Andi struggled to understand what Oskar was saying. How on earth, she wondered, could people be afraid of working, how could people not want to see things they attempted succeed? There was, she would reluctantly admit, always a possibility of failure (for other people whispered a small voice in the back of her mind, but never for her), but surely that added to the thrill of success? Wasn't knowing that you could fail, even if you never did, a thrill in its own regard?
"Andi-- look, Andi, let's order. I'm sorry I have to tell you this, I was hoping that... that..." Dr. Crepidarian trailed off, and finally, reduced to silence while Andi sat immersed in her thoughts, he sat at the table and picked the menu up. Leafing past the appetizers, none of which seemed tempting any more, he encountered the soups chapter where the soups were neatly alphabetized by principle ingredient.
"People don't want to work? They don't want responsibility? Have we become a society of cowards?" Andi said.
"I don't think it's quite like that."
"It must be something like that, Oskar. Have you offered them more money?"
"We've tried." Oskar found himself stranded in the P section of the soups, which seemed never-ending. Was there nothing that couldn't be combined with potato? "The good workers though, the ones who are competent and whose loyalty we should have earned years ago, they're the ones who are adamant that they don't care for money."
"Is there nothing else we could bribe them with?"
"Oh pish, Oskar. This is business, not the dining room," she said apparently oblivious to where she was, "whatever language you dress it up in, it remains a bribe. Can we not find better schools for their children, better clothes for their wives, better mistresses for their leisure time?"
"Your brother," said Oskar reluctantly, "has, I believe, made investigations in that regard--"
"You mean he's taken it upon himself to test-drive each potential mistress?" Andi arched an eyebrow and Oskar was again reminded that the girl he could remember coming in from the garden with a skinned knee and torn shorts had unaccountably become a woman when he wasn't looking. "James is surely the best man to ask about bribes though; has he had no ideas?"
"He suggested taking hostages." Oskar, despairing now of ever finding an end to the soups passed the menu over to Andi and resolved to try the Potage de pommes de terre au paisenne irlandois whatever it may prove to be.
"And?" Andi laid the menu down on the table without looking through it; she dined here regularly enough that Mondegreen's would cook whatever she asked for.
"We told him no, of course. Desperate men do what is necessary, not what needs to be done. And it's a very short term solution."
Andi nodded and rang the bell to summon the waiter. A door opened and he appeared, a white towel draped over one arm and his pad already waiting in his other hand. "I shall have scallops," said Andi. "Gratinéed, with something green and acidly dressed on the side. Have the chef use his judgement." The waiter took Dr. Crepidarian's order, suggested a wine which Andi accepted with a toss of her head, and disappeared again.
"Really?" she said.
"Yes, and hostages are expensive to look after--"
"No Oskar, I meant your order. Potato soup in the irish peasant style?"
"Is that what that meant? I'm afraid my languages at school were classical, not modern."
"Ah. Then it may interest you to know that you've ordered a potato soup made with potatoes and potato stock, with lots of extra potatoes, potato garnish, and raw potato grated on top. I do admire your fortitude, Oskar."