Famous Writer

The wrinkles around Carlos's eyes and nose make him look wonderfully charming, but it also means I'm in trouble. He's been drinking, I've seen the look before. He overheard me talking to Dave, the Puerto Rican guy, who owns the Mexican restaurant next door.

"You should tell me, Steve. You should tell me."

"Carlos, I wasn't positive it was him, not until Zoia brought over the AMEX slip."

"Still, you should tell me. I 'd just go over and make sure that everything was all right.... 'You look like him,' I'd say. And he'd say, 'I'm not, but people often mistake me....' or 'Yes, I am him.' It's simple, Steve. It's not difficult. Then.... I don't know, maybe I'd pick up the check, if, you know, it's not too big. You have to tell me, Steve, you really have to tell me these things! Another Sambuca, please. And something for Dave...what's Dave drinking?"

"I'm all right Carlos."

"No. Pour Dave a Remy?"

"Carlos, really, I'm fine."

"No. Pour Dave a Remy. Now it's true what you said, Steve? It's not made up? It's not just a story."

"No, a big meat locker I think it was. That's the how he survived. He came out after this huge fire. It was like the end of the world -- 100,000 people burned alive."

"This is true? I never heard of any of this."

"He's right, Carlos, it's true. I remember reading the book. It was made into a movie. I saw it on HBO, I forget the name. You'd have liked it though, lots of naked girls in it."

"But...but, this is why he became a writer, Steve, because he survived this bombing? He saw it. Because he saw this fire with his own eyes."

"I don't know, Carlos, maybe that's why he became a writer. I never thought about it. "

"You should know, Steve. You should know why he became a writer. And Zoia.... You knew who he was too, and you didn't tell me."

"I didn't know for sure, Carlos. He's nice though...." "He also tipped her twenty-five per cent." "See that's what I like about writers. Writers always tip good. They're sensitive. But Steve, nobody tells me anything! The next time someone famous comes in, even a writer -- tell me! I'll go over. Maybe...pick up the check, a bottle of wine, maybe desert."

"There you go Carlos. Steve knew. He knew who he was; he didn't tell you because, he knew you'd make a scene. And he was right. I tell you these people on the East Side, they don't like that kind of fuss."

"I wasn't sure it was him."

"He knew, he knew who he was. Carlos, he just didn't tell you! We're Spanish, you and me, we don't understand how these people think. You're Cuban, I'm Puerto Rican. I mean I went to a Quaker boarding school. My adopted parents sent me. But still, you and I, we don't think like they do."

"I wouldn't make a scene, Dave, really I wouldn't. I'd just go over and make sure everything is ok.... Maybe a bottle of wine...maybe dessert."

"See. See. There you go, Carlos, that's why Steve didn't tell you. They don't like scenes, I tell you. I know, I have famous people in my restaurant. I've had a place in the neighborhood a longer than you."

"No, Dave, no. This is my restaurant. He should tell me.... You should tell me, Steve. It's not the money. It's not publicity. You never make money on famous people. I don't care about the money. But maybe I give him a bottle of wine. He likes the place. "Carlos I like your place," he says See, maybe he mentions me in his book...or my restaurant. It's not business, do you understand? I want to be in a book. I really want to be in a book, maybe in a story. That's what I really want."

"I understand, Carlos. I'm absolutely sure you'll end up in a book someday, even if it's not one by Kurt Vonnegut."

"Yeah, Carlos, he's right. I'm sure of it too, you'll be in a book someday."

Stephen Williamson