[The novel is set mainly in Mexico City toward the end of the 2012-2018 presidential term of Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI. The narrator of the following scene, and the character named Landa, are political operators for a powerful PRI senator. Espinoza is the senator’s office accountant].
I would have liked to know that, go have dinner with Landa, really meant, go have dinner with Landa, with Espinoza and with the interns. That’s the crappy part of having an office Whatsapp, where if you invite one you’ve got to invite everyone. We went to Au Pied de Cochon because no one wanted to go yesterday, and Landa was dying for some oysters. The only good part is that he let me be in charge of the wines. I order a Cheval Blanc 02 for him and me, and three bottles of Chateau Dauzac for the rest of the table…I’m not going to share a 10,000-peso red with four low-rent dudes who can’t tell Cabernet from grape juice…
With his meal in front of him, the leader of the interns gets it into his head that he wants to get the phone number of the skinny fair-skinned girl who is sitting at a table off to the side. She’s with a guy her age, a wimp. The boyfriend looks worried. He knows that, uncomfortable as it is to have a bunch of dudes checking out your girl, seven people can kick one person’s ass. His solution is to ask for a table inside. Go on, Landa tells the interns, go get the number. Two of them obey. Through the glass doors that separate the terrace from the inside of the restaurant, we can see that the boyfriend doesn’t know what to do. He tries to act friendly, and when one of the interns puts his hand on the girl’s neck, he gets up and the pushing starts. We can’t hear anything. Landa follows the altercation closely. Meanwhile, Espinoza lays his credit card on the bill.
After the maitre d’ speaks with them, the interns come back to the table, upset.
“The maitre d’ said could we please quit bothering the couple.”
Landa raises his hand and starts snapping his fingers. A waiter comes over. My colleague tells him to get the maitre d’. And here he comes, his hands at his heart, ready to say he’s sorry before we demand it. Motioning with his index finger, Landa asks the maitre d’ to come closer. He seems like he’s going to tell him a secret, but he speaks out loud.
“All right, listen up. We didn’t come here to spend 40,000 pesos so that you could tell us what we can and can’t do.”
“Now, ask me for my forgiveness.”
“Forgive me, sir.”
“Now ask my friend Miguel to forgive you.”
“Forgive me, Mr. Miguel.”
“Now ask everyone at the table to forgive you for not treating us with the friendliness we deserve.”
“Forgive me for not treating you with the friendliness you deserve.”
“And ask us to forgive you for being a fucking flunky.”
The maitre d’ bites his lip. I hope, for his sake, that he says what Landa asked him to repeat.
“Forgive me for being a fucking flunky.”
“Fine. Now go to the cellar and bring me three bottles like the last one my associate ordered. If you bring me a lesser one, I’ll make it my business to see that tomorrow you’ll be selling mangos outside the subway and eating nothing but rice and beans like the rest of your family. You understand me?”
“Yes sir. Of course. Very kind. I thank you.”
Landa gives the bottles to his driver and we leave the restaurant, heading for The 20. We turn at the corner and walk alongside the park. Espinoza has left. Landa snorts one line after another off his housekey.
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