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August 15, 2022

Dinner With Henry 21: The Surprise

By Bruce Memblatt

The kitchen was filled with pastries, cakes, meringue pies and cookies for Clarissa. It was the end of the day and Andre was just about to close up the when a strange man appeared at the door. He handed an envelope to Andre.

Dear Sir, Congratulations! You have won a vacation for two in beautiful downtown Pittsburgh.

Andre sneered. "Oh how wonderful. I have won the jackpot, it seems, a vacation to Pittsburgh."

The man said, "Hey, I don't write them, I just deliver 'em."

"I am so sorry, sir, you are right. I'm afraid I have appeared uncharacteristically snooty. After all, a free vacation is a free vacation. I should be grateful. And I am sure Pittsburgh has some wonderful sights to see and some lovely people. I should be proud to win a vacation to beautiful downtown Pittsburgh."

"Like I said, sir, I don't write them, I just deliver 'em."

"And so you have delivered it. So it appears your job is done, doesn't it?" Andre's lips quivered.

"I guess so." The man said and quickly turned around, muttering "cheapskate" under his breath as he walked out of the door.

Andre stood over the stove. "Everybody wants something. I am supposed to tip him because he did his job? Who tips me? Who tips Andre? I ask you? WHO TIPS ANDRE?"

"Nobody can tip you, chubby," Shakespeare snapped.

"Oh, you are still here," Andre said holding this nose in the air, "I thought you had left. Isn't there a blackjack table, or a poker game in the vicinity?"

Shakespeare called as he walked to the back of the kitchen, "I came back because I forgot my dice, wise guy."

"Oh, Shakespeare you have just missed all the excitement. I have won a great prize; a trip for two to beautiful downtown Pittsburgh."

"Isn't that where Henry and Diego are honeymooning?"

Andre slapped his head. "Oh, that is right, Diego wanted to see the Allegheny Cemetery."

"She is weird," Shakespeare sighed.

"Now Shakespeare, she is different, but I ask you, aren't we all different and isn't that what makes the world go round?" Andre said holding his head up like a cockatiel.

"Not that different," Shakespeare snickered, "hey, you should go to Pittsburgh and surprise Henry and Diego."

"Ha! I don't think that would be very discreet, would that, Shakespeare? After all they are on their honeymoon -- I'm sure the lovers want to be alone."

"Since when are you discreet?"

"I'll have you know discretion is my middle name. When people think of discretion their thoughts naturally fall to Andre."

Shakespeare fell to the floor laughing.

"I am glad I can make you laugh, you leetle bunny, but really, how could you suggest intruding on Henry and Diego's honeymoon, Shakespeare? And how would I get away from the kitchen? Okay, so it is Friday and there are enough sweets here for Her to make it through the weekend. Simpson would never know we were gone."

"Whaddaya mean we?"

"What do you mean 'Simpson would never know'?" Simpson said, clearing his throat.

"You know, Simpson you have a very frightening way of popping out of nowhere. It is like you're in the air, like an angel, or a demon."

"I think he's the prince of darkness." Shakespeare giggled.

Simpson straightened his tie. "Now, gentlemen it's taken me years to perfect my quiet walk."

"Oh, I see, your quiet walk," Andre's eyebrows quivered.

"Yes. I developed it to keep my employees on their toes, but I think you'll find me in a generous mood this evening and since it is a special occasion you can have time off this weekend to join Henry and Diego, Andre, and you too, Shakespeare."

"Are you feeling all right, Simpson?" Shakespeare snapped.

"Oh, Shakespeare, I am sure Mr. Simpson is feeling fine. We should just thank him and go before he changes his mind ha ha." Andre smiled waving Shakespeare to the door. "Thank you, Mr. Simpson.

"Yeah thanks, Simp," Shakespeare snickered.

"Have a great time," Simpson said waving his hands and smiling.

Andre and Shakespeare left the kitchen. Simpson stayed behind, tinkering, before he shut the lights and retired to his office.

In the meanwhile Andre and Shakespeare went upstairs to their rooms to pack. Shakespeare put together a small bag and then knocked on Andre's door.

"So are you ready yet?" Shakespeare said as he walked into Andre's room.

"I don't know I really don't know if it is such a good idea, Shakespeare, they are on their honeymoon," Andre sighed, and scratched his head.

"Yeah, but they're going to a cemetery."

"Well I'm sure they will do other things too." Andre smiled.

Shakespeare sizzled, "They already did the other things."

Andre opened his closet door and peered in. "Ha, well that is true. Should I bring a coat? I don't know what to wear to Pittsburgh."

Shakespeare tugged on Andre's leg and whispered. "I hear they hang loose in Pittsburgh you can get away with anything."

"Oooh do you suppose I could wear my lavender hat?"

"No," Shakespeare said.

They waited on the stoop in front of the warehouse for a cab. Andre sat on the top of the steps chewing on an apple while Shakespeare sat on the bottom of the steps on top of the bags. There wasn't much traffic on the street that night, but Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of a cab driver by throwing a small stone at the front fender of the taxi. Then they wended their way up Eighth Avenue to Penn Station. Andre even tipped the cab driver, who strongly inferred they use their hands to hail a cab in the future instead of throwing stones.

When they walked up to the gate in the train station, Andre thought he saw a familiar face. "Hey is that Simpson over there?" Andre said, pointing at a man in the crowd.

"Um, how would I know, Dewey?" Shakespeare bristled.

"Well you were able to knock a fender off a cab?"

"Pure luck," Shakespeare said in angelic tone.

"I thought I saw Simpson but I think it was a rabbi."

"And they call me blind, what would Simpson be doing at Penn Station?"

"I have no idea, but it is scary how he seems to be everywhere; the way he pops up when you least expect it. I think he must be a kind of spirit."

"Yes, he's the ghost of Nitpick," Shakespeare said. "Anyway, where is the train?"

"Oh yes, the train, thanks for reminding me, Shakespeare. I am in a tizz. It's supposed to arrive at that gate right over there. We should get to beautiful downtown Pittsburgh by midnight."

"Wonderful time for the cemetery."

"Oh you are so silly, Shakespeare -- we will go to our hotel room and then find Henry and Diego in the morning."

"You don't know where they're staying?"

"Don't you? I thought you'd know, Shakespeare. It is okay, we will find them somehow."

"Yeah, how hard could it be to find Bug Man and Florence Nightmare-ingale?"

Andre slapped his head and they boarded the train.

On the train, Shakespeare found a poker game in the bar car. Andre slept in his seat and snored. Around eleven Andre heard a commotion and woke up. Apparently Shakespeare got into a brawl with the mother of the conductor over a card that appeared to be missing from the deck and found its way under Shakespeare's shoe. At one minute after twelve the train pulled into Pittsburgh. Andre was sure to remind the conductor that the train was one minute late as he and Shakespeare departed the train. Their hotel was only a few blocks away from the train station which allowed Andre and Shakespeare time to walk to the hotel. Which wasn't as fortunate at it first appeared because a man running through the street tripped over Shakespeare and fell onto a small cat that had been sleeping on the edge of the sidewalk.

Once at the hotel they checked into Andre's room and turned on the TV.

"Shakespeare, could you lower that thing?"

"Whaddya want from me? I just got ran over by Zorro!" Shakespeare said sitting on top of his bed fiddling with the remote.

Andre waved his hands. "Zorro? He was more like Mr. Magoo."

"Sure, attack the blind again."

"Now, Shakespeare you know I kid, and look who is talking, you are the biggest kidder around. Anyway it's a good thing you cannot see this room, because I tell you it is not the Plaza."

"Eh, what's the diff, we'll be out searching for the Odd Couple."

In the morning they left the hotel and walked down the streets of beautiful downtown Pittsburgh. They stopped at coffee shops, thrift shops, shoe shops, the Carnegie Museums and Macys.

"I can not take another step, I am so dizzy from looking for those two. This was a stupid idea and, of course, it would be your idea. You and your surprises. I don't even like surprises! I am sorry, Shakespeare, we will just have to go into this this Allegheny cemetery."

"What are you apologizing to me for? I said we should go here first, Christopher Columbus."

"I know, I know, Shakespeare, but I thought maybe we could find them elsewhere first."

"Elsewhere?" Shakespeare snapped as they walked through the gate of the cemetery. As far as the eye could see stood rolling hills and tombstones.

Andre cried, "Ooh, look, it says here: Welcome to Allegheny Cemetery, one of the most picturesque places in Pittsburgh. Allegheny Cemetery is also unexpectedly romantic with 300 acres of rolling hills and monuments encompassing a wide variety of architectural styles. The cemetery houses generations of Pittsburghers back to the French and Indian war. Stop and get a map to the graves of composer Stephen Collins Foster and America's first glamour girl, Lillian Russell."

"Lillian Russell?" Shakespeare asked.

"Yes, the wonderful Lillian Russell -- she was a great star at the turn of the twentieth century. She was in everything: Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, burlesque vaudeville, and even films. Everyone knew Lillian Russell. Oooh, let's go see her grave! Let's get a map!"

They walked over to the concession stand and grabbed a map. As they traveled Shakespeare quietly reached for his cell phone and punched in a few numbers and then he whispered, "The eagle has landed."

"Did you say something, Shakespeare?"

"Nah I was just checking for vampires."

"Oh, do not worry, the sun is out. Vampires sleep while the sun is out."

"With our luck we'll find one with insomnia."

Andre and Shakespeare traveled past rows and rows of tombstones as they climbed the rolling hills of Allegheny cemetery. The sun shone brilliant that afternoon. At the top of the hill through a blinding haze they came upon Lillian Russell's monument.

"Oh my God! Look at that, Shakespeare that is something! Now that is a monument! Look at those white columns. It is perfect for Lillian but why is there a cake under the columns?"

Shakespeare jumped up and shouted. "Surprise, Chubblechunks!"

Suddenly Henry, Diego, Simpson, Alarm, and Sincere stepped out from behind the columns and they cheered, "Happy birthday!"

Andre nearly fell over. "Oh my goodness, with the wedding and everything I forgot all about my birthday. How could I forget my own birthday and oh what a wonderful surprise! This is the best and most unexpected surprise anyone has ever had in the entire history of surprise! I'll bet I am the only person who has ever had their birthday party in a cemetery," his eyebrows rose, and his lips pursed, "and you knew, Shakespeare? Who knew you could keep such a secret."

Shakespeare grinned and said, "Money talks."

Then Andre pointed to Simpson and cried, "That was you in Penn Station wasn't it wasn't it!"

Simpson smiled. "I guess my rabbi outfit didn't fool you."

"I knew it. I knew it, you may be good at surprising people but you make a lousy rabbi." Andre laughed. And then he shouted, "Henry, Henry, oh thank you, Henry, I don't know what to say!"

"Happy birthday, Andre. We gotcha!" Henry said and then he began to cut the cake.

And Andre sang.

Oh what a surprise!
Who could ever realize,
This kind of prize?
What was I thinking?
Where was I going?
What was I doing?
What was I smoking?...

Diego sighed, "Where is the cake, Henry?"

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-12-20
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