Guess Who Isn't Coming To LunchA short story by Jonathan Mitchell
Arthur had been the most exciting man she had ever met. Arthur had waited until March 28 to propose to her. After all, 28 was his favorite number. It was a perfect number-the sum of its factors equaled 28. Petra had not yet told her parents that she was engaged and they had not even met Arthur yet but she was sure that they would love Arthur; he was so terrific. After introducing Arthur to her parents, she would have to throw a terrific lunch where she would introduce Arthur to all of her friends.
The doorbell rang and Petra knew who it was before she opened the door. She opened the door and sure enough it was Arthur with a dozen long stemmed roses. They embraced and Arthur kissed Petra twice.
"Two kisses, for each factor of the number of roses before you get to a prime number," said Arthur.
Petra got a vase to put the roses in.
"Did I ever tell you that the license plate number on your car 3NXP613 or 3,613 is a prime number?" asked Arthur.
"Only about a hundred times," said Petra, smiling a bit.
Petra was about to hug Arthur when she saw the serious expression on his face. Arthur was usually unrestrained and always joking around about his pet subjects, numbers and presidents. She had never seen Arthur have an expression like that.
"What's wrong, honey?"
"Have you told your folks about me yet?"
"No, I haven't. But I am going to call them tonight and tell them I'm getting married, boy that'll be a surprise. They are going to be so happy. They think I'm an old maid because I am 33 and I have never been married. In fact, maybe we can drive over there tonight and meet them, I'm sure they will be glad to meet you. You seem uptight, wondering what reason you would have to be so uptight."
Arthur decided to lay the cards on the table. "You are going to tell them all about me, aren't you. I wonder how they're going to take the fact that their future son-in-law is not a normal person."
"Neurotypical, honey," said Petra, interrupting Arthur and apprising him of the more politically correct term.
Arthur continued, ignoring his fiancee. "They are going to be pissed off about our mixed marriage. I'm one of the small handful of autistic men that have managed to find a wife. I'm not the kind of guy one brings home to their parents. I'm really worried how they are going to take it."
"Ahh, don't worry. It's not like you're Dracula or a werewolf. I am sure they will love you once they get to know you."
Arthur started jumping up and down and shaking his hands in front of his face, something he often did when he was nervous. "283 times 396 equals 112,068," exclaimed Arthur, nervously.
Petra patted him on the back and kissed him on the cheek in an attempt to calm him down. "Don't worry, honey, it's going to be okay."
"Sorry," said Arthur. "I'll try to pull myself together, but it won't be easy, I'm really nervous about meeting your folks. After all, we have known each other and been dating for 1,038 days, 16 hours 11 minutes and 34 seconds, that's almost three years. In all that time, I never met your folks, but you've met mine nine different times. I just can't help thinking that you're embarrassed about my autism."
"No, sweetie, no, that's not it at all, I just never mix my parents and my friends usually, that's all, but now it's a whole different ball game now that you're going to be their future son- in-law."
"Well, I am glad to be getting married though," said Arthur. "After all, most presidents had a wife, the only exceptions were James Buchanan and Grover Cleveland who was divorced and then remarried after he was elected president. Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate child, that was quite an oddity for 1884, you know. Where's your pa, he's in the white house, ha ha ha. Also, most historians agree that Thomas Jefferson fathered several illegitimate children. Did I tell you the story about how James Buchanan may have been gay?"
"Yes, Arthur, you have told that story to me many times. I think we had better get this out of the way now since you are so nervous." Petra picked up the phone and began phoning her parents.
The phone rang and Celeste answered it and Verne could hear her end of the conversation.
"Hi, Petra, good to hear from you, first time you have called in two weeks. You're getting what!!? Oh, your father will be so thrilled. Tell me all about him. Why didn't you ever mention him before? Oh, you never tell me or your father anything. Well, sure, we would be glad to have you come over. Yea, we will be here and we will definitely look forward to meeting Arthur."
After getting over his initial shock at his daughter's announcing her marriage just out of the blue, Verne answered the doorbell and saw his daughter at the door with a man whom he knew was his future son-in-law. Arthur shook the hand of his father- in-law-to-be vigorously.
"Hi, I'm Arthur I am sure glad to know you. Did you know your license plate is a composite number? Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, he did not serve two consecutive terms. 283 times 369 is 112,068." Before Verne or Celeste could get a word in edgewise, Arthur continued his ritualistic monologue.
"A lot of the American presidents had recreational cabinets. Teddy Roosevelt had a tennis cabinet, Warren G. Harding had a poker cabinet and Herbert Hoover had a medicine ball cabinet."
With some effort, Verne managed to free his hand from Arthur's grip.
"What's his problem?" exclaimed Verne.
Petra spoke up. "He's just nervous about meeting you, that's all."
Arthur looked his future father-in-law, right in the eye, straight on. "I'm autistic," he exclaimed.
Celeste grimaced. Verne put his hand on his forehead as if he was about to be sick.
"You're actually marrying this....this person!" said Verne in an incredulous voice.
"I knew your dad would react this way, I just knew it," said Arthur and then he started to flap his hands and jump up and down which he often did when he was nervous.
"Just look at that, that's absolutely pathetic," said Verne.
Celeste started to cry a little bit. "What about grandchildren, you're our only child and I have always wanted grandchildren. What sort of grandchildren could you have, his thing must be genetic."
Petra spoke up in defense of her future husband. "We haven't decided whether or not we are going to have kids. If we do, we will certainly seek genetic counseling first but if we have children, we will just have to make the best of it if they are autistic, but maybe they won't turn out to be autistic. Even if they did, I think they would be absolutely terrific just like Arthur," and Petra put her arm around her fiance.
Verne then laid down the law. "You're our daughter, we won't disown you, but I am not going to have anything to do with this son-in-law or this wedding, and I am not going to go to your wedding."
Petra now cried a little bit. "You are being totally unfair, Arthur is my future husband and I love him and we are getting married no matter what!"
Arthur had been standing idly by, not wishing to offend his future in-laws, but he felt he had to speak up for himself. "I would make a great husband for Petra. I would be completely faithful to her unlike many of our American presidents. Did you know that Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States, serving from 1837 to 1841. In his autobiography, he did not even mention his wife, not even once. Abraham Lincoln left Mary Todd standing at the altar, even though they did eventually marry two years later. I am not like that. I am going to be faithful to your daughter. I won't have a Sally Fairfax or a Mary Peck or a Judith Exner."
Petra decided to break the ice a bit. "I'm having a luncheon tomorrow to introduce Arthur to my best friends. I was hoping that you guys could come."
"We won't be there," said Verne curtly.
"Guess who isn't coming to lunch," said Arthur.
No one responded.
Arthur then thought of the 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. The movie dealt with the problems that a black man and a white woman who had fallen in love with each other faced when their parents disapproved of their wedding. Arthur could not help thinking of the ironic parallels between his life and its imitation of art.
Petra became even more shocked when her dad ended up being even more curt. "We've got to go," said Verne. "I am in the middle of doing my taxes, and they are particularly complicated this year, and the Infernal Ripoff Service is going to levy a huge penalty against me if I don't get them done in the next 36 hours."
Celeste showed Petra and Arthur to the door and they left in a huff.
The next day was the luncheon-actually it was sort of a brunch but Petra was calling it lunch-that she had planned for her best girlfriends and her parents who were absent. She was serving caviar, smoked salmon, some hard boiled eggs that had been cut out of the shell in a manner that part of the yolk showed and some macadamia nuts.
First came Jennifer Van Valkenburg, an old friend of Petra's, they embraced and told each other how good it was to see each other. Then Petra introduced Jennifer to Arthur.
"This is my good friend, Jen Van Valkenburg, my fiancee, Arthur, he's autistic, a mathematical savant just like in the movie Rainman."
Arthur shook hands tentatively with Jennifer. "When's your birthday?" asked Arthur.
"I beg your pardon."
"He can tell you what day of the week you were born on if you tell him your date of birth," explained Petra.
"Oh, sounds fun," replied Jennifer. "Okay, it is April 18, 1968."
"You were born on Thursday," replied Arthur in less than a second. "Thursday's child has far to go."
"That's right that's absolutely amazing."
The doorbell rang again and Petra opened the door to greet two other of her good girlfriends, Tanya and Kendra.
"Hi, so good to see you, thanks for coming," said Petra, giving both her friends a quick hug.
"So, where is this divine man that you've absolutely been raving about, we just have to meet him," said Kendra.
Petra, then put her arm around Arthur, leading him into the hallway where Kendra was and then after the introductions were made. Arthur and the three girlfriends sat down to lunch. After Petra talked about the details of the wedding, they started talking a bit of girl talk and other frivolous chit chat. Arthur sat and listened politely, although he was starting to get a little bored.
Arthur's behavior would often start to deteriorate a bit when he was bored and he managed to get a word in edgewise after the four women had paused in their conversation between mouthfuls of caviar, salmon and eggs and he started to tell one of his favorite stories about president James Buchanan.
"Did you know that James Buchanan was the 15th president of the United States. He was president between 1857 and 1861, right before Abraham Lincoln. Did you know that he was the only president never to marry? There were rumors that he was gay you know. When he was 28 he was engaged to Anne Coleman and then she died. No one knew exactly how, though some speculated that she committed suicide. After that, he never had any women in his life. But he was really good friends with this senator from Alabama, William Rufus King. People talked about how they were intimate and had sex and stuff. quite lurid stuff for the 1850's." Arthur paused and then laughed a little bit.
"I just remembered, I have an appointment," said Jennifer. She looked at her watch. "My look at the time." Jennifer continued. "I really have to run, Pet, I will catch you later, it was nice meeting you, Arthur."
Petra was rather upset at Jennifer for leaving. This made her even more upset about her folks not approving of her marriage and accepting Arthur as their son-in-law. She decided to call her folks again and ask them to reconsider her offer to come for lunch.
"Arthur, Kendra, Tanya, I am going to go into the other room where the phone is and call my mom and dad and ask them if they will reconsider coming for lunch. Why don't you guys talk and get acquainted and get to know each other a bit better."
Verne struggled with his computer program designed to do his income taxes. The capital gains taxes that he had to pay had amounted to capital punishment, and he would have to look for every legitimate deduction that he could and even with this fancy computer program this took some doing.
Celeste could hear Verne cursing in the other room.
"What's wrong dear?" she inquired.
"This god damned computer program just isn't finding the deductions that I need to get these damn taxes done. I realize that death and taxes are inevitable but being frustrated to death over taxes shouldn't be."
That brought a slight smile to Celeste's face.
"I have about another 36 hours to do these taxes before the Insidious Robbery Service assesses a penalty against us."
"Serves you right for putting everything off until the last minute," said Celeste to her husband.
Before Verne could exercise his jaw and gums with a snappy repartee, the phone rang.
"Hi, dad, it's Petra. I was hoping that you and mom would reconsider and come over for lunch. I have this great spread I spent a great deal of time making and I really wish you would come."
"Well, you know how I feel about you marrying that guy," replied Verne. Besides, I could not go even if I wanted to. I still have these taxes to do and...." Verne was silent for at least a minute. Petra could tell that something was wrong.
"What's wrong, Dad?"
"We just had another power outage, it happens sometimes, now I can't use the computer and I won't be able to finish my taxes on time to meet the deadline."
"Well, I'm going to talk to Arthur about that. He really is an amazing and wonderful guy when you get to know him, maybe he will have a solution."
"I don't think so, well, Petra, I really have to go, goodbye." Petra could hear Verne hanging up the phone at his end.
Petra went back to the kitchen where all of the still mostly uneaten food was on the table. She noticed that Arthur was there by himself and Kendra and Tanya were apparently gone.
"What happened to the girls?" inquired Petra.
"It was a funny thing, " replied Arthur. "I asked Kendra what her date of birth was and she told me and then she suddenly remembered that she and Tanya had an appointment to get their hair done when I told Kendra how many days old she was and then converted the number to hexadecimal and told her how many days old she was in hex."
Petra smiled to herself a bit. "I might have known," she said.
"Arthur, my dad is having a real problem."
Petra then explained to her fiancee about her dad's tax problems.
"I think I can help, if your dad is not too prejudiced against me."
Petra and Arthur immediately drove to Petra's parents. Arthur then explained to Petra's dad that in addition to numbers and presidents, he was also very interested in taxes and had memorized the entire tax code and knew all the best deductions for Verne.
Arthur produced a flashlight. "I think I can have your taxes done for you in a few hours." Sure enough within a few hours Arthur had Verne's taxes done.
"Welcome to the family, son," said Verne.
"Thanks, dad," said Arthur blushing just a little bit.
|Copyright 2002, Jonathan Mitchell - All Rights Reserved.|