Dad ordered The Royal Steak, their signature dish, a Kansas City strip, the most expensive, since it was my brother Thad’s treat, and a baked potato, bone dry. The waiter asked how he wanted his steak cooked. Dad said, “There’s a very fine line between medium and medium-well, I want it cooked on that very line.”
The waiter nodded, “Yes, sir,” without any hesitation. I expected the waiter to smile, assume it was a joke, then look to me or Thad for assistance. Instead, the waiter said, “Mr. Fingersol, it’s great to see you again. It has been a while since we’ve last seen you, and all of us at The Royal Steak are so appreciative of your courageous sacrifice.”
Thad mouthed to me courageous sacrifice? What the fuck?
“Thank you,” Dad said. “I was in Washington D.C. for a few weeks. I got called in.”
He waited. I glanced at mom, then Thad. Everyone knew he’d never been to Washington D.C. in his life.
“What do you mean by called in?” the waiter said, clearly excited.
“Young man, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Operation Falcon Fang?”
“I can’t say that I have.”
“Back in Vietnam, Operation Falcon Fang was a commando unit that I belonged to. We parachuted down behind enemy lines, along with an assassination list. We took out high ranking North Vietnamese military officers. Often one-on-one, hand to hand combat-style, choke holds, snapping necks, you name it. So, I get a coded call about a month back that I needed to go in, come in from the cold, so to speak. I get there along with a bunch of guys I hadn’t seen in nearly forty years and we got briefed on a few things.”
“Really? All these years later, if I may, what happened or can’t you talk about it?”
“I’ll put it this way. Some liberal limp dick’s been putting in some Freedom of Information Act requests, you see, this lefty university professor is researching a book on our elite and clandestine group.”
“Oh, wow. So there’s going to be a book about this elite commando unit Falcon Fang?”
“I thank the stars and stripes and the great heavens above that this will not be happening. We were able to rectify the situation with a little Falcon Fang corrective action.”
I asked a passing waiter for more water. Thad thumbed messages and emails on his iPhone. Mom stared off into space, like always.
“Oh, my god. Did you, I mean,” then the waiter whispered, “kill him?”
“I can’t confirm or deny that, young man. But let’s just say that Operation Falcon Fang’s story will not be penned by a limp dick Anti-American Studies professor at Western Mountain College.”
“I’ve never heard of Western Mountain College,” I said.
The waiter caught my eye and said, “You must be so proud.”
Dad thankfully resolved the expectation that I answer by saying, “Enough about my honorable and secret service, go get that steak on the grill and remember the fine line,” because I might’ve told the waiter that my dad never served in the armed forces and that he’s nothing but a storyteller.
Matt Baker's work has appeared in the Southern Humanities Review, Tampa Review, Texas Review, Cimarron Review, Southern Indiana Review, and elsewhere. He's the author of a novel, Drag the Darkness Down.