Short Story – The Event © Elsa Wolf

The flurry of the moment takes over the mood of the evening. The hall is filled with long tables waiting for the final place settings to be adjusted. Scanning the room, I see a young lady sitting at one of the tables twiddling her fingers. I realize it’s my niece, and she appears to be bored. Without hesitation, I walk over and assign her the task.

“All the tables and place settings…”

“Yes,” she smirks, “and all those chairs?”

“The chairs, yes, they are out of balance with the place settings.”

“And?”

“Please, adjust them. Use your mom’s as an example. I have to go over my introductory speech again.” I turn around. My nephew was so close I almost fell over him. The expression on his six-year-old face is pitiful. His elbow is scraped, and droplets of blood are emerging. A tear is running down his face while he politely asks for some Bactine™ and a bandage. Then he grumbles about hating winter and wanting to go back home where it’s warm. I comfort him and look beyond his sister at their father, who is standing by the main door. With long strides, he crosses the room.

“You’ll be fine, son; it’s a small injury.” He takes a small first aid kit out of his pocket and doctors the wound. “Pull yourself together. You need to be brave.”

“Okay, Daddy.” Sniffing, he dries his tears and puffs up his chest. Together they walk away. I can’t help smiling at the two of them. They are so alike.

Popping over to the front entrance, I reach underneath the table, grasp a smaller cloth of a different color, and draped it over the top of the first. This table would be for the Champagne filled fluted glasses. The distraction was probably unnecessary; the speech in my pocket more critical. So, back to it. I pulled it out, unfolded, and smoothed out the creases. Then I read it quietly so only my own ears could hear. Yet, someone chuckled and stepped away, I was not quite enough. This was the first time I’d thoroughly reviewed my script, and it came up short. I meant it to be bolder. There was only thirty minutes left to repair the damages.

Now, I’m panicking. I coax long breaths through my nostrils. This mini-crisis temporarily overwhelms me—computer, computer, where is it. Aw, the side room—I can do this with a few word changes and additions. No, I need a second pair of eyes—wait—I have a solution—where is he?

I rush into the hallway—maybe he is here—nooo—perhaps the other room where the appetizers are being served. Hurry, hurry—yesss. “My lifesaver, there you are.” I hold onto his bicep and whisper in his ear. “Sorry to interrupt your hobnobbing. This speech needs some help.”

“Yes, yes, alright.” Bill looked momentarily confused but then comes along willingly even though it’s been half a dozen years since he’s written a speech. As we walk to the computer, he read the print out of the speech while I guided him through the maze of tables by the arm.

“Thank you, thank you, Bill.”

“I can do this, no problem. The meat in the middle is great. It’s the first and last bits that need some tweaking. There lacks punch, and you only can speak for a little over two minutes on this one.”

“Oh, yes, right.”

“I want people to remember you in a positive attitude.”

“Me, too.” I try and make a joke. “Failing would be embarrassing and leave a scar.”

“Talking about a Republican president in a Democratic race sounds awkward.”

“No, no, it’s actually perfect in this context.” Bill sighed . “Give me ten minutes alone. I’ll fix this.”

“Great, off you go.” I took my own cue to leave the room as well. I needed to figure out if the kids had finished with the tables. Overseeing the room, I could see they were almost done, but one place was missing. I scooted over to the wall, picked up another chair, and place setting. This one would be set with the chair tilted against the table in remembrance of lost soldiers.

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