(The corner doesn’t allow photography….)
Why am I standing on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet?
Today was supposed to be nothing but fun, food, and home movies – not no-win scenarios. Though I guess most people who find themselves standing under this streetlamp often wonder how things went sideways so fast. (Jake Gittes, Hamlet, and Captain Kirk habitually find themselves here – in case you’re wondering).
The impossible choice facing me today? Either I place Wood at risk, or I risk damaging our friendship.
For one hot second, I thought about putting pen to paper without harboring any intention of abiding by the agreement. However, the same little voice in my head, which caused me to confess in the first place, wondered what kind of friend perpetuated that kind of fraud on another.
It also pointed out that that level of deceit guaranteed a visit to the Corner of Bitter and Sweet every time I spoke to, hung out with, or thought of Wood. Until I either I confessed to my sins (and hoped he didn’t unfriend me) or we stopped hanging out all together, drifted apart and stopped being friends.
Both my conscience and I agreed all those eventualities sucked.
Walking over to where Wood was sitting by the window, I dropped bonelessly into the chair opposite his.
Me: “Can I think about it overnight?”
Wood: “Nope. Either sign it and let me into the weird frontier or don’t.”
Me (speaking slowly due to a brainwave): “Then, there are a few stipulations I’d like to include.”
Wood (leaning forward, eyes gleaming): “Let’s hear them.”
We haggled, finagled, dickered, bickered, bartered, and bargained, but eventually, we hammered out an agreement we both found acceptable.
Wood’s original terms remained unaltered, though he did manage to wrangle an addendum out of me. Should he be out of town or sick when I needed help, either I enlist a stand-in or wait until he could participate. (Thus closing a loophole that hadn’t occurred to me.)
In return, I managed to pry two significant concessions from Wood.
First, while accompanying me on an outing, he needs to follow my instructions, even if they sound mad, to the letter. Second, I could decline to answer any question he poses without any followups or pouting.
Violating my terms will require the forfeiture of his vintage volume of Sherlock Holmes published in 1892.
Fair’s, fair after all.
It wasn’t until the hopping herd of hares (Laney, Beatrice, and Sarah) started setting out the spread that Wood and I noticed ninety minutes ticked off the clock during our wheedling and dealing. However, rather than trying to talk his way out of the Office, Wood leaned back in his chair and gave me an impish grin.
Wood: “Do you think they’ve finished prepping for the party?”
Me (pausing mid pen stroke): “Wait, is that why you were early? Did you know about our party before you arrived?”
Wood’s grin turned wicked.
Me (placing a note of warning in my voice): “Dourwood Utley, did you know?”
Wood (plucking the signed document out of my hand): “Just thought I’d allow you to clear your conscience.”
Me (aghast): “You tricked me into coming clean?”
Wood (inking his name below mine): “Morticia, I know you did your best to keep your promise. I also know you’d beat yourself up until you ended up confessing, apologizing, and forking over the book anyway. I don’t ever want to make you unhappy. So I figured out a way to fast-forward your process by a couple of months and give you a do-over.”
Taking a deep breath, I held it until the count of twelve, then steadily released it. (Trying to tamp down the heartburn and indignation his statement filled my chest with. It didn’t help he made a valid point. Drat him.)
Wood: “Forgive me?”
Me (sighing): “Maybe…But how did you figure out I broke our original agreement?”
Wood: “I saw the Princess parked in front of The Alter.”
Me (rolling my eyes): “Of course you did. And the party?”
Wood (now grinning): “The Smurf Spectacular part Two? I’m not telling.”
Me (wicked smile of my own spreading across my face): “Oh, our party doesn’t feature Smurfs.”
Wood (looking dubious): “But Laney said….”
Me (holding out my hand): “Gentleman’s agreement, I’ll forgive you and tell you about our theme. If you promise not to complain about today’s feature presentation and tell me how you found out.”
Wood (suspicion plain upon his face): “Deal.”
Ignoring the groans my explanation of today’s entertainment produced, as Wood’s not particularly keen on watching his Gran’s home movies, I moved on. (For him they are akin to Aunt Pearl’s appallingly stylized holiday family photos. The difference being in his Gran’s videos she coos over Wood’s performance the entire time and interjects random stories, which may or may not be relevant to what’s happening.
Me: “Your turn spill, how did you find out?”
Wood (looking at his feet ruefully): “Laney talks in her sleep.”
Me (laughing): “Well, that explains a few things.”