Of the courses, there were only a few judged safe enough to eat by most of the guests.
The Chicken Tetrazzini was among them. I could tell that it was pasty and most undoubtedly a “chicken meal” of some sort, the source of which I held in my pocket.
Throughout the course of the meal, the more frightening dishes were passed under the table to Schwarz from whom occasional muffled dribbling and cooing was elicited. Apparently, to the wonder of us all, he was still alive and consuming.
After the dinner had concluded and all of the postprandial dialogue de sourds had died a way (and what I mean by this is: there is a Punchy proverb that goes something along the lines of, “it’s not hard to be clever when everyone around you is dull to the point of tears.” But in my case its more like this, “it’s extremely hard to be so damned clever when everybody around you is dull to the point of tears.)
Cake was served. It was passable, or in other words it was not lethal. And with Ruber’s cooking one is always grateful for that. Schwarz seemed to want a piece, but since the cake was in high demand, we passed him the candles. Under the table, out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.
When time came for the presents, there wasn’t much to speak of. After all, what is one going to give the king? Four feet of stature? It seemed sorely needed.
Ruber had taken a seat across from me, now that the need for his services had expired as if he were a guest and was making quite merry. Laughing, drinking, and telling jokes that were in poor taste.
“The gifts are always the disappointing part,” Arthur fretted. “What is there that any of you could give me?”
“Four feet of stature?” I inquired mockingly.
“You…!” the king sputtered.
“Or no! How about this!” I brandished it triumphantly above my head.
Ruber gaped. “You didn’t! Pavarinni, so help me I’ll wring your scrawny neck!”
Arthur’s interest was piqued. “What is it, here here? It’s my gift.”
I tossed him the can.
Ruber was beet red and seemed just a tad bit worried.
Arthur was busy trudging through the ingredients. “…guar gum, naturally sanitized chicken feathers, natural and artificial flavorings…what is this?”
There was a tremulous quality to his voice.
“That,” I loudly replied, “was an ingredient in YOUR dinner! That is the sort of refuse that RUBER,” here I stood and pointed my arm at the offender for added drama and emphases, “puts before a king for a birthday celebration!”
Arthur jumped up in a blind rage. He was shorter standing in his chair than sitting, but nobody pointed it out. Somehow it wasn’t very funny. Ruber was shaking involuntarily.
And then…oh happy stroke of luck!
Schwarz saved the day.
Apparently, while playing with the candles under the table he had somehow set the table itself on fire. It started with the table cloth and the dry table soon followed like kindling. Every person resigned there seat with such speed, that the table was knocked on its side which seemed to provide the flame with even more oxygen.
I rang up Salami.
As you may recall, he was in the fire business then. Unfortunately, he made it too late to save the table. But he was in plenty of time to douse the castle in gasoline. Everybody thought it was water at first. Which was why nobody made a great effort to stop him. But when he started breaking the windows, Arthur’s guards sprang into serious action. Too late apparently, for Salami thrust a match through one of the windows and the whole castle lit up like a birthday cake.
And so, Arthur passed the happiest birthday of his entire existence. Except for the next year. We always try harder to make it more special for the king…next year.