Like most things in my life, I hadn’t thought
it through at all. Instead, I’d acted on
a whim: invite the neighbours round for tea.
And where’s the whim in that? I hear you ask,
but wait! Dismiss this whim as nothing more
than normal conduct, if you must, but first
please hear this key, essential detail of
the invitation: when I say the neighbours
I don’t mean Dave and Jill who live next door
(those aren’t their real names, by the way, but just
a loose approximation of that thing
we call ‘poetic licence’); neighbours here
refers to every person in our street:
indifferent youths who wouldn’t want to come;
the too-nice parents dragging them along;
some sprightly, geriatric folk;
and one young same-sex couple from The North.
I won’t regale you with the details of
their various arrivals, save to say
that those who weren’t embarrassed were bemused.
It’s fair enough, I guess: if you’d expected
to be the only guests invited over
for tea and half the neighbourhood turned up
within five minutes, you’d be nonplussed too.
The tea itself was quite a lavish spread.
Or, rather, would have been a lavish spread
if neighbours here referred to Dave and Jill
and no-one else; but as it was, two plates
of sandwiches, a chocolate cake, a tray
of flapjacks, half-a-dozen scones with jam
and cream, and one small pot of tea did not
go far when shared between twenty-three
surprised and hungry neighbours who were crammed
inside my kitchen. Quite surprising, really,
that they were too polite to leave, apart
from poor old “Mrs Cat” from Number 8,
for whom I had to call an ambulance.
I feared that her departure might provoke
a sudden exodus, and that was why
I locked them in my kitchen. “Please stay calm!”
I shouted from the living-room. The noise
Subsided long enough for me to tell
them that (surprise, surprise!) I’d baked them all
a Fortune Cookie. (This was why I’d asked
them round for Sunday tea: to spread the joy,
throughout our neighbourhood, of eating cookies
and reading fortunes simultaneously.)
Explaining that I might be armed, so no
quick moves, I turned the lock inside the door
and slowly pulled it open. Everyone,
without exception, seemed somewhat suspenseful;
the expectation of a fortune cookie
had clearly piqued the interest of my guests,
exactly as I’d hoped. Hooray for me.
After a small commotion, during which
we all made friends, I handed out the cookies.
I’m not entirely sure what happened next,
but when my consciousness returned, the scene
was reminiscent of the time when I
had pushed my mother down the stairs,
by which I mean that there was quite a bit
of screaming, stuff was on the walls, and on
my hands and clothes, and I could barely think
for all the noise those bloody sirens made.
…to be continued…
(21st/22nd July 2013, Barnyards-dels-Asprins)