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June 10, 2024

Dinner With Henry 13: The Day Off

By Bruce Memblatt

There was a sense of something unusual in the air. Andre could feel it when he stepped into the kitchen that morning. As Henry rubbed his eyes and stretched his wing, he could feel it too. Diego rolled over and reached for a stick of gum. Henry looked at her for a moment and wondered what she meant when she told him last night that something wasn't right about how his mother so easily agreed to hold the wedding in the loft. He shrugged the thought off as he stepped into the shower. They would need to get a bigger place soon. A lot of changes lay ahead. Shakespeare was pulling his t-shirt over his head, counting numbers in his mind, about to open his door, when he heard shouting from the kitchen.

"Andre, I'm sorry but the kitchen will remain closed today." Simpson shouted. He slammed the kitchen door behind him and hurriedly stepped to his office.

"But you don't understand I am a creature of habit, I will be lost if the kitchen is closed today!"Andre hollered as the door slammed in front of him. Just then Shakespeare was coming down the hall.

"What's going on, Florence Nightingale?" Shakespeare half snapped and half yawned.

"The kitchen! He's closing the kitchen today, because She has a tummy ache! I can't believe it -- the kitchen has never been closed! What will I do all day? I am a chef, a chef cooks!"

"So what's the problem, Chubblechunks? We'll all get a day off!" Shakespeare said, smiling and raising his hands in the air.

"You are not listening to me! I am not being listened to. I am a creature of habit. I am a chef. I will be lost adrift all day if I don't have my routine! I must cook! Can I make you something?"

"Hmmm maybe you ought to make yourself a straightjacket."

"Very funny, Shakespeare, this isn't funny!"

Henry and Diego were making their way down the hall when they saw the commotion. Henry remembered that he felt something unusual in the air that morning and thought this must be it. As they approached the kitchen Andre was kneeling on the floor and Shakespeare was giggling.

Diego whispered to Henry. "The little one is taunting him again."

"That's just their way," Henry whispered back to Diego.

Andre spotted Henry and Diego and he cried. "Henry, oh, Henry, you will not believe what is going on here today. Hello, Diego."

"I probably will, what is it?" Henry said, still feeling a morning grog in his throat.

Diego giggled. "Oh, you're so funny, Henry."

Shakespeare jumped back and said. "Yeah he's a regular Henny Youngman .Since when do you giggle? I've never heard you giggle before, Diego."

"Oh quiet, "Andre said as he stood up off the floor. "It's love, you booby brain."

"Booby brain? You really do need to get into that kitchen." Shakespeare said, sighing.

"Oh never mind, Henry, Simpson closed the kitchen today because your mother has a tummy ache. And I am lost, Henry, without my routine what will I do, Henry!"

"My mother has a tummy ache? Why didn't anyone tell me?" Henry said and he pointed at Andre.

"I didn't know bugs could get tummy aches!" Shakespeare snapped.

"Why not? They have tummies!" Diego snapped back at Shakespeare.

"Hmm why is she so talkative today?" Shakespeare shrugged.

"Never mind, what am I going to do?

"Without a pot without a spoon
Without something burning on the stove
I can't come up with a tune.
Without an egg without butter
Without something waiting in a bowl
All I do is just mutter."

"You always mutter." Shakespeare snickered.

"Andre, we will find something to do!" Henry said, his eyes wide.

"What, Henry? What can we do!"

"Macy's." Diego said wistfully, "why don't we go to Macy's ... I could use some new stuff for our kitchen, Henry."

"Kitchen, oh that word, "Andre said holding his hands over his head. "They have kitchen stuff at Macy's?" He sighed longingly.

When they stepped on the platform of the Delancey street subway station, a rat raced under Andre's feet. "Oh just doesn't it figure, a rat, a big black rat would run right beneath my shoe today. I hate the subway. I hate New York!"

Henry nudged Andre and said. "Shush, there's a cop over there staring at you."

"Good let him stare. Is it illegal to hate New York?" Andre hollered and then he hollered louder. "IS IT ILLEGAL TO HATE NEW YORK?"

The cop walked over and said. "No, but it's illegal to disturb the peace. Do you have a problem, buddy?"

"Oh no, officer I am just having a bad day because my boss closed the kitchen I work in down today because his mother has a tummy ache." Andre said, pointing at Henry.

"Listen, pal if you don't keep it down I'll find a nice kitchen for you to work in on Rikers Island." The officer turned and walked away.

"Oh do not worry, officer I will be quiet as a mouse, I mean ..."

Henry said, annoyed, "Why were you pointing at me, Andre?"

"Well, it is your mother's fault."

"Henry, the train is coming." Diego breathed, pointing down the tunnel.

"Oh this is gonna be fun, I can tell." Shakespeare shrugged as Andre pulled him on the train.

While the train roared up Sixth Avenue towards Thirty-Fourth Street and Macy's, Andre and Henry sat across from each other, trying not to look at one another. Diego sat next to Henry. She whispered in his ear that she forgot to take her gum and that she thought the little one might be right today. Shakespeare hung onto a pole in the center of the car between Henry and Andre saying something about how a blind midget ought to get a seat. The short ride to Macy's nearly turned ugly when a lady with a shopping cart ran over Andre's toe; fortunately he was wearing his steel toe shoes that day.

As they entered Macy's, Andre held on to Shakespeare's hand while Henry and Diego followed closely behind. They stood in the lobby staring at rows and rows and rows of clothing and jewelry and elevators and escalators and mirrors when a woman in a pink dress sprayed Shakespeare with cologne. Shakespeare began sneezing uncontrollably and Andre said, "They should close Macy's down because Shakespeare is sneezing!"

Henry looked and Andre and sighed.

"They ought to close you down." Shakespeare snickered.

"I think the kitchen stuff is upstairs." Diego breathed, staring at a mirror.

"Where upstairs? There are millions of upstairs here. We will never find it. Look, there are thirty-two elevators over there and fifteen escalators, and look at all the people! Is there a sale! Is it Christmas? Why aren't these people working? Did everyone get a tummy ache today?" Andre said waving his hands every which way in the air.

"Oh, calm down, there's a map right over there."

"Suddenly we need maps? Where are we -- on the prairies?"

Diego pointed to the map and curtly said. "Here it is: Housewares -- Fifth Floor."

"Thank you, honey," Henry said and he guided her on to the escalator next to the map.

Andre saw them and shouted. "Why aren't they waiting for us? Wait for us!"

He grabbed Shakespeare's hand and pulled him on the escalator.

As they stepped off the elevator on to the fifth floor, before them, rows of dishes and casseroles and crystal bowls, pots and pans, silverware, microwaves and other small appliances lined the shelves.

"Oh my god, it is beautiful, just beautiful! It is like heaven! Look at those spoons! I want to get a new spoon! Oh, Macy's is a wonderful place. Why don't we come here more often?"

"The big one acts like he's never seen a dish," Diego said snapping her gum.

"The big one? The big one? Listen, Diego, I would be seeing plenty of dishes today if it weren't for his mother." Andre said, pointing at Henry.

"Um, you better calm down -- I heard his wing stiffen." Shakespeare said while he tugged on Andre's leg.

"So what -- it stiffened? What is he going to do, eat me? Go ahead, Henry, eat me! What do I care, I am a chef without a kitchen!"

"C'mon, Diego" Henry said and he grabbed her hand and they walked down an aisle lined with cutlery and bric-a-brac.

'Why aren't you saying anything to him, Henry?" Diego said picking up an ashtray from a shelf, looking at it longingly. "Ah the days of tobacco and ecstasy..."


"Never mind, it was a long time ago." Diego hushed.

"I don't have to say anything to Andre; as usual he will make a big fuss, and then he will profusely apologize."

Diego put the ashtray down on the shelf . "You are so wise, Henry," she said as she stuck her gum under the ashtray.

In the meanwhile at another shelf:

"Oh, look at these crystal bowls! I've always wanted a crystal bowl like this one. Should I get one, Shakespeare? Oh I should get one! I could put it on the shelf over the stove. Oh, and every day you could polish it."

"Gee, I wonder why Henry wants to punch you in the mouth."

Andre started to say, "Listen, you little flea. I am a ..."

"I know, you are a chef without a kitchen and a brain." Shakespeare cackled.

"You think you are so funny, Shakespeare? I should take this crystal bowl and ..." The bowl fell out of Andre's hands and crashed across the floor. Andre jumped and his face froze.

"I guess you bought yourself a crystal bowl. Would you like me to start polishing it now?" Shakespeare said, holding his hand out toward Andre, and feigning a bow.

Henry and Diego ran over. Henry held his hands over his head and he shouted. "We can't even take you to Macy's, you buffoon!"

"Now you're talking." Diego said, raising her arm in a cheering motion.

"Ah, I see she is a good influence on you, Henry. Why am I a buffoon? Because I accidentally dropped a crystal bowl in Macy's? Have you never dropped anything? Have you, Henry? Have you? What, nobody drops anything in Macy's? The great and powerful Macy's, or are you prefect like your mother!"

"Um, I think you'd better calm down, champ," Shakespeare said as Henry stormed past him.

"Listen, you overgrown chef! Leave my mother out of this?"

"Why? Why? Listen, Henry, I get tummy aches all the time. Do I shut down the world because I have a tummy ache? No, I carry on. I go into the kitchen and cook, but I can not cook today because your mother has a tummy ache. I can not even enter the kitchen!"

"I told you to leave my mother out of this. You are lucky to have a job in her kitchen!"

"Oh, so now I am lucky? It is I who slaves over a stove every day cooking her meals and I am lucky. No, she is lucky!'

"Have you tasted your cooking?"Shakespeare quipped.

"Oh, quiet, midget!" Andre shouted.

"You're not thinking, Andre, how do you know my mother shut down the kitchen? Maybe it was Simpson." Henry said pointing at Andre.

"Ah I didn't think of that, but it does make sense, Henry, of course, why would your mother shut down the kitchen? All she would say to Simpson is 'I have a tummy ache .I'm not hungry today'. It must have been Simpson who decided to shut it down completely, but why? Why why why why?"

"We gotcha." Shakespeare snapped

"But WHY!" Andre said excitedly and he fell backwards and knocked over a shelf of crystal bowls.

The bowls crashed and broke across the floor.

"Oh my god!" Andre shrieked.

"We better make a run for it." Diego said and she grabbed Henry. Andre stood up shaking and grabbed Shakespeare and they tore down the aisle toward the escalator. They took the escalator down to the next floor. As they stepped off the escalator they were all giggling -- that is until the security guards came. Henry took out his credit card and paid for the damage and profusely apologized to the security guards.

"I am so sorry, Henry. I will pay it back every cent. I have been an ogre today. An absolute beast. I can't believe it is me! But it must be me because it isn't someone else! I feel like I am looking at myself through a harsh mirror and I don't like what I see! Will you ever forgive me, Henry? I don't know if I will ever forgive myself. Oh how can I repay you all? How can I make it up to you and your dear mother, and Diego too and even you, little Shakespeare."

"You can start by knocking it off." Shakespeare sighed.

"Okay I will knock it off I will be quiet as a mouse."

"Again with the mouse?"

"Hey, there is a little restaurant over there -- I think it's called Bon Bon? Or is Bon Bon Bon?" Diego breathed, pointing down the aisles, squinting her eyes.

Henry said. "Let's go grab a bite, what do say, guys?"

"Ooh a bite sounds nice, I'm famished after all this excitement! What a day it has been ..."

"What a rare mood you're in?" Shakespeare giggled.

They walked down to the other end of the floor to the Bon Bon Bon.

As they entered the restaurant they saw a sign on the door that said:

The Kitchen Is Closed

Andre fainted.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-08-23
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