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October 03, 2022

Dinner With Henry 53: The Short Visit, or How Not To Bake a Sugar Cake

By Bruce Memblatt

Henry hurriedly tried to pull Winifred's best pullover over her shoulders. His sleeve got caught on the edge of the crib and he nearly toppled over.

Winifred began to laugh a cute little baby laugh, and she said, "Oh Daddy, you're so scattered."

"I'm in a rush, honey, you know who's coming." His wing dropped to the floor.

Winifred raised her little arms and said, "Mommy's mommy Grandmother Henrietta! I've never met her."

"Actually I haven't either, so it will be an adventure for both of us. Now can't you help me with this pullover?"

"Okay, Daddy," she cooed, "but it was fun watching you topple."

"Listen, everybody, there's no time for funny business," Diego said as she marched into the nursery. She had a doll hanging from one arm and a can of Lysol in the other. She threw the doll into Winifred's crib and began to spray the air.

"Oh, mommy, you know I don't like dolls." "Today you do, today you're going to act like a normal child," Diego grinned.

"Can I talk?"

"Yes, but normally like me. Henry, why are you just standing there, do something!"

The doorbell rang. The can of Lysol flew out of Diego's hands. Henry could see the tip of her scar as the nursery door quickly shut behind Diego. Moments later, Diego walked back through the nursery door with her mother at her side.

"Henry, this is my mother, Henrietta," Diego breathed. And before Henry stood a small woman with her hair in a bun, wearing a flowered dress like one Henry imagined you'd find on a shelf at Woolworth's half a century ago. A strand of pearls wrapped around her neck. At her sides, in one hand, a large black pocket book, in the other hand a box.

Henry was surprised; in his mind he'd expected a mixture of Cher and Rosanne Barr, but this woman was just a simple plain bit of Americana as far as Henry could tell. He stepped up to her slowly and said, "So nice to meet you, Henrietta, can I take your bag?"

"No, please, I can carry it myself. I may look old, but I'm fit as a fiddle. Say, you don't look half as weird as I expected you to look -- mind you, you're not exactly normal looking, either. What is that thing drooping down? Is that a wing?" A bit of a drawl caressed her words.

Henry was a bit startled, and then Diego rushed to his rescue. "Mother, come meet your granddaughter Winifred."

"Does she have one of them wings too?"

"Just a small one, it's cute, come look at her," Diego said waving her mother over to Winifred's crib.

Above her crib Winifred saw a familiar face and one not so familiar, but she knew who the other woman was and she shook her little body and smiled a big broad baby smile, and said, "Hello, Grandmother Henrietta! "

Quickly, Henrietta turned to Diego and said, "What is she doing?"

Diego whispered, "I told you she can talk, Mother."

"Well, I know you well, Diego, and I didn't believe you, I thought it was just another one of your crazy dreams," Henrietta said, and then she gazed down at Winifred and she smiled. "Ain't you the cutest thing! The cutest thing ever!"

"Yes I am! Yes I am!" Winifred said and she cooed, "Later I'll show you my wing!"

"Never mind that, I brought you something," Henrietta said, then she pulled up her arm and she leaned the box she had at her side up against the railing to the crib. "Wait till you see this!" She tore open the box and a small furry head peered through the cardboard.

It was then that Henry came to attention. He raced towards the crib and said, "What is that thing?" his hands pointing in alarm.

"Yes, what is it that you're giving my child?" Diego breathed.

Henrietta's eyes bulged and she pulled her skirt down. "It's a ferret -- what do you think it is?"

"WOW," Winifred said, her hands reaching up towards the box. "What's a ferret?"

Diego stared at her mother and said, "It's a rat."

Then Henrietta pointed her finger at Diego, a charm bracelet hanging from her wrist. "Now just one second, Diego, a ferret is not a rat, it's a perfectly good, perfectly adorable house pet. I have one and Winifred will love this one. You hardly have to do anything, you just let 'em loose and they find their way around. Don't even half to walk 'em, all's you have to do is set out some kitty litter. They are fun pets, the funnest pets you could ever find."

Henry felt a sick feeling in his stomach, like he had just eaten a rutabaga, and he said, "I don't know about this, Henrietta."

"Just call me 'mom,' Son, or whatever you are. Now, don't you worry about it. Everything will be just fine."

Then suddenly Winifred cried, using most of her baby charms, "Please, Daddy!"

As Henry was just about to say yes the ferret jumped out of the box and scampered across the floor, leaving the nursery in the dust behind him.

"Where did he go? Grandmother!" Winifred cried, her face all pursed.

"Don't you worry, Winifred, they just like to feel their oats, scout around and stuff. He's just making himself at home. Now let me see that wing ... "

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Andre was standing by the stove. The oven door was open. He was preparing a sugar cake. Shakespeare was at his side, chopping up sugar cubes.

"Do you think it has enough sugar in it?" Shakespeare snapped.

"I'm not sure, Shakespeare, you know her -- she has an enormous sweet tooth. I would say maybe a few pounds more."

Shakespeare said, "Why not get her a plantation?"

"Ha ha, but where would we put it? Now really, Shakespeare, it's not such hard work chopping sugar cubes is it?" Andre eyebrows rose and quivered as he sifted more sugar into the bowl.

"But it's tedious and repetitive. I need change. I'm so bored," Shakespeare said as he chopped another sugar cube.

"Well at least you are being honest, Shakespeare. Tedium is a thing that has been the scourge of mankind since the beginning of time, but no one ever addresses it. Tedium is a curse. Chop another cube, please."

"That's why I drink, tedium."

"Okay, I think the batter is ready, just let me pour it into the pan and put it in the oven," Andre said, and then he poured the batter into the pan. As the words left his lips, the ferret quietly scurried into the oven.

"Ah, this looks good doesn't it, Shakespeare? And the oven is nice and hot." Andre placed the pan in the oven and shut the door.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-08-15
1 Reader Comments
Sand
08/21/2011
08:24:37 PM
Ferret-cake! I love it!
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