Margot hands Carl the menu and says, with a lovely smile, “Be right back with your water.” While she’s gone, he examines it anticipatorily. It’s past eight o’clock, he worked ten hours non-stop; he’s hungry. It’s cold out and he wants something hot and filling before he goes home to his empty apartment and another night of ennui-inspiring TV and net surfing. This, despite his MBA. Soup for sure. The menu says “Soup du jour: Ask your server.”
Margot, who’s thirty-five and tired (it’s not that busy now but the dinner “hour” was frantic, and she’s been on since two this afternoon. She needs to stay high energy: She’s divorced, her ex owes her and she, in turn, owes everyone else, so tips really matter. This, despite her MFA), returns, sets the water down, and says “There you go.”
Carl, tired and thirty-four, says “A Denver omelet, I think. Wheat toast and grits. And black coffee.”
Smiling, Margot jots it down. “Okay,” she says.
“Oh,” adds Carl, “what’s the soup?”
Margot sighs. “We’re out.”
Carl looks up at her. “Oh, well” he says, then: “You know, I’ve never had ‘We’re out’ soup. I’d like a bowl.” He smiles.
Margot looks at him a long moment. He keeps smiling. “Right,” she says.
Moments later, she sets a tan ceramic bowl before him. “On the house,” she says.
“Uh-huh. Boss says it’s not for sale after eight.”
“Thanks!” says Carl. He closes his eyes, leans forward and inhales deeply through his nose. “Mmm,” he says. “Smells wonderful.”
“Probably the best ‘We’re out’ soup you’ll ever eat,” Margot says, and holds out a spoon. Carl takes it, dips it and lifts the spoon into his mouth. A moment later he says “Mmm” again. “You may be right.”
“Enjoy it,” Margot says. She leaves and returns again shortly, with omelet, toast and grits on a plate, and a steaming ceramic cup, that matches the bowl, on a saucer. “Ketchup?” she asks.
“No, thank you,” Carl replies.
Margot points at the empty bowl. “All done?” she asks. Carl nods; she lifts it. “Good, huh?”
“Yes,” he says. “Wonderful. Do you work here every night?”
Margot hesitates, then says. “Monday through Friday, two till ten.”
“Then you don’t work tomorrow.”
She shakes her head. “Tomorrow’s Saturday.”
“Then, would you like to have dinner with me? Perhaps we could search the city for another place that has ‘We’re out’ soup. It may not be as good as that”; he points and smiles. He has a lovely smile. “Or, maybe, you could purloin the chef’s recipe and we could make it ourselves. I have a wonderful stove and a huge stockpot.”
Purloin. She likes that. She writes something on his check and hands it to him. “Yeah,” she says, “Maybe. Call me?”
He looks at the check. “I will,” he says. “Oh: I’m Carl.”
“Margot,” she says. “But you knew that.” She touches her nametag.
“I did,” he admits.
“Well,” says Margot. “Enjoy your omelet.”
“Thank you,” says Carl.
He leaves a nice tip.
He calls her mid-morning. Saturday evening they have dinner. Three months later, they get married. They serve “We’re out” soup at the reception.