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February 26, 2024

Dinner With Henry 71: The Huddle

By Bruce Memblatt

A sparrow nestled on the kitchen window.

Another morning arrived on Delancey Street. When Andre entered the kitchen he saw Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson standing by the stove with a rose in her hand, a smile on her face and an apology on her lips.

As he approached the stove he cried out, "My god what have I done now? The day has just started!"

"No no no, Mr. Andre, I have come to offer you a gift, this rose you see?" Maria held the rose out to Andre, "And an apology for my behavior yesterday. You see I suffer from mood swings. Extreme mood swings." Maria's eyes opened wide.

Andre's lips quivered, "Mood swings? Ah oh, I see," his eyebrows rose, "Well, I understand my mood can change quickly too." "Not like mine." "Hnmmmmm," Andre said, "Well then, thank you so much for the flower! It's lovely!"

"It's not just a flower it's a rose." Maria eyes squinched, and then they turned their heads. Shakespeare had just entered the kitchen and he was scurrying to his counter.

Maria called out to Shakespeare, "My apologies to you too, little one."

Shakespeare snapped, "Whatever," while he began tearing things out of his drawer.

"Excuse me, "Andre said to Maria, and then he walked over to Shakespeare. His apron just touched the floor. It was a cloudy day. All the lights in the kitchen were on. Maria's eyes followed Andre while he neared Shakespeare who was pulling a parfait glass out the cabinet below the counter.

Andre whispered to Shakespeare, "Guess what? She told me she has mood swings -- extreme ones."

"Oh great," Shakespeare snapped, "She's nuts."

"I think there are other ways to say it. She may be bipolar, Shakespeare."

"No matter how you say it, we're screwed."

It was then that Henry entered the kitchen and saw Shakespeare and Andre in a huddle, and Maria standing by the stove straining to hear what they were saying.

As Henry rushed past Maria she said, "I'm sorry to you too, Henry!"

"Don't you mean big shot?" Henry said out of the side of his mouth.

Henry could hear Maria say, "I said I'm sorry, Henry," while he whispered in Andre's ear.

"What's going on, Andre, why are we all huddled with Maria looking on?"

"Well, Henry, Maria told me apparently she suffers from extreme mood swings."

"Oh boy, so she's nuts."

"That's what I said," Shakespeare snapped.

"Will you two stop saying that before Maria hears you and her mood swings back," Andre hushed. His head bobbed erratically up and down between Henry and Shakespeare.

Shakespeare pulled on Andre's leg. "So is this how it's going to be from now on; us walking on eggshells, always trying not to set her off? We're all going to become nervous wrecks."

"What do you mean become?" Andre cried. "I have been a nervous wreck from the moment I stepped into this kitchen years ago."

"Again it is all about you," Shakespeare snapped, "I said WE were all going to become nervous wrecks."

"Ahem, excuse me, Shakespeare, but I think I can say with some confidence that I am nervouser than all of you!"

"Nervouser?" Shakespeare sighed.

Then Henry added, "He has a point, Shakespeare, Andre is the nervousest person I know."

"Nervousest?" Shakespeare sighed. "Okay, I am holding my breath till people stop screwing around with words."

Suddenly Henry noticed Maria taking a few steps closer before she stopped and stood watching them again.

Andre cried, "Go ahead hold your, breath, Shakespeare. Hold it a good long time!"

Henry stared at Maria and said, "Did you see that? She's inching closer; she took a few steps then she stopped."

"I'll bet she's dangerous," Shakespeare said, pointing in Maria's general direction.

"Oh how silly, little Shakespeare, if she was dangerous Clarissa would never have hired her."

"Why not, She hired you didn't she?" Shakespeare snapped.

"Now, hold on a second! I am not dangerous!" Andre shouted.

"Shush, she's staring at us," Henry said, elbowing Andre.

"She's been staring at us the entire time, bug-brain," Shakespeare said.

Henry was just about to take Shakespeare down a notch when out of the corner of his eye he saw Diego entering the kitchen.

Diego stared at Maria and then she turned her head and saw Andre, Shakespeare, and Henry in a huddle and she said, "Does anyone have a nail file?"

And then Diego marched over to the huddle, pointed at Henry and said, "Do you have a nail file, Henry?"

"No," Henry whispered, pointing at Diego then waving her closer. "Can't you see we're in a huddle here?"

"I see, but what does that have to do with me, Henry?" Diego hushed, "I'm just looking for a nail file."

"Can't you see Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson is watching us? She suffers from severe mood swings."

"If I may, Henry," Andre said, "perhaps we should try to explain this to Diego in simpler terms."

At once Shakespeare froze and he said, "Uh oh."

Suddenly, a look stranger than the strange look that normally rested in Diego's eyes appeared in her pupils. She pointed at Andre, pressing her finger against the center of his chest, "You listen to me, Big One, you say that, or anything like that again, and I'll cut your balls off and feed them to Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson. Understand?"

Andre's head started shaking making the huddle appear like a large restless spider to Maria. She jumped back a few feet and cried, "Maricons!" before she resumed staring at them.

"Oh my! Oh my! I am so sorry, Diego! I don't know what came over me," Andre said, winking at Shakespeare.

Then Shakespeare said, "Why are you winking at me? I can't see it."

While Andre scratched his head, Sincere was pulling a worm out of the can she held to feed to the sparrow still nestling on the kitchen window. After feeding the sparrow, Sincere marched over to the huddle.

Henry saw her first out of the corner of his eye and whispered to Diego, "Look, Sincere's on her way over."

Diego stared at Sincere's crooked smile and said, "Hey, maybe she could use her magic on Maria's mood swings?"

Henry smiled while Maria approached and said, "May I join the huddle?"

"Sure," Shakespeare snapped, "what's one more witch going to matter?"

Andre cried out, "You know, Shakespeare, sometimes you are such a dummy!"

Suddenly, they turned and saw tears pouring out of Maria's eyes. She grabbed a tissue from her pocket and sobbed out, "I am always left out of everything -- EVERYTHING!"

Her cries grew louder and louder. Henry, Andre, Shakespeare, Diego, and Sincere remained in the huddle because of the protection it seemingly provided. Maria was a new and unknown factor. They didn't know what she could do next so they decided to stay huddled until Maria left the kitchen.

Several hours later, Maria left the kitchen, still sobbing.

The sparrow hopped off the kitchen window and took to the air.

The huddle broke up.

Diego sighed.

Alarm stood in the hallway wondering why a small Spanish woman was walking into Simpson's office.

And that's how things were in the warehouse on that cloudy day on Delancey Street.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-07-23
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