Linda smoothed out her party-planning list, and neatly checked off each completed item: menu prepared, detailed food and decoration list with timings for food preparation, tablecloths and napkins washed and ironed, hot and cold pre-dinner snacks made, weather forecast noted for reception arrangements of wet or cold guests, and electric lights dimmed. Her pen lovingly ticked away. It wouldn’t be long now before members of the gourmet club arrived and her first time hosting duties would begin.
She stood and surveyed the living room as if she were a guest just arriving. Her careful eye took in the custom made chesterfield positioned for ease of conversation and traffic flow. The profile of the arm chair reminded her of a fluted wineglass. The Murano-inspired vase and large totem sculpture added depth and warmth to the room.
Moving on to the dining room, Linda noted each typed menu and hand-designed place card. Shy guests were flanked by outgoing ones. All items on the table were at equal distances, and all the sterling silver flatware was balanced. With a chassé step she headed to the kitchen when something caught her eye. The wallpaper next to the “Golden Reflection” landscape painting had a slight bubble. On closer inspection, there didn’t seem to be anything causing this tiny puckering nodule, but there it was nonetheless.
Linda could move the painting over, but then the room balance would be off. She couldn’t leave it because if she noticed it, someone else was sure to as well, although in polite society no mention would be made. She imagined the guest biting his or her lip at the eyesore and turning away.
She decided to move a small table and flower arrangement in front of it. The effect was jarring. When she moved things back, the flower vase upended, spilling its contents on the newly cleaned Persian rug. In her attempt to catch the vase, she upended the table, breaking it, the top scoring the wallpaper on its way down.
She found a glue gun and an iron, and plugged them in. When the glue gun was ready, she positioned it on the scored wallpaper and pressed the dispenser. The gun hadn’t been used for quite some time, so the hot glue shot out and burned her hand. She grabbed it in agony. Because the lights were dimmed, she lost her footing on the broken mess and landed spread-eagle across the perfectly set table. The unattended iron, meant to quash a rebellious bubble, started a starched napkin on fire. It was at that moment, precisely seven on the dot, the doorbell chimed.
Lori Romero won the Spire Press Chapbook Competition with her entry entitled “The Emptiness That Makes Other Things Possible.” Her first poetry chapbook, “Wall to Wall,” was published by Finishing Line Press. Lori’s poetry and fiction have been published in more than one hundred journals and anthologies.