd like to start with an appetizer. Your spinach-artichoke dip looks great."

The young man nodded and headed into the kitchen.

Manlio sifted through the menu carefully. The food listings separated into appetizers, soups, salads, breadsticks, main dishes, desserts. The drinks were on a second menu, which he ignored. Manlio paid extra attention to the food prices because he intended to eat several times the $49.95 cost of the buffet. He ignored the soup, salad, and breadsticks because those were cheaper items designed to fill up the patron before he could eat his money's worth.

Manlio scrutinized the main dishes. The most expensive items were the seafood, such as grilled salmon, shrimp carbonara, and seafood alfredo. Each dish cost around $20. Manlio smiled as he settled on those three dishes. Seafood was generally less filling than meat, such as chicken and beef. Thus, Manlio decided to eat only seafood for his lunch buffet.

When the same server returned with Manlio's water and appetizer, the patron said, "I'd like to order grilled salmon, shrimp carbonara, and seafood alfredo."

The young man's eyes fluttered, and he nearly fainted. A moment later, he regained self-control. "Yes, sir!" He turned on his heel and entered the kitchen to relay Manlio's order to the chef. When the server exited, he avoided looking at Manlio's table.

Manlio checked his watch. He frowned upon discovering that seven minutes had already passed! He realized the restaurant could limit how much food the patrons could consume and, therefore, order by taking their time to cook the meals. Manlio gritted his teeth in anger at the restaurant's shady tactics. He became determined to finish those three dishes quickly and reorder.



Puppychow

#144 in Short stories
#118 in Contemporary fiction
#28 in Urban life

Story about: horror, newyear, shortstory

Edited: 01.01.2019

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