Return to the Village of the Damned: Late for Dinner

Melanie was in a bit of a pickle.

Her guests were due in mere minutes, and she still had several action items with which to dispense. She found this predicament to be annoyingly distressful, especially since she had planned her preparatory agenda down to the most microscopic detail, just as she had done for years. Her holiday dinners were one of the social events of the season, at least in the parts of town that had social events and not keg parties. One did not mess with a proven formula without risking a critical hit in the annual rankings at the Ladies of Bonnywood Spring Cotillion and Cosmetic Surgery Reveal.

Of course, if unexpected things go awry, then messing became imperative, and such was the case earlier this afternoon when Melanie opened the freshly-arrived package from Harbinger’s Deli and Day Spa. Inside, Melanie should have found 12 artisanally-stuffed Cornish game hens. She did not. There were only 11 hens and one empty plastic bag, taunting her with its uselessness. Melanie made an ungraceful squeaky noise, slammed the lid shut, and then shoved it across her massive, hand-carved kitchen table. This sudden flight path did not resolve the issue but did knock over her martini, with hand-stuffed blue cheese olives bouncing hither and yon.

For a brief moment, Melanie was more distraught with the spillage than the errant poultry. (The vodka had been imported all the way from Tulsa, after all.) But then her society-conquering instincts kicked back in and she refocused on the matter of the Amelia Earhart Hen. There was simply no alternative other than to race off and have a severe discussion with the owner of Harbinger’s. And possibly arrange for a quick seaweed wrap at the same time.

Now that her mental planning spreadsheets had been updated, Melanie then took steps to ensure that all the other aromatic and scrumptious dishes she was preparing could survive her dashing out of the manse for a few moments. This involved Melanie instructing her two harried cooks to keep an eye on things or face prosecution. (She did not see the irony in advertising a “Home-Cooked Meal Lovingly Made by Hand!” on her fancy invites and yet not doing the work herself. After all, if you tell someone to do something and they do it, isn’t that like doing it yourself? Melanie thought so.)

Three minutes later, Melanie clattered through the door of Harbinger’s. “I demand to speak to the manager immediately!”

Harry Harbinger looked up from the salmon gelatin mold that he was crafting for the keg party at Bucky’s Bowling Barn. “Melanie, how good to see you! You look as tight-assed as ever.”

Melanie: “Don’t be coy with me. I have a bone to pick with you. Well, I would have a bone to pick with you if they had all arrived. My box was short a hen.”

Harry: “Darlin’, we’ve always known that about you. But it’s good that you are finally being honest with yourself. Are you seeing a therapist now?”

Melanie: “I am serious, Harry. You know my holiday festival is this evening and it must go perfectly. Every guest must have their own Cornish hen or the reviews will kill me and that wretched Delilah Hornbuckle will leap-frog me in the rankings at the Spring Cotillion. Do you understand the path of destruction I will leave in this town if that happens?”

Harry: “Again, are you seeing a therapist now? Because they would love you.”

Melanie: “I need another hen, Harry. Now.”

Harry: “Well, you’re not going to get one from me. Or from anyone else in Bonnywood. Do you not understand that this is Christmas Eve?”

Melanie: “I know what day it is, Harry. I also know that I ordered 12 hens from you and I didn’t get them. You only gave me 11.”

Harry: “You didn’t seem to be bothered by my 11 the other night behind the bowling alley. Based on the noises you made, I’d say I rolled a perfect game.”

Melanie: “Don’t distract me with your carnal knowledge, even though I was rather fond of the two extra strikes you picked up. What am I going to do about my party? The hens have to match the guests. Everyone in high society knows that.”

Harry: “Then maybe you have too many guests.”

Melanie’s eyes lit up. “What a splendid idea. I knew I could count on you, even if you can’t count. Well, I’m off.”

Harry: “Wait! Would you be up for another round of bowling once your fancy drunken quests have been driven home by their bitter chauffeurs?”

Melanie: “Maybe. It all depends on how well the figgy pudding goes over at dessert. You know I lose my friskiness if I don’t get praised enough for something I didn’t actually make.”

The door slammed as Melanie took off, mission-bound.

Harry went back to working on the salmon gelatin mold, because that’s what a lot of folks must do when their other dreams don’t work out.

Melanie raced through the snowy streets of Bonnywood, stopping briefly at the local Williams Sonoma and then continuing to race.

She did a certain something at a certain house.

Then she raced back home, which is where we found her at the beginning of this tale.

Melanie eventually made her way to the kitchen, after compensating for a few wrong turns made along the way, as her mansion had a bit more acreage than the average dwelling and she was always getting lost. (Such is the sad and tragic fate of people who end up with lots of inherited money even though they didn’t do anything to earn it.) Once there, she walked up to one of the 14 retro-farmhouse sinks she had installed after reading a “Vanity Fair” article about nostalgic plumbing, whacked at the hot-water faucet and let things run until the liquid was scalding, plucked a knife out of her designer satchel, and then held said knife under the gushing stream until the crimson stains were no more.

Melanie slipped the knife into the non-designer satchel of one of the cooks (who was distracted by her monitoring of a vat of giblet gravy), wiped her hands on a 1700-thread count kitchen towel designed by Gucci, traipsed into the dining room with the mahogany floors imported from West India, plucked up one of the gold-plated place settings, and tossed the associated place card into a trash can carved by a Tibetan monk.

The doorbell rang.

Melanie opened said door with practiced grace and aplomb. “Why, Esmerelda Harbinger. How good of you to come!”

Esmerelda: “No place I’d rather be! But have you seen the news on the TV?”

Melanie: “News? You know I don’t bother with the fake media.”

Esmerelda: “Well, it seems that poor Delilah Hornbuckle won’t be able to join us this evening, having suddenly expired whilst trying on dresses for the Spring Cotillion. It seems there was an intruder who didn’t really care for high-end couture. Or her existence.”

Melanie: “How wretchedly sad for her. But we mustn’t let that spoil our evening. Come, join me for eggnog in the parlor. You’ll love it. It has brandy in it that was imported all the way from Broken Arrow.”


Previously published, minutely revised. Two things for the record: One, out of pure coincidence, I have re-shared a few posts lately wherein “Melanie” is a featured character. This should not be considered a reflection on the delightful Melanie who is one of the tenured guests here at Bonnywood. Mere happenstance. Two, some might find this tale a bit dark for the holidays, but any of you who have ever hosted a critical Christmas dinner can surely understand that getting things just right might sometimes involve a little clandestine wrong…



34 replies »

  1. Salmon gelatine? Oh Brian. Gelatinous is not a texture I smile on with delight and anticipation. I almost had to stop reading. 😉
    I was once married into an extremely extroverted (and moneyed) family that insisted on big shindigs. I escaped by doing dishes, chopping veggies and taking long bathroom breaks (ie smoking a cigar in the back yard). It’s too late for poor Melanie though; it has all gone to her head.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My apologies about the shocking appearance of the congealed salmon, but I was just doing my duty as an intrepid social reporter and I felt it necessary to capture all the imagery, however wrongly-wet.

      Now, the shindig thing. We are similar souls in that I would also escape such a situation, as often as possible. I don’t like lots of anything, especially people. Even with my own family gatherings, I’m the first to volunteer should someone need something from the corner market, often knocking slower-reacting introverts out of the way to ensure that I’m assigned the task. And then I will drive to another country to pick up that extra stick of butter that someone needed for their hollandaise sauce…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have brought to our attention the horrific problems of the cream of the first world countries. We should pray for them. And then drop them in a cup of hot coffee and quaff them down with the rest of the swill. Whew, that was fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Any Bonnywood is good bonnywood. I will never ever ever forget your selfless act of rebuilding it for my amusement when I was very ill in 2019 and for that I hope you have a wonderful, love filled and healthy holiday and maybe this new year will repair the foundations on which we all stand, even those fictional places we go when the reality is too too much to bear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must admit to feeling a bit blue that I wasn’t able to do The Village this year, but things have been seriously FUBAR the past several weeks, rocking the Bonnywood Casbah, and not in a good way. Details may or may not be shared in a future post, but suffice it to say that one of the wretched ingredients is that me mum was hooked to an oxygen machine in hospital, courtesy of Covid. She’s on the mend now, but I am sick of this nefarious beast, although my protestations pale compared to the years of your own beast.

      On the flip, I proffer the same hopes that your holidays are fine, indeed. And I will always go to the fictional places, because we make the rules there, and no beasts of any nature dare enter. Big hug.


      • Brian I’m very happy to hear your mom is on the mend. It’s a heart wrenching train wreck that seems to take people who deserve it least and hurt them the most. I feel terrible you and your family had to endure not seeing her until release. And please do not ever feel the need to apologize in any way for feeling heartache of disease reaching anyone in your life because my disease does suck indeed but my compassion and empathy didn’t go down with my ascites bloated belly. In fact I ache for your own pain.

        Having been in lockdown for 10 months now I’m isolated and incarcerated and I fully blame the floater (the turd you can’t flush no matter how many times you’ve tried pressing the lever in the WC. I hold space and love for your moms full recovery and for the fear and anguish you must feel in the uncertainty of when and if she’d recover. Here in California we are at 0% ICU bed space except in the far north of the state where few people live. I chase people around the grocery at 22:30 hrs who don’t wear a mask and ask them why and hand them one from my backpack should they say they’ve not got one. Here ya go you duper spreading dingleberry. I hope the term super spreader makes its way to the porn industry’s lexicon leaving the global population to its own. Supersoreader 7, She Takes 18 in One Hole. Not tRump laughs at mask wearers as he gets treated for his own jizmatic super spreading coronavirus hoedown in the Rose garden. I hope Dr Jill Biden can erase the gaudy grease from the walls of the White House with the grace she’s handled this situation herself.

        I don’t pray. I do meditate to the universe calling forth all the power possible and I do believe its exists to heal our loved ones and ourselves. I will sit with you and her surrounded in healing white light and may you find her healthier each day until she is fully recovered. I can only say my respect for your grace in answering every last comment has gone up a googleplex worth and my love for you just as much.

        Have a peaceful weekend, a quiet not too humid Christmas, and bonnywood lives on in my heart forever and for your bringing it to life for mine in my time of need. I think you’ll enjoy the last post I wrote- it took a lot of edits to get enough of the salty language out and my anger with my step sister come to call. She never told me my mom died a few years back robbing me of my right to closure with my mother and not allowing me to attend her service. The family has for some reason decided I’m not sick looking enough to have a terminal illness and none of them but her, who somehow I forgave spoke to me up until she visited a few weeks ago along with my brother in law. Her dog had to be put down and I didn’t give it enough of my emotional attention for her liking on Facebook. I hate Facebook and I refuse to even tickle the idea of looking for announcements of weddings, funerals, and import events there. There’s this thing called a phone. I have a cell phone number that’s not changed in 15 years. Text, call, send a carrier pigeon or even semaphore flags work but boy not Facebook. It’s an unnecessary evil I have to check in with for my patient advocate work and mbc stuff. And a little Etsy marketing. I’ll send you a direct message on Twitter with my cell and texting is my communication method of choice since I’m unable to do synchronized phone calls the asynchronous text message works splendidly. Please use it freely.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL. I wonder what “nostalgic plumbing” is like. Does it mean a modern plumbing with a fake 19th century look or an old plumbing that can stop working anytime, especially during the moment of arrival of the “brandy…from Broken Arrow”?


    • Perhaps it’s best that we not ascertain my true meaning of “nostalgic plumbing”. After all, I’m from Oklahoma, and modern conveniences there are several hundred years behind the other states. But I will confirm that the brandy from Broken Arrow has a zing that you won’t forget… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Again, I’m honored that my name festoons a “Bonnywood” tale. It’s oddly mesmerizing too, because those alter “Melanies” get up to much I never did and never will. I say to them “You go girls, you GO!” (just make sure the retro-plumbing hasn’t backed up over ill advised flushing of cat hairballs or uninvited helpings of midnight doggie doo… (yeah I blend things. And I missed THREE days of Bonnywood, due to being felled by whatever winter illness crap I’ve got… I’m praying it AIN’T the dreaded “C” word (there are three of those now which do not bear mentioning, which all start with “C”). Where’s the imagination in naming a disease something NEW? Or at least use one of the other 25 letters in the alphabet to start with… O_o Forgive me if this comment is rambling and disjointed. Blame it on the Alka Seltzer Cold, Cough and Flu medication I’m on. That stuff needs a liquor label…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wait, what’s this with you being felled, however temporarily? Dang. Once again, I have failed in my efforts to keep current with your blog postings. Of course, since we are bonded forever over our mutual disdain for many similar things, I trust that you can forgive me. And if that’s not cause enough, keep in mind that we are also bonded by the (not proved but suspected) DNA that we share concerning Randy Grandpa.

      Now, this Alka Seltzer Cold, Cough and Flu elixir. I have been to that well and drunk deeply of such. It DOES help, but, hoo boy, there are some serious side effects. During my last interplay with said medicinal hooch, I was briefly convinced that I was Marie Antoinette, before she made that unfortunate remark about cake…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ziggy suffers (and not silently) when I’m in the throes of yet another episode of “Ye Olde Seltzer Hallucination Theatre” . Mostly it just knocks me out, which is the result I’m trying to achieve. I had a possible COVID come home scare and am awaiting the results (which WILL BE negative or off with THEIR heads!)… I suspect I have my annual, non-festive, cold or flu of immense irritation and bad timing that happens every year ’round this time. Plus the family member who brought that potential ‘gift’ has gone on the ‘naughty and not to be invited to my house, nyah nyah nyah” list. Her sister acting a tad psycho didn’t help things… Yeah it’s all drama, all the time this year..

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m rather enamored of your place-card strategy. I could have an amazing amount of fun with that angle, delineating the psychoses in clever calligraphy. Then again, somebody might stab me in the face with a turkey baster, but I’ll take the risk…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this episode. It reminds me a little of the Hercule Poirot Christmas at Something or Other Hall. In fact, I can just see Poirot being one of the guests at Melanie’s party, and while discretely tossing a portion of his hen — because, these Americans, they do not know the first thing of the Cornish Hen, no? – he spies the place card in the Tibetan monk trash can and… what is this? It bears the name of Madame Hornbuckle!
    Mon Dieu!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sure you realize that you have just enticed me to delve further into the whimsical ways in which I could mess with this conceptual suggestion. Of course, this also means that I will waste time on projects that go nowhere and therefore I will be forced to re-post old posts , thus inducing the wrath of Bonnywood guests who have grown weary of repeat repeats.

      By the way, can you account for your whereabouts on December 24th, 2018? Cornish hens want to know…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the most horror-inducing part of this tale was the tipped martini, although the murder came in a close second. Also, I saw above that your mother is quite ill–I sincerely hope she’s on the road to recovery. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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