Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Money Talks

A few days before our friend Rhonda’s birthday, her husband Ron sent us all an email asking if we wanted to go to dinner to celebrate the occasion at this fancy French restaurant in Tiong Bahru.
            “Ooh,” Amanda said, “I’ve always wanted to try that place. We should go!”
            Saffy pursed her lip with great dissatisfaction, much the same way she did after watching Deadpool (“Why was Ryan Reynolds all covered up? Why was there no nudity?”).
            “French food?” she said, her bosom trembling with disapproval. “I don’t even eat French food when I’m in Paris, why would I start now?”
            “You’ve never been to Paris,” I pointed out.
            Saffy sighed. “Which is exactly what I’m saying! Please keep up! Has it had good reviews?”
            “We can’t be eating chai tao kway all the time!” Amanda said. “It would be nice to sink the teeth into some foie gras and a cassoulet!”
            Saffy looked at me. I shrugged.
            Which is how we all ended up in a French restaurant on a Saturday night, forsaking our usual cruising ground of Old Airport Road.
            After looking critically at the menu, Saffy announced that she wasn’t feeling too hungry and that she wanted a Salade Nicoise.
            “Hah?” Sharyn said. She peered at the small print. “Simmi dai zhee?”
            “It’s a salad with green beans, hard boiled egg and anchovies.”
            “Oh, issit? Wah, so cheem! And hor,” her voice dropped to a penetrating whisper, “every ting so ex!”
            “Ron is paying,” Saffy told her.
            “Oh, issit?” Sharyn repeated. She looked over at the other end of the table where Ron was ordering a Veuve Cliquot Brut.
            “Well, it is his wife’s birthday!” Saffy said.
            There were two other couples at the table – one set was Australian, and the other British. Which basically meant that by the end of the evening, they and Ron had steadily worked their way through eight cocktails, a bottle of champagne, two reds and one white. According to Amanda, who knows this kind of thing, they were very impressive vintages.
At one point in the dinner, as I tackled my filet mignon, Amanda leaned over and whispered, “This Cloudy Bay is delicious!”
I looked at my completely untouched glass. I turned to Saffy who was struggling with her escargots. “Amanda says the Cloudy Bay is delicious!”
“These stupid snails are so slippery! It’s so hard to get a grip!” she replied. “I guess it would help if I wasn’t allergic to alcohol!”
Across from her, Elaine, the Australian wife had turned a bright red on account of having had a Negroni, a gin and tonic, and was onto her fifth glass of wine. She leaned forward. “What’s the connection between your allergy and the snails?”
Saffy paused in her wrestling match and looked up, surprised. “Nothing! Is there a connection?”
Elaine smiled and took another swig of her glass.
By the time dinner was over, everyone except Saffy, Sharyn, Rhonda and me was drunk, though to be fair, Amanda was just marginally flustered having nursed that single pour of Cloudy Bay all night.
At the other end of the table, Ron was looking at the bill and tapping on his iPhone. Eventually, he looked up and announced, “OK, that’s $250 each! They can split the bill!”
You know that original Alien movie poster that said: ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’? That’s kind of what happened. It was like the air had been sucked out of our end of the table. Saffy’s mouth was moving, but there was no sound. Sharyn, who has never met an English sentence she’s not been able to destroy, but who is a certified maths genius, frowned as she mentally added up the cost of her French Onion soup, her tap water, and her quarter roast chicken.
“Umm…” Saffy had found her voice and you could tell the scream she’d been suppressing was working its way up out of her lungs.
Amanda dived in. “I’ll pay for Sharyn, Jason and Saffy!” she said hurriedly.
Saffy tried again. Her bosom inflated to a dangerous volume. “Excuse....”
            “It’s my treat! I just got a bonus!” Amanda said in soothing tones, as if she was hypnotising an irritated cobra.
It’s all we’ve been able to talk about for days.
“Can die!” Sharyn concluded. “Your wife birthday. You invite people. You ask them to pay. How liddat?”
“Please let it go!” Amanda pleaded.
“Notice how Rhonda just sat there? I am so angry!” Saffy fumed. “I had a salad with green beans, olives and a hard boiled egg!”
“I drank tap water!” I told her.
“Yah, lor! Split bill properly, lah! So kiam siap! He banker some more!”


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