Monday, October 18, 2010

One More Cookie

Every fall, the people across the street have a harvest party. It's an outdoor party that lasts well into the night and often spills onto my front lawn. The party-throwers disapprove of my Pia Zadora affiliation, so I suspect my invitation is for the use of my property. People make, bake, and bring all kinds of food which is carefully presented on card tables of various sizes. And the always-aproned Mardell Harp, who could give Martha Stewart a run for her money, shows up with a heaping mound of her legendary chocolate chip cookies. She guarantees a chip in every bite.

Aside from the cookies, a big reason for attending the party is to hear the smooth sounds of Valerie Dunk and her husband, Stuart. Valerie sings while Stuart accompanies her on a nylon stringed guitar. They are a couple of classically trained Mods who live at the end of the block and perform the same five songs every year. Their harvest party repertoire is just enough to leave an audience wanting more:

--These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
--Have You Never Been Mellow
--Do Ya Think I'm Sexy
--Blame it on the Bossa Nova
--Let's Get Physical

Sometimes they change the order, but their encore is always "Let's Get Physical." There are no upsetting surprises with the Dunks. It's comforting to know some things remain constant, like Valerie and Stuart and the L.L. Bean catalog.

The unpolished Patty Tater is always at the party, fishing for crumbs of information. Keeping an oar's-length away from her is often the only way to curb her mismannered gossip. When she sidled up to me at the cookie table, the prying began. She started by talking about the unusually large number of chipmunks seen scurrying about this fall, and asked what precautions I take to avoid running over them with my bike. So I revealed my technique, which is "bark and swerve." When a chipmunk darts out in front of me, I bark like a dog and swerve at the same time. There is no telling how many chipmunk lives have been saved by the bark and swerve principle.

That bit of information satisfied her craving for what she calls "news," and she quickly hurried away to inform others of her treasure. Throughout the evening she delighted several guests by occasionally pointing at me and announcing, in her cackle-voiced-fashion, loud enough so everyone could hear, "Hey there, Bark and Swerve."

After the third person called me Bark and Swerve, I went home, hoping my disappearance would give the name a chance to dissipate and not become a permanent moniker. Then around 1:00 am, while watching an episode of My Friend Flicka, I got to thinking that I'd like one more of Mardell's chocolate chip cookies. I peeked out my front window and could see the enticingly displayed treats. They were on a table, right near the entrance to the commotion. Not wanting to be recognized, I donned a baseball cap and put a belt around my pajamas (the ones with the red peppers) and silently eased back onto the fringes of the party and grabbed a cookie.

And just as I turned to leave, I heard a woman's voice say, "That guy's got a lotta nerve!" though it could have been, "There goes Bark and Swerve!" I'm not sure which one it was; I just kept on going. Either way, I was seen returning to the party for one last cookie, and I'm not certain how offensive this act may be. No one has mentioned it, but I sense that it was the wrong thing to do. This cookie may have cost me an invitation to next year's party, which will have far reaching impacts, such as missing Mardell's baking and the smooth sounds of Valerie and Stuart Dunk.

I think I've learned my lesson: always pack a spare cookie for the ride home, even if the ride is just across the street. I'm working on an apology note to which I will attach a patch-up cookie from Schmagel's, the bakery that thoughtful people use for forgiveness.