The waiter, dressed in cycling shorts, helmet and a bright yellow jersey as if he had just won the Tour de France, approached the table with a wary smile. The couple looked apprehensive and were glancing around with increasing uncertainty at their surroundings. The restaurant was festooned with bicycle parts: wheels on every wall, oily chains spanning the ceiling. Handlebars adorned the backs of chairs, the seats of which were uncomfortably shaped like bicycle saddles.
“Do you need a few more minutes?”
The man cleared his throat; the woman looked askance. The man jabbed his finger at the menu, which was shaped like a bicycle wheel.
“Soup of the day. What is it?”
“Not the day, the soup.”
“Heh. Just my little joke. It’s spicy parsnip.”
The woman nodded enthusiastically. “Sounds lovely, David.”
“She’ll have the soup. I’ll have the uh…” the man’s eyes flicked up and down the list. “The spring rolls.”
“Very good, sir, madam. And for second gear?”
“What do you mean, ‘gear’?”
“It’s a gimmick, sir. Here at Spokes, we have something of a bicycle theme going on; it may have escaped your notice.”
“For mains,” the man said emphatically, “I’ll have fish and chips and Sarah will have the moules mariniere.”
The woman nodded rapidly.
“Right you are,” the waiter jotted a note. “I’ll just fetch you your drinks.”
He flitted to the bar and came back with a tray. The man scowled.
“Your pint of lager and the lady’s sauvignon blanc. Is that not right, sir?”
“No, that’s right, but –”
“David!” the woman snapped. “Don’t make a scene.”
“But look at them! I can’t – we can’t be expected to drink out of oil cans. It’s not sanitary.”
The waiter pursed his lips. “I can give sir every reassurance these cans have been thoroughly, not to mention industrially, cleaned.”
“It’s fine,” the woman smiled thinly.
“Like hell it is,” the man slapped the table. “What’s wrong with proper glasses?”
“Like I said, here at Spokes we have a theme.”
“I don’t give a monkey’s fart about your bloody theme. Fetch me a proper glass or you’ll find yourself in need of a puncture repair kit.”
The man grinned as the waiter scurried away.
“There was no need for that,” the woman wailed. She tried to sip wine from the nozzle of her oil can.
The waiter returned. “I can offer sir a trophy. First place, no less. I can decant sir’s beer into it in two shakes.”
“Fuckinell,” said the man. “Oh, go on then.”
While the waiter tipped the lager into a gilded trophy with ornate handles, the woman paled.
“Excuse me. Do all the meals come like that?”
“Like what, madam?”
The couple watched in horror as a second waiter carried bicycle wheels flat like platters, dripping sauce from one and gravy from another as he passed.
“Here at Sp -” the waiter tried to recite.
“You have a fucking gimmick!” the man roared.
“But – I ordered the soup!” the woman gasped. “How will that work?”
“It’ll be fine!” said the waiter. “Keep the wheel spinning fast enough and the wossname – the centrifugal force – will keep the soup in place.”
The woman whimpered.
“This is ridiculous,” the man got to his feet. “Come on, love; we’re going.”
The woman winced apologetically and stood.
“We’ll try that new place over the road,” the man said loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear. “What’s it called, love?”
“Snake-in-a-Basket,” said the waiter, holding the door open. “Good luck to you.”