30. The Butler Did It

30. The Butler Did It

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


The Butler Did It

If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.

~Dr. Seuss

To beat the winter doldrums, my husband decided to throw an impromptu dinner party for his marketing group. “I know it’s only two day’s notice, but they’ll come if they know you’re making your famous lasagna,” he said. “All they’ll have to bring is a white elephant gift.”

“I’ll prepare enough lasagna, salad and garlic bread to feed an army,” I chuckled as I recalled the group’s previous parties at our home.

My husband’s close-knit marketing group consisted of five men and five women. They’d never miss one of my husband’s parties. Counting spouses and dates, the guest list would total twenty. And what a thoughtful bunch—they never arrived at the door empty-handed. They’d bring an appetizer or a dessert, a bottle of wine, and an outlandish white elephant gift, with everyone attempting to outdo each other’s zany gift. It would definitely be another fun-filled evening, with shenanigans aplenty.

To amuse his employees, my husband donned butler attire for the party. And in butler mode with a white linen towel draped over his left forearm, he greeted the guests at the door. After everyone arrived, my husband poked his head into the kitchen, “Madam, it’s 7:00 p.m. and all guests are accounted for.”

“Dinner is ready,” I said as I filled a big breadbasket. “Tell everyone to head for the buffet table. Hot garlic bread coming up!”

Toasts were made to good food, good conversation, and good marketing.

After dinner, we began the white elephant gift exchange. The elaborately wrapped gifts lined the family room floor. “Everyone take a number. Let the game begin!” my husband shouted.

The first gift chosen was a black oblong metal mailbox with caricatures of John, Paul, Ringo and George painted on each side. The second gift was a pair of red glitter-encrusted clown shoes. Since the object of the game is to choose, open, trade and steal, merriment, thievery and greed ensued. During the reclamation of the clown shoes, a bottle of red wine toppled from the buffet table and saturated the off-white carpet.

My husband, still in butler mode, shouted, “Madam, I’ll take care of it!”

The party came to a halt. We watched as he poured white wine over the red wine spill. After each drenching, he blotted up the wine with the butler towel he’d been wearing over his arm. Suddenly, the red wine spot disappeared! My husband bowed to a round of applause.

The joviality continued until midnight, and the party was a huge success.

To our dismay, the spot from the red wine spill had returned the next morning. After breakfast, my husband called a professional carpet cleaning service. The experts assured us we’d never see the spot again.

However, two weeks later, the red spot reappeared. Again, the stain was removed, and we were promised it was gone forever.

But it was not to be. A month later, the phantom red spot was back, larger than the original spill.

After the owner of the carpet cleaning company refused to clean the carpet for a third time, we mulled our options. We made the decision to have the carpet and padding removed, and the hardwood floor underneath refinished.

“Since we have to look at that ghastly red spot for two more days, I have an idea,” my husband said as he turned off the television after the 11:00 p.m. news.

He took two giant black permanent markers from the desk in the corner of the room and waved them in the air. His antics never ceased to amaze me. I howled as I watched him outline the ugly spot using one of the black markers. It was actually beginning to look like a body had once been sprawled on the carpet!

“You’re crazy!” I exclaimed. “It’s late. I’m going to bed.” I blew him a kiss and headed upstairs to our bedroom.

That’s the last thing I remember until the alarm awakened me at 6:00 the next morning. I got out of bed, put on my robe, skipped down the stairs and headed for the kitchen. I was dumbstruck with horror and disbelief when I glanced into the family room. It looked like an actual crime scene! Not only was there an outline of a body on the carpet, but there was yellow caution tape, two orange traffic cones, and one folding barricade sign, topped with two yellow flashing lights encircling the make-believe crime scene.

A wave of anguish and despair washed over me. Granted, my husband loved a good practical joke (so did I), but hadn’t he gone too far this time with such outrageous behavior? Surely, a highway was missing its equipment. I had questions, but he was saved by the doorbell….

My husband had taken the day off from work for the occasion. He greeted the three workmen at the front door and led them into the family room.

“It’s all yours, gentlemen,” he said as he quickly removed the tape, cones, and barricade sign.

When the workers spotted the outlined section of carpet, one visibly shaken worker asked, “What happened here?”

My husband smiled, and then replied, “The butler did it.”

“We have to go to our van to get our tools. Be right back,” said the man in charge.

But no workmen returned. Several minutes later, we heard tires screeching as the van sped down our street. An hour later, the office manager called to advise us the workers had been called to another job.

“Please go to work tomorrow,” I pleaded, “and return the cones and barricade sign.”

My husband nodded and laughed uproariously. “You have to admit this was one of my best pranks.”

Fortunately, the following morning, a new crew reported to work at our home. In five days, the refinished wood floor was shiny and beautiful, and looked brand new.

Yes, my husband thrives on chaos, hilarity and mischief, and I know striving for a predictable lifestyle is out of the question. So, I take deep breaths and enjoy the ride.

~Georgia A. Hubley

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