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January 23, 2023

Dinner With Henry 31: Down On the Roof

By Bruce Memblatt

Elvira stared at the therapist. The therapist stared back at Elvira. Clarissa stared at Elvira, the therapist, and Diego. Suddenly, Elvira, stunned, broke the silence. "Diego was Charles Darwin?"

"In a past life, I'm certain. The word swings full circle, it seems," the therapist said as Elvira lowered her down to the roof in front of Diego.

Diego, still in a trance, continued her theorizing, her eyes blinking. "We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act."

Clarissa's head abruptly rose. She buzzed, "Laws, yes! But none you understood!"

"Enough, Mother, that's not Darwin, it's Diego!" Elvira cried, grabbing onto her mother's side.

"No, not enough! He didn't understand design! Oh, what is the use? I am talking to a one-eared nincompoop." She buzzed and reared her head in the sky. The crowd below grew anxious.

Diego's eyes began to dart bizarrely. Her tongue drooped. She came out of the trance. "Where is the Goodyear blimp?" she said. Catching her breath, she continued, "Who is that woman with the watch?"

Elvira looked down at Diego and buzzed, "That woman with the watch is my mother's therapist."

Diego looked at the woman and sighed, "You may be a little late."

The therapist gazed at Diego and said, "Never mind her, I'm more concerned with you."

Clarissa's head suddenly lowered. She buzzed, "She's nothing to be concerned with."

"Quiet," Diego breathed, "This is interesting."

Elvira said, "She thinks you're Charles Darwin."

The therapist waved her hands through the air like a whisper. "No, I think she was Charles Darwin."

Diego whispered, "Who is Charles Darwin?"

"It doesn't matter," Clarissa buzzed loudly. "I am the patient!"

"Jealous, Mother?" Elvira buzzed.

"Shut up, Elvira, am I the patient or not? First she takes Henry from me, now my therapist. Everyone thinks she's crazy, but she is cunning. She is the fittest; she will be around long after we're toast."

Diego looked up at Clarissa and said, "What kind of toast?"

"Right, mother," Elvira shrugged, "meet the new Charles Atlas."

The crowd below continued to grow. A sense of anticipation covered Delancey Street as all eyes fixated on the events on the roof, which many thought were reaching a climax. Officer Ryan held his megaphone with a hopeful sense of relief. Yet, still, bricks tumbled and children cried. Henry gazed at the roof cautiously, waiting for a sign from Diego while he gently rocked Winifred. As the crowd multiplied, Shakespeare grew claustrophobic and sat on the steps in front of the warehouse. Andre stood near Shakespeare, directing the crowd and loudly praying.

Her black eyes jumped and searched the street below. She buzzed, "Look at them down there -- they're like ants waiting for the next crumb to fall."

"Don't you mean shoe, Mother?"

"Enough," Diego breathed.

The therapist pointed a pen at Diego. "Diego, do you have an interest in science?"

"No, science bores me," Diego sighed."Why?"

The therapist looked closely into Diego's eyes. "Interesting, because in a past life, I believe you were a scientist."

At that moment a violent gust of wind hit the roof, causing Clarissa's body to tremble. She arched her tentacles and buzzed. "I think a strong storm is approaching."

"'Tis the wind, Mother," Elvira returned in a quivering buzz.

"It's the end of the world!" Clarissa buzzed!

"Shut up, you sound like Andre." Diego hushed, staring up at Clarissa.

The therapist looked sternly at Diego, and pointed up at Clarissa. "Eventually, this all has to reach a head. The two of you have to come to some agreement, some means of co-existing."

"She took my son, there can be no peace. And then she didn't let me see the child."

"Mother," Elvira buzzed, "all along you said you didn't care about a silly human baby."

Diego cried to the therapist, "She is bossy and huge, and I thought she'd eat my daughter."

She flexed her tentacles. "Eat your daughter? I should eat the lot of you."

"See what I mean?" Diego shrugged.

"Oh, don't worry, Diego, my mother isn't eating anyone. She is all buzz and no sting."

"I think I'll start with you, Elvira," She buzzed in high pitches.

The therapist whistled. "ENOUGH! Listen, you two have two things in common: the baby and Henry. There has to be a way to make this work. You have to both agree to give each other another chance, like starting over."

Clarissa shook, "I can't agree, it's beyond all laws of science and nature. As long as my son is with her he will never return to all bug."

"That is true, but it's also something you'll have to learn to live with if you want to see your grandchild. You above all know it's all about adapting."

Clarissa lurched, "You're right, God dammit, you're right!"

"Are you sure, Mother? That seemed to come too easily."

"When someone, even a tiny human lady is right, they're right. No need to waste precious time."

"I still don't trust her," Diego said, gazing out over the crowd below.

"But you have three thousand witnesses," The therapist said, pointing towards the street.

Thunder began to clap. Diego looked at the sky. "They're not witnesses, they're a mob."

Clarissa bobbed her head, "I told you it's the end of the world."

Diego bobbed her head and sighed. "All right, all right, I'll do it."

The therapist smiled, Elvira kind of smiled. It was then that Diego walked to the edge of the roof and winked at Henry.

Henry saw Diego's sign and without hesitation he removed Winifred from her carriage and headed toward the warehouse. As he passed Andre and Shakespeare on the steps in front of the building, Andre smiled and said, "You are doing the right thing, Henry." Shakespeare, speechless, threw his hands in the air.

Officer Ryan picked up his bullhorn, shouting, "Everyone stand back!"

The crowd quickly obeyed. Then rain began to fall along Delancey Street. Henry wrapped Winifred's blanket tightly around her.

As Henry approached the roof he saw his mother's head rearing against a sky of black clouds, a gleam in her eye, a smile of satisfaction on her mouth. "Give me the child, Henry," she buzzed like one of the sirens below.

Immediately the therapist stood before Henry. She smiled at him and said, "It's okay, don't worry."

Diego ran to Henry's side and said, "Let's do it."

Suddenly, Clarissa's tentacle rose and then fell next to Henry. He cautiously placed Winifred in his mother's tentacle and with a whoosh Clarissa whisked her up in the air towards her head.

All eyes above and below anxiously looked on. Elvira drew closer to Clarissa and buzzed, "Be good, Mother."

The crowed began to gasp as Clarissa drew the baby towards her giant mouth, her tongue slithering like a snake.

Henry jumped and screamed, "No! No, Mother!"

Diego shrieked and bit Clarissa's leg.

The crowd below fell into screams and chaos. Officer Ryan could hardly contain them. The sounds of sirens began to fill the air.

Clarissa crazily buzz-laughed, drawing Winifred close to her lips, "She is going to taste good." She said. And then she kissed her.

And such were the events surrounding Winifred's first visit with her grandmother Clarissa.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-02-28
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