“My cousin Mark is coming to visit this afternoon,” Martin said as he played golf with his friends in the morning.
“That’s great,” his friend Darren replied. “How long is he staying?”
“Not long. He’s on his way to Europe and had a layover. So I invited him over for dinner and offered to let him stay overnight if wanted. I asked Silvester to pick him up.”
“He sounds like a great chauffeur.” Darren said.
“He’s reliable. I told him to leave around noon, Mark’s flight gets in at 2. He’ll be there.”
Mark arrived in the afternoon, and Martin came out to greet him as Silvester the chauffeur unloaded his luggage.
“Welcome!” Martin said, shaking his cousin’s hand. “Glad you made it.”
“Thank you for inviting me,” Mark said. “Where is Cynthia?”
Martin paused and frowned. “You’ll see her when she gets back from her shopping trip with her girlfriends. Let’s not spoil the afternoon talking about her. Come in, come in!”
As Martin approached the house, with Mark behind him and Silvester carrying Mark’s luggage behind them both, uniformed servants bowed and opened the door. Martin smiled at Mark and invited him indoors. “Make yourself at home!”
That night at dinner, the servants brought out dish after dish of delicious-smelling foods and placed it in front of the three diners. But Martin and his wife Cynthia didn’t notice. They were too busy arguing over her latest acquisitions.
“Fourteen thousand for a pair of shoes?” Martin yelled. “What do you think I am, made of money? You already have a hundred pairs of shoes!”
“It’s not like you earned the money, you cheapskate!” Cynthia shot back. “You’re just lucky your daddy was rich. And I brought a hefty inheritance of my own to this marriage, don’t forget. Also, I only have ninety-three pairs of shoes, not one hundred!”
“I don’t care how many shoes you have, woman, the way you burn through money is unacceptable!”
“Stop screaming at me,” Cynthia shouted back. “No one treated me like this at home!”
“THIS is your home, in case you’ve forgotten,” her husband retorted. “And the reason no one screamed at you back in your childhood home is because you are a spoilt brat and they’re the ones who spoiled you!”
Mark shrank back from the fight ensuing before him. He felt sorry for himself, but even more sorry for the servants who no doubt had to endure this regularly.
Martin and Cynthia screamed at each other through every course, totally ignoring Mark. Mark lost his appetite, picking at his food. It was amazing how negative energy could ruin an entire dinner.
At the end of the meal, after the servanst cleared the plates, Cynthia stormed off and a tired Martin turned to Mark, “I’m sorry you had to witness that, Martin said. “But let that serve as a warning to you. Be grateful you’re not married. Women are the worst.”
Martin shook his head as he climed wearily up the stairs. “I need to go to bed. I’m afraid I’m not quite up to being good company for you. But Silvester will be happy to take you on an evening tour of the city if you like. Silvester!” Martin snapped his fingers, and his middle-aged chauffeur materialized at his side.
“Take care of my cousin Mark, will you? Take him wherever he wishes to go.”
“Yes sir,” the servant bowed and Martin went upstairs and closed the door.
“Where would you like to go, sir?” Silvester asked, turning to Mark.
Now that the pressure had receded, Mark found himself becoming hungry again.
“Where can I find the most delicious food in the city?” he asked.
Silvester thought a moment, then smiled. “I know just the place,” he said.
Twenty minutes later, Mark found himself standing in front of an ordinary-looking house in an ordinary-looking neighborhood.
“This is a restaurant?” Mark asked, puzzled.
“No,” Silvester said. “It is my house.”
The chauffeur smiled. “You asked for the most delicious food in the whole city. This is it. My wife is a fantastic cook. And best of all, it is free!”
Mark blinked in surprise, but followed the chauffeur inside.
“Sil!” A woman inside exclaimed as she greeted Martin’s chauffeur with a kiss. “I didn’t expect you home so soon.”
“I brought a friend, Daisy, her husband said, gesturing to Mark. “This is Mark.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Mark.
“I told him you made the most delicious food in the city. So I brought him here to try it,” Silvester explained.
“Welcome,” Daisy smiled at Mark. Then she turned to call up the stairs: “Kids, your father is home, come down for dinner!”
Three children, between the ages of five and ten tumbled down the stairs and ran to Silvester. “Papa!” they cried as he bent to hug and kiss each of them.
“We have a guest for dinner,” Silas said. “This is Mr. Mark. And this is Amy, Minnie, and Johnny.”
“It is very nice to meet you,” Mark said as the kids ducked shyly behind their father.
That night as they gathered around the table, Mark observed the older girls putting food in the bowl for their younger brother, and Daisy and Silvester chatting warmly with each other, their children, and Mark. They smiled as they passed the dishes to each other, eating and conversing happily.
Mark noted that the food was not as fancy as the dishes he had seen at Martin’s mansion, but as he ate, surrounded by the warmth of the small family, he had to admit: it was the most delicious food in the city…perhaps the whole world.