Nausea rolled through Nathan’s stomach like thunder over a stormy sea. He locked his face into a smile as he moved as quickly as he dared, just trying to maintain until he got to the men’s room, where he planned to lose complete control.
How could this happen? he thought. How the hell could this happen?
His first Partner dinner, his very first one, and he’d blown it. Blown it big. They would never forget this dinner.
He’d had weeks to prepare. Goddamn weeks. Doug Rold had told him in advance the board was going to approve his elevation to Junior Partner status at Lewis, Wegman and Rold.
“The youngest partner in the history of the firm,” he’d said, offering a handshake. “I’m sticking my neck out, sponsoring you like this, but I believe in you, Nathan. You show great promise. Don’t let me down.”
They made it official last week.
According to tradition he had to host a dinner for all the partners and junior partners in celebration of himself, and he went to it with a will, trying to make it one to remember. The finest restaurant in town, a private room, a selected menu, a desert cart with all the partner’s favorites, the whole nine yards. And there he had been, at the head of a long table, surrounded by the three partners, four other junior partners, and all their wives, when he realized that his seat was too comfortable.
Far too comfortable.
He’d wiggled slightly, then with a little more energy, rocking from side to side as he carried on conversations to his left and right. There was nothing but the absolute comfort of the wonderfully padded chairs supplied by the restaurant.
In other words, no wallet.
The realization had nearly caused him to soil himself right there at the table.
No wallet, no cash, he had thought. No credit card. Nothing!
Those thoughts hit him so hard he’d excused himself from the table, and now here he was doing the queasy quickstep toward the bathroom. A sudden image came to him: himself and his fourteen guests, suit jackets off, aprons over dresses, all washing dishes to pay for the meal.
That would be a dinner they’d remember, he thought. He heard himself give a hysterical little giggle and clamped down on it hard. What with the giggles, the nausea, and trying not to dirty his pants with each step, Nathan lost track of where he was going and bumped a table in passing.
“Hey now, son! Watch where you’re going!”
The voice was loud but not unkind, with a thick Texas twang. Nathan glanced down in horror, recognizing the man from pictures he’d seen in the newspapers. Richie Bancroft: Texas Oil Man turned Real Estate King turned Movie Mogul, most recent member of Forbes top 100.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” Nathan said, launching himself through the dining room once more. He finally burst through the door to the men’s room, at the outer limits of his control, thrilled to find it unoccupied. He landed on his knees in the stall, the first gout of vomit splashing against the plumbing and wall before he got his face in the bowl and vomited for what seemed like hours.
When his stomach decided that it could heave no more, Nathan dragged himself to the sinks to wash his face. He put the steak knife and fork on the edge of the counter. He’d been so shocked at his realization he’d left the table still holding his cutlery and hadn’t even been aware of it until mid-purge, when he almost stabbed himself in the eye with the fork.
Jesus, what am I going to do? Just going home and back will take me almost an hour, and that would be if I knew where the damn wallet was!
He rinsed out his mouth, staring at himself in the mirror.
What am I going to do? I tried so hard to make a dinner they’d never forget, but I’m going to look like such an asshole… an incompetent asshole… I’m letting Doug down…
He was splashing his face with cold water, trying to stave off the new bout of nausea, when the door flew open, startling the ever-loving hell out of him.
“What the hell is going on in here?”
The new voice was loud and brash, with a Texas drawl. Nathan’s eyes were drawn to the reflection of a man entering the men’s room behind him, the door closing, shutting out the restaurant noise. He saw a cowboy hat, a big gold belt-buckle and a diamond-studded Texas tie.
“What the hell?” Bancroft repeated, waving a hand before his face to clear the air as he strode across the tiled floor.
Bancroft would never have this problem, Nathan thought, staring at the billionaire. Bancroft was standing in the door to the stall Nathan had just exited, waving his hand vigorously and eyeballing the scene.
“My God boy! Did you make all this mess?”
Nathan couldn’t answer. His eyes were glued to the reflection of the man’s back.
Bancroft would never have this problem. He always makes an impression!
Sweat stippled his brow, despite the cold water.
Bancroft could help me. Bancroft could fix this!
He stared into his reflection.
I can fix this…
His eyes dropped to the steak knife.
* * * * *
Returning to the table Nathan relaxed in his comfortable chair, loving the feeling of no wallet beneath him.
“This is a wonderful dinner, Nathan,” said the woman next to him, wife of one of the junior partners.
“One to remember,” he agreed. When she looked away he ‘borrowed’ her knife without her noticing. A sudden scream cut through the air, coming from the direction of the bathrooms.
“Oh my God! Call 9-1-1! I think he’s dead!”
His guests went silent.
Oh yeah, Nathan thought. They’re never going to forget this dinner!
He smiled as he cut into his steak.