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October 03, 2022

You Know It

By Pete Armetta

We made way into the living room fashionably late, where hors d'oeuvres were laid out on the coffee and end tables, and soft music was playing, courtesy of a harpist -- a very atmospherically appealing room, no doubt. It was already a bit crowded, but we managed to find a spot on a sofa near the fireplace. The crowd had its best face on and the small talk was humming. Tonight's soiree was the first time in oh, maybe four or five years, that the Provost was going to be mingling with this crowd of "elite" University folks, so the room had a certain air of excitement to it. Anticipation. Our fearless leader. Anyone who was ANYONE just had to be there.

The innest of the in-crowd in our insular world.

As soon as we settled in, Paulie reached for a plate, getting himself some assorted cheeses and raw vegetables and hummus, and apparently very enthusiastic he finally made it to the food. A server approached us. "Two Pinot Grigios, please?" I asked. She wrote it on her pad and went to fetch, and I sat back and put my arm up along the back of the sofa to survey the room.

The usual suspects.

Carla Bronte, that quiet lady that's been secretary for that young and brilliant Dr. Gherge for must be forever, came toward us. She was with an older woman, and they were walking arm and arm. Carla came up and asked, "Are these seats taken, Melissa?" pointing to the loveseat adjoining our sofa.

"It doesn't look like it, Carla. I don't think so, we just got here ourselves," I replied.

The older lady elbowed her and whispered something in her ear as they settled closely together in their seats. Paulie nodded his head hello at them while chewing.

The server delivered the wine.

"So Carla," trying to make conversation. "Is Dr. Gherghe going to make it this evening?" I asked.

"He ought to be along any minute. That's what he told me, anyway."

"Oh that's nice."

Carla placed their order with the server and turned to me. "Melissa, this is my mother, Eunice Bronte."

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Bronte, I've been working with Carla for years now," I said, smiling and offering my hand to her respectfully.

Mrs. Bronte shook my hand and nodded, then turned her attention to Paulie, still chewing like he'd never seen food before -- now with the bruschetta.

"Oh, and this is my husband, Paulie," I said, attempting to encourage some semblance of a conversation.

Mrs. Bronte looked at Paulie curiously, watching him gobble down his food.

"Watch out, Paulie, your stomach has a bottom, ya know!" she said to him.

Mid-chew he looked up, and his mouth slowed down. He put his plate on the table, lifted a napkin to his mouth. Took a breath and cleared his throat.

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Bronte. And this is your daughter with you?"

"Yes, this is my youngest daughter, Carla. She comes after Johnny and Greta. She don't come around much to see her old mother anymore, but today decided to grace me with her presence." She was caustic and sarcastic and made sure we knew it. "Yeh, she's the one that had her appendix taken out back when she was pregnant. You heard about that one, right?"

Carla looked at her mother with big eyes asking how in the hell she could say such a thing.

"Oh, Carla, why are you looking at me that way? It's true and you know it."

Paulie just stared while I returned my attention to the rest of the room.

"And you, Melissa, you say you've been working with my Carla? Are you the one with that rare bone disease?"

She was looking at me hard. And I was hardly looking back.

"Well, Mrs. Bronte, I have some medical complications, yes"

I couldn't believe Carla would go home and tell her mother that. Isn't anything sacred?

Mrs. Bronte raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like a real hard case you got there. Must make you hit the sauce now and then, huh?" She winked at me just as my glass reached my lips. "I mean, Carla said there's no hope in your particular case."

"Momma, please," said Carla. "Please forgive me, Melissa." She whispered in her mother's ear and then stood up. "Excuse us, we're going to mingle."

"I don't want to mingle, Carla, I'm fine just here. And don't keep telling me about my sense of decorum, as you call it. I got decorum." She was looking around the room, looking quite interested in the whole who's who. "Hey, that man over there, what's his name, the one in that zootsuit-looking suit with the bad dye job?"

Carla sat back down, "Momma, shh," and whispered in her ear again.

"What's his name?"

"It's Reginald, Momma. He's the doctor over the Neurosurgery program."

"Ohhhh. I don't remember any Reginald."

They believed they were whispering, but I could hear every word. I couldn't help but wonder if Carla goes home to her mother every night then proceeds to talk about everything and everyone in her day.

"Momma, you do remember. He's the one that had the problem with the law with his ex-wife? Had to get a restraining order?"

Okay, this is too good.

"Oh, I know who you mean. That's the one you said likes the pole not the hole, right? The one that got it on with that other married fella, that other doctor, what's his name? Dr. Kelly or something?"

I couldn't help but look over at them. Carla saw my eye contact, then whispered in her mother's ear.

They sat back in the loveseat for some quiet.

The harpist played on. She wasn't really the stereotypical harpist, like one you'd see on TV. You know, with the long blond mane and a white flowing gownish get-up? She wasn't wearing that at all, nor did she have long blond hair. And there was a bagpiping troupe, men in kilts with their instruments, setting up by the door that goes out to the veranda. Apparently we were to be entertained. Dr. Gherge was parked at the bar, chatting it up with one of the young interns. Oh, and here comes Reginald straight toward us. He stopped in front of Carla and Mrs. Bronte.

"Carla, where is Dr. Gherge?" he asked.

Carla looked up at him and motioned toward the bar, mouthing "over there."

"Oh, he's talking to that girlie intern, it figures," he said. It was muttered, but heard. Reginald looked down at Carla and Mrs. Bronte and Paulie and me, as if he'd just noticed us for the first time. He let out a low and uncomfortable laugh, then turned his gaze back toward Gherge.

"What's the matter, you got a thing for that one, too?" asked Mrs. Bronte. "You're looking over there like you do. You don't wanna let your eyes get ahead of your hands, ya know."

Reginald's head snapped toward Mrs. Bronte. "Madam?"

"Oh, why are you looking at me that way, Reginald? It's true and you know it."

Article © Pete Armetta. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-10-13
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