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September 26, 2022

Dinner With Henry 81: Bring Me the Head of Mel Torme

By Bruce Memblatt

The room remained in stunned silence. It was the second head to mysteriously appear in the kitchen that week. But this head's arrival by UPS proved without a doubt that a deliberate plot was afoot. Someone wanted something from the Delancey Street kitchen staff, but what, who, and why were the questions that pounded through Henry's head when Maria picked up the skull from the dusty kitchen floor.

"Something very strange is going on here," Maria said; her eyes grew intense as if she were trying to thread a needle, while she held the skull in her hands, moving her head in circles, gazing at it from every conceivable angle. "Does anyone recognize this hombre? He was an ugly dude, wasn't he?"

Andre, about to crack into a million pieces of frenzied panic, cried, "WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE? WE ARE DOOMED!"

Then Shakespeare snapped, "Oh, please put on another record."

"Put on another record? You think you are some kind of wise guy, Shakespeare? We are in deep deep trouble. Two heads in one day means deep trouble."

"Well, something is deep around here," Maria said, taking an even closer look at the skull in her curious hands. "He reminds me of Hulk Hogan, heh heh."

Andre's nose scrunched," And who might Hulk Hogan be?"

Maria slapped her hands over her head, causing the skull to return to the floor, "Oy vey! Who is Hulk Hogan?"

"Oy vey?" Shakespeare snapped whilst he reached to the floor and swept the skull up in his hands.

Maria's finger shook furiously at Andre. "He is maybe THE most famous wrestler the World Wrestling Federation has ever produced next to Roddy Piper."

"Yeah, don't you know who Hulk Hogan is, you dummy?" Shakespeare said, holding the skull in his hands, aiming it like he was going to toss it down a bowling alley.

That was the precise moment Henry's control vanished. He dug his fingers into Diego's arm, who had been standing next to Henry, staring at the second head with her mouth open and he cried, "HAS EVERYONE HERE TAKEN LEAVE OF THEIR SENSES? WHO CARES IF THAT SKULL LOOKS LIKE HULK HOGAN OR RODDY PIPER! THE IMPORTANT THING IS SOMEONE IS BEHIND THIS. SOME ONE KNOWS SOMETHING!"

Diego came to life, and whispered, "Henry, please let go of my arm, you are hurting me."

"Oops! Sorry, Honey," Henry said, releasing his grip from Diego's arm, stomping his foot on the floor.

Then Shakespeare tossed the skull towards the rear of the kitchen saying, "You know, you sound just like Andre."

Maria's bracelets jingled like tumblers and she cried, smacking Shakespeare in the back of the head, "What are you doing, you crazy midget, tossing the skull around like it was nothing? Nothing at all. And I thought you were smart, but you are just as stupid as that big bag of wind chef."

"Ouch!" Shakespeare cried when Andre began to shout.

"LISTEN ALL OF YOU I HAVE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH!" His eyes, nose, ears, toes, and fingers quivered.

Henry stared at all of them like they had just escaped from Bellevue, then he began to walk to the rear of the kitchen to retrieve the head. Diego followed him, pulling Winifred's stroller behind her. Andre followed the stroller, then Shakespeare joined with Maria bringing up the rear.

When they neared the window in the back of the kitchen, as Henry knelt over to pull the skull off the floor, he heard Andre scream. His head quickly turned to look at Andre. They all stared at Andre who was pointing toward the window because there was a box sitting on the ledge outside it and they all had an idea of what was inside that arrangement of cardboard.

Without hesitation, Maria opened the window. Pulling the box through the glass she repeated over and over, "Ay no, it can't be. It can not be!"

"But IT IS!" Andre cried, watching Maria pull yet another head out of a box. Sweat trickled down his forehead.

Maria's hand shook holding the head in her arms. Everyone's hands shook, and Maria cried, "WE ARE DONE FOR!"

Andre threw his hats to the floor. "YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN! OH MY GOD! WHO COULD BE BEHIND THIS HORRID PLOT AND WHY, WHY WHY?"

"Never mind all that. Who does this one look like? "Shakespeare snapped.

And Diego said, "I think this one looks like Mel Torme."

"AYYYYYY I LOVE MEL TORME!" Maria cried,, tossing the skull in her hands like it was a toy. The sun poured through the window onto her reddish-blonde hair making her appear even more surreal then she actually was.

Diego responded staring at the skull, "They called him 'the velvet fog.' Imagine that? Can I hold his head for a moment?"

Henry intervened and said, "I don't think that's really Mel Torme's head, honey."

Diego shrugged and said, "Well, of course not, Henry what do you take me for?"

An uncomfortable silence momentarily broke over the room.

Then Andre spoke. "I love the way Mel sang, That's All, and you know, Mel was a songwriter too, most famous for 'The Christmas Song.' I love that one so much, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...'"

"If we don't figure out what's going on soon, we're all going to be roasting on an open fire," Shakespeare snapped.

Then suddenly, without warning there was a knock on the side of the kitchen door.

"OH MY GOD! THE TIME HAS COME. THIS IS IT! GOOD BYE!" Andre cried, stretching and digging his hands into Shakespeare shoulders.

"Hey, stop being such a wuss, fatso!" Maria said, and then she slapped Andre on the back of the head, just like she'd slapped Shakespeare earlier.

"Will you please stop slapping people!" Andre said, pushing Maria's hands away.

"And will you stop digging your hands into people!" Shakespeare said, tugging on Andre's leg.

Then Diego began tapping her foot on the floor, "All right, all right. Enough is enough, people. Let's go see who is at the door." And then she began to march back to the front of the kitchen towards the door.

Henry, Andre, Shakespeare and Maria followed Diego's steps.

Trepidation and anxiety clung to the air like electricity.

Their steps were slow and cautious.

But before they made it to the door, standing in the doorway -- their eyes beheld the thing they didn't want to see most: five boxes.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-12-10
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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