Maltese Cat is back with “The Frisco Disco”.
The Frisco Disco
The idea of helping a local soup kitchen had crystallized in the Maltese Cat’s mind far before the incident at the restaurant. In fact, it was on the evening of the initial delivery that the Maltese Cat happened to go to the back of the restaurant. He noticed an assistant chef handing out food to a homeless man in the alley that ran out back of the restaurant. As the Cat approached, Enrico saw that he had been caught red-handed giving away food from the restaurant. Stuttering, Enrico pleading with his boss.
“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have done that but I’ve seen the fellow around for the past couple of weeks and he didn’t have anything to eat. I just figured he needed a hand. I’ll pay for the food.”
“This the first time?” asked the Cat.
“Honestly, this is the only time. I’ll pay for it.”
“You certainly will,” answered the Cat. “To start with, you can come in tomorrow on your day off. 8.30. In the morning.
No pay. I’ll have some work for you.”
Enrico was glad to have not lost his job.
The Cat started scribbling something down on a piece of paper.
”Give this to your friend. Tell him to go there at noon. He’ll get something to eat. We don’t give out handouts here. That’s what those soup kitchens are for.
Enrico nodded and said, “Yeah. Sure. I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.”
The Cat looked at Enrico sternly.
“I’ll make sure it doesn’t.”
When Enrico went back into the restaurant the Maltese Cat pulled out his cell phone and made a call.
“I think I have the name you wanted. Enrico Benno. Put it on for tomorrow.”
The next day Enrico showed up early for work. The Maltese Cat was already there.
“That batch of food you made up last night for 40? You can drive it over with William.”
Enrico remembered that they had a large catering order for today. He wasn’t too enthused about making deliveries but he did as he was told.
His colleague, William, drove the minivan over to a poorer part of town. They started to take out trays of lasagna into a building. Inside there was a courtyard set up with long tables and benches. Joel, a big black man who ran the soup kitchen, greeted them. He looked at the assistant chef and said, “You must be Enrico Benno.” Enrico was surprised to have been recognized.
Joel smiled a huge smile and said, “Says so right over there,” as he pointed to a sign. Enrico looked and saw a plaque that said Enrico Benno Soup Kitchen.
Enrico was aghast.
“There must be some mistake.”
Joel answered cheerfully, “Your boss don’t make mistakes.”
The Maltese Cat had the idea of helping out the homeless for a long time. But instead of re-inventing the wheel, he found an existent operation that sorely needed help. And he also decided that he would not shoulder the burden all by himself. Instead, he enlisted the cooperation of six other prominent restaurants in the city to donate food once a week.
So much food was thrown out of restaurants, but there were health regulations that disallowed them to give away leftovers to the homeless. This way the restaurants could help those in need, all within the restraints of the law. Joel saw this as a godsend and wanted to use the Maltese Cat’s name on the operation. The Cat, always avoiding undue publicity, told him he would choose a worthy person for which to name the soup kitchen.
Over the years, Enrico became an undying fan of the Maltese Cat. He also volunteered his time at the soup kitchen.
After all, it bore his name.
The Maltese Cat had applied a very simple principle to Enrico, one that he had learned years ago in his senior year in college. The Cat, while still an undergraduate, had been admitted into a small, select group of graduate students for a course on motion picture production. Their instructor was the head of a major Hollywood studio located in Burbank.
One day, the instructor had posed the question, “How do you get someone to work for you?” The other students offered the standard, glib answers such as, “Pay them well” and “Treat them with respect.” The movie producer simply said,
“No. You make them part of the team.” This idea stuck with the Cat throughout his life and worked out well. Benno was now part of the team and his loyalty and commitment to the soup kitchen were assured.
All of the seven restaurants made sure not to publicize their charity. The soup kitchen rapidly developed a reputation for the fine food they served, which made Joel extremely proud. Each of the restaurants secretly tried to outdo each other. It was a matter of professional pride. It also amused the Cat to no end.
Now, the Maltese Cat, Jimmy, and Tim arrived at the soup kitchen all together in Jimmy’s dilapidated Ford F150 pickup, which he usually used only at the ranch. When they parked, Tim didn’t know what to think. Jimmy smiled.
“Welcome to the Frisco Disco.”
The Cat and Jimmy preferred to use this nickname they invented. The Argentine gauchos often cooked over an open fire with a metal disk with legs to support it. Sometimes at polo events, the Argentine players and grooms used these disks during their asados, or barbecues. They called it a disco. The original Frisco Disco was a discotheque that used to be on Columbus Avenue. Since the name was not used anymore, Jimmy and the Cat dubbed the soup
kitchen the Frisco Disco.
Passing through the entrance and entering the courtyard, Joel smiled as the trio walked in. The Maltese Cat and Jimmy nodded in reply but wanted no extra attention paid to themselves. Tim just looked around in surprise.
“What are we doing here?”
Jimmy answered. “Get ready for one of the best meals of your life.”
In the back, a long table was set up and they were serving bowls of hot soup. The three men got in line, waited their turn, and finally scoopfuls of red soup were ladled into their bowls and a piece of French bread put into their hands.
Tim exclaimed, “Look at that! Cioppino again!”
The long-haired, raggedy man behind them said, “The best damn Cioppino in the City!”
The men sat down on a bench. The raggedy man slid by and said in a conspiratorial tone, “I have it on the most reliable authority that this comes straight from The Maltese Cat Restaurant.”
He patted his index finger on his nose to emphasize the veracity of his statement.
Tim just rolled his eyes in incredulity. As he started to eat, Tim’s countenance suddenly changed.
“Oh, my God! This is incredible.”
Jimmy asked, “Better than last night?”
Tim replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Last night was really great, Cat. But this! Oh, my word! This really is better. Or what do you think?”
Cat smiled. “Absolutely right.”
“Takes a big man to admit that,” chimed in Jimmy between spoonfuls.
Tim agreed. “But how can some homeless shelter like this cook up something so delicious?”
“Time” answered the Cat.
“Huh?” asked Tim.
Jimmy answered, “They can’t.”
“I don’t understand. What’s their secret?”
Jimmy said, “The Cat just told you. Time.”
Tim replied, “You lost me.”
As a professor didactically tolerating a struggling student, the Cat smiled and answered slowly and calmly, “The secret is in the time. Any good tomato sauce needs time for the herbs to react with each other. At the restaurant, we are required by law to make up everything fresh. But fresh is not always the best. A good tomato sauce could take a couple of days to blend properly.”
“And here?” Tim asked, still not understanding.
Jimmy leaned over to Tim. “You’re eating last night’s leftovers.”
Tim was shocked. The Maltese Cat and Jimmy laughed.
Jimmy said, “Not bad for leftovers, eh?”
The Maltese Cat smiled and re-quoted the raggedy man’s claim, “Best damn Cioppino in the City.”
The three men finished off their food without a sound.
Finally, the Maltese Cat spoke. “There is a reason for me choosing this place. Aside from the good food.” He smiled. “Sometimes I come here just to check out the competition.” Jimmy understood even if Tim didn’t. “But today I wanted anonymity. What better place than this? No one would ever overhear us here. Especially the Boys Club. And I wanted to talk to someone who might show up.”
“Ok. Here’s the plan. You don’t share this with anyone, understand?” He looked directly at Tim. Tim nodded affirmatively.
“What does the Boys Club love the most?”
Tim answered, “A Gang Bang?”
“No. Money. And the things that money provides. So this is what we are going to do. First, we take their money away.”
Tim asked, “How can you do that? They are filthy rich.”
“Believe me. There are ways. Then, when they are desperate, we offer them a lifeline.”
Tim was puzzled. “Why would you do that?”
“The lifeline will be drugs. These fellows appear to be of dubious character. It is something they will jump at. And
when they do, they will be caught.”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed Jimmy. “Give them a taste of their own medicine.”
“As a Libertarian, I don’t think that most drug crimes are usually crimes per se. But since they seem to not be able to use drugs responsibly, and in particular, using them to harm others, I think we can arrange for these lads to be caught with an inordinately large amount of drugs in their possession. I know that the city’s DA is especially adamant about cracking down on drug trafficking. That should put the boys in prison for a long time.”
“Long enough for them to enjoy the same treatment as they afforded Svetlana.”
“Most likely. They are such handsome boys.”
“I suppose if they didn’t pay for the drugs, their supplier wouldn’t be pleased either.”
“An additional benefit.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
After they had finished eating, the Cat excused himself from his two friends. He had noticed a man who had come in and sat alone in a corner. The Cat approached the impoverished man, exchanged a few words with him, and then he pulled out his cell phone and typed in some information as the impoverished man spoke. They parted within one minute. The Cat returned to his friends and the three left together. Cat made sure to nod to Joel, who smiled broadly in exchange.