Entertainment Value by Linda Allison


“Game night has been moved from your place to A’s house,” S informs me. “You’re welcome to join.”

Wait. How is it my party got moved?

Then I remember. S no longer wants to attend get-togethers that might have her driving home in the dark, and my place is forty minutes away. Never mind that we’re in the throes of the longest days of summer. And it’s daylight savings time. And my invitation has us starting at 4:00 in the afternoon.

S had gently recommended that I change the start time to something that would better accommodate her concerns. And when, in an uncharacteristic show of defiance, I had politely declined, S quietly contacted my invitees and informed them that we would be meeting at A’s house, which by the way, is just down the street from her.

*

We’re spending five days hiking in West Texas, with the three ladies in our group sharing a well-appointed cabin. Well-appointed except that the coffee pot is tiny, and we’ve only been provided one packet of coffee. We hover over the pot with mild concern. “It appears it will make four cups.” I hold up the pot and point to the markings on the side.

“Well, yes, but I’ve brought my own mug, and this pot will probably just fill it,” S explains as if talking us through a math problem. “But I think there’s a place up the road where you can get a cup of Starbucks if you want.”

*

Three days into our West Texas trip and we’re out of toilet paper.

“I thought they provided housekeeping in these cabins,” says the other member of our threesome.

“I’m not comfortable having someone in here while we’re gone,” S explains. “I put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door when we leave. ” She pulls a roll of toilet paper from her pack. “Here. We can use this, but in the morning one of you two needs to go to the front office and get toilet paper and some fresh towels.”

*

The men in our hiking group are grilling dinner this evening. We ladies have been charged with providing the vegetables. Laying out peppers and zucchini, I hunt through the cabinets and drawers of our cabin’s small kitchen in search of a cutting board.

“We don’t seem to have a cutting board,” I report.

Behind me, I hear a heavy sigh.

“Alright, you can use this.” I turn around to see S reluctantly produce a plastic cutting board from one of her bags. “But don’t take it with you.”

I look at her and blink in mild disbelief. She’s been to my house. She knows I need her cheapo plastic cutting board like a hole in the head.

I nod.

The next morning, as I prepare to chop onions and peppers for our scrambled eggs, S’s cutting board is nowhere to be found.

I use a dinner plate.

*

It’s late autumn, and a group of us is sharing a sprawling VRBO on the outskirts of Taos. Each evening we return from our adventures by way of a stop at the market and spend the waning hours together cooking and drinking wine.

“Where are the crackers we bought to go with this cheese?” someone asks.

S smiles sweetly. “I’m keeping them in my bedroom. I need something to snack on at night. ”

*

I read off the list I’m creating for the afternoon’s trip to the market, “We need hamburger meat, buns, more salad dressing….”

“We don’t need buns,” S interjects. “I’m going to eat my burger plain.”

“Well, I want a bun,” our friend M counters.

“You don’t need a bun,” says S firmly. “You can use some of the bread we have back at the house.”

*

I reach for the bottle of wine I picked up at the market earlier. It was a varietal that S had recommended, but I had bought it. Holding the bottle at arm’s length, S cautions, “You can taste it. But just a little. I’m saving it to sip on this evening.”

*

“We’re not hiking after lunch; the wind may pick up.”

“I think it may be muddy there. I don’t do mud.”

“We can’t leave before 11:00. I want to give it time to warm up.

“I’m cold.”

“I’m having a hot flash.”

“You didn’t put pepper in that, did you?”

*

When S is not around, we sometimes talk about her, recalling past incidents, some almost too ridiculous to believe. There are those who, in a moment of irritation, have claimed they will disown her, but no one ever does. And while some may occasionally grumble, when she’s out of hearing range, of course, I take a more chill approach. She’s “entertainment value,” I tell my boyfriend, who can’t for the life of him understand why my friends and I put up with her.

*

Once she’s successfully moved game night to A’s house, S changes the start time from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

“Entertainment value,” I chuckle as I drive through the dark night on my way home.

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