TORONTO: A NOVEL—chapter 49

They weren’t going to have desserts, but Akanksha was so persuasive about the light, buoyant wonder of the restaurant’s puddings, they each ordered one. 
     Tom had Kheer, a rice pudding rich with cardamom and raisins, while Violet, led to it by Akanksha’s insistence that this particular dessert was almost an extension of her being, ordered Rasmalai, a light milk pudding made with ricotta cheese and flavoured with saffron and pistachios.
     Akaksha floated by as they were finishing.
     “And so does Mrs. Dollop feel well served by her Rasmalai?” he asked her, smiling broadly in the assurance of her answering in the affirmative.
     “Heavenly!” she told him.  “Like a cloud!”
    Tom smiled.
     “How’s the writing going?” he asked her.

     While Lincoln Ford was busy pulling a rack of lamb chops from the broiler, Coal Blackstone was hard at work whipping up garlic mashed potatoes.  Fish sat near them on the kitchen floor, a look of expectancy alternating with one of resignation.  Would he get some lamb chop, he  wondered, or would he not?
     Linc arranged the chops on a platter and looked dyspeptically at the eager Fish, waiting beside the refrigerator, looking as cute and deserving as he could make himself look.
     “So what are you intending to do about this dog?”
     “He’s cute isn’t he!”
     “No,” said Linc.  “He‘s scruffy and weird and he makes me nervous.”   Linc turned away to uncork the wine.  He set to the task first using their fancy-dancy Rabbit wine opener, for which he soon substituted an old-fashioned hardware-store corkscrew.  Coal was amused.
     “You got something against the Rabbit too?” she laughed.  Maybe you just don’t like animals!”
     “I don’t much.”
     “What’s the problem with the Rabbit?”
     “It looks too much like a real rabbit,” Linc told her.  “I don’t like this silly kind of anthropomorphizing of everything.  This is supposed to be a corkscrew, for goddsake, not the Easter Bunny!  I feel a fool trying to uncork a bottle of wine with a rabbit.  It’s like something out of an old Disney cartoon!”
     “Alice in Wonderland!” said Coal.
     “Yeh, maybe. They may as well manufacture Flamingo wine openers.  Or Giraffes.”
     She looked up from her potatoes, to which she had just added a little additional splurge of cream, and then began spooning them into her favourite serving dish which, she hoped Linc wouldn’t really notice, was made to resemble thatched leaves of lettuce.  Maybe a thing isn’t anthropomorphized unless it’s made to look like a creature, she thought to herself, drifting morsels of parsley over the top of the potatoes.  Lettuce leaves probably didn’t count.   
     “This wine,” Linc announced, “is going to be sublime.”
     “What is it?”
     “A Chateau Mont-Redon, Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge from 2005.”
     “Yep.  Almost ten years old!” said Linc proudly.  Coal giggled.
     “What’s so funny?”
     “Oh nothing,” replied Coal gaily.  “It’s just that I remember being at this swank restaurant in London once and the host, who was keen to make a huge, sweeping gesture of no-holds-barred hospitality, decided  to order a bottle of sauterne from 1939—the year he was born.  It was elaborately brought to the table, in its beautifully dusty, golden bottle, and we all dutifully read the venerable label, and when the waiter opened it, nothing came out!  Not at first, anyhow.  Then, as we all watched intently—torn between hope and relief—there was this soft, rather repulsive oleaginous gurgle, followed by a slow slide of thick honey-like material that came inching out of the bottle only to plop, finally, like very expensive jello, right onto the host’s plate!  We were all horrified and amused, in equal measure.  Our host was close to tears.  The wine was  certainly old, but it was simply too old!”
     “Well, sic transit Gloria,” Said Linc.  “Glory fades.”
     Coal looked momentarily depressed.
    “But not yours,” he assured her quickly, kissing her on her forehead.

     The Mountainous Mayor Cass Tamburlaine was dining out with his long-time mistress, Joy Pommery, who had elicited from her worshipful lover a solemn promise that they would go somewhere—anywhere—where it was impossible to order a Reuben sandwich.
     And so they found themselves at 360, “The Restaurant at the CN Tower,” slowly revolving over the city.  Cass always found the moving panoramic views exciting.  Joy found them slightly queasy-making.
     “This place has been revolving for a long time now,” said Joy.  Isn’t anybody afraid the mechanism will seize up or break or something.  Like in metal fatigue?”
     “I’m not,” said Cass, beckoning a waiter.
     “It could be like that merry-go-round at the end of Strangers on a Train,” Joy persisted, “where the gears get jammed or something and it spins out of control, killing a lot of people!”
     “What do trains have to do with anything?” Cass asked her absently, beginning to study the wine list.
     “Things that spin around and go out of control,” said Joy.
     “Trains don’t spin around,” said Cass.
     “In the movie!”
     “What movie? What are you talking about?”
     “In Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Strangers on a Train,” Joy told him, her voice loud enough now, she noticed with some embarrassment, to catch the attention of a few of the other diners.
     Cass looked blank.
     “I don’t know it,” he said.  “You know I’m too busy to go to movies, Joy,” he added.
     I don’t like being in high places like this,” Joy said in a suddenly tremulous voice.  “Not after 9/11.”
     Oder some dinner,” said Cass. That’ll make you feel better.  What do you want to eat?”
     “Vegetables,” she told him, her voice small with a anxiety. 
     “Geez, Joy,” Cass told her, you’re really not a lot of fun to have dinner with!!”