It was Sunday. Beth and Sam had spent the whole day in the kitchen and the apartment fairly floated with the most enticing odors. The table was laid with the greatest of care, and the feast was ready. Beth looked around with a satisfied sigh.
"I hope they're not going to be late." Sam opened his mouth to reply, but the doorbell interceded.
"I'll get it," he said instead. The door swung wide on its hinges, sending a blast of frigid air through the tiny apartment. Beth frowned, but said nothing. "Hi, guys. Come on in." Sam's welcome was enthusiastic. "I hope you didn't have any trouble finding the place."
"None at all," the taller of the two men answered.
"Come on into the kitchen," Sam invited. "Dinner's almost ready." The three of them trooped through the living room into the kitchen. "Beth, this is Henry Beale and Billy Joe Higgins. Fellas, my wife, Beth."
"Pleased to meet you both." Beth flashed her dimples." I hope you're both hungry. I fixed a big dinner."
"Oh, yes, ma'am." Billy Joe's southern drawl was immediately evident. "Ah think ah cud eat thet whol' bud all bah mahself." He blushed suddenly and looked down at his feet. Beth giggled and dimpled again.
"Sit down then, everybody," she instructed. "It's ready if you are." Everyone found a seat at the small round table, and heaping plates of food were passed around.
"Anything new at the mill today?" Sam asked.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, Sam," Beth interjected. "Your friends came here to enjoy themselves, not to talk shop. I'm sure all that can wait 'til Monday."
"I just wanted to know if they'd heard any more about the mill closing, that's all."
"Nothing new, I'm afraid," Henry told him. "Just more of the same rumors, but nothing official."
"Well, that's enough of that," Beth insisted. "Now let's try and find a more pleasant subject, shall we? Where are you from, Billy Joe?"
"Texas, ma'am. Dallas, Texas," he answered. "Could Ah trouble y'all fuh some mo' of thet co'n?"
"No trouble at all, I assure you, but please don't call me ma'am." She wrinkled her nose. "My friends all call me Beth.
"Yes ma'am. Ah mean Beth," Billy Joe reddened again and became very busy buttering his corn. Beth turned her attention to his companion.
"What about you, Henry? What part of the country are you from?"
"Scappoose, Oregon," Henry replied proudly. "That's about twenty miles northwest of Portland, and the prettiest spot in the whole US of A."
"Sounds wonderful. Tell me all about it." By the time Henry had finished describing the beauty and virtue of Oregon in general and Scappoose in particular, dinner was over and the dishes were being cleared away.
"Here, let me help you with that." Henry reached around Beth for the big platter holding the remains of the turkey.
"Oh, don't throw that away yet," Beth protested. "I can still get enough meat off of that for Tiger's dinner."
"I'm sure she'll love that," Henry agreed and he and Beth started picking bits and pieces from the carcass to fill the cat's dish. Sam had filled the sink with soapy water, and Billy Joe was stacking dirty dishes on the countertop, and soon everyone was getting in everyone else's way. Finally an exasperated Beth decided that she and Henry would take care of the dishes, and Sam and Billy Joe should go into the living room and play cards until they were finished.
With the dishes washed and put away, Henry and Beth joined the others for a long, noisy game of Monopoly. Henry won, and Sam didn't seem any too happy about it. After his friends had gone, he stood staring out the window for a long time, his hands shoved deep into his pants pockets. He turned to look at Beth, engrossed in her crossword puzzle.
"I don't know why good ol' Henry didn't stay up in Oregon if he thinks it's so great up there," he complained. Beth looked up from her book.
"Why, Sam! I do believe you're jealous!"
"Well, why shouldn't I be?" Sam demanded. "You were so wrapped up in his Chamber of Commerce sales pitch all evening you hardly even knew I was there! And what about poor Billy Joe? A good hostess is supposed to entertain all her guests, not just one."
"Oh, I don't think he minded half as much as you did." Beth laid aside her book and walked over to where Sam was standing. He wasn't looking at her now. She drew his hands out of his pockets and wrapped his arms about her waist. Then she put her own arms around his neck and stood on tip-toes to kiss his cheek. "I'm sorry, Baby," she said softly. "You know you're the only man I'm interested in." Sam turned his head toward her and smiled, kind of a sad smile.
"I know," he answered quietly. She nestled her head against his chest and he held her close.
Copyright 1998 by Kathleen Mc Pugh, all rights reserved.