There was a fig in my soup. I had not expected one.
Oh waiter, I said, gesturing the meanwhile with my outstretched hand in which I held the soup-spoon, waiter, this fig, is it intentional?
The waiter came barrelling over, he was a rotund waiter but moved at speed.
Sir, you are dribbling soup on to the floor with your spoon. It will need mopping up, he said.
That’s quite enough backtalk from you, I said, What I want to know is whether this fig, look!, this fig in my soup is meant to be there.
I would thank sir to be more polite, said the waiter, and do you know what?, he clouted me on the head with his great hairy fist.
I was nonplussed. First I had been nonplussed by the fig in my soup, now I was further nonplussed by the clout. Before I could gather my wits, the waiter, who had barrelled away, came barrelling back, holding a mop.
Sir will mop up the dribbled soup and we may then discuss the fig, he said.
What kind of cafeteria was this? I thought the words but did not say them. I had not yet pulled myself together from my nonplusment and there was a ringing in my ear from where the clout had landed.
But it was a pertinent question, one I will strive to answer once I have recovered from the many bumps and bruises I sustained after flatly refusing to deploy the mop, whereupon several other waiters appeared, as if from nowhere, and I was subjected to much clouting and thumping before being frogmarched out onto the street, or rather mews, and dumped into a puddle, there to be spat upon by a passing horse, whose drover gave me a kicking for good measure, the drover having a familial connection with at least two of the waiters, all of whom had gone back into the cafeteria, chuckling and muttering to themselves, the words fig and soup and mop and git clearly audible, even with the ringing in my ears, yes, ears, for both now were ringing what with the additional clouts and thumps I had received, for no other crimes than querying the fig in my soup and remonstrating with the waiter for his impertinence, to speak to a gentleman so, and then, by heaven!, to clout him.
What kind of cafeteria was it? What kind of world is it?