Last year, the participants of the German Literature Month went on a virtual tour to a famous destination in a Germanic novel. This year, the bloggers are back on the bus to celebrate the end of the trip with a meal – at a strange restaurant some readers of my blog may have encountered before. You may like to peruse these earlier posts before you continue with today’s offering – then again you may not. Either way, what follows is unlikely to make much sense… Guten Appetit!
[The camera fades in from black to reveal a large coach pulling up in a quiet street in a town somewhere in the north of Germany. Through the gently falling snow, the words “German Literature Month Tour Bus” can be seen on the side facing us. After a few moments, a group of people slowly begin to get off the bus, stamping and shivering as they are reacquainted with the harsh, north-German winter. Across the road, there is an old building, a strange mix of styles with a faded sign above the door, reading FUSION LIT BISTRO…]
Caroline: Nice of you to arrange a meal for the end of German Literature Month, Tony… [Glances at the restaurant] …but are you sure this is the place?
Tony: Don’t worry – I know it doesn’t look much, but it specialises in literary diners. Believe me, the food is great. [Under his breath] The service, however…
[The bloggers cross the road and stoop to pass through a small, ancient-looking doorway…
They enter a busy restaurant. It seems as if there is some kind of party going on, perhaps fancy dress. Most of the women appear to be princesses with long, flowing hair, although some are wearing red cloaks and carrrying baskets. A group of men dressed as animals are standing on a stage, pretending to play various musical instruments. As the bloggers pass, they stop – the imaginary music goes quiet. Tony swiftly leads the group past the musicians to a collection of tables near the back of the restaurant, each of which has a sign with ‘Reserved’ written on it in Gothic script. On each table, there are six burgundy, leather-bound menus with Fusion Lit Bistro written on them in gold script. As the newcomers begin to arrange themselves around the tables, a tall, gaunt waiter approaches unhurriedly and elegantly, allowing the new guests to sit down before he arrrives.]
Waiter: I see you made it – I must admit, I had my doubts.
Tony: [Smiling] As I said on the phone, the fairytale special for a party of thirty…
[The bloggers sit down at the table. Tony is seated between Lizzy and Caroline, while the other places are filled by Gary, Stu and Tom. Tony spots the usual blank name tag on The Waiter’s jacket and appears to be about to say something, but obviously thinks better of it.]
Waiter: Let me just explain today’s menu. While we usually offer a wide selection of literary delights for your pleasure, today, in honour of the anniversary, our menu consists entirely of Grimm’sche tales, a little gem each and every one. If you’d like to have a brief look at your menus…
[The diners pick up their menus. As they open them, rolls of parchment cascade out of the binders, each with a long list of items written on it…]
Waiter: A wonderful selection. You can’t really go wrong here… [Pauses] …although I wouldn’t try anything with apples.
Stu: [Confused] There are hundreds here! How are we supposed to choose…
Gary: A couple of everything maybe?
Waiter: [Coughs] Might I suggest the Reich-Ranicki special?
Caroline: What’s that?
Waiter: It’s a choice selection of the finest cuts, guaranteed to suit the pickiest of diners. Perhaps you might like to order a few of those…
Tony: That sounds good. OK, we’ll have six of the Reich-Ranicki specials, with Rapunzel chasers please, Rumpelstiltskin.
[The Waiter takes the menus and turns on one heel to stalk off back to the kitchen, somehow indicating his complete disdain despite his silence.]
Tony: [Weakly] Sorry. I thought it was worth a shot...
[The bloggers wait in silence while their order is being prepared. As they look around the restaurant, they notice that the room is not quite as crowded as it was when they arrived. A few waitresses in glass slippers are clearing up the mess diners have left behind. A sudden scream pierces the air, causing the party to visibly jump. Once the sound has died away, the guests examine their table more closely.]
Tom: Have you noticed the cutlery?
Lizzy: [Looking at the knife and fork in front of her] What about it?
Tom: Smell it…
Lizzy: [Picks up the fork and sniffs it uncertainly] Is it…
Tom: Yep – gingerbread.
[Silence again. Caroline looks at the table’s centrepiece, a beautiful metallic statue, and stretches out to touch it.]
Caroline: This is lovely – what do you think it’s made from?
Waiter: [Returning with the order] Recycled spinning wheels.
[Caroline snatches back her hand as if she’s just been bitten.]
Waiter: [Putting the order on the table] Guten Appetit – just let me know if you need anything else…
[The bloggers tuck into the assorted platter, and for a while there is little to be heard other than the digestion of the morsels and the occasional groan from the direction of the kitchens. After a while, the diners start to discuss the meal…]
Stu: Great, I really enjoyed that.
Gary: Unusual, but a nice change from the rest of the month.
Caroline: They do slip down nicely, but I’m not sure… I’d have liked something a bit meatier.
Tony: [Speaking with his mouth full] I liked it, a bit sweet at times, but with a bitter aftertaste. [Sighs] You know what they say – A moment on the lips,…
Tom: …a lifetime of waking up screaming with flashbacks.
[Tony smiles nervously, then grimaces, bending over the table. He looks up and beckons The Waiter.]
Tony: I think something must have disagreed with me. Could you remind me where the toilets are?
Waiter: Just look down.
[The Waiter looks down at the floor. Tony follows his gaze and sees a trail of white breadcrumbs leading off into the distance.]
Waiter: Just follow the trail…
Tony: Oh, right. Thanks.
[Tony hurries off in search of the toilets. The Waiter casts a scrutinising glance at the remaining diners and moves off towards the kitchen. The other five bloggers look at one another uneasily.]
Tom: [Looking around] Have you noticed that there are fewer people now? I haven’t seen anyone actually leave through the exit though. And all those screams…
Lizzy: Come to think of it, it’s getting pretty hot in here too. [Nervously] Those ovens must be pretty big back there.
Stu: But the food wasn’t particularly warm…
Gary: [Looking around] Is it just me, or does that waitress have a bit more facial hair than you’d expect? Although she does have very white teeth – very big white teeth…
Caroline: Perhaps we should…
[The five bloggers stand up as one and dash for the exit. Stu bowls over a waitress in a red cloak, sending her basket flying. As the other members of the group see them run, they panic, and flee the restaurant too, overturning tables and scattering gingerbread cutlery all over the floor.
The Waiter returns to a room empty of customers – the only sound is the groaning of various figures in costume getting up off the ground. He sighs.
Tony returns from his untimely trip to the toilet.]
Tony: [Looks around, confused] Wh… where is everyone?
Waiter: [Smoothly] They’ll be back soon, they’re just on a guided tour of the kitchens. It’s a special feature of today’s event. Would you like to…
Tony: Of course! Is there anything special to see?
Waiter: Well, there is a very big oven…
[Tony and the Waiter walk towards the kitchens. In the background, you can hear the sound of a bus racing away into the distance…]