Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II was going over the menu with her secretary, Flora.
|Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II was going over the menu with her secretary, Flora.
"Chicken," she said. "Why does that raise a welt? Mrs. Weisskopf? No. That would be pork."
"Mrs. Weisskopf doesn't keep kosher," said Flora.
"She says. And how ostentatiously she says it. No, I'll tell who it is. Maggie Perch. An allergy. She says."
"You still have to telephone Mrs. Perch. If you've finally decided you want her."
"I don't want her. There will be enough wasps in the garden as it is."
"That must be why her invitation is still sitting on your appointments table." Flora glanced at the desk on the other side of the room.
"I'll tell you why! I specially invited her to last year's promenade—"
"I'd taken her advice—like drinking gall—and I wanted to show her the results, which were not at all what she promised—"
"I told you it would be trouble."
"Oh, you've a memory for it!"
"I can still mail the invitation. It won't get there until after tomorrow, and you can blame it on the post office."
Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II looked thoughtful. Then she sighed.
"No, bring me my book and the telephone. I knew I would have to telephone and have been procrastinating. Now I shall have to abase myself."
"Better than waiting for the fourteenth."
"I remember when I was in school—this was before I met Hamilton—there was a party at the sorority. Though it wasn't a proper sorority, only a kind of association for the girls. Did I call it a party? Oh, well, I suppose that's what it really was. I would have said function. But I remember waiting days and days for the invitation to come, and it never did. They were such snobs! But I did think that—
"I received a telephone call afterward," Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II continued after she had had a drink of her water, "from Rosalinda Peters. The crust she had, to complain that I had failed to give my intention to not attend! Crust? It was downright meanness! It was the garnish on the insult, to pretend that I was invited when I hadn't been! But you know what I did? I accepted her at her word and I apologized for not replying! I said I didn't realize a reply was expected when one was expecting to decline. Though of course I did know. But I humiliated myself rather than make trouble."
"Mrs. Perch will make trouble—"
"Well, she can make do. She can explain her allergy to Emily Livingstone. It's her recipe."
"Is that what you gave Delia?"
"Then whose recipe was it you told me was inedible?"
"It certainly wasn't Emily Livingstone's."
"I think it was."
"Are you contradicting me?"
"I'm trying to head off a— Unless you're certain. We can still have pork cutlets."
"Don't be ridiculous. Mrs. Weisskopf—"
"Does not keep kosher."
"Oh, but pork is so vulgar. I used to delight in pork chops. Hamilton fed me pork chops when we were dating. When he was courting me. But then his mother— Veal!"
"For luncheon?" Flora frowned. "Not if Mrs. Stevenson is bringing Cheryl."
"Oh! I forgot about that dreadful girl."
"You made a point of inviting her. You made a handwritten addendum to Mrs. Stevenson's invitation—"
"We could serve veal and call it pork. No, you wouldn't let me do that. You don't think she objects to pork now, do you? I understand they are very intelligent animals, and that some—"
"She might object to chicken now."
"Perhaps I could serve carrot sticks and credit the innovation to Cheryl."
"Now you're being satirical."
Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II rose and paced her appointments room. She had an appointments room, a breakfast room, a sun room and a solarium, and even a library of her own, where she kept volumes on horticulture. She also kept her late husband's library and study, though she had no use for them.
"There are moments, Flora," she said, "when I want to shake the whole thing off. Close the house and and flee to Saint-Tropez!"
She stood for a long moment saying nothing, but gazed off with a distant look in her eye. Flora took the opportunity to jot a few notes in her little book.
"Did we decide on the chicken?"
"Mrs. Livingstone's recipe?"
"Of course, I will give all credit to her."
"Before you sit down to eat," advised Flora.
"During the promenade. The amaryllis. I could remove them, still."
"There will be time tomorrow. I made myself wretched over them all season, I can make myself wretched over them another day still."
"A perfect pitch of wretchedness," agreed Flora. She waved the menu. "We still have dessert to consider."
But even as she spoke drops pattered against the windowpanes.
"Is it raining?" Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II exclaimed. She threw open the French doors, and a cool breeze swept the scent of damp greenery into the room. "It is!"
"Better today than tomorrow," observed Flora.
"I hated the rain when I was a child."
She stepped out onto the brick patio and lifted a face to the clouds. "It seemed altogether too much," she went on. "Seven us in a shack, taking turns going hungry, no shoes, and patches over patches on hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs. When it chanced to rain atop that—!" She closed her eyes as the sky spat in her face.
"But I adore a summer shower now. I could never live in California. The sunshine would pall."
She stood very still with an upturned face, smiling. Then with a brusque sigh she strode back inside and shut the doors.
"No, I won't telephone Maggie Perch," Mrs. Hamilton Vandower II declared. "We'll mail the invitation and call it a mishap. The fourteenth will come soon enough."
"Well, if you're in a mood to make trouble for yourself, go ahead," said Flora.
Submitted to The Writer's Cramp: 3-10-21
Prompt: Title it "Take the Rain Away."