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February 19, 2024

Dinner With Henry 70: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

By Bruce Memblatt

Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson waved Henry, Andre, and Shakespeare further down the hall towards the kitchen. Shakespeare lowered his head and scowled. Andre yawned. Henry stretched his legs. It was nearing the end of a long day and they hadn't so much as boiled water. Clarissa was hungry. Simpson was gone. They were exhausted and Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson seemed determined to get things done.

"Okay, people lets go, move it along. C'mon that's right, there is work to be done. You too, poco uno ciego."

Shakespeare tugged on Andre's leg and snapped, "What did she say?" Then they began to walk.

"I don't know, Shakespear,e but she must have been talking about you because poco means little."

"That is right," Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson said, and she laughed, "It means little blind one." She continued to walk.

"What, is she a comedian?"

"Now Shakespeare," Andre began to say when Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson stopped walking and intervened, jingling her arms, "as a matter fact I am. Well, I used to be. When I was a young chiquita in Mexico I did standup at the Casa de Risas. Now I am older and just take care of bugs and other odd creatures it seems." She shook her head, scrunched her nose and crossed her arms."Ay, oh well."

They began to walk again.

Suddenly Andre became flustered and waved his arms, "Oh my, isn't that interesting! I love to laugh. By the way, Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson, may we call you 'Maria?'"


Andre gasped and appeared to be stunned.

Then Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson winked and said, "Ha! Just kidding."

Andre slapped his knees and said, "Oh my, you are so funny, Maria."

"Yeah, she's a regular Joan Rivers," Shakespeare snapped. He picked up his pace because he noticed he was falling behind Andre.

It was then that Maria pointed at Henry. "Why so quiet, Henry?"

Henry yawned and said, "Sorry, I'm tired."

"I remember when you were a child, Henry," Maria half-smiled, "when you were just a bug. Then you became half-human, a big shot, huh?"

They passed through the kitchen door.

"Yup, that's me, the big shot," Henry said while he turned the kitchen lights on.

Then Shakespeare snapped, "I think you mean 'bug shot.'"

Maria turned around and laughed, "Hey, you are a comedian, too."

"Yeah, he's a regular Joan Rivers," Henry said with a snide smile.

Andre walked over to the stove, put his cap and apron on and said, "And so, now it finally begins."

And suddenly, as if possessed by a demon, Maria marched over to Andre, shook her fists and said, "It better, because that is one hungry bug over there!"

She'd lost her smile.

Andre stared at Maria, Shakespeare's jaw dropped. Henry wondered if that was how it was going to be from now on -- Maria bossing them around like a tiny Spanish Idi Amin?

Shakespeare thought maybe the wrong person vanished behind Her door.

Maria was relentless she began to holler at Shakespeare, "What are you waiting for, shrimp, start on the parfaits before I have you fired!"

Shakespeare scurried to his counter and pulled a bowl out of the cabinet.

Then, Henry, who couldn't believe how obedient Shakespeare had become, neared the stove and said, "Is this really necessary, Maria?"

Maria's body shook and she yelled, "You too, Henry!"

"I have to wait till there are dishes for me to wash."

"Always the big shot, Henry!" Maria said and then she grabbed a dish that was sitting next to Andre by the stove, marched over to the sink, threw the dish in and cried, "There is your dirty dish, half-bug! Now get moving!"

Henry was stunned. He silently walked over to the sink and turned the faucet on.

They quietly went about their work as Maria watched on, frowning and occasionally jingling the bracelets on her wrists.

Andre was particularly and unusually somber till he dropped a bowl on the floor. Before Andre could catch his breath, Maria screamed, "Are we made of money here? Just who will pay for that dish?"

Andre grabbed his chest while he knelt down to pick up the broken pieces of porcelain from the floor, and said, "I will, Maria, I will."

"That's right you will," Maria sneered and she looked at Andre like he was a cockroach.

At that moment Shakespeare scurried over to Andre. He began to help Andre pick up pieces of the dish when he whispered in his ear, "How long? How long are we going to put up with this?"

Andre whispered back, "I do not know. I do not know. Maybe Henry can do something?"

Shakespeare replied, "I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the bug shot to do something."

Then suddenly Maria swooped down and said, "You two better watch your step."

Quickly, Andre and Shakespeare stood. Andre quietly returned to the stove and Shakespeare marched to his counter.

"That is better. This is much much better," Maria said, shaking her head.

Several silent minutes slowly went by, when out of the blue Andre began to cry. He took a dish and smashed it against the floor.

Henry gasped and held his breath. Shakespeare grinned. And like a bullet Maria ran over to Andre and cried, "What the hell are you doing?"

Andre's nose, lips and eyebrows twitched. He trembled and he said, "I can not take anymore!" Then he threw another dish to the floor.

Maria shook like an earthquake. "You stop this right now, fatso!"

Then Andre quickly grabbed another plate and tossed it. "No I will not. You are abusive and mean. I do not like you." And he threw another dish.

Shakespeare began to laugh. Henry stared at Andre and Maria like they had just turned into Martians.

Maria began to shout. "I will have you fired you crazy chef!"

"I don't care!" Andre cried out. Another dish hit the floor.

At that moment Diego entered the kitchen. She sighed and said, "Is it Greek night again?"

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-07-09
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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