The Dumpling Breaks Her Jaw

The First Essential Scary Truth

The episode began when Tom, our sommelier, opened one of the six bottles of 2001 La Tache we had in house, although not on inventory.  La Tache is one of top two, Richebourg being the other, Cru’s in Burgundy.  A bottle of this specific Pinot Noir retails for over $400 and we would be happy to sell any customer a bottle for $1,500.  We ended up with bottles when the owner of the Upper East Side restaurant group I worked for had Tom order the case of wine.  He dutifully took possession of the La Tache and sent the invoice to the corporate offices who paid the bill. However, they never came to get the wine. 

As the bartender on duty, I hemmed and hawed Tom told me what he had in mind.  At the 65th Street Café, the closing bartender was the last out the door and therefore in charge of what happened after the place closed.  “Relax Zola,” the Dumpling told me in her slightly Appalachian inflected south Baltimore accent, “if anyone asks questions, I’ll tell them everything was done with my approval.  You’ll be off the blame line.”

The Dumpling had been a floor manager in the place for five years and was one of the reasons we had the company wide reputation as a ‘party house.’  When you closed with Jenny Goode, you could assume she would consume three French Martini’s as we as several glasses of Sancerre.  The effect on her 5’1” 103 pound frame was usually dramatic, as she would have near out of body experiences when horribly drunk, which happened the three times a week she closed.

Tom, already tipsy from the three bottles of Chardonnay he consumed as shots during service, was not only willing to open the La Tache but made quite the show as he demanded I decant the bottle.  Why a Pinot Noir had to be decanted was beyond me but Tom said to do it and he was my direct superior.  I was just an employee and besides, the Dumpling had already inoculated me from any blame.  Besides, how many times do you have a chance to drink a bottle of wine the quality of La Tache for nothing?

An hour, two bottles of La Tache and a French Martini later, Tom went to the business end of Christopher Street to meet his piece of rough trade for a good night and left me alone with Jenny Goode.  Tipsy as all hell, the Dumpling wanted to go to Meloni’s for a burger and a Manhattan.  This struck me as odd because, like all heavy drinkers, the Dumpling practiced monogamy when it came to her cocktails.  However, I was starved and Meloni’s makes, arguably, the best burger in New York City.

I needed the cheeseburger at Meloni’s; it took the edge off all the wine I drank at the café.  The Dumpling, however, seemed intent on bludgeoning herself into a stupor that would guarantee a not so safe trip around the corner to her apartment.  After her second Manhattan, I paid the bill and walked the shaky Jenny Goode to Kelly’s, the bar directly underneath her apartment.  Once inside, she had another two vodka tonics as the bartender finally decided she had enough.  I walked Jenny to her door and offered to help her up the stairs.  “Fuck you Zola,” she slurred.  “You think I can’t walk up twelve stairs by myself?”  After watching her walk in the door and take the first stair, I hailed a cab and went downtown to my local and then home. 

The shock came the next afternoon when I walked into work.  The GM pulled me aside and demanded to know what happened to the Dumpling the night before.  “We had a few,” I shrugged.  “What else is new?”

“She fell up the stairs and broke her jaw in three places last night.  When she came in this morning the only thing holding her face together was she skin,” he said.  “What the fuck did you do to her?” 

The Dumpling had surgery that evening to wire her jaw shut.  I had the next day off and had the embarrassing task of going to the hospital to see her and Peter, my corporate Rabbi and her live in boyfriend.  Jenny was out cold and Peter was sitting bedside reading Rolling Stone.  As I apologized profusely, he waved off anything I said.  “She levitates when she’s drunk, brother.  You walked her to the door.  As far as I’m concerned, you are a good friend.”  We walked over to a local bar and toasted her full recovery with cheap beer while eating shitty bar food.  I still think seltzer would have been more appropriate than my bottle of Bud while wishing her luck.

2pm the next day, the bill for our little escapade came due.  Tom was fired, for leaving an outside door that was never closed unlocked.  I was handed a write-up for hosting an after-hours party.  I refused to sign the ball-busting document on Peter’s advice.  The Dumpling was put on the DL for three months and so had to wait for her punishment until the day she returned.  On day 65, Jenny Goode learned her comeuppance for getting far too drunk on company booze was promotion to GM of another restaurant.

It is true: no good deed goes unpunished.   




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