The Major’s evening plan had all gone wrong.
First of all, Mrs. Pierce had already chosen her dining companions by the time the Major arrived in the dining room, and despite the dim lighting, he could see she was deep in animated conversation with that odd American family and their two sons, who were always running around the ship getting up to who knew what. Really, thought the Major. How irritating they were. His ships would have a strict no children allowed policy–in fact, he would impose a minimum age of thirty for his passengers. That would eliminate the risk of any youthful holiday-makers, who would no doubt talk far too loud, dress inappropriately, and drink too much then be sick in the pool. Even better, now he came to think about it, perhaps he would disallow women as well. They were always gurgling away at each other like fountains, and besides, would not likely be interested in the fine intellectual pursuits his ships would offer. They were, after all, only women.
Yes, his ships would be for men-over-thirty only. They would allow smoking in all forms, including cigars and pipes, and fine brandies and top-shelf scotch would be well stocked in the bars. The men would dress for dinner and an onboard tailor (also male) would see to any stitch-ups required. Shoes would be shined daily, and current and suitably conservative newspapers from the world’s major cities would be available…
As the Major was thinking about all this, the dining room Maitre’d had seated him at his table (for one) and shown him the menu. With a groan, he realized that, yet again, he only had a choice of some obscure Nordic fish (inevitably a smelly, cold water fish, always served either overcooked or raw) or a vegetarian entree. Vegetarian! Did the designer of this menu think mere cold climate vegetables were suitable for an evening dinner? Mushy potatoes, and unattractive and tasteless squash, for heaven’s sake? He called out to a nearby waiter.
“Sir, sir.” It became clear the waiter may not have heard him, so he called out with a desperate shout, “SIR!”
Now, this nearby waiter was en route to another table on the other side of the dining room and was carrying a large and ungainly tray of desserts. Really it was a job for 2 waiters, but as the dining room was quite full, he’d had to make do on his own. He was so startled by the sudden shouting behind him that he gave a little jump and turned quickly. Unfortunately, this move was too quick for the 12 miniature chocolate lava cakes, still hot from the oven, to ride out safely. Each tiny cake, housed in a warm porcelain dish, easily slid over the short rim of the tray, and became airborne, on a collision course towards the Major.
Time seemed to stop for several seconds before the inevitable occurred: the 12 cakes, top layers forward, intersected with the Major’s very starched white shirt, clung to it, and their lava insides, now liberated from their walls, slid down the front of him, like a mudslide on the edge of a Los Angeles highway. Their crockery crashed onto the floor with a sudden mighty clang, and the Major sprung to hit feet, leaning forward to let the now-stuck cakes drop down from his shirt to the floor. They did not do this easily; their “lava,” you see, was quite paste-like and stubbornly hung on to its desired surface.
The Major’s face grew quite red and threw down his napkin in disgust. Addressing the waiter, who was trying now to sop up the cakes from the Major’s shirt, and apologizing as he did do, the Major barked as the other passengers looked on in surprise.
“I shall expect a replacement shirt and coat be delivered to my cabin immediately, along with a meal in my cabin, consisting of a decent steak–cooked medium!–with creamed spinach, a tumbler of Glenfiddich, and no potatoes.” He began to go leave and then turned back to add, “and for goodness sakes, no silly dessert!” then stormed from the room.
At the Weiss / Pierce table, Dashiell and Fergus continued relaying to Mrs. Pierce how they were able to steal Fergus back onto the Friendship after their Cold Water Scuba Diving excursion.
“We planned it on the bus ride back,” explained Dashiell. “Mom would make a ‘iversion and Fergus and I would take the room key from her, and slip past the desk, you know, where that lady stands? And we’d meet her in the room.”
“And, how did your planning pay off?” asked Mrs. Pierce, between discrete bites of chocolate lava cake.
“Aye,” continued Fergus, sipping his after-dinner decaffeinated coffee, as was his habit. “Mrs. Weiss pretended to slip and fall right in the middle of the gangway. We were sure to be in front of her, and as help from inside the ship came out to help her up, we slipped right by.”
The 2 boys high-fived each other, but Fergus missed and had to try again. He was still learning about the vital cultural gestures of the 21st century.
Shortly after, the happy party left the dining room, heading to their cabins for bed (this was always a magical part of the day since invariably there was a turn-down service surprise awaiting them). Laughing as they went, they accompanied Mrs. Pierce to her room and caught a glimpse of the room service staff delivering the Major’s clean shirt and dinner to him. Walking past the Major’s door, Dashiell caught a whiff of something undeniable: fish. He thought to himself, poor Major. He should have ordered the vegetarian dinner!