“End of the Line. What a clever name for a seafood restaurant!” declared my mother as we rode down Main Street in Sag Harbor. “Let’s stop for dinner, Mark. I’m starving.”
My sister Mckenzie, brother Jake and I exchanged looks and rolled our eyes. Going to a restaurant with our parents was our least favorite part of vacation.
“Sure, Jan. Looks like a nice little place!” my Dad readily agreed, as usual. “Whaddya say, kids?”
“Why don’t you drop us off at the pizza place and we can meet you back at the hotel?” I suggested knowing that idea would never fly.
“Rebecca Grace, this is the first summer vacation we’ve taken in years and we’re going to dinner as a family. There’ll be no further discussion, is that clear?”
Why do mothers always use our first and middle names when they’re cross with us? That conversation ended exactly as I knew it would but dammit it, I had to try for my sake and my siblings. Being in the company of our parents 24/7 sucked. We have dinner with them back home every night. We’re teenagers; we can handle pizza or burgers on our own once in a while – and some Mike’s Hard Lemonade! (You didn’t hear that from me!)
The restaurant was actually pretty nice – nothing fancy and it was right on the water. Even I had to admit it had potential. The proof would be in the pudding and by that I meant the menu. Mom was the pickiest eater on the planet and Dad, God bless him, had the patience of a saint. My sister, brother and me? Not so much.
First thing my eternally hormonal brother noticed was the pretty young waitresses in their tight white t-shirts and even tighter khaki shorts with “FORE” and “AFT” emblazoned respectively.
“Yeah, baby, this place is a bit of alright” Jake said, practically drooling over a cute redhead who smiled flirtatiously at him. Mckenzie laughed so hard she nearly choked on a breadstick and said “When did you turn into Austin Powers? You’re such a dickhead!” I thought that was pretty hysterical coming from a 13-year-old. Jake gave her the finger under the table and Mom gasped “Mckenzie Faith! I swear sometimes the devil himself resides in that mouth of yours! Mark, why do you let them watch those nasty foreign movies?”
Dad was nonplussed and mumbled something that sounded like an apology even though he had no idea what he was apologizing for! He was just trying to avoid an unpleasant scene.
Much to Jake’s chagrin one of the head waitresses came over to our table. She wore black pants, a white blouse, a black vest and looked more like Sister Rosetta Stone than Emma Stone! She asked if we were ready to order; Mom gave her standard reply which we all silently recited, our noggins bouncing back and forth like those little bobble-head dolls on car dashboards: “Everything looks so delicious, I just can’t decide! You all go ahead and order first. I’ll be ready by the time you’re done.”
Dad ordered first: “I’ll have the salmon with mixed vegetables and a Sam Adams, please.” BAM! Four seconds flat.
Jake said he’d have the pizza. The waitress pointed out the window to Sag Pizza then announced that ‘our pizza is on the kid’s menu and available only to children aged 10 and under”. She jokingly asked if Jake was 10 years old. I couldn’t resist replying that he only behaved like a 10-year-old but he was really 15. Jake hid behind a menu, his face turning as red as pizza sauce.
Giving Jake a chance to cool down, the waitress asked “How about you, girls? Do you know what you’d like to eat?”
Mckenzie and I answered in unison: “Fried shrimp, waffle fries, iced tea and extra ketchup, please.” BAM! Five seconds flat.
Recovering from his embarrassment, Jake sullenly said “Fish sticks, onion rings and a Coke.” BAM! Two seconds!
Shocker of shockers: Mom wasn’t quite ready! Flustered, she said “Oh, my! That was awfully fast! Let’s see” and she buried her head in the menu which the rest of the family had now committed to memory. Finally her recitative began:
“You know, I’d really love to try that soft-shell crab sandwich but I remember when I was a little girl I ate one and the shell wasn’t soft
at all. I’ve never forgotten that;
very traumatic! Tiny shards of shell getting stuck in my throat!
How’s the blackened swordfish? Is it spicy?
I just can’t tolerate spicy foods.
Delicate constitution, you know?
Sometimes they say it’s not spicy when it really is
so you can’t be too careful.
Uh, sushi? Definitely not! Anyone who eats raw fish
is asking for trouble.
You have to be out of your mind to order that horrid stuff,
Oh, now, this looks promising: grilled tuna, but it comes with a horseradish sauce.
Why does everything come with some kind of sauce?
Seems all the rage lately.
I’m not so sure how I feel about that – almost like they’re trying to
cover something up”
(and she laughed at the little joke she just made).
“Hmm, baked potato or rice? All those useless carbs!
Can I substitute something healthy and gluten free,
maybe green beans or a salad but no cucumbers, croutons,
onions or dressing?
And absolutely no horseradish sauce!
Oh, yes, water to drink, with a lemon wedge, please.
Not a wimpy slice; a nice big wedge. Yes, that’s what I’ll have.
Thank you, ma’am.”
And she handed the menu back to the waitress whose eyes had glazed over five minutes ago – much like Luca Brasi who sleeps with the fishes.
The blessed waitress, who was even more patient than Dad, innocently suggested Mom try the plain grilled tuna on a bed of fresh salad greens to which Mom replied “Oh, goodness me! I didn’t even see the salad section on the menu. Why don’t you bring everyone their drinks and I’ll just give the menu another look?” I think we all died a little just then.
Jake grumbled “Should have gone for pizza” and we sat there contemplating the scrumptious Sag Pizza right across the street and another two weeks of meals just like this one – all except Mom who still had her head stuck in the menu.
Dad discreetly motioned for the bartender to keep the fortifying Sam Adams coming. Way to go, Dad!
It was gonna be a long night.