April 20, 2006

"Hate you?" I tried to issue a breezy chuckle, but it sounded more like hyperventilating. At that moment, mes amis, I vowed never to invite people to my home again, not if they were going to send my blood pressure into the stratosphere like this. "Why, I'm sure Frederick doesn't hate you." I was at a loss, because Frederick really did hate Karl with a bloody passion, I could tell. His murderous feelings were lurking in his eyes, little red devils peering out of his pupils. "Perhaps he's having a bad day," I recovered lamely.

Karl let the subject pass, which was gentlemanly of him. And he smiled warmly when I handed him his glass of mineral water, which momentarily made me feel much better about this whole dinner party fiasco. I hoped that Karl wouldn't think we were all a bunch of loons out here in Arvada. Or, if we were loons, at least we were nice loons.

I started for the dining room, but paused when I saw that Karl wasn't moving. "Let's re-join the party, shall we?" I hinted, but Karl stood by the stove, regarding me with the strangest look. It was a look that I had only seen once in my life. A few springs ago, a fabric supplier made a mistake and sent Lois some high-end printed silks from India. We weren't supposed to get anything quite so fancy; the shipment was destined for some Cherry Creek boutique, but I still remember when she opened the boxes and peeked inside, the mixture of confusion, awe and tenderness that lit up her face. That look was trouble, my dears.

The only thing to do was flee the kitchen, so that was what I did. Filthy and I collided in the doorway. "What's going on in here? Are you making the mineral water from scratch, or something?" asked my husband.

"Oh, we were done in here," I replied as lightly as I could and hustled back to the table. I couldn't help but notice the dark looks my spouse shot at Karl, but Filthy said nothing more.

A pall seemed to have been cast over the dining room. Even Lois had come down from her wine spritzer high. Suzette looked positively glum. It never fails, my pets, when the hostess is away, a dinner party can fall apart just like that. But there is a remedy.

"Dessert! I think it's time for dessert!" I called out gaily, and the visages of my guests brightened immediately.

"Ooh, what is it this time? Something chocolate, I hope!" cooed Lois.

"Ach, chocolate gives me headaches!" grumbled old Mrs. Strauss, but then with a girlish giggle she suddenly added, "I eat it anyway!

"I will not disappoint you, my sweets," I told my guests. "We have a rum baba torte and a chocolate raspberry layer cake, and I promise I won't tell your mothers if you have more than one piece!"

Filthy asked, "Do we have whipped cream?" and when I nodded, the atmosphere of the whole room seemed to become warmer and rosier. Whipped cream makes everyone happier, don't you think? I truly believe it is the cure for the world's ills.

Terry got up and declared, "I'll make the coffee!" and everyone else moved to the living room. Conversations that had been abandoned were taken up again, and Suzette even broke out the Pictionary. As I passed around generous helpings of dessert, I heard the pleasant cacophony of a happy evening's entertainment. Taffy sat next to me, and I knew I was forgiven as soon as she ate a piece of my cake.

I decided to abandon my matchmaking agenda, and just like that, all was well with the world. Suzette and Frederick were on a Pictionary team and performed admirably. Ken didn't scare anyone away with his story about D.B. Cooper and the Rosicrucians. There was only one guest who didn't share in the collective, sugar-induced euphoria. Karl looked miserable.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens