posted by Aunty Cindy, Jo-Mama, and Posh
'Twas the week of RWA National conference and the Lair felt eerily empty with that preternatural quiet that could mean nefarious plots were afoot...
A lone figure descended a back staircase, headed for the kitchen, a full tray in his hands and a look of consternation on his handsome face.
"Sorry, Lars," Paolo said, as he slid the tray of food onto the counter behind a beefy, Scandinavian hunk who was washing pots and pans, "Aunty Cindy turned thumbs down. She said your Swedish surprise is more of a shock, and not in a good way. According to her, the only one who will eat it is Ermingarde the Dragon."
Lars gave a long suffering sigh. "Then why did you bring it back to the kitchen instead of taking it to the dragon's turret?"
"Well, because... er, um, you know..." Red stained Paolo's high cheek bones, lending him an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp.
He was interrupted by Marcus, in full gladitorial regalia, checking in from his security sweep. "You simply must get over your fear of that over-grown lizard, Paolo. Just because she singed your trousers that one time is no excuse. A little mano-a-mano wrestling match with her should do the trick."
As the hapless Paolo choked over the thought of wrestling the dragon, Marcus and Lars exchanged knowing winks over his head.
"I'll take it up there," Marcus conceded with a good-natured shove. "Zach is there right now, mucking out her weir and I'm sure he would welcome the help."
"Zach got left behind too?" Paolo asked, clearly startled that the captain of the hockey hunks was not on vacation with the rest of the staff. "I mean, I understand why I was, since I'm the newest cabana boy, and I heard you gladiators used some kind of lottery system, but..."
"He said something about taking one for the team," Marcus explained, when the beeping of Lars's phone interrupted him.
"It's a text message from Sven," Lars exclaimed. "Bad enough that he left me a fifteen page color-coded flow chart about how to manage his kitchen, but he checks in every two hours." He peered at the screen then chuckled. "He sent a photo. Seems he and the gladiators went to the Magic Kingdom."
Paolo and Marcus leaned in for a look.
"What is that they are holding?" Marcus asked around guffaws.
"Looks like mouse ears," replied an astounded Paolo. "With feathers? Did somebody finally pluck that confounded rooster?"
"Boys!" Posh said sternly, striding into the kitchen sporting a fearsome scowl and snatching the phone from Lars. "It's no good looking at the pictures now. You'll just be even more sullen and sulky than you have been and you'll be even less use in the kitchen, though that's hard to imagine."
Posh gazed at the downcast faces and her expression softened. "We're all completely bummed about being left behind. What we need to do is think of a distraction."
"Distraction?" Paolo asked. "What could make us forget everyone even for a minute?"
"I'm glad you asked," Jo Mama said in her most teacherly voice, entering from the hallway. "I've made up a plan."
Posh arched an eyebrow. "Like a lesson plan?"
"Oh, no!" Aunty Cindy huffed, descending the stairs in a swirling, embroidered dress she picked up on her jaunt to Turkey. (Posh had thought it was a wedding dress for a young woman, but Aunty would neither confirm nor deny.) "I have had quite enough learning for one lifetime, thank you very much. No more lesson plans, Jo Mama!"
Jo held up her hand, commanding silence as all the best teachers do. She pulled a hitherto-unseen chalkboard from the butler's pantry. "Everyone calm down. I've studied our dilemma and, using ratiocination - "
"Lord, there she goes with the big words again." Posh rolled her eyes in an alarming circle.
" - Okay, then, using logic," she shot a sharp look at Posh, "I have discerned the only viable solution to our lack of entertainment - "
"And aching loneliness," Aunty Cindy said, head buried deep in the fridge as she searched for anything edible. "Don't forget the loneliness!"
"That, too," Jo sighed. "I actually thought there would be less drama with everyone gone," she muttered. "Maybe I should have taken a few days off myself."
"Well don't keep us in suspense, Jo Mama," Posh said, pushing Aunty Cindy out of the fridge. "You tell us what the plan is and I'll whip us up some supper. Real supper, not that so-called Swedish surprise."
She began pulling things out of the fridge and Aunty Cindy's eyes widened. "What are you making, Posh?"
"Never you mind, missy. Just listen to Jo Mama and prepare to be dazzled."
"As I was saying," Jo said, a hint of impatience coloring her normally professional delivery, "we need a plan that utilizes the resources we have available."
"You mean them?" Aunty Cindy eyed the boys dubiously.
"Us?" the guys asked, looking just as wary.
"Not them," Posh said, chopping onions and potatoes while a large iron skillet heated on the stove. "Our beloved Bandita Buddies!"
"Exactly," Jo beamed. "Our Buddies. Since we are temporarily without our resident bartenders, 14 of our storytellers and a passel of cabana boys, we need our precious Bandita Buddies to keep our spirits up."
"Meanwhile," Aunty said, flinging her arms about in a (melo)dramatic fashion, "I will lead the boys to the shrine of Mary I had built in the first floor of the cellar. I was so inspired by the Higgins House, built where Mary lived when she was in Ephesus, that I had one built. I'm sure the boys and I can drum up some help from the Blessed Virgin..."
Jo Mama rolled her eyes and Posh smirked. "If Aunty Cindy is the spiritual leader today, you KNOW we're in trouble!"
So, Bandita Buddies, you are ON! We need you desperately. Please tell us about your favorite thing to do when you find yourself suddenly, inexplicably and definitively ALONE.
Can't recall the last time that actually happened? Dream a little dream for us! Books? Bubble baths? Movies where you don't have to share your popcorn? What is your favorite alone-time pursuit? Or would you just like to come hang out with us and see what Posh is cooking? Do tell!