Sunday, 8 December 2013

Mate's rates

“Can you go and review that new place that’s opened up in the Slaughterhouse district?”  My editor’s words were slightly indistinct as she was eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut while she spoke, spitting little flakes of pink icing into the air like malodorous snow.
“No,” I said, sitting back slightly.  My suit was fresh from the dry cleaner’s, and I had no intention of having it decorated with other’s people’s partially digested food.
“Let me rephrase that,” she said, swallowing first thankfully.  She looked around her desk for her coffee mug, and swigged from it in a way that would have made Caligula proud.  “Go and review the new place in the Slaughterhouse District.”
“No,” I said again, resting a foot across my knee and leaning back in the chair, which creaked like an old park bench after heavy rain.
“Why not?”  The way she rolled her eyes told me that I was in for a hard time; clearly there was some ulterior motive for this order.
“Because it’s owned by Tim,” I said.  “And part-owned by Vincent actually.  And Vincent is the Blonde’s father, and Tim is the guy I got in to cater my last three birthday parties.  I can’t go and review their restaurant because I’ll have no credibility.  Obviously I’ll be writing whatever they’ve told to me, so a good review is just me blowing smoke up their pert, well-formed bottoms, and a bad review is reverse psychology to invite people to go and see the place to find out why I’d slate it like that.  Can’t do it.  Just can’t.  See?”
“Oh good Lord,” said my editor.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  Firstly, you’re a critic who writes more about his personal life than he does the food.  So we’ll all enjoy reading you dish the dirt on Tim Vincent and we’ll barely notice when you squeeze in the top three items from the menu and claim that they were divinely inspired and tasted like old cabbage dipped in a turnip broth.”
I frowned and put my foot back on the floor.  “You actually read my last review?” I asked.  “Because that sounds like a quote to me.”
“I read all your work,” she said.  “I sometimes wish I didn’t have to, but I do.  And I occasionally correct your wayward commas, but not too much as the readership like to complain about them.  You generate more letters for the weekly Grammar column than any other writer on the staff.  Technically you’re doing half of that job as well, but I’d as soon not remind of you of that because pay rise time is a year away.”
“Fine,” I said, my cheeks burning red.  “I’ll go and talk to Tim and Vincent and see if I can get a reservation.”
“Why’s it in the Slaughterhouse District anyway?” asked my editor, picking up the last pink doughnut.  I cringed.
“They wanted somewhere that would gentrify slowly,” I said.  “I suggested Grime Road as well, but they like the availability of cheap meat.  They can get it practically still mooing or oinking or clucking from the neighbouring businesses.  It might not be Wagyu beef, but it’s definitely the freshest you’re going to get in this town.”
“…isn’t Grime Road next to the municipal dump?”
“The tip, yes.  I thought you couldn’t get much more low-end than that, though it turned out that there were almost no rubbish-disposal costs when you can just get the porters to throw the waste straight over the chain-link fence.”
She sank her teeth into the doughnut like a shark fastening onto a swimmer’s leg in a B-movie.  A cheap B-movie, though the pink icing did look rather gory as it smeared across her lips and teeth.  “How slowly will the Slaughterhouse District gentrify then?” she asked, sounding genuinely interested.
“Very,” I replied.  “Slaughter’s a good business at the moment.  If market trends continue it’ll be at least thirty years before they start closing down and letting people move in.”
“That’s a very long term prospect then,” said my editor.

“Oh yes,” I said with a smile.

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