Tulane enjoyed drinking sparkling wine. For the past twenty years, since she acquired the fortune her deceased grandfather made in the bagged salad business, she had drank quite a bit of it. She usually went out on the veranda of the Plaza Hotel to sip sparkling wine and enjoy a small tossed salad with a light vinegarette dressing. On Thursdays she had the Caesar's salad, but this was Friday.
"I think I'd like to try a different salad dressing today."
Marshall DuLac had been a waiter at the Plaza Hotel since 1967 and he was the consummate professional aside from the fact that he regularly placed three or four rolled socks in his pants so that some of the wealthy and athletic men who frequented the Plaza Hotel might think he was well endowed. He was also Tulane's regular server and served her with pride. She never varied from her regular ordering procedures and except for Caesar Salad Thursdays she always ordered the same as usual.
"Ma'am? A different salad dressing?"
"How is your Russian?"
"Gosh, Ms. Tulane, that is kind of a personal question... I mean Vlad and I haven't seen each other since '97..."
"I meant your Russian dressing."
Red with embarassment, Marshall DuLac told her that the Russian dressing was very popular with some of the Plaza's customers and that he felt comfortable recommending it wholeheartedly. She smiled and told him to bring a salad with Russian dressing and a glass of sparkling wine.
The sparkling wine arrived at the table within thirty seconds and replaced the empty glass that had arrived full immediately after Tulane's arrival. She sipped it gently and picked up the mail she had retrieved from her office that morning. None of it was very stimulating, and she was still at a loss to explain why she was a subscriber to Vanity Fair.
The salad arrived, with a perfect dose of dressing laced over the surface and a cup of extra dressing on the side. Tulane smiled at Marshall DuLac and unfolded her cloth napkin and placed it on her lap. Placing her mail on the empty chair to her left, Tulane tucked her fork into her salad.
The first bite was tasty, and the Russian dressing was unlike anything she had tasted since her childhood. Her Uncle Tommy, who lived in a wooden shack in West Virginia, often came by the house with a knapsack full of stories and a big bottle of Russian dressing. He poured it on everything, from salad to crackers and steak. He considered it to be the nectar of the gods. Uncle Tommy had taught Tulane to enjoy the Russian dressing and it formed a bond between them. Then Tommy had been shot for robbing a liquor store with a butter knife and was buried without a funeral. Two months later Tulane inherited her grandfather's fortune. Tommy had never even been in the will.
Tulane finished her salad, choked down the last of her sparkling wine, and left two crisp hundred dollar bills on the table for Marshall DuLac. She left the restaurant in a hurry, her eyes welling up with tears, and raced to catch a cab. There was still time to catch a flight to Pittsburgh and drive to West Virginia to see Uncle Tommy's grave before nightfall.