Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dinner with Harry

    Dinner with Harry
By Michael Cannata



                        "Is Harry here yet?"

                Sheila tried to sound as casual as possible when she asked. "Is Harry still coming to dinner tonight?" It was the second time in the last hour she asked. She knew it would irritate her husband if she seemed excited.

                Jack, her husband, smiled that strange smile he'd been wearing since Harry had called two days ago to tell him he was in town. When Harry asked if he could stop by, Jack got the usual pang of regret that always hit him when his brother called. He wanted desperately to say no, but saying no was something no one in the family ever said to Harry. He had no way out. He told his wife, who immediately got on the internet and excitedly spread the word. Just as he feared, things quickly got out of control.

                As always, what should have been a nice couple of hours having a beer with his brother, quickly turned into a major family social event. His parents and his sister invited themselves and started making dinner plans. A dinner he would be expected to prepare.

                "He called earlier." Jack told her. "I told him dinner would be ready by seven. He said he might be just a bit late, but to start on time. He isn't much for salad anyway."

                Harry was Jack's older brother and by far the family favorite. Harry was everything that Jack wasn't. Jack had lived in his shadow since he was born. When Jack's parents insisted on joining them, he knew it was finally time for a very special family get together.

                The fact that his parents were coming to dinner irked him. He could never recall them asking to have dinner with them, just he and his wife, at his home. In 10 years this would only be their second time in his home.

                Sheila excused herself and went to freshen up again. She preened herself while admiring the way her dress showed just enough cleavage that Jack would have to notice. She wanted to look her very best when Harry arrived. He always gave her the biggest hug and kiss. She felt silly, but still blushed at the thought.

                She met and married Jack while in college. It wasn't until the week before her wedding that she finally met Harry. From that day on Harry was her favorite fantasy lover. She virtually threw herself at Harry from the start. But he brushed off every attempt she made with such kindness it made her want him even more.

                Jack watched Sheila hurry off like a girl waiting for her prom date. Jack was amused at her feeble attempts to contain herself as the time crawled by until Harry arrived. "She may as well break out in song," he thought.

                When Jack met his wife he was thrilled by her devoted attention. For the first time in his life he was number one in someone's heart. He thought he had found the girl of his dreams. A beauty that only had eyes for him, and it was true, until the day he introduced her to Harry. From the moment she met Harry, Jack was again relegated to second place.

                Almost immediately she started comparing him with Harry. The light in her eyes that she had when she looked at him died. He never saw it again, except on the days Harry visited. Regretfully he began a marriage with a wife who would always secretly wish he was his brother.

                It's not like Jack was a failure. He graduated in the top 10 in his class. He had just been made head of his department at a major corporation. He made damn good money. But nothing he did was as exciting or dramatic as Harry. Nobody knew quite what it was Harry did. All they knew he was in sales, traveled extensively and had the kind of adventures they all wished they could experience. It was why his coming to town was such big news. He was coming home after an extended stay away. Nobody ever knew if they'd see him again so seeing him now was the highlight of their year.

                Everyone had arrived early, not wanting to miss the chance to spend every minute with Harry. The first question each of them asked as they arrived at the dinner was the same, "Is Harry here?" Not even saying hello to Jack as he took their coats.

                Between eating their salad and looking out the windows for Harry's car, all everyone could talk about was what sort of stories he would be telling. It was like listening to a bunch of star struck admirers gushing over their favorite celebrity.

                As they finished the salad their concern about Harry's late arrival grew. Maybe he was in an accident or his car broke down? It would be terrible if he didn't make it to dinner. Their worry became positively annoying to Jack.

                "Relax everyone!" Jack shouted at his startled guests. "If Harry promised to be here for dinner he'll be here! Has he ever missed a free meal with us before? Has he ever failed to completely ruin every minute of my life? He should be ready by now, let me check!"

                A look of confusion crossed everyone's face as Jack headed back into the kitchen. Although surprised by Jack's outburst, none of them offered to go into the kitchen. Jack had made it clear that he was making a meal that they would all love and never forget. The kitchen was off limits for everyone else.

                When he returned, the smile on his face changed into a mad leer. He set the large covered, silver platter onto the table with enough force to splash the juice over his guests. When he removed the cover to reveal an oddly shaped roast, only his wife screamed. The rest of those at the table simply stared in terror. Jack looked proudly at the perfectly roasted head of his brother. 

                  "Harry's here!!" He snarled, before starting a crazy, hysterical laugh; A laugh that would continue for the rest of his life at the asylum.


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