The Good Host
"Let me top off your glass," he said to one guest, and while he
refilled his guest's glass he refilled his own.
Soon the good host had spread so much good will around the dinner table
that a good time was being had by all. Everyone talked at once and,
even if someone said something unkind, the crossfire of words was so
wild and random that cruel remarks were blurred by laughter and cheer.
After dinner, as some people floated off into easy chairs and others
served the dessert, the good host told people how wonderful they were.
"I would hate to think of this world without you close enough to come
for dinner," he said. "And you," he said to another, "you look better
every time I see you."
As most of the guests started to sip their drinks more slowly, the good
host drank his more quickly. If someone left the room or looked away,
he refueled his glass before any eyes turned toward him.
Then his stories began, and they were longer than the quick bits of
talk when the evening began. His long stories started from a sweet
center but soon were sprinkled with granules of bitterness. Jokes about
his delicate wife started as succulent truffles, but, by the time he
finished, the truffles were wrapped in thorns. Other stories had a
clear surface but, like some innocuous-looking coffee tables, their
sharp edges caught people on their shins.
"One thing I'll say for you, you never stop trying," he said to his
closest male friend. As the victim recoiled, not knowing if he had been
complimented or derided, the good host kept smiling and offered more
drinks to those who had sobered into silence. Offered them drinks, then
took one himself.
As the evening ended, the good host walked his guests to the door and
hugged them before letting them go. As they left, he made promises.
"I'm going to read that book you recommended," he said. "I'm going to
call you tomorrow to talk about golf," he said to another.
And then the house was quiet. The good host suggested to his wife that
they wait until morning to clean up the dishes. "Let's just sit," he
said, and poured each of them a cognac. "Such a wonderful night, don't
you think? I just need to be close to you for a few minutes
before we go to bed."
He put his head on her shoulder and watched the shadows hover outside
Jim Heynen is the author of The One-Room Schoolhouse (Vintage Contemporaries). He's working on a new
collection of very short fictions called Ordinary Sins (After Theophrastus).
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201001host.htm
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Jonathan Cohen.
Read another JH story from the archive.
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