The party of twenty would arrive shortly, at 8 pm. At last all was ready – the table laid, the chairs in position, the candles waiting to be lit, the flowers in the vase, the crown roast in the oven. She hesitated. Something was not right.
The little white ferret, crouched beside the grandfather clock in the hallway, was watching her too carefully. It also knew that something was not right.
Did the curtains not match the carpet? Were the pictures on the wall too somber? Had she forgotten a spice in one of the recipes? Was the party of twenty allergic to leek soup? What was wrong? What was wrong?
She put on her hat and ran down the street to the Questions Desk. The queue was very long, as was to be expected on a Friday evening. How would she reach the Desk and get home before the party of twenty arrived?
She tapped the shoulder of the tall man in front of her.
Would you mind awfully if I went ahead of you? she asked. I’m expecting a party of twenty shortly so I’m in a terrible hurry.
The tall man was gazing at a young woman threading a daisy chain. He didn’t notice the tap on his shoulder.
Sorry, she said. It’s fine. I can wait. I’m in no hurry. No hurry at all.
The queue shuffled forward. She wondered if the party of twenty had already arrived and was waiting impatiently outside her door. They were always so punctual.
Finally she stepped up to the Questions Desk.
Nice hat, said the golden bird.
Thank you, she said. But I haven’t come about my hat. I’ve come to ask what’s wrong with the preparations for my party of twenty?
Hm, said the golden bird. She felt a prick in her forehead, similar to the prick of a needle for a blood test, neither more nor less painful, as the golden bird peered deep into her soul. Hm. Looks like you have some harmonization issues.
What do I do for that? Is there a pill I should take? I need to be quick because I’ve got a…
You’re only allowed one question at the Questions Desk. Look at everyone waiting. How am I supposed to finish by dinnertime if everyone asks more than one question? I’m on overtime as it is.
But this is the Questions…
Next! shouted the golden bird.
No. Please. I’ve got a party of twenty…
Next! shouted the golden bird.
She sprinted back home. A sigh of relief that the party of twenty was not yet at the door.
The little white ferret, still crouched beside the grandfather clock, sucked on its teeth. She could see it knew very well what was wrong. If only ferrets could talk!
7.59. Still time to work out what was amiss before the party of twenty arrived. If she thought fast.
She sat down to catch her breath. It was so quiet. All she could hear was the heavy tick of the grandfather clock.
8 pm. 8.14. 8.46. She took the crown roast out of the oven. Thank heavens the party of twenty was late for once. She almost had it; whatever was wrong was shivering right on the edge of her brain. 8.52.
The clock struck nine.
Nine o’clock. The party of twenty was never late. Never. That could only mean she’d got the wrong…
A mighty whirring of gears inside her left shoulder blade, just beneath and to the right of her kidney, and an inch or so above her right ankle.
She fell to the floor with a thud. The white ferret raced into the kitchen, leaped onto the counter, and sank its teeth into the crown roast.
She didn’t care. She lay on the carpet, eyes closed, breathing deeply, infused with the tranquility and serenity only those with a freshly harmonized operational system can know.
2016 is my Year of the Blurt: each week I’ll take advantage of an odd spare moment or two to write something very quickly. Probably the Blurts will mostly be fiction, but who knows!
Thank you for dropping by to read this week’s Blurt. It was inspired by the Daily Prompt’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony.
The figure in the second photo is from The Illuminated Crowd, by Raymond Mason, on rue McGill College, Montréal.
Please note: all material on this website, except for comments by others, is © Susi Lovell.