TRIAL BY GUEST
An Accurate Accounting of the Various Reasons
Why I Should Be Hung
HENRY EDWARD FOOL
Next was Antoine, a young Frenchman who impressed everybody on staff with his intelligence,
reasonable good looks, the manner in which he presented himself, his eagerness to work and
his quiet good-natured demeanor. The first night, I gave him instruction and was myself
impressed. He seemed to have an immediate grasp of everything I said, both of the
procedures and what was expected of him. By the second night, he seemed to understand a
bit less though, and I recall marking that up as normal for anyone on their second day at work.
The third night he came across as a complete idiot. There’s really no other way to express it.
He no longer knew how to do any of the things I’d explained, no matter how simple.
On the fourth night he came across as someone who wanted very much to make it perfectly
clear that he honestly did not care. He’d had enough. He was through. He would go through
the paces, but he wouldn’t like it. He did not care what was expected of him or what we thought
of him. He also wanted us to know that his presence was a challenge to anybody who thought
they might attempt to expel him. All of this was conveyed without a word.
It had been a quick and somewhat startling transition from golden boy to entrenched
belligerent. Even people who work in government put in a couple of solid weeks’ work before
they start fuming and taking actions which openly demonstrate their utter disdain for their
(I’m just guessing.)
At this point, the owner was so desperate to have someone, anyone, on duty at night that our
reports on this mal-morphosis from savior to oozing sore on prom night were simply brushed
away. It was one of those rare moments when I could see the man’s point of view. After all it
was better having a smoldering malcontent on board than either a puffy red-faced lunkhead
sleeping like a log or a wayward waiter dallying with bottom-of-the-barrel whores and
performing unimaginable acts in the lobby or linen room, in exchange for a few laughs,
humiliation and the degradation of all humanity. From my point of view, it was certainly better to
have Antoine in place than for either my future wife or myself to be stuck with the position.
On or about the fifth night I passed by the office to see how Antoine was doing and discovered
that he was doing quite well. He was leaning back in a chair with his sneaker enwrapped feet
up on the desk and he had the largest stainless steel bowl obtainable from our kitchen on his
lap and in it was what must have been two gallons of ice cream. The ice cream was covered
with nuts and drenched in our own expensive, hand-wrought, chocolate sauce. When I asked
him how things were, he nodded enthusiastically and raised his spoon toward the heavens. His
mouth was too full to speak, but not too full to grin like the goddamned unshaven scoundrel
that he was.
On night six, after the pastry chef discovered the missing ice cream, Antoine was sullen. He
asked me if I would supply him with a key to the refrigerator. I didn’t even know that the
refrigerator had a key—until that very day none of them had ever been locked before—so I
couldn’t help. On night seven, I passed Antoine in the office on my way to my future wife’s
place and he glared at me. Sylvie took me quickly inside and locked both locks and
breathlessly told me that Antoine was not happy. Actually, I had already guessed that.
Apparently he had come into the hotel in the afternoon and cornered the pastry chef and
demanded a key to the refrigerators and freezers. Now, the pastry chef—to whom you have
not been introduced—is nobody you want to mess with, whether you’ve been introduced or
not. She is 4 foot 9 and weighs a mere 83 pounds, but you don’t want to mess with her—
believe me. The chef, who is one foot taller and 200 pounds heavier, and who knows her
better than anyone else at the hotel, does not mess with her. So, Antoine did not get his key.
Apparently, Antoine had been stomping around in the hallways, pacing back and forth like a
cage-crazed animal ever since the confrontation. The story about him carving the words ice
cream into his own forehead is just that, a story. As is the tale of him smashing the freezer lock
with a sledge hammer…he used a bolt cutter.
I instructed Sylvie to lock the door as soon as I left that night, and not to unlock it until Antoine
was well gone in the morning. When I passed by the office, on my way out, I looked in. He was
stretched out with his feet up on the desk again but with nothing to eat and nothing to say to
“Is everything OK?” I asked.
“What does this matter to you?” (If he had had a cigarette dangling from his disdainfully curled
lip that would have been a nice touch…but he didn’t.)
“Well, if something is wrong,” I said, “you can talk to me about it.”
“What makes this any of your business?”
“Well, I have some say around here, and if you…”
“Why don’t you just leave,” he said and got up and slammed the office door in my face.
This went on for some time, Antoine’s discontent growing exponentially, becoming more
undeniable with every passing day, until it was expansive enough to wiggle its way under the
owner’s office door and crawled up and settled in his lap with bared fangs. The following day
there was a little get-together with the owner and Antoine in his office, and, as if by magic,
Antoine was suddenly no longer in the hotel’s employ. This was a relief for everybody on staff.
Here was a man, disgruntled if not dangerous, who had keys to everything in the place—
except the freezer where we kept our precious ice cream. “If anything ever happens,” I told
Sylvie, “climb into one of those freezers. It’s the only safe place in the joint.”
The following day—the day after Antoine was dismissed—Sylvie and I went out for a little walk
and there was an old van parked in our passenger loading zone and in it, smoking a cigarette
and staring at us sullenly, was Antoine.
For almost two weeks Antoine and his van were parked out in front of the hotel, day and night,
twenty-four hours a day, until one day, POOF! it was no longer there. Not seeing it parked
there somehow gave me the creeps as much as seeing it there; now I began to wonder where
it was, what he was planning, and when he might suddenly reappear.
I am sorry to have to report that the day after Antoine was dismissed the owner acted in a very
American manner. By this I mean he took immediate action. There was none of the usual deep,
passionate, heart-wringing discussion that dragged on for months and involved every French-
speaking person residing either in the hotel or in distant lands. He simply had the front door
This is how quickly it happened: The owner spoke to the kid, asked him to leave, and, BAM,
like that, the front door locks were being changed. As the locksmith departed I thought I could
hear the proverbial sigh of relief coming simultaneously from every single person on staff, now
cowering safely inside the hotel.
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