Reservations, by Matthew Ward


“It’s very good. Won’t you try some?”

Beverly glanced briefly at her plate, dismissing a small cutlet, diced into cubes, and mound of white rice.

“It’s alright, really…” Thomas ingested a spoonful to substantiate his claim, “Although, I’m sure you’ve had better, of course.”

Beverly’s eyes flickered across the ceiling, occasionally migrating down to the floor, but never fell in Thomas’ direction. They were very active eyes, Thomas thought, very excited. They moved an awful lot, back and forth inside that head. Such animation, especially when compared to the rest of the body, which appeared somewhat rigid, sat upon the edge of the chair, turned at a slight angle, away from Thomas.

“Y-you’re eyes are…I couldn’t help but notice—“

Beverly twisted around in the chair, facing her back to Thomas, who shifted nervously across the table. What was she looking for?

“I…I’m sorry I started already. The food was getting a tad cold, not that that’s any excuse. I always wait for the lady. That’s the thing to do, I say. Don’t you think?”

Beverly did not think, one way or the other. She remained distant, impatiently observing her surroundings and occasionally adjusting her dress. No answer was forthcoming, because Beverly did not really exist.

Dr. Shremp grasped this much. The chair which Thomas stuttered at, hopelessly threw compliments at, was empty. That was plain enough to see.

“And this is Thomas, Doctor.”

“Who is he talking to?”

“Oh, he’s with Beverly now.”

“Beverly? Who is Beverly?”

“Beverly Ranger.”

“The actress?”

“Yes, Doctor. Thomas takes his dinner most nights with Beverly.”

“Maybe if you didn’t bring him two dinners he wouldn’t feel the need for a guest,” Doctor Shremp eyed the nurse with suspicion.

“We have to. Doctor Wagner found that Thomas won’t eat at all unless Beverly has been brought a dinner as well. He can’t begin until the lady is served.”

“How chivalrous.” Shremp drew nearer to Thomas’ room, hands clasped behind his back, eyes reduced to scrutinizing slits, “What’s he doing now?” The nurse shuffled forward, pressing beside the doctor. The pair peered through the viewing window.

“He’s showing her how high he can jump.”

With a look of intense consternation etched deeply into his face, Thomas leaped furiously into the air, forcing his knees to his chest each time up. “Why?”

“To impress her, I suppose. He tries the jumping every so often.”

Shremp scratched his chin, “And this works?” The doctor faced the nurse, sporting a wry grin, “Its jumping that impresses you, eh?”

“Thomas is just nervous, is all. And no, it’s never worked for him. He’s been taking his dinners with Miss Ranger for eight years now, Doctor Shremp, nothing’s worked.”

“You mean, Thomas isn’t…married to this vision, or embroiled in some similar ‘relationship’?”

“No, Doctor, they hardly even know one another. Strangers, really.”

“Then why is he jumping?”

“He doesn’t know what else to do.”

Doctor Shremp sighed.

“Thomas has been at it all these years, Doctor, and he hasn’t gotten anywhere.”

“I’ve recently heard about a wonderful new exhibit at the Metropolitan, at least it’s supposed to be wonderful, I of course haven’t gone yet,” Thomas made a rapid motion with his hand, brushing his hair to the side, “I’d like to go though. It sounds very…interesting. Doesn’t it? Monet. They’ve got Monet, I think is what I heard.”

Beverly slowly raised her wrist, taking great care, letting it float right below her eyes. She inspected her fingernails, then blew on them.

“I think I will go. Don’t you think that sounds nice?” Thomas gulped down some rice, “I think it does. Maybe next Saturday.” Placing his plastic spoon beside his plastic plate, Thomas drew his eyes to Miss Ranger’s fingernails. What was so fascinating about them? Without taking his eyes off the painted nails, he continued, “Do you like Monet? You know, of all the impressionists, when considering that whole school, Monet must be considered…well, he’s one of the main ones, isn’t he? Yes, no argument there. Monet,” Thomas let off with an impressed whistle, “he was something alright.”

“The man’s glistening with sweat,” Shremp scowled, “Frankly, this is unpleasant. I think I preferred the barking imbecile you showed me a few doors back.”

“You certainly possess a different bedside manner than Doctor Wagner, Doctor Shremp.”

“Oh, I’m sure Wagner was absolutely pleasant, nurse, that’s why we have men like this being served dozens of dinners in one sitting,” Shremp watched as Thomas twiddled his thumbs and several other appendages, “It’s a waste.”

“It’s only a little chicken, Doctor, it’s hardly a waste. It’s what Thomas needs.”

“If you’re interested, I can send you some information on it. The sixth I believe, but I’ll get all the details worked out, if it interests you of course,” Thomas said.

Beverly didn’t seem all that interested. Thomas could tell things weren’t going very well and when Miss Ranger made a sudden start, spinning forwards and placing her palms upon the table, he knew prompt and desperate actions would need to be taken. Only a matter of time before she gets up and leaves, thought Thomas, she’s ready to go.

Yes, she did appear ready. Her hands could push off the table at any moment, propelling her forever out of the room. The once energetic eyes drifted wearily from side to side, ticking sluggishly along the tabletop.

“I-I noticed in your last film, which I very much en—“

Beverly looked up, eyes wide in distressed reanimation.

Stupid, Thomas lamented within, never mention the films, you must be an equal.

“I better get his plate, Doctor. It looks like he’s finished.”

“Yes alright, go get it.”

Gently, the nurse opened the door, through which Miss Ranger made a prompt exit, disappearing in a whirlwind of pastels and swirling fabric. Thomas could not manage so much as a goodbye. Instead, he simply stared blankly out into the hallway, further disturbing Doctor Shremp.

“Are you done, Thomas?”

Thomas did not answer.

“Thomas, are you finished with your meal?”

“What? Oh, yes, take it,” Thomas bit down on his lower lip, “Hers too. She didn’t touch a thing.”

“Don’t feel bad, Thomas, you’ll have another chance.”

“If only I could be so fortunate!”

The nurse smiled warmly as she collected Thomas’ plate, making sure to pat the poor sap on the shoulder before she departed.

Gently, the nurse shut the door.

“Doesn’t that just break your heart, Doctor?”

“You’re sure he shouldn’t be tied up or something?”

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Posted in 2011, Fiction, Literary
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