"Mark my words," I say to the bartender. "That asshole baby is going to knock over his glass of water, I guarantee it."
The bartender ignores me because he is sick of my possibly imagined personal vendettas with every toddler who sits in my station.
I greet the table and I see that the kid already has a small Ziplock bag of Cheerios sitting before him. With pure deliberation, he reaches into the bag and retrieves one solitary Cheerio. He makes eye contact with me and I watch him drop the multi-grain goodness onto the floor.
"I want chocolate milk," he tells his mother.
"We don't have chocolate milk," I inform her. I grin slightly and shift my eyes to the little boy.
"How about regular milk?" I suggest, knowing that regular is a poor substitute for chocolate.
"Just water for him, thanks," Mom says.
I return with a small plastic cup half full of water and place it before the child.
"Be careful, sweetie. Don't spill it," the mother tells her son.
He pulls the cup closer to him while looking at me, his eyes narrow and the left side of his upper lip curled into a devilish smile. We both know it is only a matter of time before water is spilled and I am cleaning it up.
I recite the dinner specials and this is when the little boy informs his mother that he will be having waffles. It's dinner time and we don't even have waffles on Sunday brunch, but this kid thinks he's gonna get a waffle out of me? I wouldn't find a waffle for this brat for any reason in the world. He can go home and have a frozen one but not on my watch and not in my station.
"Sweetie, they don't have waffles. How about a burger?"
"How about pasta?"
"How about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
"We don't have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," I interrupt.
"WAFFLES!!" screams the boy while throwing his hands up in disgust and anguish consequently knocking over the cup of water in the process.
Instinctively, I pull the bar towel from my apron and catch the water before it it drips onto the the mother's lap. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the little devil cross his arms with smug satisfaction and I look at the bartender to make sure he sees that my prediction has come true. He seems to not care that I am in my personal hell with a three year old child.
"I'm so sorry," says the mother. "That was an accident."
Two of us know it was no accident.
"Waffles," he says again, this time with a hint of self-satisfaction.
The mother decides that she will order him the closest thing that we have to waffle, which is our special of the day, zucchini pancakes. I don't know what world she is living in thinking that a kid is going to be satisfied with sauteed shredded vegetables as a substitute for waffle deliciousness. The toddler looks at me as if he has won the game. He thinks he beat me because he's getting pancakes after I told him we don't have waffles. I eagerly ring in the order looking forward to the disappointment that is sure to come. I put a rush on it.
Six minutes later, I am back at the table with the plate of zucchini pancake that has a big dollop of sour cream on top of it. I place it in front of the little boy. "Here you go! Pancakes just for you. Yummy yummy yummy!"
He eyes the sour cream on top. "Is that ice cream?" he asks with excitement. I back away to see how the question will be answered.
"Well, it's not really ice cream, but it is sour cream," says the mom with an air of desperation. "I guess it's sorta like ice cream, wouldn't you say so?" she asks me.
I stare into the little boy's face and lie. "It's totally like ice cream. I can hardly tell the difference."
I am about to watch this kid take a huge bite of zucchini pancakes with sour cream when he is expecting regular pancakes with ice cream and I am quivering with excitement to see how supremely pissed off he is going to be. His mother puts a big bite of non-pancake onto the fork and zooms it towards his mouth. Inside it goes and I see realization dawning over the face of the child. His eyes show his disgust and I can see that he is about to spit it out and throw a fit. And then, he looks at me with eyes of steely reserve. It's as if he does not want to give me the satisfaction of knowing that he hates his dinner. He knows that if he spits it out, I win. Slowly and with great difficulty, he swallows the zucchini and sour cream. His eyes are watering and his lips are pursed. Through gritted teeth, he mumbles out the words "yummy, yummy, yummy."
"You like it??" says the mother? "You like those pancakes?"
"Yeah, how's that ice cream?" I ask. "You like that ice cream? I'm gonna go get you some more!"
I retrieve a ramekin full of sour cream and dump it onto his plate. His mother continues to feed him the pancake that I know he hates and he continues to eat it in order to prove that he is right. In my mind, the game is over and I am the victor.
Twenty-five minutes later, they are gone. I go to the table to clear it off and underneath the booth I see a pile of Cheerios. Not just a few Cheerios, but a whole Ziplock baggie's worth of Cheerios. They have been ground up into a powder that is going to require me to get on my knees and sweep up. Maybe I didn't win the epic battle between us. He has the last word I suppose since he is gone and I am still here cleaning up after him. Knowing that he ate a whole plate of nasty-ass zucchini pancakes when he wanted waffles makes the cleaning easier but I must admit he was a good challenger. Maybe I am not the victor after all, but neither is he. Perhaps it is a draw.
The battle is not over, kid. I will will win the next time. I guarantee it.
Portions of this blog post may have been fictionally enhanced.
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