2018-02-07 / Opinion


The Toothpick
by Bud Hearn

The invitation was engraved. The embossing reminded Bob of some bath towels he once bought from Sears. He asked himself, Why me? Hack journalists don’t hobnob with the highbrow upper crust crowd. He shook off the inhibition and showed up.

A lovely evening, guests always say. The word gets a workout from the well-born. Perfect for all events. It means everything in general, but nothing in particular. It’s the disguise of choice. It mingles with departing hugs, sideways, of course, air kisses and back pats. Dinner parties can be strange. They swirl in rarified air.

All lovely dinners demand a formal thank you note. It’s wise to synthesize the experience. It’s best to delay a day, let the details distill into the essence of the evening. Then write. Bob ignored this advice. His note will not meet the standard for inclusion in the primer for Life Among Southern Gentry.

Marvin and Sue, dear friends, February 2, 2018

Your dinner party was a smashing success. Thank you for including me. It was a lovely evening. From the moment I entered, I could see the welcome surprise on the faces of your guests and yourselves. Please don’t even think about apologizing for your dog mistaking my leg for something else vertical. It often happens. I’m sure the cleaners can eliminate the stench.

I regret not wearing a jacket, but frankly, I thought the black silk Tommy Bahama shirt with the pink flamingos would be a hit. It coordinated well with your loan of the brilliant yellow blazer.

The hors d’oeuvres on silver platters were scrumptious. Real class. It reminded me of my aunt’s tenth wedding. Her pigs-in-a-blanket were just as big a hit as your fish eggs, at a fraction of the cost. But your champagne was definitely superior to her Ballatore Spumante at five bucks a bottle.

Place settings confuse me. Especially silverware. Why do place settings require more than a knife, fork and spoon? Whatever. But, thank you, Sue, for helping me to segue through the sixteen pieces of silverware surrounding my plate. I noticed that your initials were engraved on each piece. Clever. Cuts down on pilfering.

Marvin, excellent choice of wine. Delicious is a cheap word…it was divine, purely ambrosial. A strange label, written in some foreign language. Something like Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits France. Your butler, Roland, was in a bit of a snit. I think I offended him. He kept coming to fill up my glass. I told him to just put the bottle on the table, I’d pour my own. Is he on a quota system?

Sue, your flower arrangements were absolutely elegant. They were an incredible artistic design of dandelions. Imagine, a common weed. Splendid.

Thanks to Lamar, I wasn’t the only one eating those luscious lamb chops with my fingers. I recall reading once that it’s against the law in Georgia to eat lamb chops with anything but your fingers. Is that true? I was a bit surprised Heinz was not served. I‘ve never eaten meat without ketchup.

The finger bowls and lemon wedges on the white doilies arrived just in time. I would have hated to soil the linen napkin with more au jus of chops. I think the last time I used a finger bowl was at the White Star prom dinner in the Sigma Nu frat house. I dipped a biscuit in it.

Sue, I just adored the colorful coffee demitasse. So French. But the handles are quite small. I’m sorry it slipped from my hand and ruined Marvin’s yellow blazer. Fortunately, it didn’t soak the half-smoked stogie I discovered in the pocket. Please forgive me for lighting it at the table and setting off the alarm. It was a case of bad judgment.

Thank you again for including me in your lavish affair. It was lovely. And please let me clear up a slight confusion. I’m not runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize as I thought. It’s for the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes drawing. I hope this inadvertent oversight won’t spoil our friendship.

Yours, fondly and with affection,


PS: One thing still bothers me, though. Where did you hide the sterling toothpicks?

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