ONE CLOWN SHORT, page-48

"They still sell Boones Farm?"
"That or Ripple. It was one of the two. The meal was awful! We stopped at Burger Boy on
the way home. I don’t think she ever saw that guy again. Even the sex couldn’t keep him coming
back for more."
"Wow. She’s that dumb, huh?"
"A couple times she tried her hand at cookies and the like. One time the cookies turned into
a bag of crumbs before they made it to the office. She left the bag on the table with a sign that
said "help yourself." No one did. Her cooking prowess is well known around here."
"Well, you don’t want me cooking either, but at least I can follow a recipe if I have to.
Stopping at the grocery store for hot dogs is about as good as it gets, however."
"Hot dogs should be pretty safe. Everyone is really looking for- ward to this. We’re all
pretty stressed out around here. I’m glad you came up with this idea."
"Don’t thank me. Thank Cassie. I get indigestion just thinking about a potluck."
129"
On the day of the party, Mandy came in early to get things set up. She had a couple long
tables that she arranged in the main aisle. She put Christmas-red and -green paper tablecloths on
them and placed a small poinsettia in the middle as a centerpiece. Some of the employees had
ventured into the decorating arena that had been off-limits in past years. There were stockings
and snowflakes and even a few twinkling lights draped over the cubes. It looked very festive.
Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Throughout the morning the tables gradually filled up with goodies. At around eleven
o’clock, the Crock-Pots started coming out with hot food in them.
"Mandy, I’ll put my chili over here, next to the hot dog steamer."
Cassie was waving at her from across the floor.
"Turn my steamer up a touch while you’re there, please, Cassie."
A few minutes later Violet appeared with a huge box of plates, napkins, and silverware.
"Where do you want this, Mandy?"
"Hey, Violet! How’s it going? I haven’t seen you in a few days." "I’ve been out shopping—
can’t you tell?" She winked as Mandy led her to the food tables. They took a minute to survey all
the food and find a spot for the utensils. Violet opened each Crock-Pot and inspected the
contents as she passed by.
"Not much chili in this one. Is there more somewhere else?" Mandy peeked into Cassie’s
pot. It was not even half full.
"I gave her forty dollars to make enough for sixty people. What was she thinking? What are
we going to do? Everyone thinks they’re getting chili dogs for lunch."
"There’s plenty of food here. No one’s going to starve, that’s for sure."
"They’ve been looking forward to chili dogs. It’s not like we splurged on a Christmas ham or
turkey, for God’s sake."
Mandy tried to think for a minute while Violet just stared at her. "I know," she said. "You go
to Burger Boy and get four quarts of chili, and we’ll mix it in. Quick, Violet. Go. If anyone
catches you, just tell them that Butane Bob was craving a cinnamon shake and that you had to
get it for him so he would stop hounding you for some idiotic project he’s making you work on."
"Can you call over there first with some sob story so I can get it for free?"
"Violet, get out of here now! Hurry!"
About fifteen minutes later, Violet appeared with an enormous handbag over her shoulder
that was concealing the contraband chili.
Mandy enlisted Gary to hold back the hungry masses. Violet wedged herself in between the
table and Gary.
"Distract them. Quickly."
Gary looked at her dumbfoundedly. "What am I supposed to say?"
Violet yelled out, "Look, there’s Dimple Vanderdoober! What’s she doing here?"
130"
The crowd was stunned by this remark and turned away from the food. Violet slipped a
container of chili into the Crock-Pot. When they turned back, she was calmly stirring and
serving up more chili dogs.
Gary got the hint. They went through this routine again and this time Gary yelled out,
"Look, it’s Gertie! She’s come to decorate the cube." This caused such a commotion that Mandy
saw it as an opportunity to take away the empty container evidence.
"Good job, you two. Fooled them once again."
"Violet, can you please serve me some of that wonderful chili?" It was Cassie.
"It will be my pleasure." She heaped on an extra helping.
Cassie must have been hungry. She couldn’t wait to sit down and started eating right there
in f ront of them. "Mmmm, this is good. But I don’t remember putting any onions in my chili."
She was examining her plate closely.
Thinking quickly, Violet said, "They must have been in the can of tomatoes, don’t you
think?"
"Hmmm, must have been. This is so good. I’m so glad I have another whole pot of this at
home."
Violet whispered in Gary’s ear, "Mandy is going to shit when she hears that. She gave her
the money to make enough for everyone."
"Never a dull moment at the circus, is there? Come on, let’s sneak into Mandy’s office. I
brought gifts."
"Gifts? What a surprise! You shouldn’t have."
They both filled up their plates and made themselves comfortable in Mandy’s office. A plate
with only a plain hot dog and a few chips was sitting on her desk.
"Potlucks make her sick," said Gary.
"I’ll take anything, so long as I don’t have to cook. I’ll be taking home a plate for dinner,
that’s for sure," said Violet as she began to eat from her heaping plate of food.
Gary stood in the doorway and called for Mandy. "Come on. I’ve got gifts! Hurry!"
"Gifts? I didn’t get you anything," said Mandy as she came walking closer.
"That’s OK. It’s the season of giving, not receiving."
First Gary handed Violet a small box wrapped in sophisticated gold paper. Then he handed
Mandy a much bigger box wrapped in cheery, childlike, Santa-Claus paper.
"Go ahead—open them."
They both gingerly began to unwrap their boxes. Both were a little embarrassed by this
gesture since neither of them had given any thought or energy to any Christmas shopping this
year. They were just too tired.
Violet found a gift certificate to Vivian’s Closet, a local lingerie store in her box
"Gary, thank you so much. That’s very sweet of you. Lord knows I can always use something
new and sexy for when Mr. Right comes along. Merry Christmas." She reached over and kissed
him on the cheek.
131"
Mandy kept unwrapping her big box. Finally she revealed a twelve-speed, extra-heavy-duty
stainless steel blender. She admired it as best she could, considering Violet’s lingerie.
"Thank you, Gary. This is very kind of you." She put it on the floor, out of sight.
"Don’t put that down. Let me see it, Mandy." Violet was having trouble wiping the huge
smile off her face. "What were you thinking? Lingerie for me and a blender for Mandy? Are you
the kind of guy that buys his wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday and saves the sexy stuff for
his girlfriend?"