That Evening in the Restaurant

“It really does have atmosphere,” Cynthia Cruthers said, sipping her wine. “I can see what all the fuss is about.”

“Yes, I’m glad we finally got a chance to make it here,” Reginald, her husband of twenty years, replied. “It really is delectable. All the reviews I’ve read of the place just simply haven’t done it justice.”

“Yes, yes,” Francis said. Francis was a movie critic, and had joined the Cruthers only because they were the only way he’d ever get to eat at Le Chez des Desiree, given how new and trendy a restaurant it was.

Suddenly the garçon appeared, coming over while Reginald was in mid-sip of his chardonnay. He brought the tray, with one crisp white envelope upon it, sitting quite unnaturally in the center of the brown circular piece of plastic.

“Madames et Monsieurs,” he said, in an affected French accent. “This came for you.”

“Pardon mois?” Reginald replied, in an equally appalling fake French accent. “Mail? In a restaurant? How deliciously absurd! How could this be for us? Surely no one knows we are here?”

“Mais non, Monsieur,” said the garçon, continuing in the absurdity, “it is addressed to you and your wife. See,” he said, holding the envelope up to face them. “Le party Cruthers. C’est tu.”

“C’est vrai,” Mr. Cruthers replied, sighing.

“Knock it off, Reggie,” Mrs. Cruthers replied harshly. “Let’s see what’s in that envelope already. And garçon, bring me more of this pigswill you call wine.”

The garçon fumed and flushed a shade of bright red. “Right away, Madame,” he said, and turned, the coattails of his white tuxedo fluttering behind him. As he entered the kitchen he uttered a string of profanities reserved for Mrs. Cruthers and Mrs. Cruthers alone, mostly starting with the letter ‘c’.

“Open it, already, Reginald!” Francis said, lighting his pipe. “Whatever could it be? How unconventional, receiving mail in a restaurant while dining out, well I never!” He puffed and puffed.

Reginald Cruthers tore open the package as his fellow diners sat around him with expectation. Finally, the last bits of white envelope and came off to reveal…. a phone. A flat, candybar cell phone, the old kind that no one carried anymore these days and no one had for many years.

“How odd,” Reginald’s wife said. “Reggie, what is this? What does it mean?”

Suddenly, the phone rang loudly, its digital ringtone both oppressive and antiquated. Other patrons in the restaurant stared. A woman dropped her spoon back into her pea soup.

Reginald answered. “Hello?” he said, not knowing quite what to expect.

The voice on the other end of the line was cold and lifeless, and the words chilled Cruthers to the bone when he heard them.

“Reginald Cruthers,” the voice said, “in three days, you will die.”

Then there was the only the sound of the phone being hung up on the other end of the receiver, and the cold, heartless drone of its dial tone.

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