This is the continuation of a story that starts here…
Monsieur Fromage was in a bit of a pickle.
He had been given the simple task of greeting the guests invited to Stabbington Abbey for the annual All Hallows Eve Dinner Party and Possible Bacchanalia. Well, perhaps it was not such a modest responsibility. He also had to ensure that said guests were truly invited, not just rowdy frat boys on a lark, and then escort certified guests to one of the elaborately-modest reception chambers in the Abbey, wherein they could swill potent cocktails, nosh on imported nibbly bits, and await the critical moment when someone would ring a bell and dinner would be served.
Somewhere in the midst of all these activities, the pickle became prominent.
Things had initially gone swimmingly, albeit a smidge oddly, with Monsieur Fromage managing to snidely but thoroughly review the occupants of the first four of five cars that arrived in the circular drive that had originally been designed when the upper-class traveled by horse carriage and not exhaust-spewing motorized contraptions.
Well, perhaps “thoroughly review” is a bit optimistic in nature, as there was a degree of bungling with the verification process. Those of you who are clever Nancy Drews and actually took the time to read the first two installments of our unsavory saga will have noted that one particular duo of guests was not fully vetted. (Go on, click back a few pages and peruse, although I suspect that most of you will just keep reading because life is too short.) Still and all, the first eight guests passed the sniff test, however begrudgingly, and they scampered into the Abbey in pursuit of pre-dinner martinis, imported caviar and the remote but viable possibility that Prince Gustav of Sweden would do a naked pole dance as he had been rumored to do during past bacchanalias.
The final two guests in the now-questionable fifth car in the circular drive? No sniff test had been performed, mainly because there was nothing to sniff in the vacant car, only two taunting notecards that spoke of potential darkness afoot. Exasperated, Monsieur Fromage slid the notecards in a pocket of his staunchly-pressed pantalones, partly as a preparatory action in case things should go awry, thus requiring said notecards to be presented eventually in a court trial of some kind. But he also stashed the cards for personal reasons, as he was not a fan of unmanaged clutter, and two unknown guests slipping past him was clutter, indeed, and he planned to seek retribution. Monsieur Fromage ran a tight ship.
This tightness was not supported by the next development in our story, wherein Monsieur Fromage stepped through the first set of mahogany doors at Stabbington Manor. As he did so, a naked woman raced through the antechamber, waving a lit sparkler and singing an exuberant ditty about the month of May, then disappeared through a door whose function was not clear, as there were many doors at Stabbington and they often led nowhere important or satisfying. He thought the vocalizing vixen might have been Petunia, she of the gas bubble confused with pregnancy, but he couldn’t be certain. It’s hard to focus when one encounters bush on the loose in the foyer.
Monsieur Fromage gritted his already nubby teeth and marched through the next set of mahogany doors, thereby officially entering the inner sanctum of Stabbington. Surely there would be more order here, what with all the ancient oil paintings of ancient patron saints glaring down on one and all, exuding a baleful disapproval of disorder and wanton licentiousness that should reign in bohemian activity. This proved not to be the case.
Monsieur Fromage glanced to his left, into the Renaissance Reception Room, wherein he spied Eliza Bootlittle and Another One, swilling purple-hued nectar from crystal goblets and laughing uproariously. The genesis of their joviality? They were in the midst of tossing their hoop earrings at a reproduction statue of Michelangelo’s David, hoping to stick the landing on David’s Little David. This was a pointless endeavor, of course, because any decent art historian will tell you that Little David was even more nubby than Monsieur Fromage’s teeth. Each toss of the hoop failed miserably, but did generate more purple-hued laughter.
Monsieur Fromage glanced to his right, into the Plantation Parlor, wherein he spied Kane and Mabel in some form of pageantry that involved Mabel riding on the back of Kane as he made snorting noises and pretended to dig for something or other under the ancient, hand-woven rug that had been imported from a country that hadn’t existed for 200 years. As if this was not enough of an affront, the duo was being encouraged by the trio of Pierre, Lizette and Inigo Flamboya, with the three of them shouting mystical calls to action. Cries of “Find that mushroom, Porky!” and “Ride him like you mean it, Mabel” filled the sordid air.
Monsieur Fromage was temporarily paralyzed, but he quickly shook it off and marched through several doors and hallways until he arrived in the Stabbington kitchen that was bigger than most state capitals. Once there, he beelined his way to Madame Ovary, ancient headmistress of this impressive chunk of culinary real estate. “I insist that you serve dinner immediately. We’ve got to get some carbs into these wretched hooligans or all is lost.”
Madame Ovary did not take kindly to plan-changing at inopportune times. “The sauces alone will take another hour. Besides, they are still doing the drinking, and the drinking must continue until they no longer care about the cooking. It is the way of Stabbingon. You know and must not deny this. So it has been for hundreds of years, back to when I was a young woman peeling potatoes and hoping that my own potato would someday be peeled.”
Monsieur Fromage stiffened, but not in a potato-peeling manner. “I care not about your observations and pointless ramblings, but I do care about having these wretched guests in a relatively-sober state of mind so that they will better grasp the profundity of The Big Announcement I must make during the meal. Have the first course ready for serving in five minutes.”
Madame Ovary: “Oh, the Big Announcement, aren’t you fancy. Well, I’ve got something fancy as well. We should be serving ten guests, but you have only confirmed the arrival of eight. Care to share what outhouse you fell in that led to this mathematical discrepancy? Or should we just assume that you’ve bungled it once again and deal with the fallout?”
Monsieur Fromage: “I could have you fired.”
Madame Bovary: “Oh, please. I know your secrets. And these ancient lips could whisper a lot to just the right people.”
Monsieur Fromage: “Check mate. Still, first course in five. And pretend that we are ten even if we are only eight.”
Madame Bovary: “As men have pretended since the dawn of time, even if 8 and 10 are both far beyond the actual mark.”
Monsieur Fromage: “And how would you know, Unpeeled One?”
Madame Bovary: “Unpeeled this century. The last one? I was probably personally responsible for the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, give or take a few diggings.”
Monsieur Fromage: “Ah, got it. If we had more time, we could possibly compare notes, but really, let’s shove some food into the mouths of these annoying fools.”
Madame Bovary nodded. “You round up the hooligans and we’ll provide the stuffing, even if the sauces haven’t simmered quite long enough, which is another downfall of men who don’t understand the importance of foreplay.”
Monsieur Fromage opened his mouth to form a rebuttal, then realized the lostness of the cause. He trotted back through the various doors and hallways to the reception chambers and somehow managed to wrangle all the appropriate cattle through more doors and hallways until everyone was shunted into The Pretentious Dining Room. As the hooch-swilling hooligans made seating selections around the massive dining table composed of the remnants of a Viking ship that had floundered off the coast of Norway in 1073, someone chose to complain. Because there are always people who whine about something at any given time.
Eliza Boolittle: “Why are there two empty chairs?”
Monsieur Fromage: “That is of no concern. Please enjoy your meal and we’ll talk later.”
Another One: “But the word on the street, and by ‘street’ I mean that one secretive hallway that servants use to whisk away startlingly-stained bedsheets, is that two of tonight’s guests have slipped into Stabbington unannounced. Should we be concerned?”
Monsieur Fromage: “Of course not. Trust that all is well and continue with your unbridled consumption of alcohol and reckless disregard for proper behavior.”
That sounded like a swell idea, so the guests did such, consuming and disregarding.
Monsieur Fromage patiently waited whilst the first course was served, an otherwise unremarkable soup that was laden with enough salt that primal instincts were satiated and all deemed it fine, despite the slight burning sensations on their tongues.
He was also patient with the second course, some mess involving oysters freshly-shucked by itinerant workers who couldn’t afford to eat such despite their participation in said shucking.
Finally, as the third course was being presented by Madame Ovary’s underlings, a crab tart featuring undercooked sauce, Monsieur Fromage took his cue and stepped forward, whipping out a clever bit of parchment from which he read. “Let it be known that tonight is a retribution for your sins of the past. Nine of you will not make it through the night and only one will survive.”
Petunia, now sheathed more moderately, spent sparkler tossed aside at some point: “I’m not sure I appreciate your oratory, with only one surviving and all. That sounds a bit dreary.”
Flamboya: “I second that emotion. Is there someone at the guest services desk who could speak to concerning an upgrade to a better package?”
Another One: “Ack!”
Monsieur Fromage: “I didn’t quite catch that.”
Another One suddenly expelled a chunk of crab tart which flew across the table.
Kane snatched said chunk out of the air with admirable athleticism. “I caught it. Is there a prize?”
Another One’s head fell forward and smacked into her plate with a startling thunk.
Eliza Boolittle, perhaps seizing the moment to live out her personal dream of being Clara Barton, we may never know, leaned over and checked for a pulse on an important but non-throbbing neck vein. “She’s dead! Damn it, I knew I should have forced her to do my ironing instead of playing hoop-toss with Little David.”
Lizette: “You know what I’m dying to say at this moment, despite the inappropriateness.”
Pierre: “Go ahead, darling. You know it’s on the tip of my tongue as well.”
Lizette: “Another One bites the dust.”
To be continued…