DELIGHT

 

EPISODE 32

Four minutes later, Timmy and the Slacks were in the kitchen... having sidled, unobtrusively, downstairs past the rest of the arguing, sulking guests. Howard's face was red and drenched in sweat and Betty's sleeve glistened with lobster newburg, smudged and shaped with fingerprints and palmprints. "Harvey went too far," Howard was seething. "If we weren't at Waldo's home, I would have punched him."

"You've had that champagne yourself," Betty cautioned. "Forget it! Oh look... that's what I want. One of those portable televisions, for the kitchen. If you get the Vice-President's job, you'll get a raise, won't you?"

Howard nodded distastefully. "Sure." He sniffed the kitchen air. "Timmy, where does your mother keep the garbage?"

"Under the sink," the young man volunteered.

Howard got on his hands and knees to wrestle with a plastic pail he finally pulled out from under the sink. Beside the cabinet, also under the sink, was an aquarium, from which beady eyes on long, dark stalks... like sprouts, on rotten onions... scrutinized his struggles.

"Those are the lobsters," Timmy said, and Betty shuddered

Howard tugged the pail out and spread newspapers over the floor... football news, photographs and statements made by William Blood glared up at him. Then, he overturned the pail.

Betty and Timmy knelt to sift through the debris. "Yukk!" said Betty, for the top of the pail was full of wrapping papers from the cans of deviled ham. Little devils shook their bony crimson fingers at her...

Howard pulled a heap of crushed and soggy boxes from the center of the pile; encrusted in shaved off outer skins of carrots, coffee grounds, lobster sauce and the empty cans of deviled ham.

"Those! Those!" Timmy cried. "See there? That's Chinese writing!"

Howard bent forward to inspect the writing and, behind him, Wayne Ray manifested, like some ogre from a scary children's story.

"Ho ho ho!" roared Wayne. He laughed and stomped his foot and spittle, blue with champagne, beige with lobster, sprayed the kneeling scavengers. "Poking through the garbage, are we, Howie? Dinner not enough? Gee, I hate to see a man reduced to that... even a competitor. Tell you what... stick by me with the boss for Henry's job and I'll throw a couple of my old accounts into your corner. How about the pencil factory? The pet shop? Tasty! Better than the boss' garbage, Howie..."

Howard's eyes lost focus, and the mounds of shells and bony paper devils began to blur as Ruth Swan joined Wayne, standing above him.

"Jeepers, Marlene has a TV in the kitchen! Hey... what's the matter, Howard?" she tittered, "couldn't hold your champagne?"

She turned on Marlene's TV and the sounds and sights of a late night variety presentation filled the kitchen. Johnny Mathis sang a song of heaven. Ruth fell into Wayne's arms and they waltzed around the kitchen, kicking up their heels and strewing garbage all across the floor. Around and round they went once more, with sly, loving glances, witty and sophisticated whispered banter and, with a final glance of pity at the bedraggled, garbage-flecked Slacks, existed through the swinging doors. Betty, standing, trudged towards the kitchen window, from which she could see the distant, next-door profile of the astronomer, bending over his telescope. Howard pulled some of the soggy cardboard up with him.

"It must be drugged," he deduced, "with a...a Chinese drug. It's part of a plot, that's what it is. We've go to warn the others!"

Betty pointed to the table. "There's another bottle."

"Golly," Timmy said, "if it makes things big, like Dad's goldfish, maybe it will make other things big, too!"

He wrenched a small, white plastic President from his pocket and lay it upon a pyre of garbage. It was one of those hard-to-remember, undistinguished ones... before Lincoln, but after Andrew Jackson. "OK, Mr. Slack." And Howard dribbled a trickle of blue champagne over it...

"WhooOOSHH!"

In a cloud of blue smoke and haze of reeking garbage, what had been a three-inch toy was now a six-foot statue; tilted, on its back, from a pedestal fully eighteen inches square. Howard put his foot upon the shoulder of the big, dead mediocre plastic President. Its firmness gave him new resolution.

"We are going to tell those people out there just exactly what it is they have been drinking," he vowed.

Furious barking answered from a room high above the kitchen ceiling.

"Holey moley, I forgot!" wailed Timmy, slapping his palm to his forehead. "It's time to give Spot his bath. I gotta go," he added, darting through the swinging doors.

"Well, that leaves us," sighed Howard. "You know, there comes a time in every person's life when time has come to do either wrong thing or the right. And that time is now."

Betty nodded in agreement, her eyes rising to follow the barking and noticing the progress of a spider, dropping from the ceiling. It hovered briefly over Howard's scalp as he took a deep breath and set his jaw, then disappeared. Howard took Betty by the arm, and then both marched resolutely through the swinging doors.

 

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