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January 30, 2023

Dinner With Henry 34: The Gathering

By Bruce Memblatt

All the residents of Sixty-Four Delancey Street gathered in the loft that afternoon. Well, almost all of them. It wasn't a Friday, so Alarm was off somewhere searching for something, and Sincere had a head cold. She remained in her room, wrapped in her blanket with a cold compress and a shower cap covering her head.

Sun broke through the loft. Clarissa's head reached high. It almost touched the skylight, while Elvira, standing next to her, folded her wing over the smaller residents of the warehouse below like a protective shield. Henry, still in a state of shock since Winifred spoke her first words at the Delacncey Street Fruit Stand just a day ago, at the ripe old age of three weeks, was above all curious. He didn't speak at such an early age. It wasn't a bug thing. And why was Diego so causal about it? Well, Diego was casual about just about almost anything, but this was Winifred, their daughter. Diego was a constant source of surprise and wonder to Henry even if the surprises weren't always so wonderful. She kept him on his toes. And then there was his mother.

She buzzed, darting her head up and down frantically, and then her thoughts came, just as Henry suspected. "I told you it was a crime against nature. I warned the both of you not to mingle, but you didn't listen and now we'll all pay." E

Elvira jutted her head towards Clarissa buzzing, "Oh, Mother, so dramatic!" <

Below, on the floor, Simpson, who was standing next to Andre, pulled in his stomach and said, "Hear hear! She's a precocious child. We shouldn't be alarmed we should be delighted." <

Then Diego, hearing Simpson's remark, turned to Henry and said, "See, Henry."

Clarissa's head suddenly lunged toward Diego and she buzzed, "This isn't a simple matter of a child being precocious. Hand the child to me."

Diego searched Henry's eyes for approval, or disapproval, as she lifted Winifred out of her carriage and placed her in Clarissa's tentacle. Henry signaled approval. <

Shakespeare snapped, "Are you nuts, Henry?"

Andre, who was impatiently waiting to say something, said, "Shakespeare, stop it, She is her grandmother." <

"She may be a mother, but she's not so grand," Shakespeare retorted before he ran behind Andre. c

Clarissa raised Winifred high in the air, almost touching the ceiling, and she buzzed, "So you talk, Winifred? Say something, Granddaughter." <

At Clarissa's query everyone in the loft looked up in anticipation. <

And then Winifred spoke. "Why don't you put me down, you big bully!" <

Immediately a hush fell over the loft. The silence was broken by Shakespeare when he said, "I like her."

"I like her too," Diego breathed.

"I like her as well," Henry said smiling, reaching for Diego's arm.

Simpson, not to be outdone, offered, "Well, of course, we all like her, but Clarissa was trying to make a point."

Hearing Simpson's remark, Shakespeare turned toward Simpson and snapped, "You suck- up," which caused Andre to laugh. Elvira, seeing Andre and Shakespeare laughing, reared her head and began to laugh too.

Suddenly Clarissa shook her body, Winifred shook in her tentacle, and Clarissa said in a high pitched buzz, "This is no laughing matter! The child doesn't just speak, but she speaks maturely. How did she learn so much in so little time? There is danger ahead for all of you."

"What do you mean you?" Shakespeare snapped.

Andre, hardly able to contain himself, threw off his hat and said, "But why would this pose a danger? Should we not consider this a miracle of nature rather than a harbinger of worse yet to come?"

All eyes turned to Andre, but before anyone could speak, Henry said, "Mother, put down my daughter. I have had enough." There, he had said it, what could she do? Winifred was his daughter -- she had to respect his wishes. He looked up towards his mother and he saw her body shaking again, causing Winifred to shake again too.

And Clarissa buzzed even louder than before. "NO, HENRY WE'RE NOT FINISHED."

Diego rushed to Henry's side and said, shrugging, "Well if she's not finished, she's not finished."

Then Andre walked over and patted Henry on the back and said, "Yes, Henry, she is not finished, so what is the rush?" He smiled a toothy smile. <

And quickly Elvira's head swept up to Clarissa's head and she buzzed, "Henry asked for his daughter back, Mother. Give him his daughter."

"In due time, child, in due time," she buzzed and she shifted her body towards the hall that led to the other rooms in the loft, beginning to step through the hall like a wayward machine.

Where was she taking Winifred, Henry wondered. How dare she? He had no say in anything. His face contorted and his eyes began to bug out. S

Seeing Henry's anger, Shakespeare ran beneath Clarissa and kicked one of her tentacles hard. She stopped dead in her tracks.

She buzzed, "Little man, watch it."

"Watch it yourself, Broom Hilda," Shakespeare snapped. "Henry said to give her to him, so do it!"

"I'm going to fire you, you little worm."

Then Elvira's head reared to her mother's head again. "You're not firing anyone, Mother, he's just trying to help Henry. Now where are you taking her?"

"I want to have a private chat with my Granddaughter, is that okay with everyone?"

Simpson stood in front of the group and said, "That is fine, Clarissa, we will all wait patiently." Then he waved to Clarissa and smiled a toothy smile.

Immediately Henry stepped up to Simpson. He elbowed him and whispered, "What do you mean, it's fine, Simpson?"

"Henry, it will just be a few minutes, please, forget about your ego, it will go quicker if you do."

His ego? What about Her ego?

Then Diego said to Henry, "It will be okay, Henry. Let's go look around here, maybe she has some babka lying around."

That's when Andre cried, "We are all on the verge of a great discovery and we are missing the point. We are getting sidetracked by silly squabbles when something very important is occurring. We have all forgotten why we're here. This is a great moment in history!"

Then Elvira lowered her head down towards Andre and buzzed, "Oh, Andre, you're worse than her."

"No one is worse than her." Shakespeare snapped.

At the far end of the hall there was a door; as Clarissa traveled down the hall cradling Winifred, she buzzed to her. "No one goes through that door. Not till it's time. Remember what I said, Winifred, not till it's time."

Winifred, hanging from her tentacle, looked up at her and said, "Why? Is there a little man behind the curtain like in the Wizard of Oz?"

Her head tilted. "How do you know about the Wizard of Oz, child?"

"The same way I know everything I know. Knowledge isn't only derived from experience, it is inherited. I know everything my mother knows."

"Then you are in trouble, Winfred. How did you happen? Do you know how you happened?"

"I don't know that." She said and a perplexed look crossed her eyes.

"You're going to have a hard life. You won't find another like you."

"More are coming, Grandmother."

"I'm getting tired. Let's go back to the others. We will talk again," Clarissa buzzed and then she turned her body around and they slithered back to the main room of the loft.

Seeing their return, Andre cried, "Look, Henry! Look everyone! They are back! See, Henry, and it wasn't too long at all!"

Then Henry ran to his mother's feet and looked up. He watched as she slowly lowered Winifred to the floor. Maybe someday he would understand his mother. Maybe someday she would listen to him, but in the meanwhile, he had to take care of his own child. He smiled as he picked her up.

And then Winifred said, "Relax, Pop!"

Relax, Pop! ... the greatest words he ever heard, he thought as he placed her in the carriage.

Then Clarissa raised her head to the skylight and she buzzed, directly, "Henry, you worry too much, you too, Elvira. There is much in store. Many things will happen. Look at me, Henry, look at me, all of you. Winifred is the sign, the signal, it's begun. This is about Evolution. I am what you all of you will become and soon. I am your future."

Shakespeare snapped, "I'm too short to become a big bug."

Then Elvira intervened. "Oh, Mother, take a nap."

A worried look crossed Henry's face as he rocked Winifred's carriage. Then he suddenly wondered where Diego was. He called, "Diego! Diego!"

And from the other end of the room he heard her cry, "Henry! I've found the babka!"

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-21
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