School of Sarsaparilla & Dream Figs

He waved his hands as if whisking invisible eggs into the air. His movements mesmerized the two young women seated across the table, so the noise of Panera Cafe became soothing background static of clattered dishes and colliding conversation.

He spoke to the women in a laughing, lilting British accent with the calming rhythm of a beach ball coming down a flight of carpeted stairs. They would have fallen asleep right there on the table if he hadn’t required an occasional answer to a question.

“So what attracts you to the School of Sarsaparilla & Dream Figs?”

One woman answered, “I appreciate the greenery of your gardens.”

His eyes lit up with excitement and pride, and she knew she’d said the right thing. She was one step closer to entering the rarest academic institution in the world.

“Well done, well done,” he said. “Now, tell me, what is best to give a Wild Elm Daddy suffering from a sore tummy: caramelized onion or browned butter?”

She hesitated, finally answering, “The butter, sir.”

He lowered his eyes, “I’m sorry. Have a safe drive home.”

The other woman secretly smiled, for one less competitor meant the odds were now in her favor.