Invitations to DinnerLincoln Donald
"What are you doing here?" I asked in surprise as I entered the living room after returning home.
A small, shrivelled old woman, dressed like a bundle of cleaning rags, sat on the sofa in the evening gloom. She had the air of someone who did a lot of waiting around but I had no idea who she was or what she was doing there, although there was something vaguely familiar about her; it was almost as though she was a shrunken, older and more wrinkled version of someone I knew. I quickly turned on some lights but still didn't recognise her.
"I've been waiting for you," she replied tartly. "I want you to arrange a dinner party."
"I see! You want me to give you a meal? I was about to cook something. I should be able to find enough in the freezer for both of us. Would you like to join me?
"That wasn't really what I meant but I suppose we could discuss it over dinner."
"Can I offer you a drink. Sherry perhaps?"
"Sweet or dry?"
"Oh sweet, always sweet."
I poured her drink and checked the freezer.
"It will have to be pasta with a tomato and basil sauce, I'm afraid."
"That sounds lovely."
We had eaten almost in silence but as we sat finishing our cheap white wine I asked her to tell me about the dinner party she wanted me to arrange.
"I'm offering you the opportunity to host a party for any five people you would enjoy sharing a leisurely meal with."
"All from here in town?"
"No, not necessarily. From anywhere you like---here or overseas."
"But how will I know they will be available, and how will they get here?"
"You don't have to worry about that. Just leave it to me."
"Any time that will suit you."
"What if that isn't convenient for the guests?"
"I will see that it is," she replied so firmly and with such authority that I believed her.
"But what if I invited the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury on Easter Sunday?"
"It might be straining the friendship but yes, they would be here."
"Does it have to be here? I would have to cook. That wouldn't leave much time to entertain my guests."
"No. It can be anywhere you like. Restaurant, hotel, wherever."
"I think room service in the Presidential Suite at the Hyatt Hotel would be best, but I'll need a little time to decide who I would most like to invite. How long do I have?"
"I would like to know by this time tomorrow evening."
"Come and eat with me again tomorrow night and I'll let you know who you should invite."
"Thanks. I will, but I must go now."
As I led the way down the hall, she said, "I quite like fish and chips, you know."
When I turned to usher her out she was nowhere to be seen but I felt strangely confident that she would return the following evening.
Now, who should I invite?
Copyright ©2000 Lincoln Donald. All Rights Reserved.
Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.