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A Guest to Dinner

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It was late at night and yet the city of Montreal was bursting with hustling and bustling, neon lights were flashing in bright green, pink & silver. The city’s people were out partying, going out on dates in restaurants, having a drink at pubs and seeing the musical performances in the Broadway theaters. It seemed everyone in Montreal was having the time of their lives; however one particular man was not.

In the alleyway beside the Broadway Theater, a homeless man was sleeping, or at least trying to. The musical performance coming from the theater was keeping him from his slumber. He was rather short and was pushing fifty in age; he wore brown rags that he fashioned into clothing, dirty shoes and a squashed hat. The homeless man waited for the performance to end, soon enough the singing stopped and the patrons started to leave, completely ignoring the homeless man, all except for one. One man walked in front of him. The bum staggered back in fright when he saw him.

The stranger was elderly, appearing even older than the homeless man; he was very thin and tall. His skin was so pale that it looked as if it has never been in contact with the sunlight. His suit and pants were as black as the night, while his undershirt and tie were red as blood. His eyes were an icy shade of azure and his bony fingers clutched his cane which had the head of a horned skull.

“Excuse me sir, but are you quite alright?” the stranger asked in a deep, raspy voice that gave the homeless man chills despite the kind tone in his voice. The homeless man nodded to his question.

“Tell me, are you homeless? Drunk? Or have you decided to just lie down and stare at the stars?” The tall man asked, the homeless man shook his head and motioned his mouth as if he were speaking. The thin figure cocked an eyebrow.

“You can’t speak?”

The homeless man nodded sadly.

“No matter, I was going to invite you to dinner whether or not you were capable of all five of your senses,” the tall man said, causing the homeless man to look at him in a confused gaze.

“Now, would you like to come have dinner with me? My caretaker is nearly finished making my dinner.” The tall man looked at his gold pocket watch to make sure. The homeless man was practically in tears by his man’s kindness. Sure, at first he was hesitant by his intimidating voice and appearance, but the tall man was inviting a homeless man to dinner, that’s the definition of a saint.

How bad can he be?

The two men walked alongside the road; the tall man leading the bum to his house.

“My name is Lazarus by the way, Lazarus Thorne,” the tall man said, properly introducing himself. “I would love to know your name but I guess that’s not going to happen, unless you could write it on a piece of paper. You can write, yes?” The homeless man nodded yes to his question.

“It’ll be quite nice to have a guest to dinner; I can get pretty lonely at times. I mean Minnie, my caretaker is always around and she makes for fantastic company don’t get me wrong, but she’s very quiet; Not very good at conversations at all really,” Lazarus explained, making the homeless man a bit confused. Lazarus seemed to be a man that liked to talk, but being a mute, the bum really wouldn’t be a very articulate speaker either. Finally the duo got to Lazarus’s house. It was a huge, Victorian gothic styled home. A huge outcry from the “ordinary” houses that occupied the rest of the neighborhood, with a large black fence covered in brambles. However, the garden was the exact opposite; very elaborate and well-kept with flowers of all different types and colors. The homeless man thought that this Lazarus person must have been filthy rich to afford it.

“Don’t worry about opposing, I promise there will be more than plenty to eat, Minnie does tend to go overboard with the cooking. Sometimes I wonder if she’s trying to fatten me up or something Hahahaha! Ah, another reason why I should have more guests to dinner.” After his booming laughter, Lazarus pulled out a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. The two went in and the homeless man’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

The room that he was first greeted with is what appeared to be his living room. It had a huge fireplace with extravagant furniture. The entire room was decorated in an African theme in mind, including carved statues of African women carrying pitchers and baskets over their heads, animal skin rugs, and tons of Tribal masks and paintings hung on the walls. Adjacent to the fireplace was a spiral staircase that led to other rooms upstairs. Lazarus however, led the homeless man to a folding screen with a cherry blossom pattern. Behind it was the dining room, it was heavily Asian themed with porcelain statues of geisha and kabuki actors, paper lanterns, paintings, fans, a folding screen and a small pond with koi fish. However the homeless man’s attention was completely set on the food at the table.

The table was huge, capable of sitting twenty or so people, and it looked like the food could serve twice that amount. This included clam chowder, white and thick with succulent clams, roasted potatoes and hazelnuts, thick cut pork flanks fried and encrusted with a mix of bread crumbs, expensive spices and ground black pepper, lobster raviolis with a sauce made with five different kinds of rich cheeses, a buttery Spanakopita filled to the brim with steamed spinach and baked feta cheese, couscous with roasted garlic and olive oil, and a finely prepared vegetable and beef stew sitting in a still hot pot. There were even desserts! Sweet and salty almond cookies topped with powdered sugar, Loukoumades topped with sweet, natural honey & cinnamon, a hot & enticing strawberry rhubarb pie and the most eye-catching of all, a large cake that looked as if it took days to complete; it was covered in purely white frosting decorated with a marble-like pattern and pink roses also made from sugary frosting and a heart shaped cookie with a checkerboard pattern on top.

Lazarus couldn’t help but chuckle at the homeless man’s hungry gaze.

"Quite the impressive spread isn’t it? Like I said, Minnie tends to cook more than necessary. Which isn’t so bad since whatever I don’t finish gets sent to the orphanages and homeless shelters in the town, so if anything, her overindulgence in the culinary arts is a gift. She lives only to take care of and keep me company. She never leaves the house either, not even to tend the garden which leaves me to do it, which is perfectly fine seeing as gardening is a hobby I take great pleasure in, but it makes me wonder if she has some kind of fear of-"

SLAM.

Lazarus was interrupted by a loud slam of the kitchen door opening. Out came a very tall and curvaceous woman of Asian descent with rather dirty blonde hair, her tight purple dress showed off every curve of her body; her wide hips and large breasts especially were details the homeless man just couldn’t help but notice. However, despite her beauty there was something about this woman that was very off. Her skin was a peculiar shade of grey. Her movements were very stiff and even a bit shaky, and her eyes were wide open, soul piercing as if she saw a ghost.

“Ah, Minnie there you are!” Lazarus exclaimed with joy. “My guest and I were just speaking about you.”

After placing the final dish in front of Lazarus, The Asian caretaker said nothing as she gazed at the dwarfish man sitting across the stretched table. Her wide icy eyes still not blinking. This terrified the homeless man, he expected her to jump at him at any moment.

“Well, don’t be rude Minnie,” Lazarus said as he took a sip of cherry wine from his glass. Minnie complied in an almost robotic way, bowing in a respectful manner to the homeless man and walked in her slow and stiff matter to the center of the table, staring off into space and waiting for another order.

“Well then, don’t be shy, have as much until you’re heart’s content! We have plenty after all,” Lazarus said as he poured himself some of the beef stew. The old bum’s hunger got the better of him as he gladly took advantage of Lazarus’s kindness, and grabbed everything that he could get his hands on. He gladly chewed on the expensive and finely made meals; Lazarus however ate at a more refined pace, quietly eating his stew, and stopping to sip at his expensive cherry flavored wine. Once Lazarus finished his bowl, Minnie stiffly walked over and grabbed his empty dish and walked back to the kitchen. Lazarus then grabbed the loaf of raisin bread and a small pot containing a finely prepared tapenade.

“I’m a man who is in love with the world,” Lazarus said out of nowhere, causing the homeless man to cough. He looked at the rich man with a confused look.

“I’m a geologist you see. I teach at a university not far from here and though I’m not a man to brag, they couldn’t have picked a better person for the job. I’ve traveled the world extensively ever since I was a chipper lad in his twenties,” Lazarus said as he dipped the raisin bread into the tapenade.

“There isn’t a place on God’s green Earth that I haven’t been to, and no sight I haven’t seen,” Lazarus said as he finished off the bread.

“On my journeys, I’ve met and done yoga with Monks in China, participated in the glorious Bon festivals in Japan; I’ve joined bongo circles in Jamaica and did the Kalinka with Russian folk dancers!” Lazarus said with great enthusiasm. The homeless man listened as he ate.

“Every place I go, I bring something back home with me, whether it’s something physical or knowledge about that place, or its people and what they taught me. I remember every place I’ve been to, the name of every town and city I’ve visited. I even know how to speak ten different languages and to think, I would’ve never become the cultured man I am today if it wasn’t for my fortune…” Lazarus stopped as he looked fondly at Minnie as she reentered the dining room.

“I also would’ve never met Minnie.”

Minnie slowly walked to his side the minute he said her name. Lazarus grabbed her hand and cupped it with both his hands. Minnie slowly turned her head to him and her mouth stretched into a pleasant and warm smile. This actually shocked the homeless man. He never saw her blink once, let alone smile.

“I met Minnie during my second trip to Brazil, it was about thirty years ago and I was exploring the Amazon Rainforest; such a beautiful place I may add, a melting pot of nature really. Anyways, on my exploration I met a tribe of Amazonian natives who were actually a tribe of Ainu people that first colonized in feudal Japan; some however, crossed half the world for better homes. I was fortunate that they were friendly and used to meeting 'outsiders,' they taught me a lot about their culture. The biggest thing worth mentioning was the Voodoo priest.”

The homeless man stopped eating and gave Lazarus his full attention. Lazarus coughed to clear his throat.

“Now, I don’t necessarily believe in that sort of thing, but what he taught me was fascinating in theory,” Lazarus said as he poured himself another glass of wine.

“Hypnosis, potions, laying curses, performing rituals correctly; just to name a few.” Lazarus paused again as he straitened his red tie. “Although I’m kindly skeptical to that stuff I always had an interest in the occult and dark arts. The Amazon wasn’t the only place where I’ve learned about supposed black magic and Maleficium either.”

Lazarus explained as he looked back at the smiling grey woman.

“But then I met Minnie, she was a member of that Ainu tribe and was the witchdoctor's nurse and assistant. We met while the doctor was teaching me a thing or two on ancient medicine, and to make a long story short we instantly fell in love, we were so inseparable that she wanted to come home with me, the voodoo priest allowed it by making me an official member of their family so she would still be there in spirit. We’ve been together ever since and though I’ve grown old; her beauty has been preserved.” Lazarus kissed her hand lovingly as he finished his story, the unblinking mute smiled as she walked to the center of the table; she grabbed a long chef’s knife and cut out a large slice from the tall, fancily decorated cake. She walked back to Lazarus in her stiff waddle and laid it in front of him. Lazarus took a piece from it with his fork, and put it into his mouth with anticipation and let out a satisfied moan.

“Minnie, this is truly fantastic you really outdid yourself this time!” Lazarus praised his lover and caretaker as he dug into the plush dessert.

“Minnie, be a dear and give our guest a slice, he simply cannot miss out on this!”

Minnie's warm smile washed away and stretched into a scowl to the rich, old man’s words. She grudgingly turned her head and glared at the guest in question. The bum swallowed hard as the moving statue of a woman stared at him with her seemingly soulless eyes which were now in more of a glare. He could tell that she had some sort of abhorrent feelings towards him. Nonetheless, Minnie complied with Lazarus’s request and went to cut another slice from the cake. She walked ever so slowly towards the bum with the same scowl on her face. The closer she got, the faster the bum’s heart rate increased. Minnie, through doing the simple act of bringing him cake made him feel as if his life was being threatened.

Minnie carefully placed the dessert in front of the bum. It was noticeably much smaller than the slice that she gave Lazarus. The bum picked up a fork and took a bite from the cake. Not wanting to make her any angrier than she already seemed. It was possibly the most heavenly thing he’s ever tasted. It was soft and moist, the rich, golden taste of the vanilla cake was a perfect combination to the frosting that was made with only three ingredients; sugar, butter and cream. However, the homeless man’s bliss was cut short, the man picked up a horrendous stench; so awful in fact that it made him feel as if he was punched in the gut, he started to cough rather violently as the smell persisted.

“My word, are you quite alright my friend?” Lazarus said with concern. The homeless man raised his hand in a defensive stance as he tried to keep his composure. The bum tried to go back to eating the cake but started to gag. The smell was the most awful thing he’s ever picked up and he was also, unfortunately very familiar to it as well. It was none other than…

The stench of death.

The bum looked to his left and jumped to see that Minnie hadn’t left his side since she gave him the cake. She stared deep into his eyes. The bum lifted his hand from his nose for second, to find that the smell was stronger than ever. The stench of rot and decay was coming off of her.

The homeless man jumped from his seat and fearfully walked back from her, unable to scream from the conclusion he had made in his mind. He looked back at Lazarus to see that he too had risen from his seat with a look of genuine worry on his face. He cupped his face and mumbled something to himself that was audible but undecipherable.

“I’m… awfully sorry but… It’s getting rather late and I think it’s the best that you leave now,” Lazarus said with almost no emotion in his tone. The bum, still shaking from terror and sickness, ran out of the dining room and left with a loud slam of the front door.

“Goodbye,” Lazarus said with a disappointed tone in his voice.

The next day, Lazarus was up at six thirty in the morning, sitting in a large felted chair located in his African inspired living room, yawning from his well-deserved slumber. Minnie walked up to him with a tray containing his breakfast. Two slices of lightly buttered toast, Italian sausage filled with spices and fennel, and a teapot containing hot, freshly prepared tea. Lazarus went straight for the tea. He poured some into the teacup accompanying it and generously sipped it.

“Thank you very much Minnie, you make the best Russian milk tea.”

Minnie weakly smiled as she gave him the morning’s newspaper that she held underneath her arm. Lazarus opened the paper and started to read it. Minnie, with a sad look on her face, shakily walked out of the room.

“Oh and Minnie,” Lazarus spoke up, causing Minnie to stop at the entrance of the living room. “Don’t feel as if you scared away my guest, it was very rude of him to react the way he did.”

Lazarus said with a serious tone in his deep voice.

“One should never be so rude to bring up a women’s smell, especially not in the matter he did, homeless or not!” Lazarus yelled with an annoyed tone. He got up from his chair, walked up and grabbed the zombie of a woman by her shoulders.

“I thought that a man in his position wouldn’t dare judge you or me,” Lazarus spoke, comforting the unblinking corpse.

“You are a glorious specimen Minnie, you are in every sense of the word, the perfect woman and a great person, that is why I brought you back after that horrific accident… and I promise that I will try to find better company to join us for dinner and conversation. People that won’t judge you!” Lazarus said as he pulled her into a hug. Minnie put her cold arms around him and slowly opened her smiling mouth uttering a deep, inhuman groan.

“I love you too,” said Lazarus.

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