He watched as thirty caterers, housemaids, waiters and decorators prepared for the evening’s party. He was standing next to the bar, resplendent in a robin’s egg blue suit, hair and tie rumpled to an exacting degree, slowly sipping from a vodka martini, letting the warmth of vermouth spread through him. The bartender was an enormous pile of a young man whose elephantine neck strained the collar of his silk shirt almost to bursting. They were all college students now, all the waiters and cleaners and servants, all pressed into livery for the night or for the weekend, and all thinking of the time to come when they should hire the servants for their own parties. When had they gotten so young? There was something ancient and ageless in the bartender’s eyes, a wearied professionalism that hid all his personality away, behind a tuxedo jacket and a scarlet cummerbund.
He finished his martini and the boy poured him another one without asking, floated an onion on the end of a pink cocktail skewer in the shape of a pirate cutlass. “Expecting a big crowd tonight, sir?”
“No more than usual.” He bit into the onion, let the bitterness fill his mouth.