There’s a restaurant near my work that still has a smoking section—if you can believe such a thing still exists. I don’t smoke, but I guess knowing that there are still a few places that spit in the face of the establishment and break the rules appeals to my rebellious streak. In addition to being one of the last bastions for tobacco enthusiasts in the city—maybe even the state—it is one of the only restaurants I know of where you can still get authentic German fare prepared and served by a staff of traditionally trained Black Forest gnomes.
Honestly, before I tried the Bavarian Table—that’s the name of the restaurant—the most exotic food I’d eat would be maybe a burrito or pizza, but if you’ve never had a plate of Weißwurst with a big fat pretzel twisted by those little netherworldly hands, well, you just haven’t really lived. They also have other things on the menu, but I tend to go in for the simpler food. Every once in a while the manager will tell me that Willy, the Table’s head chef, is feeling experimental and he’ll push a taste of a new dish on me. Most of these items aren’t even German—beet fried rice was particularly awful—and thankfully don’t stay on the menu for too long. I’m also not really a fan of beets, which gnomes seem to love to cook with for some reason, but as all dishes are made to order, the cooks don’t mind leaving them out if you tell the server.
I think I failed to mention that the manager is also the owner and that his name is Yuri. His mother was a Russian and named him after his grandfather. Yuri is important because he’s who I was talking to when I found out about the illegal smoking section. He told me that a while back he had discovered that the state tobacco inspector for this district ate in the restaurant with his wife, and Yuri and he had become friendly. One night, he was treating the couple to an after dinner nip of Bullenschluck when the official complained to his wife about never being able to enjoy an after dinner cigar. Yuri, who had always wanted to allow smoking in the dining room—he being a pipe man himself—suggested that the inspector and his wife just wait a few minutes for the other remaining table to leave, and he would lock the doors so they could all enjoy a nice smoke. He said it in a joking manner, but the inspector agreed. Apparently, some boozy deal was struck inside of that thick gray cloud, but I don’t know any of the details of it.
The smoking thing doesn’t usually affect me. The section is in a mostly enclosed room in the back and I usually take a table for two by the front window, even when I don’t have company. I always enjoy the street view: lots of pedestrian traffic and as far as the neighborhoods in this city go, it’s one of the more scenic.
There was a point in time, I had just stopped going to the Table altogether. I had been through kind of a bad split with my girl, and my time was either spent in the pre-furnished apartment I had leased after I was unceremoniously kicked out of her place or out at bars where I would try to show the world how unaffected I was by the breakup. Looking back, my pain must have been pretty transparent, but we never know at the time, right? When I started to come out of my funk a little, I found it hard to find single women in my age demographic who weren’t complete whack jobs, so I did what in retrospect was a relatively unwise thing: I started hitting dating websites. I think it was OK Cupid, Match.com, Plenty of Fish, and maybe one other. Not E-Harmony, though. All of those questions get tedious. I answered quite a few ads, but the one I want to talk about was this one:
Tired Of All The Games and BS! Looking for Prince Charming!
32-y-o woman, never been married w/ no kids. Non-smoker and would prefer the same.
Hi! Are you tired of the same old same old? Lol. Well, so am I. I’m a fun, down to earth woman looking for someone that I have chemistry with. I’m easygoing and low maintenance. I like the beach, reading, yoga (NAMASTE! LOL!) and dining out at interesting restaurants. I’m not into games and I’m real. You be real too. Can you sweep me off my feet?
So, she seemed interesting enough, but it would be dishonest of me not to disclose that it was mostly her profile pic—street parlance for “photograph”—that prompted me to send her that first message. After a few back and forths we started to address the question of what she thought an “interesting restaurant” was, and as it turned out, she had only had German food once at a place called Spritzels in the mall, and it wasn’t very good. I knew Spritzels and there was really no comparison to the Bavarian Table. So, we agreed to meet on a Thursday at around 7:30, which I thought was a good idea because if the evening went sour, I could get home at a decent hour and I wouldn’t waste a weekend night.
When we met that Thursday, it was almost immediately apparent that we weren’t going to get along. To begin with, she was one of those women who likes to spell out her agenda right from the beginning: “I’m looking for a man to fall in love with, settle down, and have a family. My dream is to open a little boutique and I need someone who will support that vision— ” She also made it very clear that she was “looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right now.” You get the point; it was just too soon. Also, she was a complete bigot towards gnomes. In fairness, I didn’t tell her in advance that the Table was a gnome restaurant and I seemed to remember that Spritzels wasn’t. I just didn’t think it was a big deal because I wasn’t raised to think that way. And it wasn’t even that she was one of those people who believed that all Black Forest gnomes were Nazi collaborators. (This, by the way, is not true. It was about fifty-fifty, and Yuri’s family remained as decidedly anti-Nazi as anyone could during those dark times.) But, like I said, this had nothing to do with that. She kept freaking out whenever one of the servers would climb up on the table to pour a beer or offer a pretzel from his or her wee knotted hands. I mean, it’s not like I could see anything that was so great about her meaty mitts. She also kept complaining about the smoking section, because as it turns out, she had recently quit smoking with Chantix and the little bit of smoke that was leaking out into the main dining room was giving her cravings for a cigarette.
I actually don’t want to get into how bad the date was going because it’s not all that relevant. Suffice it to say that we would not go out on a second date, but that could also be because of the circumstances that prevented us from finishing our dinner. At my request, Jason, the host, had seated us at a table by the window where we could enjoy the view. We were ordering our second round of beers from the bar when an old brown Buick Regal stopped in front of the restaurant and allowed a middle-aged woman in a summer dress to exit the rear passenger side door. As she walked further down the sidewalk, I noticed the windows rolling down, and two long black assault rifle barrels with fancy sights coming out and pointing at the restaurant’s plate glass window.
No one has long to react in these situations, and I had a lot to accomplish in very little time. I knocked Yuri’s nephew Barley, who was dancing a jig on a stool (poorly, I might add), to the ground by swiping his legs with my left hand. He went crashing to the floor hard, but he was otherwise safe. My date, who hadn’t even noticed the car, looked annoyed at my attack on Barley and stopped telling me about her “ideal man list,” which had to have been into maybe its hundredth item by this time. I responded by leaping across the table and tackling her backwards in her chair as the first rifle rounds penetrated the glass. I may not have liked her very much, but I draped my body over her like I was the soulmate that she had been desperately been seeking. Our bodies were so close it felt like our hearts were beating in perfect but opposite time to one another.
In the madness of the crystalline blizzard that rained down upon us, our eyes locked and I knew right then that I could fall in love with this beautiful gnome bigot if I just gave it a chance. I kissed her soft lips while I felt for the .38 special I carried in an ankle holster on my right leg. I’d kissed a lot of women before, and I’ve even been kissed by a few, but nothing ever felt like that desperate momentary buss with the bullets screaming through the air above our heads. When the action stopped, I rose, legs wide apart for balance, and fired a couple of rounds at the fleeing car, if only to mark it for law enforcement. When the hammer fell on an empty chamber, I looked down and knew that she was dead. One hateful round had found its way to her lung, and I had taken her last breath.
Now, you may have heard that some Black Forest gnomes have mysterious restorative powers and can even bring the dead back to life, but while Yuri’s group could do amazing things with traditional German cuisine, they were useless with healing spells and incantations. My date would remain dead, but my entire meal was comped. I shelled out a fifty as a generous tip in gratitude for the establishment’s largess, but I never went back.