It Must Be Time For Lunch Now, 1979, by Francesca Woodman
Mr. Flint grunted as he raised a napkin to his contented lips. Let his financial colleagues dine at the Waldorf with its fancy French quee-zeen. He knew where to have a real lunch. Right here at Mae's, where the best roast beef came with the fluffiest mashed potatoes, the most savory gravy, every day. And it was cheap. The place was noisy, packed with humanity, but no one bothered him with telephone calls or messages. He nodded as the brisk waiter whisked away his empty plate, and replaced it with a thick wedge of pie. Yes, sir, this was how to have lunch.
Using his right hand to make sure the napkin was tucked securely over his starched collar, Mr. Flint reached for his fork with his left. Somehow it slipped from his thick fingers and clattered to the floor. He grunted again, but with less pleasure. He scooted his chair back a bit, leaned this way and that to look for the utensil. But he knew his girth would not permit him to reach the confounded thing, even if he could spot it. He raised his hand to summon the waiter, but before he could call the man over, a rustling noise distracted him. The tablecloth shifted, and a young woman's face looked up at him from beneath the table.
"Is this your fork?" she asked, glancing at the one in her hand.
"Hmmph. I suppose, but I'll just--"
"I thought I'd pick yours up while I was fetching mine. It fell, too, you see." She showed him the fork in her other hand.
"Oh, dear, which is which?" Round-eyed, she looked between the two identical forks. "I recognized the Adonis pattern on mine, but yours must be from the same set."
"It doesn't matter, I'll just ask--"
"No, I must give you your own fork back. Hmm. When mine struck the floor, I distinctly heard an A sharp." She dropped one of the utensils, and hummed a note. "See? And when I drop this one--"
"This one sounds like a B flat."
Flint shrugged. "They sound the same to me."
"Perhaps you're right. They are very close. There must be another way to determine which is which."
"Really, it doesn't matter--"
"No, you must have your own fork back." She gathered both forks up, and gazed pensively at the ceiling. It was really quite odd to see her crouched under the table that way. "Ah," she exclaimed, raising her eyebrows. "We were eating different meals, weren't we? My fork should still have a trace of my salad dressing on it."
The young woman extended her tongue, lifted one fork to her mouth, and licked it slowly. "Yes, I think I detect a faint tang of bleu cheese."
Bleu cheese. Ugh. Mr. Flint had not known that was even on Mae's menu. He began to lose his appetite. Hoping this nuisance of a girl would go away soon, he reached for the fork in her left hand.
"No, no," she chided, shaking her head. "We must be positive." She closed her eyes and carefully licked the second fork.
Flint's stomach turned.
"Oh, definitely gravy," the young woman announced, offering him the fork. "This must be yours!"
But Flint was already fumbling for his billfold. He slapped some cash on the tabletop and fled the restaurant. Perhaps a walk would do him good before he returned to the office.
Felicia climbed out from under the table, a small smile curving her lips. She slid the matching forks into her handbag, and replaced the restaurant's fork on the tablecloth. Then she reached across the small table to the unused place setting, borrowing a fresh napkin and a clean spoon.
She dug into the slice of pie. She felt the flavors melting in her mouth. Pecans, still slightly crunchy. The sweet custard, the flaky crust, and hint of chocolate. Her favorite. She sighed with contentment, and winked as the waiter did a double-take.
Nothing tastes better, she thought, than freshly conned pie.