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May 13, 2024

Dinner With Henry 39: An Ordinary Day

By Bruce Memblatt

It was an ordinary Friday in the kitchen. Alarm had just made her entrance and her exit. Henry stood by the sink washing a large pile of dishes. Shakespeare was busily preparing parfaits while watching the TV on the wall. And of course, Andre was hunched over the stove stirring a cream sauce. Upstairs Diego was with Winifred, and Simpson was puttering in his office. Things were buzzing along in a smooth rhythm; even the sun did not shine its rays too brightly.

Stirring his sauce Andre burst into song.

"It's just an ordinary day
What is there to do but shoot the breeze.
And, if you please,
Stir the sauce
And think about doomsday."

"He sings such happy songs," Shakespeare shrugged.

"Yes, happy like you, Shakespeare," Henry said, pulling a dish out of the sink.

"Oh, so subtle, Henry," Shakespeare shrugged again, as he topped a strawberry parfait.

Andre lifted the spoon from his pot and said, "Now, now, no squabbling today, my dear friends. I declare today a squabble-free Friday!"

"Have you been sniffing the vanilla again?" Shakspeare snapped. Andre slapped his head, "Oh my god, that's right, I forgot the vanilla! Thank you, Shakespeare!"

Shakespeare frowned.

That's when Henry cried, "God, check out the TV!"

To repeat, the city government has begun issuing IDs for all half-bug half-human residents. Milton Morse from the ACLU has issued a statement roundly criticizing what he refers to as a governmental encroachment on the basic privacy rights of the half-bug population. This morning Morse filed a suit in federal court. The city in its response maintains that while humans are protected under the constitution, bugs are not.

Andre threw his spoon to the floor, his face crinkled. "This is an outrage! An outrage! How can they get away with this? To think something like this could happen in New York City! A modern sophisticated city! This is not the twelfth century! We must do something. We must do something, Henry!"

As if Andre hadn't said a word, Henry rushed over to the TV. He quickly turned it off and said, "We're just going to forget about it. Just leave the TV off. It's not happening. Do you understand, everyone? When Diego and Winifred come down this is not happening."

Surprised, Shakespeare turned to Henry and said, "Perspective, bug man, it's just an ID."

Andre cried, "Just an ID? Just an ID! Shakespeare, it's not just an ID -- it signifies and creates a subclass of citizen. It says to the half- humans they are different. It gives the bigots in the general population the idea that they are better!"

"We are better!" Shakespeare said while chewing on a strawberry.

"Shakespeare, I'm shocked, how can you say that? And whilst chewing on a strawberry!"

Shakespeare lifted his arms in the air and said, "What do you mean whilst?"

"Oh, never mind, you silly blind midget. Now, Henry you can't hide your head in the sand. You can't make the world go away by turning off the TV!"

"Are you sure?" Shakespeare said.

"Andre, Andre, I know you're right," Henry said, "but I have to protect Diego and Winifred. Winifred is not an ordinary baby. If she sees the story on the TV she'll know what it means. It will affect her young psyche. And Diego, well we all know about her psyche.

"Yeah at least he knows his wife is nuts!"

"Quiet, Shakespeare!" Andre stammered and threw his hat in the air, as Andre often did. "Henry, Henry, it won't work, you can't protect them that way. The only way you can protect your family is with the truth. Winifred is smart. She will understand. We can't make the world perfect for them, Henry. And, Diego, well, she will understand it in her own way. Do not worry!"

Henry walked over to the sink and pulled out a dish. Quickly, he pulled another dish out, and turned the faucet on high.

"Henry! Andre cried, "what are you doing? Aren't you listening?"

"Henry!

"Henry! Henry!"

Henry continued to furiously wash the dishes, ignoring Andre's calls.

Then Shakespeare hollered from the dessert table, "I think they're all nuts!"

Henry would continue to wash the dishes. He knew what he was doing. Winifred didn't have to find out about this just yet. It could wait. Shakespeare said it was just an ID, and maybe he was right? Maybe it was just an ID and none of the other horrible stuff he was imagining in his head would follow. But in the end he knew Andre was right, the truth was the best protection, but not today. Today he was going to do the dishes and keep this news away from his family.

"You know, Shakespeare," Andre said, whilst walking over to the dessert table, "I am surprised at you. I knew you were like this, but I didn't think you were really like this. I thought when push came to shove ..."

Shakespeare picked up a strawberry. Popping it into his mouth, he said, "I am just a realist. It's just an ID."

"C'mon, Shakespeare, you're not stupid,," Andre said picking up a glass.

Shakespeare shrugged, "It's ridiculous, anyway. Why do they need IDs? It's not like you can't tell right away they are bug people!"

Andre giggled. "True, it's stupid. But I believe the correct term is half-bug half-human."

"Oh don't go all PC on me!"

"Anyway, it's all about control, Shakespeare, it's the evil hand of control; everything has to be in order for the machine to run. Throw in some odd widgets and goodness knows what will happen."

"Control, shmontrol, they're going to find some way of making money on this, because everything in the end is about, like I always say, how your bread is buttered," Shakespeare said slowly and deliberately.

"You and your rolls, have another strawberry! In the meanwhile we have to wake Henry up!"

"Oh, leave him alone; he'll wake up and smell the beetle juice on his own." Shakespeare snapped, turning towards the sink where Henry stood furiously doing dishes.

"Beetle juice?" Andre said, rolling his eyes, and then he looked at Henry and sighed. "I suppose you are right, Shakespeare, but I can't stand this! I feel I have to do something! I can't just sit here and watch him do those dishes like he is some kind of sad creature! Like he is Blanche DuBois staring at a paper lantern!"

"Blanche who?"

"Oh never mind, the world is coming to an end. I am sure of this. I am certain!"

Shakespeare snapped, "Oh, nothing could fit around your end."

"Very funny, Shakespeare! A good time to make fat jokes!"

"It's always a good time for fat jokes, chubby!"

At that moment Simpson entered the kitchen with a troubled look on his face. Straightening his tie, he cleared his throat, and he said, "Good afternoon, all."

"Good afternoon," Andre and Shakespeare mumbled, standing at attention before Simpson.

Then Andre cried, "Oh, so you just walked in here this time without popping up out of nowhere."

"Sometimes I pop, sometimes I walk," Simpson said; a small grin appeared on his lips, and then just as quickly his frown returned. "Now, I've got no time for chit chat, I have to speak to Henry in my office, it's important," he said as he moved his eyes over to Henry, then raised his voice. "Henry! Henry!"

Henry continued to do the dishes undeterred until Simpson stood over him and pulled on his wing.

Then suddenly Henry looked up at Simpson and cried, "No one touches my wing!"

Simpson cried back, "What on earth is going on here, Henry? Nobody loves doing dishes this much."

"I do. I love doing dishes!"

"Hmmm ... are you all right, Henry? I need to talk to you in my office."

"I thought you might," Henry whispered. "I saw the news report."

"I'm sorry, Henry. Please meet me in my office in a few minutes; I'll explain," Simpson said and then he was gone.

Andre shouted, "Where is Simpson?"

"He told me to meet him in his office, and then he vanished," Henry said, while he turned off the sink.

"I'm sorry, Henry, but how does he do that?"

"He's our magical boss," Shakespeare said in mocking tones from the dessert table.

Andre and Shakespeare watched Henry intently as he left the kitchen and walked down the hall to Simpsons' office.

Then Andre turned towards Shakespeare and wistfully said, "I guess things will be changing around here."

"Don't be absurd," Shakespeare sighed.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-05-09
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