(The Smurf represents Wood and the Dinosaur is the rest of us…)
Have you ever tried throwing a surprise party?
More to the point have you ever tried throwing a surprise party for a man who, upon discovering said party is occurring (he never did tell us how), sneaks into the venue and changes it from black-tie affair to a Smurf motif in order to hoodwink his own friends & family?
To accomplish this feat, he let loose a rowdy of corgis (who thought it was an absolute gas to play chase) to get us out of the room.
After we ‘sorted things out’ (i.e., two dozen formally clad guests, hunched over, sprinting after and corralling thirteen maniacally perky pooches), we discovered we were ‘accidentally’ locked out of the banquet room. After forty minutes of fuming and fretting in the lobby, thanking the gods above and below Wood was running late, the manager ‘finally found’ the door key.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the locked door…
The man himself, the caterers, and hotel staff worked at a fevered pitch to shift the decor from cream-colored tapers, blushing roses, and dry champagne to evergreen boughs, Smurf figurines, and an enormous red-and-white spotted toadstool cake.
Upon re-entry into the room, Wood yelled ‘Surprise’ – pleased as punch he’d hornswoggled all of us.
Admittedly, it was a hilariously well-played prank, but Laney and I had yet to even the score – and we’d been wracking our brains for TEN YEARS trying to figure out how to outflank and confound him – without an iota of success.
How did our payback come to pass? It all started two weeks ago over oxtail soup.
During my recovery Laney (lovely, lovely Laney) decided to take me on a culinary world tour. How? She went hither, thither, and yon grabbing takeout from every different country and/or culinary tradition she could find within a twenty-mile radius of Rye. However, one Saturday, Wood got called into work ridiculously early and unable to fall back asleep after he left – Laney got a wild hair and decided to make her mother’s oxtail soup, fresh bread, and lemon pie.
Not wanting to cook or eat by herself, Laney landed on the Lavender Lady’s doorstep (without warning) at six am pots, pans, and groceries in hand and proceeded to take over our kitchen. Once capable of rational conversation/thought, thanks to copious cups of coffee, she drafted a bleary-eyed Beatrice and I as her sous-chefs.
During the subsequent chopping, kneading, rolling, and stirring, we started chatting about this and that. Eventually, our meandering gabfest wandered onto the topic of high school, crepe paper dances, and Wood’s flirtation with ballet.
Laney, aware of her husband’s history in dance, astoundingly occupied the same boat Beatrice and I did. She, like us, had never seen him do a single pirouette.
At this point, we started comparing notes about other significant events in Wood’s life we’d witnessed or missed. Turns out neither Laney nor Beatrice knew much about the epic game leading to Wood securing a college soccer scholarship (where he met them). I missed his only appearance in the College Cup Final due to an ill-timed bout of pneumonia.
So we decided to kill two birds with one stone.
Ostensibly, Wood was coming by today to pronounce me fit as the proverbial fiddle, allowing me to return work. In reality, we were going to watch the greatest hits of his life as caught on tape by his loving Gran. Tickled pink to hoodwink her grandson, she’d lent us nine hours of home videos, including the two aforementioned soccer matches, a favorite pee-wee soccer game and seven of his best ballet performances/recitals.
Due to the veritable treasure trove of film on loan to us, we did need to tell one little white lie to get Wood to the Lavender Lady early enough to view each and every frame.
Unfortunately, this fib created two unforeseen consequences.
Deciding we needed to ‘sell our subterfuge’ – Beatrice littered our entryway with her brimming baggage, hefty carry-on, and bulky purse. (She was leaving for a book convention in New York on Monday morning, not Sunday as we told Wood.)
And what do you get when you combine an epic inability to walk over a stable flat surface in a straight line with erratically placed obstacles?
Swallowing the string of curses on the tip of my tongue, after nailing my big toe against a suitcase wheel, I limped the last few feet to the front door. Yanking it open, I found the second unintended consequence standing on my doormat, in the form of an apologetic Laney – fifty-seven minutes earlier than planned.
Me (stating the obvious): “You’re early!”
Laney (giving me a quick hug): “Wood wanted to make sure you had enough time to get Bee to the airport and for a full checkup. I delayed as long as I could…but you know…can you try stalling him?”
All I could do was nod before the man himself strode up the walk and cut our conversation short (of course, he came early – he just wanted to help).
Wood (Gladstone bag & folder in hand): “Morticia, I knew you’d be up! You ready to settle your tab?”
Before I could respond, my phone started warbling Time Warp from the kitchen.
Sarah (calling out): “Phoebe, you want me to pull the pans out of the oven?”
Laney (brushing past her husband): “I’ll head back and help.”
Wood: “Sarah’s here?”
Me (ignoring Wood): “Go ahead and pull the pans out if the outsides look crisp, otherwise give them two or three more minutes.”
Laney (shooting me a thumbs up): “No problem!”
Wood (his gaze bouncing between Laney and I): “Morticia, why does your house smell of chicken at seven-fifteen in the morning?”
Me (hollering at the swinging door): “If you could give the pots on the stove a stir, I’d appreciate it.”
After a muffled okey-dokey from the other side, securing the safety of my sauces, I turned back to my highly suspicious best friend.
Wood (eyes narrowing): “Morticia, what’s happening in your kitchen?”
Me (walking up the hallway to the door with the word ‘Office’ etched on the glass): “Come on, let’s do the whole doctor thing so you can find out.”