FICTION: The Restaurant Plan

There once was a woman who hatched a restaurant plan. She was relatively successful, financially, so she had the means to do so. She created two restaurants, hiring chefs, buying buildings, creating a menu, and fixing them up, though not in that order. She was not much of a food expert either, and even though her friend Frank told her that about 90% of all restaurants fail after the first week or so, neither of them did.

Her plan was this: she would slowly switch the two restaurants, altering their menus, and décors, and chefs (again in different orders) so that someone who had been out of town during the fifteen years of her plan would be utterly baffled; the restaurants were on opposite sides of the city.

Each change, each swap, was so meticulous that the woman had to quit her regular job, which had something to do with other people’s money. She had had enough of it. Each day she took a fork from one restaurant and walked it to the other. And so on and so forth. The staffs of the restaurants found her confusing, but though she was clearly disturbed she was also oddly charming, and she was away so much of the time that they could often drink bottles of wine and eat the fancy cheeses when there were no customers, which was often. Both restaurants had wine and cheese, for what is a restaurant without either of these things? the woman reasoned.

Both restaurants received lukewarm, but not damning reviews from the woman’s father, a food critic who though that the woman’s career in money had been the wisest decision that she had ever made. He was poor, but criticizing others seemed to be the only thing for which he was qualified.

During the walks with the forks, the woman eventually forgot why she had begun this elaborate prank. Perhaps because she was rich and had nothing better to do, but that was such an obvious answer. The restaurant plan had either begun so she could impress Frank or defy her father. Neither one nor the other.

Eventually, maybe ten years or so into the plan, the restaurants and the woman had become an urban legend, and people would take their friends out to them when they visited the city. People started to call the woman’s work things like “long-term performance art,” but that didn’t seem quite right to her. She grew so concerned with the meaning, the genesis for the plan, that she became distracted. She would bring the same fork back and forth many times over the course of the day, thinking about what is a genesis anyway. The fork had four tines, all slightly rusted, one of them bent.

While the woman stared at the fork on her walks, her cooks and waiters and dishwashers and hosts ate the last of the cheese and drank the last of the wine, and the restaurants went out of business. By then, her father had already died, and Frank had long ago left her for another woman. She still walked between the places where the restaurants were, even thought one is a preschool and the other is just boarded up windows.