(To Be Clear – this is not The Fungus House!)
Random ordering is not a sound strategy in a place called The Fungus House.
Beatrice’s mushroom pho looked like a pretty piece of modern art in a bowl.
Wood’s portobello burger looked like an actual burger with cheese, ketchup and lettuce – I think a special sauce might have made an appearance as well.
My lentil and mushroom shepherds pie looked like a sick topiary covered in week old snow.
While contemplating how to tackle the beige mountain that was my dinner (while eating as little of it as possible) I tried to shift the topic off my impending homelessness on to anything else. Wood beat me to the punch.
“So Bee how is life in the book world treating you?”
My ears perked up, “Books?”
A smile crossed her face, “I am a buyer and store promoter for Pulp. I just got back from a trade show in New York. Oh Wood, I got the new Neil Gaiman advanced reader copy for you”. She dug in her briefcase and handed Wood the aforementioned book.
I have never been so jealous of Wood as I was right this instant. I love Gaiman. Eight more months I would have to wait for his new book to hit the shelves. I wonder if Wood would loan it to me when he was finished. Now to the important question, “You get to see where books are born?”
“Something like that, publishers hold book expos to promote their hot, new or exciting titles. Pulp sends me to figure out what is the genuine article and what is just hype. The only unfortunate thing about the trip was my place was broken into while I was gone.”
“That’s no good. Did they take anything irreplaceable?” Wood asked while tucking the book next to his leg.
“No, that’s what’s weird, they only stole a couple old paperbacks and that painting you hate. But other than that, they just rifled through the place and left.” She leaned back in the booth, the conversation causing her to lose her appetite, or perhaps she was full – her bowl was nearly empty.
“Well that doesn’t sound too bad, the painting was hideous. Do you know how they got in?” Wood chimed in while I made sympathetic noises.
“The police weren’t sure. The working theory is that Ms. Hettie left a window upstairs open and they found her key to open the door and went downstairs. They left her stuff alone. If they cased the place, they would have known she would be home soon and the police would investigate immediately rather than a week later.”
Chiming in, “Did you change you locks?”.
“On all the doors and windows. I made it much harder to get in, should they decide for round two.” A hint of competitiveness (or annoyance, it was hard to tell) crept into her voice – apparently thwarting thieves was a sport?
Speaking of larceny, Wood knew I was eyeing his book (he did after all turn me onto Gaiman), when my hand started creeping towards the volume he and the book scooted away from me, “Excuse me for a minute, ladies, I need to use the facilities and put this in my car before I forget it.”
It was then that the bright pins and needles sensation began pricking my toes. Curling them in my shoes I did my best imitation of Winged Victory (you know the statue), trying not to crane my neck to spot who’d popped up into the restaurant. Fortunately I didn’t wonder long – two dancers waltzed past me and started to gliding their way through the restaurant. I tried not to stare but her dress was so beautiful. It reminded me of the wedding dress Grace Kelley’s character wore in her last movie High Society, graceful lines with lace and chiffon swishing elegantly about her knees. Her partner was harder to make out, more the idea of a tuxedo giving him form than what he actually possessed. Or perhaps his partner just sucked all the light towards her, it was hard to tell. In either case, my fellow diners ate on, oblivious to the spectacle circling through them and I lost the thread of the conversation entirely.
“Her dress is lovely isn’t it.”
Startled I refocused on the woman sitting across from me, “Her dress?”
“The couple dancing, her dress is deliciously vintage isn’t it?”
At this point my mouth did a great goldfish impression, “You see them?”
Before she could answer Wood came back to the table patting his pockets, “Beatrice do you know where my keys are?”
Distracted from the dancers by Wood’s question I asked, “Why would she know where your keys are?”
“Bee always finds my keys when I lose them.” Wood looked expectantly at Beatrice.
I could feel her eyes rolling, “You are the only person I know who loses them so regularly.”
“Please?” Wood did his best imitation of a cocker spaniel.
Beatrice closed her eyes for a moment, “They are under the table over there.” She pointed an empty table near the restrooms.
Wood hustled over to where Beatrice pointed, taking the book with him (gggrrrr!), “That’s a neat trick.” I commented, relieved the dancers had left without noticing me.
She smiled, “You think so?”
After dinner we all ended up at The Rusty Hinge, drinking beer, playing pinball and shooting the breeze (where I managed to scarf down a bacon burger with Wood being none the wiser). The Fungus House was a distant memory by the end of the night.