Five men—yes, all men, even after the end of history and the last man—bristled in finely padded chairs around a circular table designed to foster compromise. These remaining attendees were lifetime members exclusively. The rotating members had brown bagged it and were already on dessert and coffee elsewhere.
Rings of chairs reserved for assistants and scribes sat empty. Only the pale, valiant interpreters were somehow able to stomach the delay and had remained at their posts.
Following protocol, each man at the table had a vote, each a veto, and each had threatened to use one to override the other at some point during the long morning that had ground into a weakened afternoon and was beginning to show signs of displacing dinner.
Mr. Mason, the American, a tall gentleman with a temper antonymic to his stature, hinted at ordering unilateral takeout should the group prove unable to agree. Mr. Finnester of the United Kingdom promptly offered to join the American in said unilateral action, no matter what courses might ultimately follow, no matter what the cost—particularly since he was earning five percent cash back on qualifying purchases that month.
Mr. Li, the Chinese representative, averred (in Chinese) that China would under no circumstances support any member of the group imposing its tastes on another, yet (in Ternally) nor under any circumstances would it risk not looking like a team player by outwardly denouncing any option that the Russians had not already formally rejected first.
“Enough talk!” growled Mr. Mason (in English), or was it his stomach? (in Testine?)
“Either we decide by three or I am walking away from the table and finding my own.” He made a show of checking his watch, dramatically pushing up his left shirt sleeve with his right hand and sweeping his wrist level with his line of vision. The time was ten to.
“What’s wrong with Mexican? They have great quesadillas down the street,” said Mr. Popov, the Russian (in Russian), with a beguilingly innocent shrug, for he knew from intelligence sources that Mr. Finnester was lactose intolerant. Mr. Finnester, never one to stir the pot, merely bit his thumb in silent scorn.
Though he was as hungry as the others for an agreement, Mr. Lemieux, the representative from France, had culinary standards to uphold. He turned up his nose and shuddered (in French) even before his translator had begun simultaneous interpretation of Mr. Popov’s proposal.
“Everybody liked that Chinese place last time,” Mr. Finnester suggested (in Vain), hoping that time and selective memory would mean the group had forgotten about the egg rolls, which were, admittedly, forgettable, and about Mr. Mason’s embarrassing attempt to order kimchi.
Five minutes were microwaved away in the halting translation of the suggestion into Chinese. Finally, Mr. Li shook his head, no, explaining that China was too far from New York to make it in time for the lunch special, and, what was more, he had just had Chinese the day before.
Four more minutes were burned in the ensuing clarification and translation of the proposal by Mr. Finnester, who had actually meant that place on 36th and 6th and not whatever hole in the wall Mr. Li frequented in Beijing.
With one meager minute remaining, Mr. Mason was on his feet with his hat on and his jacket already over one arm when Mr. Lemieux of France, that savory birthplace of modern diplomacy, arose with (calculated?) alacrity and cried out (in English because there was no word for it in French): “The food court! The food court! They have seventeen different restaurants and ample seating. And clean public restrooms!”
A hasty resolution was proposed and seconded and passed unanimously (the Chinese abstained) with a show of hands that doubled as the signal for the chauffeurs to ready the Range Rovers.
Tempers cooled to match the autumn air, the men emerged from the building tired yet refreshed, their appetites whetted for what their hard-fought selection of where to adjourn to for lunch would have to offer in terms of combo meals. Secure once more, the world breathed a sigh of relief and wondered (in lingua franca) if that Cajun place was still open, and, if so, whether they would be giving out free samples of Bourbon chicken.