Floating lazily in the Seine on the Île Saint-Louis
Thick, medieval stone walls press in
Along both sides of the high, narrow room as
A self-described San Francisco hippie
Jazzily strums his guitar, an overture to the first seating
For a three-course prix fixe dinner. A sold-out show, we note,
Watching the reservationless being gently turned away.
A flurry of arrivals, une carafe de vin rouge, and the play begins.

Christophe glides between tables, glides too
Between français and anglais, runs the front of the house
Breezily, ferrying plates from and to and from again, as if
He has all the time in the world to please us, not a mere
Three acts: soupe de jour against the chilly April air,
One poulet, one poisson, and all the while
Appetizingly anticipating that decadent last course,
The one we both chose first.

“Non, merci” my friend signals as our amiable host
Again proffers cartes. “No need for menus, we’ve decided.”
“Ah then, deux gateaux chocolat, Mesdames,” he coos,
Tantalizingly confident in his pronouncement.
“Oui,” we both nod, as the hippie plays on and Christophe
Lingers by our table, smiles a knowing smile, waits a beat or deux
Then zingingly delivers a line he’s clearly used before:
“When someone knows, it is always the chocolat.”

Eileen Cunniffe has been writing nonfiction for 35 years—but the first 25 were without the benefit of a byline, as a medical writer, corporate communications manager and executive speechwriter. Her essays have appeared in journals such as Hippocampus Magazine, Ascent, Superstition Review and Bluestem Magazine.