483. The Telltale Singlet

Related imageA lovely time was had by all at yet another dinner party with the same lovely people we have come to know well over the past five years or so. If you recall my earlier post called The Dinner Party, that action took place at Suzanne and Gary’s abode on the hill two years ago. Oh, my!! Time has sprinted away from me. It ended in deep space as I saved the human race by exiting the exploding star ship, or something like that. Anyhow, this meeting of the Great 8 took place at Sue and Mark’s lovely home. The women- Suzanne, Sue, Susan and Sara- meet for a weekly prayer group during the school year. The men- Gary, Mark, Dan and I- just hang around looking for meaning. Haven’t found any yet.

Image result for cher picturesLast night after a wonderful display of Hors d’Oeuvres and white wine, the women retreated to the front parlor, closing the french doors behind them. For the next forty minutes they operated under Cher law, which is a secret to all outsiders except Madonna and Lady Gaga. Leaving the four of us unsupervised. Which would have been okay except for Gary. He loves to talk about wrestling and singlets and the male body’s definition. Since it was Mark’s home, I appealed to him. “Are there any ordinances about home burials in this neighborhood?”Related image

“No, I mean, no you can’t bury someone in your yard. Why do you ask?”

“It’s for Gary. With all this rain the ground must be soft. It would not take the three of us long to dig a shallow grave and clean up. We’d be back before dinner was served.”

Gary, “I’d like it if you could bury me in my Westchester singlet. It might be a little tight on me nowadays. But no matter. Did you know in ancient times they wrestled naked.”Image result for sumo wrestler images

“Gary, you don’t understand: we are serious. Our wives are discussing Cheriah law in the next room and you are drooling about wrestling naked with us. This is clearly a case of justifiable homicide.”

Dan, “In Quincy it’s legal to shoot a guest in your living room if he so much as quotes CNN or votes Democrat. And you are way past that standard of indecency. Plus, you have zero remorse.”

Image result for gene wilder pictures as nutty professorGary, “I will have you know, gentlemen, that in Latin, morse meant to bite or gnaw. Thus, remorse conjures the sense of being gnawed at again in one’s conscience for misdeeds he/she remembers. So, it is true: I have no remorse because I have not had any morse… How can a guy have remorse if he doesn’t have any morse? Um, yum, these bacon wrapped scallops are fabulous.  So I take it you don’t want to see my yearbook wrestling pictures? I sent them to NASA to enhance my physique’s definitions. I might put them on Facebook if I like the results.”

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I re-appealed to Mark, “What if we dug under the shed out there? No one would see the ground had been disturbed. It’s far enough from the house that you could deny knowledge or involvement. It might as well be Ukraine out there. We could dump the dirt in the woods and cover Gary’s grave with concrete to match the existing foundation. We would swear a sacred oath and then kill Dan just to shrink the odds in our favor.”

Dan, “But, but, why not find an empty cistern in P-P- Pond B-B- Bank and put him in there with a b-b- bottle of bl-bl-bleach? No muss, no fuss. You don’t have to k-k- kill m-m-me.”

Mark, “It’s sounding more acceptable as things deteriorate, but my conscience is wrestling with the morality of it. I don’t want to kill Dan, but I hate the smell of chlorine.”

“I don’t like chlorine either. Perhaps we could get scented bleach, but it might have to be done to cover up the Gary incident. That’s how these things work, Mark. Don’t you ever watch Dateline?”

“But why do we have to kill Dan?”Image result for questioning male faces

“He’s a witness with a conscience and a moral compass. You can’t trust a guy like that. Plus, there is room under the shed for up to three bodies. Think of efficiency and expediency. Try not to get all hung up on the moral issues at hand or resale values. It has to be done for the good of the Nation.”

Mark, “I don’t know. I get a queasy feeling when I think about Gary not leaving, haunting us indefinitely. It’s creepy beyond creepy….”

Gary, “You do love me!  I’m gonna get you a helium balloon that says, ‘I love singlets’. You guys, I knew in your hearts you were fellow wrestlers.”Image result for elmer fudd pictures

Mark, “Okay. I am green lighting this. But I don’t want my fingerprints on anything. I’ll stand guard while you and Dan do the deed. Make it quick.”

Just then the french doors opened and out came the ladies. The murderous moment had passed, but we eyed one another suspiciously thereafter. Every word was analyzed. Every glance evaluated for hidden meanings as we broke bread together.Related image

During dinner the rolls were passed clockwise with Susan’s homemade blackberry jam just behind them, as succulent ham was handed around counterclockwise. Cheesy hash browns and winter veggies were passed directly across and then moved in a Z pattern with Marine color guard precision. The entire food passage was choreographed magically above bowls of candy corn and around a single smokeless red candle. Beauty and agility vied with each other and wound up in a draw.  Mark’s Sirius radio blend floated across the white oak floor, completing the rich ambience. If not for the previous plotting, it would easily pass as a warm, loving meal shared among friends.Image result for edgar allen poe portraits

Edgar Allen Poe himself would not have written such macabre Gothic material as The Telltale Singlet. And yet, there it was with all the classic elements of terror– Cheriah law, perversion, betrayal, violence, murder, and dessert, all wrapped into one dish.

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303. Croquet, Anyone?

It’s not what I expected either, but after a wonderful summer dinner with couples friends, finishing with homemade ice cream on a high fiber gluten free brownie, ummm, we went out into the early evening and picked up croquet mallets and balls. I picked the black one, casting myself as the villain of the group of six. I have never played croquet before in my almost 60 years. Something told me we needed British accents and witty phrases, “Old Boy” and “Sticky Wicket” and all that. Many references to Aussies and Kiwis would be proper good fun, don’t you know? And bloody good pudding from Staffordshire in the boot. Oh those Brits! LOL. Trippy.

We proceeded according to color. Gary, blue, then my wife, the radiant Sara, was red, then me, Gary’s wife Suzanne, yellow, then our hosts, Dan, orange and Susan, green. The colors were intense and very cool. It was remarkably simple to grasp the objective of whacking a ball through wickets, but then the dark side of the croquet world arose as competitive juices began to effervesce like Alka Seltzer in tonic water. Suzanne introduced rule 54…”when your ball contacts another ball, you are entitled to an additional whack. You can choose to hit yours or to send the ball you contacted.” Well, that’s when evil smiled its serpentine grin. Up became down and right became wrong.

“Nice hit, Gary. Strong. Impressive.”

“Good show, wifey. Lots of torque on that spheroid.”

And then I hit the black-hearted globe. “Watch out! He’s competitive”, muttered someone in the gallery behind me. I had unknowingly stepped into a nest of snarky snakes. Vituperous vipers. I felt their fierce fangs filet my frightened fragile flesh.

“I can’t help it if I hit it well. Isn’t that the objective?” Too late. Too late. I was in too deep. It all felt psychedelic at once. Pink Floyd echoed, “If you don’t eat your meat, how can you have any pudding? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

“No, the objective it to prevent you from winning. Send him Gary. Don’t wait. Punish him now!!”  The soundtrack of the evening switched to a sweeping bass line with electronic bings and buzzes. I realized that the niceties were over and my 007 life was on the line. I lacked technology gizmos to escape.

I appealed to Gary, mano y mano, but he crumbled under power-starved feminine pressure. Oh such villainy! I looked at Suzanne who held five ceramic human figureheads in her hands. She was squeezing the blue headed one like a voodoo doll… and Gary twitchingly complied.

And just like that– my black ball was sent rocketing away at an impossible angle to the wicket.

“Oh, I see how this is gonna be. Every dog for himself. Well, look out, cuz Pit Bull be here. And you a Chihuahua, bro dog. Better git back to where you once belonged. Git back Loretta.”

I took off the proverbial gloves on my next shot, caroming off Gary’s blue ball and winning another shot. Rather than exiling him into the thick grass yonder, however, I shot my ball through the wicket honorably forward with malice toward none and fraternity for all. I tried to set an example of cool professionalism and sportsmanship, knowing full well that I had been drugged at dinner. Sue’s brownie! She left without eating one. She was Judas in July.

Soon the first four were ahead of the hosts by a wicket or two. Lots of clocking and clacking and whicking and whacking was going on. I will own up to doing a few illegal booty dance celebrations after a remarkable shot or two. But in my defense I must add that there were no children about. Still, resentment grew toward my success. Their conniving was palpable on this humid night of ignominy. It seemed like I was moving under many leagues of hallucinogenic water.

I felt the jealous hand of fate draw an x on my back as I approached my next wicket. By this point in the competition I had accused the others of being croquet-stipated and stuck. I’d sung “Mustang Sally” in tribute to Wicked Wilson Pickett, the original Sticky Wicket. And a James Brown “Hit Me!” routine. But my impromptu jestering was not appreciated. Resentment grew and the conspiracy along with it. I was trying to inject some urban hip hop funky Broadway into this stiff  Anglican affair. But like the first banana out of any bunch, I would soon be peeled. Devoured by cruel monkeys.

With one wicket to go, a magnetic force field curved my ball off at an unnatural angle. It was clear to me that alien forces had been summoned by Gary, Suzanne and even my own wife. She had cast her lot with the Moral Munchkins, the little people of croquet, the Lollipop League.

You think you know someone until you play a competitive game with them. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Scrabble games often end with blood under the table, my blood. I’ve been told that I’m a bad winner but an excellent loser. I guess that’s my destiny– the arrow catcher, pin cushion, punching bag, poop magnet. I needed help as badly as Dorothy needed the Wizard of Oz.  It looked bad as my frenemies piled on and whacked me away from the victory wicket that was rightfully mine. And then it happened.

Over the western tree line a hot air balloon appeared. The pilot was a vaguely familiar man with a top hat. He masterfully guided the balloon onto the Martins’ lawn. No easy feat. He introduced himself as the next senior pastor of our church. “I got here as fast as I could, but there were flying monkeys that grounded all the flights out of Pittsburgh, plus the property commissioner was absent for the final vote.”  We welcomed him most graciously as Suzanne hid her ceramic voodoo doll collection and her gravity shifting controller.

 Then it hit me: this was not our pastoral candidate. It was Mark Sanford. It all came together then. The entire evening was a scam, a fundraiser for the 16th Republican candidate for president. I’d been Amwayed again, but the brownie buzz was even better than the colonoscopy anesthesia that trips you out so good. Finally I had a grip on reality again. Croquet, Anyone?