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July 04, 2022

Dinner With Henry 75: Chopped Sugar

By Bruce Memblatt

A cat raced across the alleyway next to the warehouse on Delancey Street.

The sound of a garbage truck careening down the block broke through the kitchen windows.

Maria Conchita Chiquita Carmelita Johnson sat on a chair, by the table, by the stove, chopping sugar cubes while tears ran down her face.

"What is the use?" Maria said, taking the cleaver and bringing it down on another cube, "What is the use; things will never be right never never never never never never never never."

Chunks of sugar fell over the butcher block tray that sat on the table that Maria sat at crying her eyes out.

"Ay, it is my fate to live a life of sadness and sorrow." The many bracelets on her wrists jangled out an unhappy tune.

The fluorescent light above the table sizzled.

It was then that Henry walked into the kitchen. Seeing Maria at the table, by the stove, in a state of distress, made him want to turn around and leave the kitchen fast, but it was too late, she had spotted him.

Maria raised the cleaver high. "Hello, Henry, come here to gloat, el insecto?"

Henry, still standing by the door, cleared his throat and said, "Gloat about what? By the way, why are you using a cleaver to chop sugar cubes? Why are you even chopping them? You're not a worker, you're in management."

"You ask a lot of questions, mister. I am chopping sugar cubes to chop out my frustrations. It is a sorry thing. But a cleaver in the hands feels so good. So you tell me, why not just get granulated sugar?"

"Simpson saved money getting the cubes."

"Then we shall continue in Simpson's most glorious tradition!" Maria said, bringing the cleaver down again. "Picotear."

At once, they heard Shakespeare snap from the back of the kitchen, "Yeah, keeping the cheapskate tradition."

The fluorescent light sizzled.

Maria raised the cleaver again and grinned a sly grin, "It's not nice to talk about the dead."

So Shakespeare gave Maria the finger and said, "It's not nice to try to take other people's jobs."

Suddenly, seeing trouble brewing, Henry stepped over to Maria and whispered, "Shakespeare chops the sugar," when Andre walked into the kitchen carrying a bag of tomatoes.

"Oh my, why are you chopping the sugar cubes, Maria?" Andre cried. "That is Shakespeare's job!"

Maria waved the cleaver, and she hissed like a snake, "Why are you carrying a bag of tomatoes, fatso?"

"Because whilst I was taking my morning constitution I saw they were on sale."

"Aha! You cheapskate!"

Andre put the bag down on the counter and waved his hands in the air. "What is she talking about?"

"It's a long story," Shakespeare snapped.

Maria raised the cleaver again. "Your little friend here was talking ill of the dead. The spirits don't like that."

Andre sighed, putting on his apron, "Maria, Shakespeare is Shakespeare; there is not much we can do about that. Even so, you should not take his job."

The fluorescent light sizzled and crackled and Maria screeched, "I AM NOT TAKING HIS JOB I AM JUST TEMPORARILY CHOPPING OUT MY FRUSTRATIONS!" The cleaver came down again. "UNDERSTAND?"

Andre gasped and cautiously stepped back. "Yes, I understand, please enjoy your chopping," he said to Maria, then he turned and whispered to Shakespeare, "Psssst, come here!"

So Shakespeare followed Andre's voice and met him by the stove. It wasn't a very bright day in the kitchen, the lights had been flickering and crackling all morning, and dark clouds hovered over Delancey Street.

Andre quickly whispered to Shakespeare, "Shakespeare, please do not antagonize that lunatic while she is holding a cleaver in her hand!"

"Oh, c'mon, what do you think is going to happen? She's not going to chop us too!"

"How do you know? Shakespeare, she is unstable. She has tremendous tumultuous mood swings, and a Latin temper. We could all wind up chopped tamales!"

That was when Henry stuck his nose into the huddle. "I tend to agree with Shakespeare; Maria is not going to chop us up. Let's be realistic, Andre."

Andre whispered loudly, "Henry, when am I not realistic? I am the epitome of realism!"

Upon hearing Andre's statement, Shakespeare toppled over and laughed hysterically, which enticed Henry to laugh loudly too.

They remained huddled and laughing until Maria's cleaver came smashing down on the floor next to them while she cried out, "You laugh at me! You dare laugh at my sorrow you fools! You USELESS MARICONES!"

Then the cleaver came down again.

Terrified, Henry Andre and Shakespeare began to scramble to the kitchen door when they saw Maria drop the cleaver to the floor; then she sat down at the kitchen table and cried her eyes out. "It's no use, I will never be loved," she said, her hands covering her bowed head.

Then Maria sobbed some more. "I am just a mean old nobody that nobody cares about."

And She sobbed some more. "It is my fate to live forever in sorrow."

And she sobbed even more, holding a tissue to her eyes. "Ay."

Henry, Andre and Shakespeare were standing, somberly watching Maria cry when Diego walked into the kitchen pushing Winifred's stroller.

Diego stepped up to Henry. "Here, watch Winifred, I'm going to the beauty parlor to get my hair done." Her eyes scanned the room. "What have you knuckleheads done to Maria?"

Henry's eyes opened wide. "What?"

Maria started to shake and cry louder.

Then Diego walked over to her and said, "Maria, come with me and get your hair done, too."

Maria looked up at Diego and said, "Okay." Then she stood and left the kitchen with Diego.

Henry, Andre, and Shakespeare watched as they passed though the doorway. Then Shakespeare said, "Well, there they go -- Crazy and Crazier."

Andre and Henry began to grin when they heard another sizzle and Andre cried, "My god the lights are out!"

Shakespeare snapped, "So?"

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-09-17
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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