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A Disastorous Romantic Dinner - A Short Story
A Promising Invitation
My 21st birthday was finally here. For a whole week my Beau Ben kept saying things like, "This meal is going to be soooo good. You are going to be so surprised." Or, "I am going to make you an Italian gourmet meal with a capital G." I was so excited I was beside myself. The anticipation was killing me all week. Oh, love, birthdays, and a good appetite for Italian cuisine are so so blind!
Wine and Harrison
Finally the night arrived. He picked me up in his brand new green 1963 Chevy Impala. Well, new used. Just a few scrapes along the outside passenger side. Cleverly he covered a rip in the passenger side seat with duct tape to I would be comfortable. "You're so thoughtful," I said, batting my lashes. "Anything for my darling," he replied with all the saccharine he could muster. We chattered cheerily all the way to his apartment. He parked and like a true gentleman, helped me out of the car. My skirt caught on a rip he hadn't seen before. "Oh sorry," he said, embarrassed.
"Not to worry," I assured him.
"I've got more duct tape. I'll have her fixed before we go home," he said.
When i walked into the apartment the lights were low. He turned on Abbey Road and lit candles everywhere. The aroma of tomato sauce was tantalizing. There was wine in an ice bucket.
"Sit down over here," my Ben said, indicating a chair at the table. He seated me in a gentelmanly fashion, pulling out the chair and shoving it (and me) awkwardly back in. I felt like a princess being courted by her prince. I felt beautiful and refined. My 21 year old heart was skipping beats as I waited for our romantic dinner for two.
George Harrison began crooning "Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover..." I was seated and not moving, so in my mind I changed the words to "Something in the way he moves."
This romantic boyfriend of mine stopped his bustling around the kitchen to pour me a glass of wine. 'A real ice bucket,' I thought. 'How romantic.' The ice bucket looked expensive. It looked like an old fashioned divers helmet, but it was all new and shiny. "Isn't that clever," I said.
"Isn't it?" he said proudly. "I got in on sale at a nautical store."
I savored the crackle of the ice in the bucket as he lifted the bottle out, and the sound of the wine pouring into my glass. He poured himself a glass as well and clinked his glass against mine, slopping quite a bit onto the table. "Just a tiny spill. Cheers," he said with love in his eyes. 'Oh be still my heart,' I was thinking as I mopped the spill with paper napkins in the napkin holder. He tromped off to the kitchen with a skip in his step. My first sip of wine ever. It tasted like...like...fermented Cool-Aid. I pulled the bottle out of the divers helmet to see what it was. The label read Boones Farm Strawberry Hill. The price sticker was $1.25. I'd seen winos at the local 7-11 buying it many times. I fought my crestfallen spirit. 'I'm sure it will get better,' I thought. 'Perhaps he's on a tight budget.'
"Almost ready," he said. George continued his serenade."I don't want to leave her now, You know I believe her now..."
I knew in that moment I was the luckiest girl in the world. I would be the envy of all my friends. Awkward seating, diver's helmets, spills of cheap wino wine, were already a memory of the past. "Our love is sweeter than wine," I sighed.
As I sipped the Boones Farm politely, enjoying the ambience, my stomach growled. I heard him cutting what sounded like lettuce. Ten minutes later I heard, "Done! We're going to start with salad".
The Fine Wine of the 70"s
Let us have lettuce
"Oh I love a good salad," I said.
Within a few seconds he laid down two bowls brimming with large chunks of Iceberg lettuce and slapped a bottle of Wishbone Thousand Island onto the table.
I was absolutely woebegone. 'What kind of salad is plain iceberg lettuce in massive chunks? Where are the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and...Oh my, Thousand Island? Gag me.' But then I looked up at his smiling face across the table and he reached for my hand. "This is great, isn't it?" he said with love in his eyes.
"It is," I responded all aglow.
'Who cares about the lettuce, Wishbone, Boones Farm and divers helmets?' I thought. 'From the way it smells, the main course ought to more than make up for the salad.'
As we crunched on our lettuce, we gazed into each others eyes.
"Time for the main course." he said with glee.
Finally, the moment had come.
Chef Boyardee Commercial
The pièce de résistance
He walked back to the table a moment later and set a dutch oven onto a hot pad on the table. 'Dutch oven? Oh, who cares.' My stomach roared with impatience. Oh, the smell. I just knew it would be the most amazing gourmet Italian dish. I love Italian.
He prolonged the agony and held is hand on the knob of the lid for several seconds. Then he pulled it off with a "Voila`!" I looked down into the pot and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a bubbling pot of ravioli. I loved ravioli but this looked kind of gross. I looked over at the kitchen counter and for the first time noticed a large can labeled Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. I was stricken with disappointment, and quite frankly, incredulous that he could be so convinced that Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee would excite me. Being a sensitive individual, I said nothing until he started saying proudly "Well, what do you think? Didn't I tell you it would be great?"
"That's right, Babe!" He leaned in close with a wink, "You know, 'Obviously delicious. Secretively nutritous!' Just like the commercial says."
"Somewhere in her smile she knows that I don't need no other lover. Something in her style that shows me. Don't want to leave her now, you know I believe her now..."
George had it wrong. I wasn't smiling. My style was revulsion. Ben may not have wanted to leave, but I did. 'Milk, I need milk to wash this down.' "Um Ben, do you have any milk?"
"Milk? Sure, anything for my love." He went off to the kitchen and returned with an individual carton of Chocolate milk you might find in an elementary school student's lunch pail.
Diver's helmet, wino wine, lettuce, Thousand Island, Chef Boy-Ar-dee, and chocolate milk.
I checked my purse to make sure I had some Tums available when the inevitable gastric distress would assault me.
Gastro disaster dessert
When the Ravioli was finally resting heavily in my gut, my not so romantic man took our dishes and shouted from the kitchen, "Dessert, coming right up." I hoped the desert would be a redeeming course in our most lame romantic meal.
But, it was not to be. Oh boy, was it ever not to be. He came out with two Hostess pies and two Hostess Twinkies, birthday candles at the ready. "Which would you like?" he asked. "There's ice cream too," he bubbled.
"Uh, just the ice cream, please. What kind do you have?"
"Neapolitan. It's chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla together."
Oh heavens no. "Yes, I know what it is. I'll take a tiny scoop."
The tiny scoop was nowhere near small and it had gobs of chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple sauce all over it. My stomach was really churning by now. Would I make it without losing it all?
Something had ended and now Paul, the cute Beatle, was singing,"Oh! Darling, please believe me, I'll never do you no harm..." Hmm! There was truth in Paul's lyrics - Ben meant me no harm. But my stomach and my excitement had soured drastically. I was half tempted to ask to go home. I wouldn't have to feign being sick.
Ben ate both hostess pies, both Twinkies, and his ice cream sunday with such relish my stomach nearly evacuated all over the table. I excused myself to the ladies room and did just that. My intestinal tract did not have intestinal fortitude in this particular dining experience. Dousing my mouth with breath freshener, I made my way back to the table.
"Oh! Darling, if you leave me, I'll never make it alone..."
Oh Paul, do shut up!
How would you cope with a gourmet meal of Chef Boyardee and Strawberry Hill?
With our meal concluded, he prattled on about one thing or another. I wasn't listening, but said a few "Mm hm's" once in a while. Me eyes wandered, suddenly I noticed that the dishes were chipped, the silverware mismatched, the hot pad was a folded washcloth, and the candle on the table was pathetically groutesque! Purple swirls, nearly 3/4 burnt down with huge blobs of melted hard wax hanging all over the sides. The wine glasses were different sized tumblers from the local Jack in the Box. How did I not notice this before?
I then happened to catch the décor of the living room. The couch was a putrid green with stuffing hanging out of one cushion. There was a big purple bamboo chair and the carpet was red shag. The Ravioli at the bottom of my stomach was gaining momentum once again. I decided for extra ambience I'd save the trip to the bathroom this time, and I promptly decorated the table in a style to match the cuisine I'd received. The next song on the playlist fit perfectly for this moment. Ringo, chortled,
"I'd like to be, under the sea, in an octopus' garden in the shade..."
Ben was beside himself with concern. Running to the kitchen with a dish towel he asked, "Oh honey, is there anything I can do?"
Dizzy now, with an unmistakeable putrid green pallor like the couch, I said, "Yes, could you take me home?"
"Oh, my poor darling. Of course I'll take you home. I heard there's a bug going around."
I never saw Ben again!
© Lori Colbo 2012. All rights reserved.