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July 04, 2022

Dinner With Henry 28: Big

By Bruce Memblatt

Autumn brought not only the change of leaves to the few trees that dotted Delancey Street. There was also the thrill of a new bouncing baby. Change can encompass many avenues: some big and some small -- like the minor addition to the old warehouse that came in the first week of October in the form of a new freezer for the kitchen. But even stranger than the appearance of a new freezer, given Simpson's frugal nature, was the arrival of Shakespeare's brother Gus who was on hand to install the appliance on a brisk Friday morning.

Naturally, Andre had to oversee his progress. But bigger things were on Andre's mind than the arrival of a freezer.

Gus was kneeling on the floor in the space where the old freezer sat when Andre pointed toward him and said, "I still don't understand it! How can it be? How can you be seven feet tall when your brother is two? This is something I find totally amazing!"

"Well, Andre," Gus said, "it's all a matter of genetics. Just because Shakespeare is small it doesn't necessarily follow I should be, too. True, we are kind of an extreme example, but of course, there are many extremes in the world. Don't you agree?" Gus pulled several wires together.

"Yes, I was just mentioning that to Shakespeare the other day. Wasn't I, Shakespeare?"

"Whatever," Shakespeare snapped, walking past the stove, "Say, Gus, how long will you be here?"

"Now, Shakespeare, don't be rude to your brother."

"Oh, no, it's okay, Andre, I am used to Shakespeare's little idiosyncrasies."

"You know, Gus," Shakespeare said, "ever since you started working for that appliance company, you've become a real big shot."

"How so, little brother?" Gus said, rising from the floor.

"Oh my goodness, look how tall you are standing! I still can't believe you're Shakespeare's brother!"

Shakespeare stood in the center of the floor. "Oh, calm down, Andre, is this the first time you've seen a tall person?"

"I am so sorry to interrupt, but I must excuse myself to wheel in the new freezer because the wires are all connected." Gus began walking. "You know something? If you pace your tasks correctly, the day goes a lot easier. I have been finding just the right balance I think, lately."

"I have found that to be the case, too!" Andre jumped. "I was just mentioning that to Shakespeare the other day," Andre said as he watched Gus exit the kitchen. "You know something, Shakespeare, your brother is a handsome man, too, but he is dull, no?"

Shakespeare began to giggle. "He reminds me of you."

"So you think I am dull? You little toad!" Andre playfully kicked Shakespeare.

"Duller than toast."

"What is dull about toast? I make the best toast!"

"Oh brother," Shakespeare snapped.

"You mean your brother, but I can see the resemblance between you two around the mouth, Shakespeare, I must confess. Otherwise you are different as night and day, or day and night, or vice versa."

"Shhh, he's coming back," Shakespeare said.

"It is interesting how you can tell Gus is coming back. It must be like a brotherly connection."

"No, Sherlock," Shakespeare threw his hands in the air. "I can hear him rolling the freezer down the hall."

Gus rolled the freezer into the kitchen and stood it near the wall by the stove.

"See how he rolls it in like a real pro, Shakespeare."

"So why don't you keep Gus, and I'll go into the appliance business."

"Oh, you are so jealous!" Andre pointed out. "That is the problem. Jealousy is the root of your sibling rivalry."

Gus turned to Andre as he removed the plastic that covered the freezer. "I believe you've stumbled onto something, Andre. I was wrong before when I said it was just a matter of genetics. There's much more involved, such as the consequences. It was just a trick of timing and fate that I became the tall one and Shakespeare the short one. I could have been the short one and Shakespeare could have been the tall one. And maybe I would have been jealous of Shakespeare like he is of me. I like to think not, but one never knows till one's walked in someone else's shoes."

"Ah yes," Andre said. His eyes lit. "That is like the old proverb To understand a man, you've got to walk a mile in his shoes."

Shakespeare held his hands over his ears. "Do you want to see a blind midget implode?!"

Andre laughed. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like to see a blind midget implode!"

Then Gus said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I'd like to see a blind midget implode, too."

Suddenly the kitchen became dark. Pots and pans began to rattle. The room shook, and a tentacle swept across the floor.

Gus was running for the door when Andre said, "Oh, do not worry, that is Henry's mother, Clarissa. And if you think you are big, then there is no way to describe the hugeness of Clarissa."

Gus said, catching his breath, "Who is Henry? And why does his mother have a tentacle?"

"Because she is a twenty-foot bug, Einstein!" Shakespeare snapped at Gus.

"Yes it is true," Andre said, walking toward Gus, "she is a huge bug and Henry is half-bug. He just had a baby with Diego our one-eared nurse."

Gus wiped the sweat off his brow and said, "So Shakespeare, why didn't you mention your interesting array of co-workers to me?"

Shakespeare grinned, "She's not a co-worker, she's the boss."

"I see ... so you work for a giant bug?"

"Yes, we all work for a giant bug," Shakespeare smirked. "Want a meringue pie?"

Her tentacle flapped across the floor. "IF you all don't mind?" She buzzed through their ears like a shock. The room shook.

"Yes, Clarissa, what is it?" Andre asked, as his eyebrows rose.

"I want to see my grandchild deedle- deedle- dee." She buzzed in a strange sing-song manner. "The baby? Where is the baby? Baby- baby- baby- bee- bee- bee- bee -bee."

"Oh, great, Gigantor's flipped her lid," Shakespeare muttered.

Suddenly her tentacle retracted through the doorway. After much rumbling and rattling of pots and pans, Clarissa was gone.

"I wonder what's come over her?" Andre said, scratching his head. His nose, mouth and ears quivered.

"I think she wants to see her grandchild," Gus said. His hands still trembled.

"Ya think?" Shakespeare said, picking up a pot from the floor.

Andre waved his hands through the air. "No, something is terribly wrong. Terribly terribly terribly wrong, I think the baby has had a strange effect on Clarissa. Has she not seen her grandchild yet? Where are Henry and Diego?"

"I think they took the baby to the zoo," Shakespeare said. "There's a joke in there somewhere."

Frustrated, Andre replied, "This is no time for jokes, Shakespeare."

"Andre is right, Shakespeare, this is a very serious matter." Gus began to tremble. They heard rumbling on the other side of the building. Titles began to fall from the ceiling in the hall.

"My goodness, she is going to tear through the entire building. Oh, this is just terrible, terrible, terrible! What shall we do? What can we do? What can anyone do?" Andre said, he pointed his quivering hands toward the doorway, then upwards toward the ceiling.

Gus quickly turned and said, "Well the freezer is installed, gotta go! See ya!" And he was gone.

"You know something, Shakespeare, I was wrong -- your brother is not like you at all."

Shakespeare picked up a broken cup. "You mean he is a wuss?"

"Yes, he is big, but he is smaller than you."

"Okay no compliments, you know how I can't stand compliments."

"I know, Shakespeare."

Then came rumbling from above the kitchen. Chunks of plaster fell from the ceiling. Quietly Andre said, "I think it is the end of the world, Shakespeare."


In the meanwhile, at the zoo, Henry and Diego were strolling Winifred past the lion cage when Diego's eyes suddenly darted up. She breathed, "Something is wrong, Henry."


At 12 pm, Alarm rolled through an empty kitchen.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-02-07
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