Holiday Hospitality

Damon Runyon

We used to know a fellow who became a bit of a sadist around holiday time. He did not marry until he was in his late thirties and his bachelor days had been quite gay and carefree, or anyway, gay. He married a nice girl who was a fine housekeeper and an excellent cook and made a nice home for him, but we suspect that he had periods of envy of his former bachelor pals.

When a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas was approaching he would catch one of these pals in an unguarded moment and invite the poor guy to dinner in his home. He would first buy the prospect a few drinks to soften him up and would then condole with him on the utter loneliness of the bachelor state at this festive period of year, painting such a dreary picture that the victim would soon lapse into tears of sympathy for himself, though given time for sober reflection he would realize that he was not lonely at all.

Our villain would expatiate on the skill of his wife, Myra, in wrestling a turkey and would throw in a few little sketches of the joys of drawing up to a well-laden table surrounded by beaming kissers and would eventually draw from his tearful quarry a remark that he would love that sort of thing himself. Then our sinister schemer would plunge home the invitation to dinner, and it was an even money bet that his prey would accept unless he had been smartened up by previous experience.

Now that was all apparently innocent enough—an invitation to dinner. But the menace in this tale would then mention in an offhand manner the hour, which he always made around 2 o’clock p.m., a circumstance that for years puzzled his wife, Myra, who did not realize his sadistic tendency and would just as soon have had the dinner at the more civilized hour of 8 p.m. But her cruel husband convinced her that he liked the midday feast because it reminded him of his boyhood days.

Now, of course, he knew very well that his guest would go out with the boys (and maybe the girls) and get himself good and loaded the night before the fateful day, in accordance with the time-honored holiday custom of bachelors, and probably sleep until noon, and get up with sad stomach and the most awful taste in his mouth. To guard against any late cancellations on the grounds of sudden calls out of the city or sickness or deaths in the family, the foul host would keep calling up his man and tell him how hard Myra was working on the dinner and how her heart would be broken if the guy failed to show up.

So, of course, the unfortunate soul would go to the dinner regardless of his physical suffering, and the first thing the host would do, fiend in human form that he was, would be to plant one of the kids, preferably a baby, on the bloke’s lap, and the baby would immediately start to cry, thus increasing the guest’s already splitting headache. However, this was just a minor circumstance, to what happened to the gee when the dinner was put on the table in a dining room that the host purposely overheated.

The poor bachelor’s plate would be piled high with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and turnips, cranberry sauce, etc., and if he managed to struggle through a bit of it the inhuman monster who had invited him there would keep slapping on more provisions, saying the good wife would feel perfectly dreadful if he did not eat every smitch. And all this, you understand, would be happening to a guy with a horrible hangover at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, when just thinking of a glass of orange juice made him gag, while meantime the host would be excusing himself every few minutes and going into an adjoining room and laughing himself silly over the guest’s agony.

We have not seen that host in some time, but we are told that he was found one Christmas Eve in an alleyway with both legs broken, and while we do not vouch for the story we have heard that he was set upon by several of his victims of past years, aided and abetted by a bachelor who had promised to be at the fellow’s house for dinner the following day and was looking for an out.