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June 27, 2022

Dinner With Henry 76: The Panic Room

By Bruce Memblatt

Andre cracked an egg open.

There was a chill in the air that morning. He could feel it brush against his hands and his face. He wondered if someone left the window in the rear of the kitchen open.

He took the fork he'd been stirring the egg with out of the bowl, and threw it into the sink, wiped his hands against his apron and began to step to the rear of the kitchen.

By the windowsill he saw a mouse scamper across the floor, and on the sill a sparrow hopped about like a toy solider. Then just beneath the window in the alley he saw him -- Shakespeare huddled up against a garbage can, using a newspaper as a blanket.

Andre cupped his hands over his mouth and whispered through the window, "What on earth are you doing out there, Shakespeare?" He heard the newspaper rustle.

"I couldn't sleep," Shakespeare said, tossing the paper aside.

"Hmmm so you decided to go down to the alleyway and sleep next to a garbage can like a bum?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Have you lost your mind?"

"Why, isn't this a reasonable thing to do?"

"Yes, if you are a CRAZY PERSON!"

Then came the grating sound of a window opening across the alley. A burly man's face appeared, and he hollered, "What the hell is going on out there?"

"None of your God-damned business!" Andre cried, shaking his hands out the window.

Suddenly Shakespeare got up, ran over to the kitchen window sill and cried, "Shush, dummy before he comes down here and gives you what for!"

"Oh please," Andre said waving his hands aside. "I am not afraid of him."

* * *

Later that day, Shakespeare and Andre were standing by the sink. There was a hazy afternoon glow surrounding the room that caused the kitchen to look like it had an elegance about it that it did not normally possess.

"Doesn't the kitchen look atmospheric this afternoon, Shakespeare?" Andre said whilst passing a dish to Shakespeare to dry off.

Shakespeare sighed, "Hmmmm um never mind. Where is Henry again? We are not dishwashers."

"Oh Henry is watching Winifred while Diego goes shopping."

"That Winifred is such an attention whore," Shakespeare snapped.

"What!" Andre's eyebrows quivered. "Well, what on earth is she supposed to do, you think you are a smart guy? She is is just a baby, Shakespeare!"

"There is always an excuse."

Andre threw a plate into the sink, looked down at Shakespeare like he was a toad, and said, "Excuse me; I have to take the garbage to the incinerator. I'll be right back."

"Be careful."

"Why are you telling me to be careful, has something happened that you can't tell me about?" Andre's eyebrows jumped. "I am just taking out the garbage."

"You never know," Shakespeare said fidgeting with the plate in his hand.

Andre sneered at Shakespeare, wondering if he'd lost his mind, and picked up the bag of garbage near the stove. Then he carried it out of the kitchen into the hallway. It wasn't a far walk to the small incinerator room. He whistled on his way, thinking of songs he could sing to Winifred, and ways he could avoid Shakespeare.

When he reached his destination he stood in front of the door quietly because he thought he heard something.

"What was that?" He whispered to the empty hallway. He stood still and listened for a moment.

Satisfied there was no one there, he opened the door and threw the garbage down the chute. Suddenly the door closed behind him. Startled, he began to push against the door to open it but it wouldn't budge.

He saw a burly foot under the threshold.

"Oh my God it's you!" Andre cried, pushing against the wood harder. "You let me out of here! This is just a tiny space! I could suffocate!"

Then he heard laughter and a voice from behind the door," It's none of my god-damned business is it? Go ahead, suffocate, fatso!"

Andre continued to press hard. "I am not fat. I am plump. Let me out of here, you enormous bully!"

"No, fatso, I'm not budging!" The big burly man stood in the hallway leaning against that door like it was nothing.

"Listen, mister, please listen, someone will hear us. You could get in big trouble. Let me out of here and I won't say a word."

"No one is going to hear us. Don't you threaten me, you overstuffed chef!"

"How do you know I'm a chef?"

"Everyone knows who you are."

Even as he pushed hard against the structure, Andre smiled, "I guess my reputation as a chef precedes me."

"No, your reputation as a big mouth. Mister, your voice carries, we all hear you whining all day, that is when you're not singing one of those god-awful songs in that moose-like voice of yours."

Andre became excited. His face turned red, his nose, lips eyes and ears quivered and he kicked the door hard. "MOOSE-LIKE? I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW I AM AN EXCELLENT SINGER."

The door still didn't budge. The big burly man didn't flinch.

All Andre could hear was the sound of hysterical laughter.

There was only one thing he could do. He stopped and opened his mouth and he began to sing:

"Whether, it's light or its dark
My voice is like the sound of a lark.
In rain or shine
My voice is divine, and my songs are so fine.
Arise arise, all who can hear
Arise arise, all who can see
And listen to me.
Sweet sounds emanate
You'll celebrate
You'll rock the gate
When you hear me.
Like a bird like a mouse like a river spring
Like a dead rat that has nothing to eat
Like monkeys' sweaty feet,
I sound so sweet."

Suddenly Andre stopped singing, because -- he didn't know when it happened -- the weight had lifted from the door. Quickly he pushed it open and no one was there. A little stunned, he wiped his forehead with his apron and took in a deep breath.

At that moment Diego was passing by the doorway carrying packages, back from her shopping trip.

She stopped, looked at Andre and said, "What are you doing now, big one?"

Andre sighed and said, "I'm throwing out the garbage, what you think I'm doing?"

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-10-01
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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