Dinner with friends

By Mark Figueroa

Under the light blue sky, Aldguin strums his guitar at the bench by the fountain. Children giggle and chase each other through the trees, screaming “You’re it!” Clouds crawl through and around the bright sun. Leaning on Aldguin’s shoulder, Elles tosses seeds from a bag on to the concrete. Birds chirp and sing in her presence, pilfering and picking at kernels. Elles smiles. She empties the bag, rests her smooth, slender legs on the bench and gets comfortable. She clutches Aldguin as he continues playing an acoustic melody on his Gibson L-1.

Aldguin hums. His eyes closed, his head rhythmically weaving left and right, Aldguin sings in a low, gentle voice:

Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, ooh
When you knocked upon my door…”

Aldguin’s singing turns into humming. He taps his foot and inhales. In a smooth, elegant gesture, he adjusts his fedora, then exhales as the satisfied birds take to the sky. Elles sits up. “He’s here,” she says, smiling and twirling her black hair. “Kal! Kal!” she calls out, waving to the man approaching them. Aldguin begins to sing again:

When you knocked upon my door…
And I said, ‘Hello Satan’
‘I believe it’s time to go’

“Kal!” Elles exclaims, eager and anxious. She pats the spot on the bench next her. “Come, mon ami. Come and sit next to me, Kal. S’il vous plait.”

“Kalcyphir, Elles, I told you, Kal-Sa-Fur. Stop calling me Kal,” Kalcyphir says, his hands hidden in the pockets of his overcoat. As usual, Kalcyphir’s eyes are sharp, seeing everything, yet looking at nothing. “It’s your last day, right, Al?” Kalcyphir asks.

Aldguin smirks. “For a man that doesn’t like nicknames, you seem to have an affinity for mine, Kal,” he says, standing up and putting his guitar in its leather carrier. Grabbing the elastic strap on the case, Aldguin sets the guitar on his back. “I actually don’t leave until January. I’ve got a few months. They’ve moved the crew to some whacky days on, days off shift so we can spend time with family and loved ones, but you know me… All I have is you guys, and Farosh.”

Elles groans, rolling her eyes. “Please no talk of work, mon ami. It’s unbecoming of such a beautiful day, no?” She smiles at Kalcyphir. “Especially in the presence of such refined company.” Elles licks her perfect, pink-painted lips, her petite frame and full figure catching the eyes of passersby as she stretches and leans on Kalcyphir. “We should take Aldguin to eat, but not the pas cher food from the tourist spots. Maybe La Grenouille?”

Kalcyphir shrugs. “Whatever. Let’s get a move on then,” Kalcyphir declares, staring at and through the other people in the park.

“La Cane Confit, s’il vous plait, merci,” Elles requests from the waiter. “Also, une Diabolo-menthe,” she adds. The young man replies, “Oui, madame,” and scribbles her order. “Would le monsieurs like to place an order as well, or do you need more time?” he asks the table.

Kalcyphir caresses his goatee, ignoring the waiter’s inquiry. He stares at the ceiling. “I don’t eat,” Kalcyphir says.

“My god, you’re hopeless. Don’t pay him any mind kid. My friend is one of those ‘I wear my sunglasses at night’ kind of guys. He’ll have the Beef Wellington with sautéed steamed vegetables. I’ll have the steak, um, ah, povoree?”

“The steak au pavre?” The waiter asks to confirm. He examines Kalcyphir, who is reclined in the wooden chair and still staring at the ceiling. Kalcyphir’s eyes glance in the waiter’s direction. Embarrassed, the young waiter squirms, looks around and buries his face in his order book. “So, the st-ste-steak au pa-pavre. Will that be all sir?”

“Yeah, that’s all,” Aldguin says, nodding at the waiter. He looks at Kalcyphir and sighs. “Actually,” he quickly calls out before the waiter leaves the table. “I’ll have a cognac neat too, please. Thanks.” He butters a warm bread roll and slams half of it on Kalcyphir’s plate. “Did you really have to make it so damn awkward with your incessant brooding, Kal. It’s not cute or cool when a 2500 year old boy pretends to be the terminator. The kid nearly shat his pants when you gave him that side eye. ”

Kalcyphir crosses his arms and leans on the table. “I came to New York in 1631. Willem Kieft… Willem, fucking, Kieft… get things in order. I also helped with Native American relations since, well, you know,” Kalcyphir says pointing at his bronze skin. “I’ve lived for a long time, Al. Anticipating change is difficult.” Kalcyphir sighs.

Aldguin crosses his left leg over his right and swirls his brandy. He takes a sip and sighs in relief, then points his eyebrows. “Your point, Kal?” he asks, stern.

“I’m stuck in my 20s forever. You’re stuck in your 40s. And, Elles, well, just look at her,” Kaclyphir says. His stone face blushes, despite lacking any discernable emotion. “I met the two of you here. In the City. There are other immortals like us and I’ve known a few since they were humans.”

“Mon ami,” Elles says, rubbing Kalcyphir’s hand. “So dificil to say something so simple. Al, Kal will miss you. We have been here for centuries, chatting, exchanging stories, keeping him entertained. We are the few constants in his life even though you only showed up around 50 years ago. You will get in the rocket and leave for decades, perhaps centuries, and c’est la vie,” Elles explains. Mesmerized by her delicate, sultry voice and animated mannerisms, Kalcyphir raises his ignored water glass. Condensation trickles through his fingers.

“That’s pretty much it,” Kalcyphir admits, his face illegible, save for a faint twinkle in his eye when he half smiles at Elles. The waiter and another restaurant staff member place the feast in front of the trio. Kalcyphir stares at the young waiter with his cold, distant eyes. “Thanks,” he says.

“N-no problem, s-sir!” the waiter exclaims, his voice cracking. “Bon Appetit!” he shouts, bowing and taking his leave.

Steam rises and crispy flakes fall from the Beef Wellington with Kalcyphir’s well-mannered, but eerie cut. “So, did it tell you where you were going exactly?” he asks Aldguin.

“Unfortunately, no,” Aldguin responds, his juicy steak melting in his mouth. He swallows and takes a sip his cognac. “Unlike Caleb, Farosh doesn’t speak much, and only shows up like once a decade. He said, ‘Sathed must fall to Earth. Shatter glass and kill the child of old. Bereft of peace and prosperity, the Sathedians shall know humanity. You will pass the gift of progress to your brethren. Then, you will rest until the next decree.’ No clue what it means yet, but these things always sort themselves out. Seeing as how the mission they have been pushing is about exploring some distant planet, I’m sure I’ll have to destroy a planet or a civilization of some kind. I do know whatever he has me doing is going to balance things out on Earth. Somehow. It’s just best not to overthink these things,” Aldguin says, between bites. He wipes his mouth with the white table cloth. “Anyway, that’s about all I know.”

“Serveur, serveur s’il vous plait!” Elles shouts, beckoning the table’s young waiter. She orders another drink and a crème brulee, relishing in Al and Kal’s company. Despite Al’s departure, Kal is happy, or at least happy enough. Elles slurps her straw and examines the medium-sized restaurant. Gold trimmed red curtains, ornate pink, red and purple plants, and large coastal paintings decorate the eating area. The dim lights fit the encroaching dusk, as the sunset blankets the city. Through the large restaurant windows, Elles’ eyes follow the hundreds of passersby going on about their lives. She enjoys her decadent, creamy and robust dessert when it arrives, tensing with delight. La vie est belle.

Kalcyphir picks up the check and leaves a gracious tip. He looks at Aldguin. “Mesopotamian money.”

“Yeah, you’re a real Manhattanite,” Aldguin says, scoffing and chuckling.

“Hard not to be. It’s the greatest city on Earth. I built it. It’s my home,” Kalcyphir responds. He rolls down his sleeves and buttons them. He grabs his coat from behind his chair.

“You and that damn coat, Kal,” Aldguin remarks as the trio leaves La Grenouille. “Well, I have nothing to do, so I’m going to the park and strum my guitar until I get tired. “You guys wanna come with?”

Elles responds for herself and Kalcyphir, and the couple strolls down E 52nd street with Aldguin. They turn right on 5th avenue and walk toward Central Park. “It’s making me hot just looking at you.”

“The world is a cold place,” Kalcyphir says, staring off into the distance while walking arm-in-arm with Elles. “Caleb keeps me busy. It’s been hard to feel warm for centuries.”

“Yeah, yeah, your whole herald of corruption bullshit. I gotcha. That’s gotta’ be rough, Kal. I couldn’t do that. Not for a life this long. Definitely not for a life as long as yours,” Aldguin confesses.

“Please, no talk of work,” Elles declares, squeezing Kalcyphir’s elbow and smirking at Aldguin.

“Hard not to. The entity that holds my immortality doesn’t work like yours. One soul a week aside from entertaining him when he feels like it.” The trio stops at a corner adjacent to The Pulitzer Fountain. A small man in a top hat passes by them, invisible to Elles and Aldguin. His beady eyes, catch Kalcyphir’s and the little man grins, vanishing with the breeze. “I’ll catch up to you guys,” Kalcyphir declares, his voice cold and mechanical. He shakes Elles off his arm and walks toward a nervous chubby man eating ice cream with a young boy. Kalcyphir exchanges a few words. Elles and Aldguin observe from afar while continuing on their way to the park. Kalcyphir pats the man on the shoulder and walks away. He reconnects with his friends once they cross the street and they enter Central Park.

“Your guy just put that kid in the trunk,” Aldguin says, looking over Kalcyphir’s shoulder. Elles shakes her head as if to silence him. “It’s none of my business, Kal, but what exactly just happened?” he asks, ignoring Elles’ warning.

“Why don’t we stroll through the park under the beautiful evening sun, no?” Elles blurts out, abrupt and anxious. She grabs Kalcyphir’s hand and tries to guide him. Kalcyphir looks at her, then fixes his sights on the chubby man he just spoke to.

“That’s the boy’s father. He lost his job and can’t bring himself to tell his wife he can’t provide for them,” Kalcyphir comments. “He spiked their ice cream with sleeping pills. He’s going to drive into the Hudson when he’s sure his son’s asleep. He put life insurance on himself and his son, but the insurance won’t payout for suicide and homicide. So, the wife will lose both of them and be penniless. She’ll move back in with her parents. Caleb will use the son’s spirit to torment her. He’ll feed on her fear, despair and hatred, deteriorating her will. She’ll break her parents in the process. Eventually, she will hate her life, and set her parents’ home ablaze. Then, he’ll consume her soul and theirs. Before you ask, there’s no reason for it. It’s entertainment. Caleb doesn’t sustain himself on human souls. He just likes the idea of eating them out of existence.”

Elles and Aldguin shudder. They exchange awkward glances and continue on their way. “It’s not necessary to talk about work, Kal, but thank you for sharing, mon amour,” Elles says, caressing Kalcyphir. “But, I’ll admit, work life balance does not exist for ones like us.”

“Ain’t that the truth, Elles,” Aldguin declares. They sit by the pond at the edge of Central Park.

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