Kim Winter Mako
Right-dog Vs. Left-dog

Eight lines lit up and Tracey reached for the phone. Aurelio pushed her hand away. “Watch me,” he said. He started with the top blinking light and worked down—“Good morning, The Adrienne, please hold. Good morning, The Adrienne, please hold. Good Morning, The Adrienne, please hold,”—until all eight were quiet, pulsing lights.
“Most mornings you’ll be alone. You must be able to handle eight lines. If you don’t, calls will roll to Chef’s office upstairs. His secretary will answer the calls, and she’ll get real pissy about it. You don’t want her complaining to Chef. Do yourself a favor, learn how to answer the lines.”
“Okay.” Minutes before Tracey was starving. Now she was nauseated.
“Start at the top. You’ll lose some. They’ll hang up, call back, and really let you have it. Don’t sweat. Be calm, gracious, apologetic. Never raise your voice or argue. It’s always your fault and you’re sorry. If someone is really agitated, take a name. Document everything. Give it to the maître d’. It could be someone important. They’ll all act like they’re important. They’re not.”
He pushed his wire-rim glasses up the bridge of his long nose. “Watch and listen.”
“Thank you for holding, how may I assist?” His speech was sing-songy. “Excellent, Ms. Griscom, table for four in the Garden Room, requesting Ronald as your server.” Patterns he repeated, high and low notes. Tracey was a singer. Her ear picked it up. “We look forward to seeing you.”
He sounded like he’d been doing this his whole life. She forgot to ask, over the two days she’d been training. She did learn he was vegan. When she asked what that was, he handed her a pamphlet and spoke for five minutes about clean diet, Berkeley students organizing in California, and how by the millennium, it would be mainstream. She picked at her beef and egg noodles during staff meal that first day, thinking of his description of cow armies raised for slaughter, destroying the atmosphere with methane.
Aurelio was almost through the lines. “We will present the dessert with a candle, but no, we will not sing.”
When she asked about wardrobe, she learned he owned two identical grey suits that he alternated weekly. Limp sleeves, thinned by years of dry cleaning, hung on his meatless frame. And that he was a cartoonist. His wife, a painter. Two struggling artists in their mid-thirties living in Brooklyn. “You eventually get through the lines. Joan may suggest different techniques, but in the end, find what works for you.” Tracy hadn’t trained with Joan yet, the other lead host, but was intimidated by her neck scarves and high cheekbones.
“How long have you worked here?”
“Eight years, four months.” It was unfathomable to Tracey, who told herself that in two years, she’d be well on her way.
Definitely by her twenty-fifth birthday. Maybe a Soap. Or better yet, Broadway. She figured Aurelio and his wife had done something wrong, not reaching success by their mid-thirties.
He moved the pencil through the reservation book like a Jedi. Notating, erasing, wiping, rewriting with unbroken flow and grace. The book had a cuneiformic system should a wandering guest eyeball its pages. Good tipper ( >), always sends entrée back to kitchen (a55), hard of hearing (?), VIP ( * ). It was the bible that The Adrienne relied upon for its very four-star breath.
“What’s this one?” she asked, pointing to (^).
“Super VIP. It says Tim Morgan, but this reservation is actually for President-Elect Bill Clinton. Don’t tell anyone or we’ll have to kill you.” He was geeky but cute.
Third Avenue blurred with traffic out front through double glass doors. Two bronze Weimaraners posed on the sidewalk under The Adrienne’s broad gold awning. Morning commuters tapped the bronze dogs as they walked past. Tr