Copyright 2000 W. Bruce Cameron
In case you were wondering, here's what happens when we have the neighbors over for dinner.
I guess I should note that people normally find reasons to turn down invitations from us. They feel awkward when they arrive and are frantically asked to remain on the front stoop for half an hour because the house is "not ready." If I'm the one cooking, many of them get headaches from the constant shriek of the smoke alarms. When my wife is at the stove and I'm the one "entertaining," most guests seem somewhat uncomfortable with my habit of making up facts to support my arguments. Worse, it seems that I am invariably pulled into a conversation about work, a topic I loathe.
Tonight's guests have just moved into the neighborhood, which explains why they accepted our invitation. At dinner, my dog thrusts its head into their laps and moans for scraps -- it'd be cute if it weren't for all the slobber. My son tries to make polite conversation by expressing regrets for dropping the meat on the floor before it was cooked. Halfway through the meal, my oldest daughter bursts through the front door like the lead member of a SWAT team, apologizing for being late by explaining that we must have started dinner early which is really rude, and whose car is that in the driveway it's parked so I was practically FORCED to hit it but the dent isn't that bad.
Unschooled in the art of polite social discourse, my wife explains that we didn't have any hors d'oeuvres because her husband is an idiot. "He comes home with beef jerky and a bowl of whipped cream!" she hoots, ignoring my scowl.
Now, look: I knew that no one would want to dip the beef jerky in the whipped cream. What happened was that I went to the store and could not locate a section entitled "Hors d'oeuvres." During my wandering, I found the frozen tubs of whipped topping, and was struck with the (rather romantic) notion that we would sit around dipping strawberries in it, sipping champagne and speaking with British accents. However, the closest I could come to strawberries was canned asparagus. Then I ran into a woman who looked an awful lot like Heather Locklear standing behind a display of beef jerky, giving out samples. During the course of chatting with her for an hour or two, I picked up eight packets of jerky, which meant I had to set the asparagus down.
When I explain this to my guests, they are careful not to reveal what must be considerable revulsion at the way my wife has mischaracterized the entire incident as somehow reflecting negatively upon my intelligence.
Dessert consists of my wife shrieking "omigosh I forgot the brownies!" and pulling out a pan of smoking charcoal. Suddenly everyone seems glad that I thought to bring home the whipped topping. It tastes like we're eating the inside of the fireplace.
When we've finished crunching our way through the brownies, my children each declare "it isn't my night to do dishes" and bolt from the room, though later my son returns to put on a "magic" show for our guests. The very first act begins with him dropping to his knees to try to find his pet mouse, who apparently hasn't yet learned the trick very well. When the little rodent later pops out between the seat cushions of the couch on which our friends are sitting, there's a considerable amount of leaping around.
Our guests were thoughtful enough to bring over a bottle of wine, which I cradle like a newborn, doling out miserly portions to the rest of them when they insist. I'm feeling sufficiently wonderful to invite our new neighbors to take a vacation trip with us, and am pleased when they gasp out loud in gratitude. "Oh NO!" the wife cries, so overjoyed her eyes tear up.
Though it seems early, they suddenly have to leave; apparently their cat has been feeling a bit under the weather and they need to go check on it. "We'll do this again sometime -- real soon!" I promise.
They're so grateful they're speechless.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2000
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