Martin and I arrive first. Lee and Cate’s home isn’t on the bay, but I can see they would have a sliver of a water view from the second floor balcony. Martin pulls our car up against the curb in front of their house so we won’t get blocked in by other guests and can leave first.
We walk up a narrow concrete sidewalk that is bounded by a privet hedge. It looks like a tipsy chain saw operator has been carving it, with dips and swales on the long straightaways. Three steps down lead us to the front porch. I begin to feel claustrophobic, as the hedge ends and we are suffused in a crowded clustering of hydrangea and heavy ferns. The wide front porch presents a carefully-arranged tableau: two white rocking chairs with a small table in-between holding a pretty blooming plant in a Chinese-style cache pot.
Martin rings the doorbell. Cate opens the door, all aflutter, soft, chubby hands reaching for us. “Oh Robin, Martin. Oh, thank you for coming.” Even when smiling, Cate always has a troubled, anxious look. Lee blusters forth. “Red or white? Come with me. Come on. Come on.” He motions from the foyer to the kitchen as Cate greets more guests, and leads with his belly to the next room.
Halfway to the kitchen, a tall waifish mid-twenties young woman unexpectedly steps into my path. “Robin! Martin! It’s great to see you!” Oh, no. It’s Carson, their schitzy daughter. Brilliant, erratic, and guaranteed to throw weird, wild-ass curves into this dinner gathering of staid country clubbers. Woo hoo. She has her dad’s edgy aura, only with Carson I expect hysterics, while with Lee I expect sudden rageMartin and I mix and mingle. We graze on crab claws, cheese dip and crackers . Some old fart has cornered Martin and is bludgeoning him with political claptrap. I take my glass of Chardonnay and wander into the living, trying to break away from Carson’s continuous stream-of-consciousness talk.
After dinner, Cate herds us all to the living room, where the gods of dull dinner parties have decreed we must sit for some indeterminate period of time and listen to the host regale us with stories. As soon as Lee uses the word “turd” in one of his stories, Cate covers her face with her hands, says, “Oh, Lee, please,” and stands up in a way that clearly signals this lovely evening has ended.