March 9. 2006

I poked my head out of the sewing room and listened for the new voices in the living room. The house sounded quite full all of a sudden, and I realized that Lois, Taffy and Ken must have carpooled to the dinner party. I sighed with relief; Lois and Taffy would understand the predicament, and Ken would be oblivious.

"Bonjour, everyone!" I called down the hall. "Suzette and I are in the sewing room."

Taffy appeared in the doorway. "You guys are sewing at a party? For crying out loud!"

Suzette smiled, and I was pleased to see that she had regained her composure. "My dress needed a little help," she said shyly.

"It's almost done, ma petite chou," I said. "Taffy, can you and Lois handle drinks for a few minutes while I finish this up?" The doorbell rang again, and I did my best to increase my sewing pace.

By the time Suzette and I emerged, Ken and Mrs. Strauss were in a tete-a-tete about aspartame and brainwashing. Mrs. Strauss' great-nephew Frederick was helping Terri pass the appetizers. Taffy and Lois were giggling in the corner, and the other guys were still in the garage. Only one guest was missing, and that was Mr. Sittenzeplatz, but everything else seemed to be going well.

Of course, I watched Suzette search the room for her white knight and deflate a little when she didn't see him. But what could be a better distraction than a cheese puff? I motioned Frederick and his snack tray over. "Suzette, have a cheese puff. They are really quite delicious!" I said, but I might as well have been talking to the cheese puffs.

I tried again. "Suzette, would you like an appetizer?"

Suzette's eyes were locked on the foyer. "He's not here," she murmured.

I took hold of her elbow, since the aroma of warm Parmesan clearly wasn't working. "Dearie, I'd like to introduce you to someone. This is Frederick Strauss, Mrs. Strauss' great-nephew."

Suzette's innate sense of manners kicked in where dairy products failed. She smiled and shook Frederick's free hand. "The hors d'oeurves look delightful," she said and popped a cheese puff into her mouth with ladylike aplomb.

I hadn't meant anything in particular when I introduced Suzette to Frederick; I only wanted to create a distraction until Karl arrived. However, Frederick was clearly appraising Suzette's physical virtues. "A delightful snack for a delightful lady," exclaimed Frederick as he passed her the tray. I couldn't help but wince a little. Frederick Strauss is a well-meaning but rather knobby young man. His knees are knobby when he wears his lederhosen, his Adam's apple is knobby and his nose is large and round like a doorknob. I don't have anything against knobbiness, but Frederick wasn't exactly who I envisioned for Suzette. He wore shorts, even in winter, and liked to whittle. He also liked to talk about his two pet budgies, Ludwig and Wolfgang. I wouldn't call him date material, not by a long shot.

"Frederick, you also look very nice this evening," I said. "How's the whittling coming along?"

Frederick grinned, which set off his knobby chin, and replied, "Ach, very well, Mrs. Filthy. I carved a set of serving spoons for my great-aunt, and she likes them very much."

Suzette's eyes were roving again, and I discreetly checked my watch. Karl was late.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

The Female of the Species:Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates