The Ink Well Prompt #40: The World Is A Banquet House



Jean-Luc Dubois would tell anyone: “I have been successful even when not successful – even in the difficult years after Katrina L'Ouregan, Madame Ébène-Cerise Dubois kept me blessed and happy and full of love and life!”

He would pause, his sable-skinned old face just glowing with love and pride for his wife.

“The world is a banquet house for that woman!”

Madame Dubois was a woman of 72 and of great Christian faith wedded with quiet bravery, brilliance, and calm. She believed that her Lord was working things together for good and so went looking with all her intelligence to find and make the most of the blessing in all situations. So, she was always going into the world and finding a feast laid there by her Father in Heaven, often even, as Psalm 23 expresses it, on tables prepared in the presence of her enemies.

Case in point: Madame Dubois had to go in person, in the last third of the first summer of the pandemic, to file some documents. Standing in line with a bunch of other people was not the kind of thing most senior citizens wanted to do anyway, but the possibililty of exposure to Covid-19 at that age would have added more aggravation to the task for most. Madame Dubois, however, was utterly unbothered, and remained so even when the time spent in line instantly lengthened to indefinite as the woman in front of her lost her temper and started yelling at the service representative.

“What do you mean you can't give me a permit? I have been running the Lofton County Gentry Harvest Feast for the past 40 years – are you really going to stand here and tell me the county is going to throw away all its traditions over this heavy cold that's going around?”

The rep stood his ground and the yelling increased, contrasting violently with Madame Dubois's soft singing to herself as she pulled out her first-ever cell phone and looked at it – “Louisa showed me how to do this … just need to get to Google Translate … voila!

Madame Dubois was much admired there, quietly working between her cell phone and writing in her notebook, still singing, just adding light to the room while others were taking it away.

“You little whipper-snapper of an excuse for a service rep – do you know who I am?”

And the irate woman pulled down her mask to start yelling, getting droplets all over the glass.

The service rep held his ground and pressed a little button. A big, burly deputy sheriff in an N95 mask appeared around a corner.

“I'm sorry, ma'am, but there is a mask mandate and I can't give you service, unmasked – but if you will go outside and calm down, and then get back in line when you have reviewed the rules for the permits we can grant and have your requests in order, I'll be glad to help you.”

He closed the window entirely at that point, which made the woman even more irate, but, the deputy sheriff took her by the arm in a no-nonsense way, and out they headed, her yelling slowly fading to the edge of earshot as she was just outside. She flared up even higher when she saw the woman who had been standing behind her – Madame Dubois – had gotten done in all of five minutes and was headed home.

Mrs. Diffie C. Ult – for that was her – went back through the line just for spite.

“How could you – knowing who I am – give that little old Negro woman good service and have me in the hands of the law? How could you?”

“She had her paperwork together and was calm and kind,” the rep said. “She also left you this.”

And Ms. Ult read Madame Dubois's note and saw the salvation of everything … a way to reimagine her feast in a Covid-compliant way, with a tip on a company with 50 years of experience in mobile food service that could handle all of the logistics.

Mrs. Ult made the call – and was glad she did! The investment in connecting technologies to make for 100 individual and yet connected tables on people's lawns and yards and gazebos – the absolutely perfect food delivery to make it all come together – the Lofton County Gentry Harvest Feast became a viral sensation as a model of what to do to celebrate collectively without endangering anyone's life.

“It's a shame we have to resort to the help of foreigners to get these things done at a time like this!” Ms. Ult said to the media about it. “But, see here: the company got the job done, and the help they sent the day of the affair? Amazing! Almost antebellum-level service – who would have thought the modern French could get the best out of conditioning the Negro to work again?”

In Lofton County, in Ms. Ult's circles, that would pass for good – and the Dubois family laughed and kept laughing as the phone rang and Madame Dubois's eldest son Major Dubois with his pitch-perfect Continental French kept taking calls for Dubois on the Road from event planners for the upper class who simply would not be outdone by Mrs. Ult. Dubois on the Road's bottom line increased 20 percent that month, and would go up every month through the holidays and into January 2021!

“You know,” Monsieur Dubois purred to his wife as he was making out bonus checks, “with how the world is your banquet house, I thank God you always come home to spread the feast for me!”

“I thank God that everywhere you have ever led me, Jean-Luc, you have made me perfectly at home,” she said, and took and bit into a delicious treat out of the five-pound box of gourmet bonbons he had bought for her before preparing a bonus for anyone else.

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