Teaser 059: A Different Feast at Serena’s Dinner Table


I reached Serena's house in a whopping three hours. The Friday crawl was mostly stand still. Serena was already there and walked me back to one of the good bedrooms where I stowed my stuff. We all sat down for drinks, Pacifico beer for me, and for dinner the usual excellent fare from the hostess. Will observed I was drinking wine along with everyone, including John, Pamela, and Katherine.

“At many dinner tables where I've sat by invitation, some have considered it rude not to drink the offering from the host or hostess. They've put the whole dinner together and I'm sure Serena has done the same. I don't want to offend our hostess. I like to keep her happy if possible. You've probably noticed, Will, our hostess is easier to get along with when she's happy.”

“Yes, you wouldn't want to piss me off.”

“And face a life-long vendetta? No thanks.”

Will chuckled. “You still might piss her off, though, Gregory.”

“How so?”

“She had five cases of Pacifico delivered this morning, and since no one else drinks it, I think it was for you.”

“Five cases?”

“Saw 'em roll 'em in myself.”

I turned to Serena, watching me in amusement. “I order liquor in bulk and they deliver it out here to me.”

I rubbed my hands. “Very convenient. Now I can really tie one on.”

Serena frowned playfully. “It's supposed to last a while, little boy.”

“There's always a catch.”

“Except for the excellent red wine,” John said, raising his glass and looking at the wine swirling in it. “This comes direct from France.”

“That I do know. I checked on it at a liquor store the other day and the guy said, 'Can't get it here. They only sell it in France.' I thought about telling him, 'I know where I can get it here.'”

“Why were you looking for wine, Gregory?” Serena asked a bit suspiciously.

“It was for a friend.”

“For that friend you're taking care of? The one from India?”

“No. One of the helpers.”

Skeptical like other faces at the table, Serena commented, “I think I'd like to go over to your place some day and meet this friend of yours.”

“You'll have to drive through Hollywood first, and it may not be wise. In fact, I think there's a song which describes it. I'll sing it to you, but I don't have much of a voice, which is why no one pays me any money for it. It goes like this, though...

Well, his mama told him not to go, little sister told him, too,

But the poor boy just didn't listen, uh, like he should and that's too bad.

He hitchhiked all the way from Burbank. Now he's gonna end up in the drunk tank.

Some old man said, 'Yeah, well, that's just the way it goes down in Hollywood.'

Down in Hollywood, ya better hope that ya don't run outta gas.

Down in Hollywood, they'll take ya right outta your car and literally kick your ass.

In Hollywood, they're standing on a corner just waitin' for a sucker like you.

Down in Hollywood, now if you wanna stay healthy just keep a-movin' right on through…

“to West Hollywood and don't stop until you do.” I actually sang it fairly well, a little subdued which is better for my poor voice. I did the old man part like a black old man, gravelly voice and all. I got a few claps. Performers. Ya gotta love 'em because they love a performance. On “right on through” I swept my right hand upwards, a good effect. All enjoyed it. “With apologies to Ry Cooder, so if you ever run into him, and you slip up and tell him I sang this song, you must also tell him I beg his forgiveness. I hear he's pretty reasonable and probably will, as long as he's assured I'll stick to writing.”

Serena smiled but she was ready. She was picking up on my little tricks. “Is this one of your diversions, Gregory, thinking it would keep me from visiting your place and meeting this friend from India?”

“You're welcome any time, Serena. I have an open door policy, as long as you cooperate, don't get belligerent, and it's not like those who say, 'Drop by any time.' So you drop by unannounced and they say, 'Oh, man. You shoulda called first. We've got plans. Sorry.' And they leave you hangin', except it's not what they said. You show up at my place unannounced and I have plans, I'll change them to include you, or I'll cancel them completely. You're always welcome at my place.”

“You're welcome at my place any time, too, Gregory,” Serena tried to convince me.

“No, Serena, I'll always call ahead or have already made arrangements with you, so I'm expected. I'll never show up unannounced, unexpected. Ever.” Serena looked hurt when I said it with such emphasis, but I ignored her expression. I had made my point. Serena's lifestyle was not my lifestyle.

John chuckled. “So if I showed up at your place one day unexpectedly, you'd change your plans?”

“As long as I was home, yeah, and there's the price you pay if you don't call ahead. I may not be home, but if I was, John, I'd put my arm around your neck, and say, 'Cumon, Bud. We're all goin' down to the Chinese place for dinner and you're invited.'”

Serena wasn't through. “So what would you do if I showed up one day and you were going to spend time with a woman?” She glared at me.

“Good one!” Many looks and comments! “I'll bet there wouldn't be a single tinge of jealousy, because women don't get jealous. I've heard it's reserved for men, but if you showed up at my door and wanted to spend time with me, and I already had plans with some woman, if she couldn't handle a day or night out with you as part of the company, she's not a woman I would want to be with...and the same holds for you, too. It's human beings out having fun, sharing companionship, their time and energy with each other. If there's some kind of problem with it, my advice is: 'get over it.'”

“I don't believe a word of it,” Serena remarked, dismissively.

“Then, test me, dear, test me!” I winked at her but she was still frowning. “You know where I live. You've got the address. Tell your driver, he'll plug it in for the route and drive you right to the apartment building. It will be fun when you buzz my apartment from below, cuz you ain't gettin' to my apartment until you do, kinda like here.” I smiled wickedly. I was really enjoying this.

“See! You don't have an open door policy,” Serena protested, “because no one can get to your door.”

“All true, but anyone can walk off the street and buzz my apartment and I will come down to see who it is and they'll be welcome. And in your case, I'll invite the driver up to my apartment for a beer, and he'll say, 'Well, Serena's in the car and wants to see you.' And I'll say, 'What? She doesn't know how to buzz an apartment?' And he'll say, 'I don't know. I've always done it for her.'” I pointed my finger at Serena. “You are losing this skirmish, little girl, so give up while you still have troops left. Live to fight another day, right, John?”

John laughed. “I already surrendered.”


- Just Desserts, Segment SevenStar Alignment” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com