Flash Fiction Story 024: "On The Double"

Bill had wished he worked at McDonald’s, or Piggly Wiggly, or some other kind of dump. At least there, he and his clientele would be on the same level. Here at the Hotel Espion, there was an ongoing class war, and he seemed to be the only one aware of it.

“Room 1437 has ordered a double portion of caviar and a Bollinger ’02 and wants it to their room on the double,” the room service manager looked around the entrance to the kitchen, and practically snarled when he realized Bill was the only waiter available.

“Well, la dee da,” Bill said. “Will his highness the Duke of York require an apéritif before retiring for the winter?” Bill could define only some of the words that he had just said, but he had the feeling he had nailed the inflection.

The manager had heard enough and put his hand out to silence Bill. This was the end. “If you don’t get this delivery off, and I mean flawlessly, you’re out on your ass!”

“And how much does being out on my ass pay?” Bill asked. He knew deep down that something was not going to come together, and it was likely not to be his fault. The champagne wouldn't smell right. The caviar wouldn’t smell at all. Something out of his control. The boss ought to have fired him right now and ensured that his precious package was delivered himself.

“Go,” the manager said. “Now.”

Up to the fourteenth floor and down the hall of the floor he went with the food in tow. If this guy wasn’t the Duke of York, he probably had a decent chance to get the job the next time it opens up. He had taken the penthouse suite. Even Bill knew that there were the swells he had to put up with on a day-to-day basis, and then there were the people that could afford the penthouse. Penthouse people were to the other hotel guests as the other hotel guests were to him. Society was funny like that.

Bill reached to swing the knocker and rapped on the door three times. He got no response for his efforts, not a sound. This was just... great. Bill had done everything he was supposed to do. He had even made sure both the meal and the bottle maintained their chill on the long journey up. Now, this guy had decided to take a shower at the appointed time, and the world was going to crash down on him.

He really wished he had worked somewhere else, or rather, wished he could work somewhere else.

He knocked once more, and was similarly thwarted. He opened his mouth to shout the name of the man who was supposed to be behind the door--something that would have been a pretty pointed breach of protocol for anywhere in the hotel, to say nothing of the front door of the fourteenth floor penthouse.

With unemployment a complete inevitability, Bill considered going out in a slightly more ambitious blaze of glory and finally finding out what caviar actually tasted like. While it smelled like fresh fish, they looked like little gumballs, so he supposed the flavor would be somewhere in the middle. He figured the champagne tasted like any degree of cold duck that he had consumed before. Rich people are suckers—

A Doric column of two human beings leapt through the door, knocking the dishes off the cart in one, fluid motion. Bill was barely able to grab the tin of caviar before it made a beluga-streaked mess on the carpet. One of the men wore a dinner jacket and seemed like the exact kind of person that would check into a penthouse and order the type of food Bill now carried. The other man was twice the size of his wrestling buddy and had a face like a disinterested toddler’s sculpture project. He wore a mechanic’s jumpsuit. They appeared to be in some sort of disagreement, or at the very least had a collective antipathy toward the now destroyed door.

Bill reached out and was able to keep the structural integrity of a dish he had never tried. In other circumstances, in other jobs, this would have gotten him some kind of commendation, or at least allowed him to keep his employment. Here, it was the final nail in the coffin.

Using whatever amount of self-preservation he had to his name, Bill wormed his way to the corner of the corridor, trying to keep his hand motionless to avoid another close call with the food. The champagne was in a bucket, and would be fine unless...

Dinner Jacket reached for the bottle and, after taking one look at the vintage on the label, decided to put it back in its chilly cocoon. Instead, he reached for a knife designed to hoist sour cream but had all the cutting power of a thumb. 

He stabbed the other man; there was no hope it would be a mortal wound. The second man yowled to the florescent bulbs above. Dinner Jacket reached for the bottle again and handed it to Bill.

“Would you terribly mind holding this for just one moment?” Dinner Jacket asked.

Bill grasped the bottle as Dinner Jacket took the handles of the cart and rammed it into the other man. Then he did it again. And again. On the fourth motion, the other man’s leg only offered a little twitch in protest. With one more push of the cart, the job was apparently done.

Dinner Jacket approached Bill with his hand outstretched. Bill handed him the Bollinger.

“A lovely vintage,” he said. “Men like us must behave in a civilized fashion, no?”

Dinner Jacket proceeded to open the bottle and poured into one of the few unbroken glasses.

“Uh,” Bill began, after digesting everything that had just happened. “Are you still going to sign for the tip?”

Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly