Fool at Dinner
What The Fool Is Doing
The Fool is leaning forward in his chair, although the front legs of the chair are off the ground, and his arms are resting on the table. He is looking at the things in front of him – his cigarettes with matches on top of the pack, a cigarette smoking in an ashtray, his beer almost full, and the remnants of his dinner on a plate, pushed toward the center of the table. There are conversations around the dinner table, but the Fool is not listening to them. If the others wish his opinion on some subject, he will gladly give it, but he will not offer it unasked. He cares about saying things that certain others do not wish to hear, but this no longer seems to be the time and place to say such things.
Who Is There
The Supermarket Cashier has arranged this dinner party with her boyfriend, the Warehouseman. The Teacher is there with her husband, the Unemployed Novelist. The Piano Player is there. So is the Fool. They have known each other for several years but are not all in regular contact with each other.
Who Isn’t There
The Mechanic, the Plumber, the Unemployed Electrician, and the Bartender, who are the exact people you’d need if you were marooned on an island. The Cashier and the Warehouseman forgot to invite them. (They remembered to invite the Fool, the Teacher, and the Novelist only that afternoon. The Piano Player had been dreading the occasion for weeks).
The Dog, who is put outside when the guests arrive, although the guests all like the Dog.
The Cat, who is rarely there.
The Cashier’s children.
Over 7 billion other people.
Why There Is A Dinner
The Cashier and the Warehouseman had been to dinner at these people’s houses quite a long time ago. Rather than inviting them all separately, they thought it would be a good idea to have one big dinner.
The Cashier is enjoying herself immensely, talking and laughing. The Warehouseman is getting quite drunk and can’t tell if he’s enjoying himself or not. The Piano Player was told by a doctor to stop drinking, so is quite grumpy but not uncomfortable. The Novelist is reveling in a story about his misspent youth. The Teacher is giggling like a hyena, and it is contagious. She has another drink. The Fool smiles widely and leans back on his chair.
Why The Table Is Where It Is
Before dinner, the Cashier was fussing about the kitchen, mumbling to herself. The Fool asked her what was wrong, and the Cashier said that the big kitchen table should be moved into the front room where there was no table and twice the space. The Fool pointed out that moving the solid oak table would be quite difficult considering the width of the doorways and the weight of the table, and that six people would easily fit into the kitchen. The Cashier asked all the guests present about moving the table. The Warehouseman suggested that there was plenty of room for everyone in the kitchen. The Cashier said, “Yes, I think we’ll leave the table in here.”
Just before they began to eat, the Fool had to get himself some cutlery. The Fool did not think the Cashier did this deliberately, but he can’t be sure.
They ate a concoction of rice, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, peppers, pineapple, and shrimp, with salad and bread. Everyone enjoyed it, even though the rice stuck together, and they ate four hours after the guests thought they were going to.
Where The Conversation Went
“Don’t lean back on my chair,” said the Cashier. “You’ll break it.”
The Fool let the chair’s legs drop to the floor with a bang and decided not to tell about the time he and the Warehouseman bought the chairs before either had met the Cashier.
The Cashier told the story of the Fool and his money. The Fool had just made a withdrawal from his bank and was standing in the street counting the bills. A gust of wind came up and blew one of them out of his hand and down a sewer grate. The Cashier and the Warehouseman laugh as if that was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. The Cashier likes to tell that story a lot and stretches it a little in each telling. Tonight, before she could embellish this story everyone had heard before, the Fool broke in and said, “Big deal. It was only ten dollars.”
“Big deal?” she replied, laughing. “You were livid, crazy.”
The Fool wondered why she was distorting the truth. Was it to make a better tale, and if so, what makes the tale better?
“You’re crazy about money,” said the Warehouseman. “You hoard your money. You never spend it.”
“That’s not true,” said the Fool. “I’m careful with my money. And I spend it on my friends.”
“We’re not like that,” said the Warehouseman, and everyone wondered who and what he was talking about.
“Oh, you’re always doing something foolish,” said the Cashier to the Fool, and laughed.
Ha ha big joke, thought the Fool.
“And then there was the time,” continued the Cashier, “when we were at that restaurant, and the bill came, and you looked at it and thought they had overcharged us by thirty cents, and you got into that argument with the waiter.”
“That wasn’t me,” said the Fool.
“Yes, it was,” barked the Cashier, “and you went into a rage.”
“That never happened,” said the Fool.
“Of course it did. We were all there.”
“I don’t remember that,” said the Piano Player.
“You weren’t there.”
“I don’t remember it,” said the Teacher.
“Well, somebody was there,” said the Cashier.
“Yeah,” said the Warehouseman.
The Cashier turned to the Warehouseman, but that was all he said.
“See?” she said.
“I don’t know why you said that,” said the Fool.
“Oh, you’re such a fool,” said the Cashier, and poured herself another drink.
The Fool and the Novelist began talking about economic theories. They disagreed slightly, causing the Cashier to suggest that they talk about something else.
“Fine,” said the Novelist, crossing his arms. “Let’s talk about something else.”
The Novelist remained so for quite some time after that until the Cashier said to him, “You’re being awfully quiet.”
“Bullshit,” said the Novelist.
“Can we talk about something that isn’t an argument?” asked the Warehouseman.
“Who is God anyway?” said the Piano Player.
“Shhh,” said the Teacher.
The Cashier talked for five minutes about her children. Everyone else, including the Warehouseman, fidgeted, and some of them used this time to go to the bathroom.
The Piano Player sang a song she said she had written very recently. It was about some trees that were going to be cut down to make room for a playground. The trees discussed which ones would be cut down and which would stay as borders. It was decided that the trees who were willing to be cut down would be the ones who stayed. Naturally, all the trees said they would die for the cause. They pulled up their roots and hopped over to the perimeters of the playground, and none had to be cut down by the workers. Twenty-five years later, the trees who had lied were being dwarfed by the bigger, stronger truth-tellers, and their roots were outfought in getting to the water. One by one, they slowly died, and fell over onto the playground. The dying trees were removed. In time, the playground fell into disrepair and was abandoned. Seeds fell from the healthy trees and repopulated the playground.
While the Piano Player sang, the Teacher played the various glasses, bottles, and plates with spoons. The Novelist, being unmusical, tapped his feet, and built birds and animals out of the napkins. The Fool joined the Piano Player in singing the chorus, and even made up a verse himself. The Cashier and the Warehouseman, confused by this sudden frenetic activity, sat there and watched.
What The Fool Is Doing
The Fool is thinking. He likes to close his eyes when thinking but this would be impolite at a dinner party, so he stares at the things on the table in front of him. He leans back on his chair. He relaxes. He smiles.
How It Ends
The Cashier looks over at the Fool and says, “What’s wrong with you?”
The Fool doesn’t say anything.
The longer the silence, the better the answer.
William Kitcher has had stories, plays, and comedy sketches published and/or produced in Canada, the U.S., Holland, Ireland, and the U.K. He’s been to all five of these countries.