By October 2011, Emma, in her final stages of dementia, had six months to live. She had lived 97 years, yet, all that she had been, all that she had done, from her childhood summers on her Aunt Mary’s farm near Atlantic City to her laying down her last watercolor sketch, unfinished, upstairs in our den, seemed to me to have faded before the colors dried.
I sat at my blog’s big oak round table – the kind with the claw feet – that October 19 evening with a group of writer and musician friends. We engaged in a candlelight discourse and passed around the bottles of wine. “Life is short,” I remarked. Jane Austen snickered up her sleeve, the three Brontë sisters giggled so uncontrollably they had to leave the table early. I think I even heard Mr. Rochester chortle from his back room. Wolfgang sniggered into his lace cuffs and slapped himself on the frontal lobe sending a cloud of apricot powder from his wig sailing above the table. Franz Schubert stopped picking at his fish, pulled out his handkerchief, slid off his spectacles and wiped the tears of mirth from his lenses. Ludwig said, “Sorry. Could you repeat that?” Anton Chekhov coughed into his handkerchief and Leo Tolstoy rushed to his side. Alexander Scriabin reflected, “Before I nicked myself shaving, I was just about to create that exquisite mystic polychromatic sound and light show that Mick and Keith would have loved: we were going to record the performance on moving pictures.”
Thomas Jefferson laid his violin and bow on the table, stared at us blankly and said, “Like – what? Oh-h-h, I’ve got cheese from the macaroni and cheese stuck on my lapel again,” taking the nib of his pen and scraping it off. He waved his free hand as if batting away gnats on a hazy Monticello summer evening: “Well, those Parisians. You know – they create those rich creamy sauces necessitating one’s quaffing extra bottles of red wine to cut the fat. In the course of events, down in Virginia you may find us gone with the wine.” Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix chorused, “Show me the way to your wine cellar.” My friend blamed her cats for depleting her wine stash. Adam Gopnik and Bernard-Henri Lévy engaged in an animated philosophical side conversation hypothesizing that if the French government elected to set the Paris arrondissements in motion spinning around the hub, would they better rotate clockwise or counterclockwise? And, how, then, would one locate the good restaurants? Would that mess up one’s GPS, for instance?
JFK accidentally hit the red button on his iPhone. Vaslav Nijinsky leaped from his chair. F. Scott Fitzgerald noted, “We can’t just let our worlds crash around us like a lot of dropped trays.” Edgar Allan Poe emptied the bowl of popcorn on the table, feeding it to the raven perched on his shoulder until the bird got stuffed and croaked flatly, “Nevermore.” There was a draft. The candle flame flickered, casting a protracted, quivering raven’s shadow across the floor. Ernest Hemingway interjected, “I hope the sun never rises.”
Dante Alighieri joined the discussion via satellite from the banks of the River Arno in Florence, speaking divine Italian but through a female translator voiceover. The effect was disconcerting. John Keats dipped his quill into his glass of red wine and began composing an ode on a vintner’s urn. Lord Byron would have elaborated, but he was on assignment in Greece. Oscar Wilde smiled enigmatically. While Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I’m having a bad dream.”
Keith Olbermann crumpled his notes, tossed them into the empty popcorn bowl, pushed back his chair and stood up. “Good night. And good luck,” he said.
This is absolutely wonderful! 🙂
Thank you, Fee. It was fun to write.
Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
I love this! For some reason, Dante speaking via satellite and with a translation voice over amuses me to no end. I would love to be peeking through the window at such a great party. 🙂
The Dante voiceover amuses me, too, Sara. It’s what’s so annoying about watching TV news sometimes — a Bashar al-Assad interview with a female translator voiceover, for instance.
It was a fun party to write about.
I know it was the failure of the post office that my invitation did not arrive. When you give a party, my goodness! What an imagination! Or perhaps it’s snippets of past lives, woven together. Whatever the party, I wish I had been there. Brilliant!
Marsha, it wasn’t an oversight, my not inviting you to the party, nor a failure of the post office. Except for Thomas Jefferson and a cameo by Leo Tolstoy, those present had lived very short lives. So, here we are in our golden years that they never got to experience, with a superb overview from the catwalk of my blog. OK, well, I did sit at the table and share a glass of wine — or two, maybe, I think; it’s hard to remember.
Mac and cheese and wine and discourse with a fabulous array of fascinating dead folk–best soiree ever! I’ve never encountered this round table concept, but obviously I’m going to have to find out more about it. I’m already drafting a guest list in my mind. I’m curious–do you always have the same cast of historical figures in attendance, or do you mix it up?
Such a fun post, Samantha. Thanks for this glimpse into the shenanigans perpetrated by your round table crew.
Actually, Kern, the round table idea is always in the back of my mind, but I’ve written only this one. I keep thinking of what I can write for a “Nights at the Round Table II,” but haven’t much focused on it. (“Nights at the Round Table” is the original title of a post that I wrote in 2011; this is a pared down, altered version, and I reversed the title words so it would start with R.)
See also my reply to Patricia’s comment, below — what fired this idea.
I’ll bet you with your wit you could write a good one. Let me know when you do.
Thanks for coming by.
Truly brilliant and extremely funny Samantha thank you! I swear this has made my day. I’ll read it again – probably more again ! It was a rambunctious ride with your wonderful friends…. one day I’d like to be at your round table raising high the roof beams … with the camels in sight.
Raising high the roof beams and indeed with the camels in sight, Susan. We must. Absolutely.
HEHEHE… your round table group reminds me of the mischief my books get into at night when I’m not around. Fun post. Did they leave any wine and popcorn for you? 😉
They didn’t leave any more than I imbibed when I was there at the table with them. The empty popcorn bowl filled up with Keith Olbermann’s script notes and Thurber readings. Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Jefferson finished off the wine.
If you remember, I did note on your books mischief post that it reminded me of my Round Table story. Great minds….
A spectacular, spectacular summit! Wine was much needed to cut the waft of that pungent apricot powder. This post set me to sneezing.
Summit set you to sneezing, indeed — that apricot powder. I replied to your comment on my FB page, too, R.
Glad you enjoyed this one. …Well, we can relate.
I love your roundtable. You have some very interesting people that you meet with. I discovered the roundtable concept as I was reading a book by Nathaniel Hill. Since then I have had one and my people gather round me and they are sometimes very funny.
You have a wonderful gift, Samantha, and I truly mean that. Get to writing that book, Lady. What are you waiting on?
I’m waiting to finish the A-Zs, Pat, albeit champing at the bit to get writing that book.
I love the round table concept, too. I’d like to write more of these. I had an oak round table but gave it away in one of my moments of brain numbness. I do miss it. I love sitting around with a group of people with good food, wine and stimulating conversation.
I also love reading about moments in history where two famous people met; e.g., Chekhov/Tolstoy, Chekhov/Tchaikovsky, Hemingway/Fitzgerald, and so on. I read this morning that Keats and Byron held a bit of animus for one another. They were from two different worlds, class & social strata.
Nathaniel Hill — I must check him out. Thanks for the tip.
You have great insight, Patricia, into my writing and provide me with many ideas and much inspiration. Thank you for your support.
My dear, I made a mistake on the name, it is Napoleon Hill. I just checked it in my library.
Oh my dear, dear Samantha! Thou art truly clever with the quips! The absolute best one is Thomas Jefferson’s “gone with the wine”. Love it! 🙂
Yeah, I couldn’t resist the Thomas Jefferson quips, Val. Thanks.