Fred and his flock entered Sushi 57 with a rare fervor. The restaurant had announced its new "all you can eat" special, which permitted unlimited sushi under three conditions:
Only one order per person at a time.
No one can order more until all the current food is gone.
You must pay full for all uneaten food.
Sushi 57 was the finest Japanese cuisine in the city, and at only seventeen dollars this seemed like an ideal way to celebrate Fred's recent promotion. The restaurant's reputation was sufficiently stellar that even Kevin showed, though he was the runner up for Fred's new position.
"I'm happy for you, man," he said to Fred, with a friendly back slap. "And either way, nothing like sushi to heal disappointment!"
The two men laughed disproportionately to the statement's humor, though Kevin laughed louder. They both stopped laughing at the same time.
The waiter handed the special menus to the seven co-workers.
"Start with something light," advised Amy without prompting, "and build from there." Amy had a Korean brother-in-law, and was therefore the cultural expert of the evening.
Fred had no intention of following her advice. His promotion, his rules. He turned the menu over and noticed a $2,500 dish described only in Japanese, sans picture. A pride filled him, that rare and obnoxious pride that comes from the discovery of a loophole.
"I'll have this," said Fred, pointing to the item. The waiter looked puzzled.
"My apologies, sir. That is there by mistake."
"Excuse me," said Fred "I believe the deal was that for $17, we can have anything on this menu. A deal's a deal."
The waiter left to consult the manager. He returned a minute later in a flustered state. "Forgive me. I will get this to you as soon as possible." The waiter gathered the other orders then left for the back. The conversation turned to Fred's promotion, prompted subtly by Fred. "So... I got promoted."
Everyone had arrived hungry because the reservation was for 9:30, and before long that hunger slipped from discomfort to pain. Low blood sugar swung the table's dominant tone from celebratory to hostile.
Never one to let social cues dictate her behavior, Amy treated the group to a most compelling cultural explanation of the "conquest bamboo" in the corner, whose eighteen notches each corresponded to a great victory in war.
Kevin doubted the veracity of Amy's claims, but also noticed a robust positive correlation between her verbiage and Fred's irritation. Naturally, Kevin did his best to encourage further explanation.
"And the ribbon tied to the top of the bamboo, what does that represent?"
At that moment, the waiter returned bearing sushi. Each plate held two pieces of precisely cut fish on pads of rice. Only Fred remained un-served.
The waiter returned to the back, and then emerged from the curtains with an enormous bowl, almost a foot and a half in radius alone. Fred watched in triumph.
With great caution, the waiter placed the bowl onto the table. Fred looked inside, and his expression of pride slipped to one of confusion.
"What is this?"
Inside sat a viscous white substance, gallons and gallons of it. Amy looked inside as well. Kevin looked ecstatic.
"It's a Japanese delicacy. Or rather, it is an Americanization of a Japanese delicacy."
Fred stared at the goop, which then emitted a bubble. "What does that mean?"
Amy was delighted that another human being had showed interest in her interest.
"It's mayonnaise. Pure mayonnaise."
The table was silent.
"Well, it's Americanized," explained Amy.
"What does that even mean?" Fred said, unable to even look at the mass.
"They modified the recipe for American palates. In Japan, it's smaller. It's a little dollop."
Amy mimed a dollop with her fingers, even though the gesture added nothing to the table's comprehension of her statement.
"And in Japan, it's not mayonnaise. It's just a little piece of pickled turnip. Isn't that fascinating?"
Fred admittedly found his cultural curiosity to be in even shorter supply than before. By now, only his bowl held food. Everyone else had taken Amy's advice to start small, and was now waiting for Fred to finish so they could begin round two.
With a wide smile and confidence that suggested panic, Fred summoned the waiter.
"I'm sending this back."
"I'm sorry, sir. You ordered it already."
"This is not what I thought it would be. It's disgusting."
Kevin kindly pointed out an additional complication.
"Fred, remember that if you don't finish that, you have to pay the full cost."
Fred looked the ocean of mayonnaise before him.
"All $2500," said Kevin helpfully.
"I'm sending this back," Fred repeated.
"I'm sorry sir. That's not our policy," the waiter replied.
Ever chipper, Kevin had yet another contribution. "We need you to finish that before we can order mor-"
"THANK YOU, KEVIN."
Fred tried to decide which option would preserve the most dignity: admitting that he had made a mistake, or consuming a tub of mayonnaise. The choice was clear.
Fred picked up a straw.
Two hours later, Fred continued to suck in agony. The bowl was not even half-finished. Most had left in frustration; until Fred finished, they couldn't order more than the small samples of round one, but more sushi was not worth the wait or the unpleasant slurping.
Only Kevin and Amy remained. Kevin stayed "for support." Amy stayed to share sushi trivia (arguably more grating to Fred than the mayonnaise itself).
Fred sucked and sucked and sucked, all whilst locking eyes with the waiter. "He won't make a fool of me," he thought.
Fred suddenly stopped sucking. He paused, swayed, and then drooped his head into the bowl in cholesterol-induced coma.
"I'll add the mayonnaise to the bill then," said the waiter.
After paying, Amy and Kevin proceeded to carry Fred to the parking lot, a challenge given that the mayonnaise had already been converted to fifteen new pounds of fat. As they cleared the doorway, Kevin turned and flashed a thumb's up to the waiter.
"We're definitely coming back here someday," he mouthed. It had been a day of both great disappointment and great enjoyment, though the latter's intensity had won out on net, by far. By far.
The manager closed the restaurant for the night, and turned around to enormous laughter. The entire staff was staying late to mock Fred and mime his horrified expressions.
As per tradition, out came the head chef with an enormous knife. The waiter retrieved the conquest bamboo, and one motion later another slit joined the eighteen existing to commemorate mayonnaise buffoons from years past. The waiter returned the bamboo to the corner, swelling with sadistic fondness.
"I love this job."