A Perfect Waiter

A Perfect Waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer Read Free Book Online

Book: A Perfect Waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alain Claude Sulzer
for new employees in accordance with Frau Adamowicz’s instructions. If she was out the new employees would be sent away and told to come back later, because she alone was entitled to take their measurements. She also submitted every napkin and tablecloth, sheet and bedspread to personal inspection before handing it over to be repaired, or, if it was no longer fit for guests, weeded it out and tossed it onto the cleaning-rag pile after tearing it into strips with her own hands.
    Erneste and Jakob entered the tailoring department at a quarter past ten, after a late breakfast. Frau Adamowicz’s minions were seated at their work, one of the four sewing machines was in use, and the room smelled of glowingcoals and dried flowers. The three women looked up and smiled without speaking. Frau Adamowicz, who was bound to have heard the men come in, would appear before long.
    She emerged from the clothing store, almost simultaneously removing her glasses and putting them in her apron pocket. The ends of the tape measure around her neck reposed on her bosom, and a pincushion worn like a bracelet jutted menacingly from her left wrist. Her appearance in the sewing room was preceded by an unaccountable stir, as if she were propelling the air along in front of her.
    Erneste introduced Jakob to the four women. He had scarcely uttered Jakob’s name when Frau Adamowicz repeated it: “Jakob? Meier?” She replaced her glasses, went over to her cutting table and proceeded to leaf through a bulky ledger, starting at the back. Having found a blank page, she wrote something on it, then looked up and surveyed Jakob from head to foot. “Now we’ll take your measurements,” she said, pulling the tape measure from around her neck. “Kindly remove your jacket. Stand up straight, please don’t shuffle from foot to foot, and keep your head up.” Her French was so clearly enunciated that even Jakob could understand it in spite of her Polish accent.
    While she was preparing to take his measurements, Erneste sat down beside the window, where he could watch the three needlewomen as well as Jakob and Frau Adamowicz. One of them rose and went over to thecutting table, picked up a pencil and bent over the ledger.
    Although physical contact with Jakob was an unavoidable part of the measuring process, Frau Adamowicz went about her work in a characteristically easy, experienced manner. Without any misplaced shyness, she did whatever she had to do to give the new trainee waiter a spruce appearance. Erneste, seated on his chair, found it easy to put himself in her place. He watched her without blushing, following her practiced, authoritative movements with rapt attention. He stared spellbound at the slowly moving image, his eyes tracing the course of her hands as they traveled across Jakob’s body. No one asked why he didn’t leave the room. None of the others did.
    Frau Adamowicz started at the top. She encircled Jakob’s neck with the tape measure and tightened it until there was room between it and his throat for her forefinger, nothing more. Her assistant noted down the collar size in the employees’ measurement book.
    Frau Adamowicz’s instructions were unmistakable, although she didn’t speak particularly loudly. “Spread your arms,” she said, and Jakob promptly did as he was told: he stretched out his arms at right angles to his body. Little patches of sweat had formed under his armpits. As he spread his arms, the cuffs of his soft shirt rode up and exposed his wrists. One of the needlewomen looked up. The one who was taking down the measurements stared intently at the ledger and waited. Her forefinger exerted so much pressure on the pencil that the lead snapped.
    When Frau Adamowicz came to measure Jakob’s chest, he involuntarily deflated it a little. “No, don’t,” she said. It seemed she’d been expecting him to do just that because everyone reacted in the same

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