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"No, it's not Christmas yet, but this EndOfTheEvening I'll not soon forget."

By TheEndOfTheEvening, The Villa's ours again. Our guests, warmly welcomed, have wandered homeward. I salted the sidewalk when I realized they'd been walking the entryway gauntlet on fresh ice glaze. Snow fell as they arrived, and with the two luminaria lighting the end of our driveway and the glittering tree in the window, the place looked perfectly seasonally festive. The house smelled warm and spicy with my kick-butt soup simmering and my Veloute Mac and Cheese slowly baking. The cheese platter covered a quarter of the kitchen table, with sparkly wine glasses lined up like patriotic soldiers beside their respective bottles while crackers covered their flank. Everyone quickly gathered in the kitchen space while The Muse and I endlessly excused ourselves, stirring soup, warming bread, checking the Mac, and somehow tearing the chickories for salad. The Brit warmly accepts a fifty degree Oatmeal Stout while his wife holds up that smokey old red, her eyes pleading for my corkscrew. I open that bottle, pour her a glassful, then settle back into distracted preparation.

More people showed up than we have places to sit in the house, not an unusual situation and nothing for anyone to complain about.
Some prefer to hold forth standing. Kevin commences to retape his daughter's hockey stick at the end of what will shortly become the buffet line. His daughters have discovered the toy box and engage themselves in searching for the cats, both of whom seem almost clever enough to stay well hidden, though Max cannot seem to help himself getting found. He wisely stays just out of their reach. By TheEndOfTheEvening, he seems the most grateful for the resumption of peace.

The soup was my great success, though, standing with long ago established tradition, I did no more than taste a spoonful or so while preparing it. I even managed to pawn off the leftovers, six fine quarts of the most marvelous stock swimming in roasted winter veg, kale greens, and Parmesan butts softened into chewy little cubes. Keven mistook them for chicken, but the whole concoction featured no animal bits, completely vegetarian, though rich-textured and shimmery. To make a veg stock without producing veg tea, that was the simple challenge for me, and I actually, somehow, succeeded. When asked, I could almost remember how I'd pulled off this culinary impossibility, though enough of the contents escaped me for the actual recipe to remain securely a mystery. So much the better for everyone involved, for we'd participated in a genuine one of a kind, never to be replicated, not even close. A supper for the ages just for us, forever gone following this fine evening.

The cake took forever to serve, as people went back for thirds and about half the crowd dispersed back into their wintry evenings. Confidences were exchanged between people too long distant, our guest of honor, freshly retired after yesterday, shared his stories. His life will suddenly never be the same again, but then neither will any of the rest of ours. Once the final few slipped through the door, The Muse and I rather quickly erased all evidence of their presence. She on the dishes, me on the beverages and cheese. I shlepped the eternally leftover soda back to where It resides between festivities, and restowed the ice chest into its narrow place in the garage. I shook out the table cloth, grated cheese speckling its christmasy pattern, and set the good dishes back into their display case. She said that she was heading upstairs to read. I settled into the little rocker before the tree with Max on my lap purring almost desperately, grateful, I presumed, for the resumption of peace on Earth again.

I with my Fernet and a cat in my lap, Molly came creeping to hop up onto the window sill to check to see if the night was lying silent and still enough. She gnawed on a little blue light before continuing her rounds, which, of course, encouraged Max to hop up and follow her around. Realizing then that I'd neglected my dinner, I found those iced gingerbread cookies that The Muse can't quite comprehend. I pour another Fernet and tuck into a few of those sweet, soft, and spicy iced little treats, uncertain if it was reindeers, stars, or trees I was eating. The peace Molly watched outside seemed to come inside then, as I settled even deeper into TheEndOfTheEvening. No, it's not Christmas yet, but this EndOfTheEvening I'll not soon forget.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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