Monday, July 1, 2013

The Earl of Bunwich Folds

The Earl of Bunwich Folds:

It’s approaching six o’clock and the Earl of Sandwich is holding a strong hand. He’s been at the card table since noon, but things have not been going his way; already he’s lost a fancy timepiece, a ship, some silver candlesticks and an entire flock of sheep. He’s starving but can’t afford to stop playing to eat.

The rest of the table has folded, and only his nemesis remains: the Earl of Bunwich, who rather fancies getting his paws on the jewels his mistress wears, and for that matter, also his mistress’s jewels, which even now threaten to spill from her décolleté. His stomach rumbles loudly, prompting Sandwich to remark that he’s a bit peckish.

In order to show off, Bunwich calls his servant over and asks him to bring him some food. The servant hesitates; this is a highly unusual task. What shall he bring? Bunwich leans back in his chair and with growing flourish requests a bun, cut in half, with some loose ground meat, a pickle, some green beans, a tomato and a slice of cheese. The servant looks alarmed. Insert the top half of the bun halfway, between the pickle and beans, Bunwich adds, only make it upside down.

Not to be outdone, Sandwich calls his servant over and asks for a sandwich. A sandwich, your honor? the boy replies, puzzled. That’s what I said, the Earl replies.

I bet everything I own that my dinner will be imitated for generations to come, offers the Earl of Bunwich, certain his opponent is bluffing.

Off speeds the boy. When he returns, he carries with him a piece of ham stuffed between two slices of bread. Bunwich laughs.

Sandwich merely eats, with his hands. Bunwich looks at the plate upon which his dinner sits. He has forgotten to ask for a knife and fork, and has no idea how to bring the food to his mouth. A long moment passes as dust motes float in the air in the candlelight. 

Bring me one of those things Sandwich has, calls someone from another table. Bunwich stops smiling.

I fold, he sighs.

Family Dinners in a Hurry, Golden Press, 1970

 Also from this book: S'moresThe Arithmetic of Desperation