A Late Dinner
By Eric Suhem

An industrious whirr was heard from the kitchen crew as they busily prepared the meal’s next course. Everybody had enjoyed the stuffed pheasant, feathers drifting out of our mouths as we ordered dessert, an orange marmalade tart. We all ordered the standard coffee, except for Ted, who demanded an espresso in a yellow plastic mug reminiscent of his childhood. He then decided that he no longer wanted coffee in the yellow plastic mug, but instead would prefer a berry-flavored Hi-C fruit drink. “Yes sir!” said the waiter.

We were at an economic policy conference, and a number of informative presentations had been made throughout the day. My colleague on the economic panel, Ted, gave a particularly impressive speech on the implications of tax policy on global financial trade. But now the presentations were over, and we were well into dinner, later in the evening.

Ted voiced his discomfort with his chair, it was too low. He wanted something higher, much higher. The waiters looked around in back, and returned with a baby’s high chair. Ted eyed the chair favorably as the waiters lifted him up onto the seat, his black wingtips gouging one of them in the neck. As Ted was settled into the chair, a little security strap was fastened across his chest, overlapping his suit, shirt, vest and tie. He sat in the baby’s high chair, black shoes and socks dangling above the floor. Dessert was served. Ted stuffed some of the orange marmalade tart into his mouth, and the waiter quickly wiped the pastry goo from his face with a napkin.

Ted was embroiled in a serious discussion about world trade with a Minister of Finance from the Far East, Ted's pant legs swinging wildly in the high chair while he emphasized his conversational arguments regarding the economical merits of free trade. Ted pulled the little yellow plastic mug of Hi-C to his lips for another delicious sip. “Ted, are you attempting to channel your inner child? Perhaps you're participating in a session of hypnotic regression to childhood," said one of his dinner companions, a weathered dowager in a blue dress. Ted promptly bopped her on the head with a purple rattle that was set on the plastic tray of the high chair by one of the waiters.

After finishing his orange marmalade tart, and throwing pieces of it at the other guests, Ted noticed the black ‘X’ imprinted on his cup saucer. “What does this ‘X’ mean, Ted?” asked the weathered dowager, holding the cup saucer in front of his eyeballs, assaulting his pupils. Ted had been seeing the black ‘X’ for the last few weeks, on billboards, on his economic reports, and up in the sky. He climbed down from the high chair, and looked out the window. There was a beautiful beach outside. Ted excused himself discreetly and walked outside, down to the beach. Nearby was an old amusement park, where Ted had played when he was a child. He set his feet on the sand and walked along the waves the rest of the night.

The next day, Ted sat in a little 6.5 foot plastic pool in his front yard, playing with his boats and inflatable animals, belying his 20-year reputation as a stable, reasonable voice in the world economic discussion. The Minister of Finance from the Far West was at the side of the inflatable pool, holding important documents for Ted to sign. As Ted moved toward the contracts, he saw the little plastic duck with the black 'X' on its side bobbing along the cheery plastic water, approaching purposefully.

Ted knew the black ‘X’ was the cancer that had been moving quickly through his body. When he had learned of it weeks ago, he started reviewing his life, trying to relive early joys, as his time ran down. When the plastic duck reached him, Ted knew his life was at an end, and he succumbed, sinking to the bottom of the plastic inflatable pool, but it was nice to be back in his childhood one more time.

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Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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