Tales from the Reynaldo’s™

Michelle-Bear snaked her way through her tables, her eyes scanning the levels of drinks in their glasses, the state of food on plates. Due to another server calling in sick, she was handling twice as many tables as she usually did. Rather than falling into a frenzied state of panic, Michelle-Bear had gone into what she considered ‘performance mode’, a focused state of being where nothing at all existed except the small windows of interaction she had with her tables. To her customers, she was warm. To her coworkers, she was swift and efficient and spoke far less than usual.

Michelle-Bear had traveled the better part of the way to the kitchen when she crossed one of her tables that had not yet placed their order; sitting at the table was a family of four. She had made note of this table as potentially troublesome when they first arrived. It was not because they had been fussy; in fact, the family was particularly polite. The children, one of whom was in his tweens and the other probably around seven, were both well-mannered and friendly. The husband was a man in his early middle age with a warm, earnest demeanor. His wife was a redhead with smiling eyes, a clever sort who was prone to witticisms and seemed to enjoy joking with Michelle-Bear in what little time they interacted.

No, it was not the way the family acted. It was one small flower on the aloha shirt the husband wore. A rose.

Michelle-Bear stopped in front of the family’s table and bent at the waist, leaning down so that her face was almost level with them. “Are you folks ready to order?” she asked. She flashed a winning smile at them.

“Yes, I think we are,” the husband said. He looked over at the kids. “Jaz, would you start?”

“Okay, daddy,” the little girl said. “I will have the fish an’ chips, please,” she said. “And a Go-Go Cola.”

“Fish and chips,” Michelle-Bear said as she tapped out the order on her workshell, “and a Go-Go Cola for the polite young lady. And you sir?”

“I’ll have a Reynaldo’s Burger with fries,” the son said. “And a Spun Glass soda.”

“How would you like that Reynaldo’s Burger?” Michelle-Bear asked.

“Well done,” he said. His father sighed and shook his head.

“And for you two?” Michelle-Bear asked the couple.

“I’ll have the shepherd’s pie,” the wife said, “if it’s made with fresh shepherds.”

“The sirloin,” the husband said. “As raw as possible.”

“Of course,” Michelle-Bear said, giving him a bright smile. She straightened to her full height, towering over the family for a moment, then strode to the kitchen to place their order.

Several minutes passed without incident. Somewhere, a rabbit ventured from its burrow, found a particularly succulent patch of weeds, and ate them. They were delicious.

At the front of the restaurant, a man in a business suit entered the restaurant. The hostess greeted him.

“Hello, sir, welcome to Reynaldo’s. How many in your party?”

The man did not respond.

“Sir?” the hostess asked. “How many in your party?”

“Sir Kunimitsu,” the man replied.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” the hostess said, nervous.

“Pardon me,” the man said, pushing past the hostess.

The husband of the family who had been seated in Michelle-Bear’s section saw the newcomer to the restaurant and froze. The family noted their patriarch’s behavior soon, and each one turned to see where his gaze had gone. Each one averted their gaze in turn, realizing that the scene was about to take a turn.

“Sir Kunimitsu,” the man who had just entered the restaurant said.

“Sir Birchmore,” the husband of the family said.

There was a long pause. Those who had been seated at nearby tables hushed one by one as the gravity of the situation slowly occurred to them.

“You’re … waiting for a seat, I hope?” Kunimitsu said. His family remained hushed, not looking at the other knight.

Sir Birchmore cast a flat gaze at Sir Drake Kunimitsu.

“No,” Sir Kunimitsu said. “I must assume not.”

“Sir Drake Kunimitsu,” Sir Birchmore began, “you are—”

“Sir Birchmore!” Sir Kunimitsu interrupted. “Please. My family and I are … we’re having dinner.”

“Sir Kunimitsu,” Sir Birchmore said. “I’m not certain that I can adequately describe the month that I have had.”

“I don’t—” Sir Kunimitsu began.

“Quiet,” Sir Birchmore replied. “I am certain that you have heard the rumors about my company’s contracts. Perhaps you have heard the rumors concerning my marriage as well. I have had a supermarket employee dress me down and I did not so much as kill him. I am not happy, Sir Kunimitsu, and if the only thing I can have right now is satisfaction from you in the form of your blood, I will take it happily.”

Sir Kunimitsu’s family tensed and avoided Sir Birchmore’s gaze studiously.

“Have you no citations for me?” Sir Birchmore asked. “No defense?”

“I…” Sir Kunimitsu said. “I’m … having dinner with my family.”

“You leave my daddy alone!” the girl of the family said.

“Jaz!” Sir Kunimitsu said.

“Silence, child,” Sir Birchmore said. “You have nothing for me, Sir Kunimitsu?”

His opponent was silent.

“Then we end this now,” Sir Birchmore said, advancing toward his opponent.

Suddenly, something large and heavy swung in an arc in front of Sir Birchmore. The knight stopped in his tracks just as the head of a massive hammer struck the ground with a deafening CRACK, slamming into the plastic floor hard enough to leave a mark.

Sir Birchmore stepped back half a pace and found himself face to face with an angry woman who was nearly thirty centimeters taller than he. Her face was deadly calm, but her eyes bored holes into his head. She stared at him with a murderously intent gaze.

“Excuse me,” Sir Birchmore said, not nearly as aggressively as he had hoped.

“Get out,” the woman said.

“If you intend to interrupt this duel,” Sir Birchmore told her as firmly as he could, “I would love to hear a citation.”

“Urza,” the woman said, “versus fuckface.”

“W-what?” Sir Birchmore stammered.

“That’s the duel where a young waitress collapsed the head of a cranky knight who was intent on killing a good man in front of his children because he was dissatisfied with the size of his penis. Care to see it play out?” The woman set her jaw and stared at Sir Birchmore.

Nearby, one of the woman’s co-workers hissed an objection to her, but she was deaf to it. Her attention remained on Sir Birchmore.

Sir Birchmore’s hand flew to the hilt of his sword. Michelle-Bear’s hand tensed about the hilt of her maul. The two stared at each other for a few moments, and then Sir Birchmore’s face softened slightly as a memory struck him. A scene seemed to run through his head, and his hand relaxed on the hilt of his sword.

“…you,” he said. “You and he both…”

There was another tense silence. Sir Birchmore released the hilt of his sword and stood up straight, looking into Michelle-Bear’s eyes.

“What is it about you and him?” he asked. “What is it that makes me question myself?”

“Just leave my restaurant,” the woman said. “Please.”

Sir Birchmore slowly turned away from her and started walking. Michelle-Bear did not relax until the knight had left the restaurant, at which point she slumped, letting the head of her maul hammer rest on the floor of the restaurant. She sighed.

“Michelle-Bear!” the voice of Charis, the shift host, trilled in her ear. “You confronted a knight! You could get fired for this!”

Michelle-Bear ignored her coworker and turned to Sir Kunimitsu and his family. She looked at them, cleared her throat and smiled cheerfully. She bent at the waist once again, this time leaning on the haft of her hammer.

“I…” Sir Kunimitsu said.

“Your food’ll be out soon,” Michelle-Bear said with a winning smile. “I’m sorry for the wait.”

“Thank you,” the wife said with no trace of humor. She was not referring to the food.

Michelle-Bear gave a small, lopsided smile and shrugged. “What … else could I do?”

“I like your hammer, Miss Michelle Bears,” the little girl, Jaz, said. “And your hat.”

“Thank you,” Michelle-Bear said. “You are an awesome little girl. I will get you folks your food shortly.”

Michelle-Bear straightened, cast the trigger spell to release her hammer-locks, folded it and slung it across her back again. She then set off toward the kitchen, humming a nervous tune to herself.