With friends like these ...

By Jim Mullen

“What is that?” Sue asked. We were looking into a UPS box we had just received from our friends the Fergusons. The Fergusons had just spent a lovely weekend with us – lovely for them, anyway.

“What does the note say?” I carefully reached into the box, trying to avoid all the vicious metal edges of the mysterious object inside and pulled out piece of Beverly Ferguson’s stationery.

“Thanks for being such kind and gracious hosts, we really enjoyed our weekend with you. So few of our friends seem to have any free time to see us any more. It’s funny, the more free time we get, the busier everyone else seems to get.

“I’m sure, in his own way, even if he doesn’t verbalize it, that Cartier is very sorry about breaking that ugly statue of yours. But really, should you leave something like that locked in your bedroom closet where anyone could accidentally knock it over? I know he’s joking, but Burt says Cartier probably increased its value. Look how much those broken Roman statues are worth. No one wants a whole one.

“Even though she never came out of her room the entire weekend, Bresson really had a fun time. I think the change of scenery is good for her. Your guest room is so much different than her own. It’s so much smaller. Bert had the most fun of all. Weekends are the only time he really gets to unwind. I’ll bet you’ve never seen him dance naked before, have you? By the way, before our next visit, he really prefers the red Zinfandels to the Cabs, so if you want to stock up ...

“I thought everyone knew that I was allergic to green peppers and gluten, so I have to apologize for spoiling that first dinner. I hope the stains came out of the carpet. Don’t forget, I’m lactose intolerant, too. So if you could just have some soymilk handy, it would solve a lot of problems.

“We’re free almost every weekend this summer, so just let us know what’s convenient for you and we’ll be happy to drive up and bring a little joy into your empty lives.

“See you soon! – Bev and Bert

P.S. Here’s a little gift for all your time and trouble. I hope you don’t have one already!”

“It looks like something from a horror movie,” I said as I pulled the thing out of the box.

“It’s a horseshoe crab. Made out of rusty tin can lids. It’s what they call ‘outsider’ art,” Sue said.

“’Outsider’ junk would be more like it.”

“Where do you want to put it?”

“The recycling bin.”

“No, seriously. We have to put it somewhere. When they come back they’ll expect to see it in a prominent place.”

“What do you mean, ‘when they come back?’ They’re not coming back. They can’t come back until Cartier’s in reform school and Bert gets out of Betty Ford.”

“It’s got a hook on the back. I think they expect us to hang it on the wall.” She can’t seriously be thinking of inviting them back.

“Put it on their pillow. Like a mint. A giant, face-shredding mint,” I said. “Or we could move and change our phone number. They’d never find us. I know they’re our oldest and dearest friends, but I think spending time with them is wrecking our friendship. Losing contact with them all together could only make our friendship stronger.”

“If we hang it in the upstairs hallway no one will see it.”

“I got a better idea. Let’s put it in the bedroom closet with all the other stuff people have given us over the years, like that ugly statue cousin Al sent us. The one Cartier broke. Actually I think Bert’s right, Cartier did make it more valuable. Let’s just leave a bunch of stuff we don’t like out the next time he visits. He can break it all.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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