BY MILES WHITE
Copyright is held by the author.
SHE HAS done this every year for five years, and for five years I have sat through it because I have had little choice unless I want to find another place to live. I sit here as these puffed up people in their tuxedoes and gowns gobble up food like they don’t have any at home. I watch these people. I know them well. They are privileged, all of them, and most of them have not worked hard to get what they have. She invites them here to smugly celebrate what she herself has not worked at all to have. Not that I am complaining—I have worked less than she and have everything she has. Most of the time I am quite satisfied with things. What I am not getting tonight is enough to eat. I never get enough to eat at these things, but I’ll get to that.
As corpulent as she is, Mrs. Cheney is always the first to arrive, afraid she will miss the champagne and hors d’oeuvres. She drags that worthless husband of hers everywhere she goes and is always yelling at him. For as much as she obviously adores cooked food, he is a skeleton; he reminds me of Jack Spratt, and she more than fulfills her role. The chair creaks when she dumps her truckload onto it and starts roaming around for the gravy boat. Old Mr. Bernstein is sitting next to her and he hates it because he can’t raise his arm enough to cut his meat what with her elbow practically mashing his dinner rolls. Bernstein’s wife left him last year after she found out about him and the upstairs maid—a dirty little tryst that landed them all in the gossip pages. Isabelle considered not inviting him when it happened but then that would have made the scandal sheets too, so she moved him from the front of the table next to her and sat him next to Mrs. Cheney; he came anyway to save face but he had quite a time getting a second helping of beef Wellington tonight. Everybody is just ignoring him and he eats in a dark, bitter silence.
Dr. Branson and Mrs. Ellington are not fooling anybody. They have been screwing each other for years and everybody at the table knows it but the two of them actually think they’re getting away with it. They sit across from each other and have the nerve to play footsies under the table because nobody can see them, which does not take me into account. I want to throw up in the Bouillabaisse the way they pass the salt back and forth so they can stroke each other’s hands across the table. I cannot believe Isabelle does not sit one of them in the other room just so people can finish the soup course without rolling their eyes. I can’t stand the sight of either of them, and the same goes for Cornwell, who starts staring down Isabelle’s boobs as soon as she sits down to the table. If he paid more attention to his Waldorf and less to her cleavage he would get less mayonnaise stains on his bow tie. By the time the chocolate quince arrives he is wearing the meal around his neck, which brings me back to the food. Nobody asks me if I enjoyed my meal because I am denied rich food, yet they expect me to watch them in silence, hoping for the tiniest morsel or crumb to pass to me. Well, this year I decided I have had enough. Why should they stuff their gullets while I go hungry? Eggbert imagines he is doing me a favour holding out his greasy fingers as if he thinks I might enjoy licking them. I don’t know what he takes me for, but I find it a humiliating gesture that this year he can stick right up his Piccadilly Circus arse.
“Yow! What in the damned hell, man! Isabelle, your bitch just bit me! Why don’t you have the courtesy to feed this ravenous beast before inviting us to your home to dine with you? She drew blood, for Christ’s sake! Look at this, the scoundrel! This is an outrage! I intend to sue!”
Isabelle turns a cold eye down to me. I just give her that innocent head tilt and stick out my tongue like, what? God bless her, she can’t stay mad with me for long and calls me into the kitchen. I hope she’s going to cut me off some Wellington. I’ve never been a fan of fish soup.