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October 03, 2022

Dinner with Henry 4: The Illusion

By Bruce Memblatt

The black eyes popped up and down. She buzzed, lowering her head toward Diego. "I don't smoke. I am a bug you femme fatale."

"Your eyes are black like the night," Diego said and then she turned and pulled a strand of hay off the floor.

"I'm not joking, Diego. Henry is too good for you."

"But your eyes are black. I wasn't joking."

Her head suddenly darted back and forth. "My son thinks he's in love with you."

"I am in love with the inspector. Where do you get your hair done?" Diego said, following Clarissa's head with her eyes.

"Stay away from him, or I'll can the lot of you."

"You have an immense loft. It must cost you a fortune."

"Humph." She lifted her tentacle high and brought it down behind Diego and swept her out of the loft.


Henry and Andre were rushing out of the kitchen to search for Diego when they knocked into her as she was making her way through the door. Diego was uncharacteristically out of breath. Henry started to cry when he saw her marching and he said, as he removed his hand from her chest, "Diego we were so worried, where were you?"

"Where was I?" She said looking off in to the distance.

"Yes, Diego where were you? Henry and I were worried sick! My heart was beating like a timpani and poor Henry was inconsolable. Such grief!" Andre said resting his hand on Henry's shoulder.

"I was out looking," she said looking off in the distance even further.

"Looking for what, Diego?" Henry said, his eyes bulging.

"I don't remember. Do you have a fork?"

"Gee, I wonder if we have one of those around here." Shakespeare said as he popped up from the back of the kitchen.

"Shakespeare, be quiet. Can't you see Diego is trying to say something? You are trying to say something aren't you, Diego?" Andre said, pointing his right hand with his index finger extended in front of his nose.

"I am moving," Diego breathed and she marched to the back of the kitchen, taking a yogurt out of her pocket.

"What, what do mean moving?" Henry called.

"I think she meant she's leaving, Henry. Of course she could have meant she's going to the back of the kitchen. Say, Diego, when you say you're moving is that present, or future tense?" Shakespeare smiled as he grabbed a broom.

"You're not so funny today, Shakespeare! Henry is..."

"Henry is what, Andre?" Henry said staring at Andre.

"I'm sorry he knows, Henry. He knows -- I have such a big mouth! But listen, Henry Shakespeare is your friend! He should know about your passion! "

"My passion is leaving, Andre."

"Wait, not so fast, let's ask her what she meant .Maybe Shakespeare was right!" Andre said grabbing Henry's arm and pulling him back to the kitchen. Shakespeare followed.

"Um, Diego when you say you're moving what do you mean exactly?"

"What do you think I mean, Andre?" She said, scooping some yogurt into her mouth.

"Let's try that again, "Shakespeare chimed," Are you looking for an apartment?"

"Well I can't live in a box, can I? Do you like my hair?" Diego said looking at the door.

"Why? Diego, why? Don't move -- we need you here," Henry sighed.

"Yes, Diego you are the soul of the kitchen! Without you there is no ...no ...art!" Andre said waving his hands in the air.

"Art?" Shakespeare said looking cross-eyed.

"Never mind, Shakespeare! This is terrible. It is a tragedy, oh misery thy name love."

"Who said that?"

"I don't know, I was a winging it," Andre whispered, "but, Diego please, you can't move. We will be lost without you. I am so concerned for you, Diego. This decision comes out of nowhere. It's not good to make snap decisions. You must think, Diego. Think! Say something, Henry!" Andre was so excited he couldn't control his hands as they waved in circles.

"What can I say, all is lost," Henry said, looking toward the floor as walked to the front of the kitchen.


Simpson had just finished making a call in his office. As he left for the kitchen, he noticed Clarissa's door was open. He slowly crept down the hall to her loft, looking back sporadically to see if anyone was watching. When he reached the door he cautiously peered in and he noticed Diego's bag was lying on top of a pile of hay. Seeing her bag, his eyes darted up and a look of confusion spread across his face. Without hesitation, he tiptoed into the loft and grabbed it, and then he scurried down the hall to the kitchen.

When Simpson entered the kitchen he saw Henry standing by the sink in the back of the kitchen wearily washing the dishes, and Diego marching back and forth near the freezer. As he was about to speak Shakespeare popped up and said, "Don't tell us, you have an announcement."

"Very clever, Shakespeare."

"I have announcement. Everybody please ...where is Sincere?"

"She's at the dentist."

Simpson rolled his eyes, "Um I see." He cleared his throat. "Due to the raves this kitchen received upon its last inspection. I'm sure you all remember that?" He said moving his eyes up, "we are having the kitchen painted. The painter will be here early tomorrow morning. I want everyone to please cooperate with him. Do whatever he says; just let the man paint, please. That is all."

"Will it be blue? I love blue," Diego said, staring at the ceiling.

"I'm afraid it will be just plain old kitchen white, Diego. Could I speak to you for a moment?"

"Go ahead speak, I am moving."

"What do you mean?"

"She said she's moving." Shakespeare snapped.

"Oh not again, Shakespeare! This is too much! Mr. Simpson, Diego said she is leaving us. It is just too much. Imagine the kitchen without Diego? It's unthinkable! "

"Diego, please can I speak to you for a moment," Simpson said as he walked towards Diego.

They huddled in the corner in the back of the kitchen near the sink. "Diego," he whispered "I found your purse in the loft. How did it get in the loft?"

"I was having tea with Clarissa."

"Diego, what is going on? Why are you leaving?"

"I need air, and my hair gets so frazzled here. Do you know where Brooklyn is?"

"Henry, I wonder what they're talking about. Oh I wish I could hear. This is maddening it reminds me of the movie Rear Window. We are like Jimmy Stewart watching and guessing what is going to happen next. I don't want to know what's going to happen next! It's such a sad day for the kitchen. I have an idea! To brighten things up! Things need brightening! Why don't you and Shakespeare come to my room after work? We'll play cards. I'll make dip! Dip, Henry! Please!"

"Andre it's not a good time."

"Henry when is it a good time? Please! Pleseseeeeeeeeeeeee!

I will make dip and some coffee for you to sip!
Sip sip sip! Don't be a drip!

"All right I'll come, but no singing."

"I promise, Henry, not a note! You'll come right, Shakespeare?"

"Yup, but no one better make a pass at me."

"Ha you're so funny, little Shakespeare."

"Watch it."


That evening Henry was in his room preparing for Andre's soiree while he stared at the picture of Diego on his wall, and thought about his life in a large sense. He wondered about what brought him to where he was now and the roads he chose, and the roads he didn't, as he scratched his thorax. He remembered a girl he dated in high school named Lucy and how she laughed the first time he showed her his wing. And how he got mad and stormed out of the cafeteria, but how they made up the next day. If Diego left there would be no next day. Then a tear fell from his eye and he pulled up his sweatshirt.


Henry walked down the hall stoically. He thought he could hear Diego's voice in the distance. He sighed and marched down the hall, he thought just like Diego would. When Henry entered Andre's room he heard laughing and the sound of the TV. "Ah Henry you're here, it's so good to see you!"Andre said waving Henry in.

"Hello, Andre, hi, Shakespeare ..."

"Hey sad sack," Shakespeare said from the couch, holding a bottle of Schlitz in his hand.

"Andre, I'm afraid I'm not going to be good company."

"Oh, Henry don't be silly. We like you as you are! "Andre said as he sat Henry down on the couch.

"Yeah we thrive on misery -- if you don't believe me, listen to what Andre has on the TV."

"Misery? This is Julie and Julia! The best movie ever made. Julia Child was a pioneer, a pioneer! And she wrote a cook book. Oh look, this is the part where Julie burns the boeuf bourguignon!"

"It's okay Julia will drink it." Shakespeare giggled

"Now, Shakespeare! What's wrong with a little wine! Wine is the fruit of life! Oh, I love how she scrunches her nose up like a ferret. She's captivating! Captivating. Henry, do you like Julia?"

"She reminds me of my mother."

"How is that, Henry?"

"Her zest for life."

"I see ..."

"Are we gonna play cards, or are we gonna cook a bordelaise?" Shakespeare snickered.

"Henry, do you want to play cards now?" Andre said as pointed to the bridge table near the wall. There were two bowls of dip on the table, a bag of chips and a deck of cards.

"Sure. Might as well, maybe my luck will be better in cards than it is in life."

"Luck is what you make it, Henry." Andre said as they sat down at the table.

"Who said that?"

"Shakespeare, would you cut the deck?"

Shakespeare held the cards in his hands and he flipped and shuffled them just like he was Nick The Greek."

"Looks like you have played little cards before, Shakespeare!"Andre snickered.

"Eh I know my way around a table. Not bad for a blind midget, eh?"

"That is what I like about you Shakespeare! You're so resourceful! We could all take a lesson from you! Couldn't we, Henry?"

"I am out of recourses, my heart lies bleeding on the floor, like someone took a shoe and stomped on it."

"Oh Henry, we will think of something. I know we will! We're smart! But I think there's only one thing you can do, Henry. You must tell Diego how you feel. Now listen to me, Henry. It may be the only way to stop her from leaving. I know about love, Henry. I could write a book! But I think Voltaire said it best when he said 'Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.' Henry you must use your imagination!"


"Use your imagination, use your imagination, use your imagination" Henry heard Andre's voice echoing in his dreams; he even heard the billowing strings of a harp like an old movie under his words. Suddenly he woke up and he walked to the window. Diego's window was only one flight up. He would seize the moment, he knew Andre would smile. He pulled on his sweatshirt and he picked up the transistor radio off the bed, and he opened the window. Then he sat on the fire escape and jiggled with the radio until he found the station that played Sinatra that he loved. It was perfect: they were playing "Strangers in the Night." He giggled then he turned up the volume and he threw a stick at Diego's window. Almost immediately her window opened. He could see her face in the moonlight. Then he heard her voice. "Who is throwing sticks at my window?"

"Mi Amore, it is Henry."

"Me who?"

"It's me, Henry!"

"But who is throwing sticks at my window?"

"I love you, Diego."

"I know, but who is throwing sticks?"

"Diego, how do you know?"

"You mother told me when I had tea with her this afternoon. Do you like tea?"

"She told you?"

"Yes, she warned me to stay away from you, Henry."

"I am going to kill her!"

"She's kind of large, Henry, Oh I love that song, 'Strangers in the Night.' I love you too, Henry."

"You do? " His wing fluttered.

"Yes, I do."

Henry flew up the steps of the fire escape to Diego's window.

"I can't believe my ears, and you're so lucid tonight, Diego."

"Love makes me lucid, but I still don't know who was throwing the sticks."

"What will we do, Diego? Our love is in danger. " He said as he held her hand.

"I have a plan, Henry ..."

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-04-19
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