“Holy shit! What do we do?!”
Fragments of cake toppled over a dirty metal counter surrounded by a grieving and panicked wait staff. Minutes earlier, Barb wheeled out the wedding cake on an imperial white clothed round table. Though the linen was nice, the table itself was held together at the wheels by loads of duct tape. Once the table reached the dance floor two wheels came loose, gave up, and the table went down. Waiters scrambled like cockroaches in the light, grabbing chunks of fondant and wiping away the remnants from the floor with dirty cloth napkins; they only managed to spread the disaster around the floor. The bride cried, the groom was furious, and Barb looked paralyzed. We picked up the table and brought it into the kitchen with cake.
There was no backup cake; no room for error. Some of the wait staff grinned, some laughed.
“I can’t do anything with this shit!” Greg, the head chef who shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near food or people, screamed.
“This is your fucking job dude!” Barb shouted back with her thick Trinidadian accent.
Greg stormed out of the kitchen grunting and mumbling curses at her. We all looked at each other, our cheap and oversized tuxedos splattered with icing and batter from holding whatever we could close to our chests.
“Fuck it. Serve it.”
Nobody moved. Alongside the cake, piles of dessert plates were ready to present slices to guests. We didn’t have slices to give them, just fragments of something that resembled cake that had just spread atop dirt from dancing shoes and heels.
“FUCKING SERVE IT.”
I put my tray on the counter and placed plates alongside the outer edge, then inside. We could usually fit 10-12 plates on a single tray. Barb put on latex gloves and dug in, throwing small bits onto the plates. As she did, I tried to maneuver whatever crumbs landed on the plates to resemble something normal, something that maybe somebody might eat. I smeared icing over the top with a butter knife but it still looked botched, like I had taken a plate and scooped bits onto it directly from the floor. There wasn’t any hiding it, we may as well have done just that.
I sighed and waited for the others to do whatever they could to make the cake look decent. They all looked disgusting. Barb pulled hair from some pieces, wiped dirt off of others. On the white fondant, everything from the floor was noticeable. Thank god the guests didn’t know how old and dirty the mops were that cleaned the dance floor tiles.
“Go. GO!” Barb barked.
Even with the mounds of cake on plates, there wasn’t enough for every guest. We had to go around asking them if they wanted a piece.
I brought three plates with me to my tables, presented them to the guests and asked if anybody would like one.
“Is this the same cake that was on the floor?” It was obvious.
“Uh … no, no. We have a backup cake in the back in case something like this happens.”
Every guest looked at me with skepticism. They were right, they shouldn’t be anywhere near this disaster. At other tables, waiters did the same as me. Some guests accepted the floor cake and we watched with disgust as they munched down on cake, fondant, dirt, hair, and dirty mop water.
Leaning against the walls of the ballroom, every waiter looked nervous, waiting for a guest to bite down and get a nice piece of pebble or hair; something forgotten while dusting off the pieces that would send them into an appropriate fury.
Finally Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” came on, we all heaved sighs of relief. Afterwards the guests left, we cleaned up, and Barb laughed in the kitchen.
“Holy shit! I’m so happy that shit’s over. What the fuck happened dude?” She turned to Mark, the captain of the party, but he was speechless — it was his first party as captain.
We left the catering hall, went to our regular diner, and ordered burgers.
“That was fucked up. Is that legal?”
“NO it’s not legal! Wow, man. I can’t believe that happened.”
Mark, Leon, Alan, Nikko, and I looked at each other with shock before easing into our coffee and laughing it off. What could we do, the people had already partially digested whatever the hell they ate?
When the burgers came none of us said anything out loud, but we each inspected our plates for dirt, hair, and other surprises from the floor.