A last supper
If you could have a quiet dinner with just one author, who would you choose?
The table is set. A crisp white tablecloth covers a small square table, a silver candelabra set in the centre of the table.
The table groans with weight of the victuals laid out. Bone china crockery and sterling silver cutlery await their use. Bottles of wine, cognac and sherry are lined up to pour into crystal wineglasses.
Just before midnight, my guest arrives.
Solemn, sombre, neatly attired, he reminds me more of a funeral director than a writer.
“The cold Fall nights have come to Maryland at last.” He takes off his long coat and hands it to me. It is slightly damp from the fog hanging heavy in the streets.
“Please, sit. Some sherry to take the chill off?” I gesture to the table, bathed in the soft glow from five tallow candles. He picks up a bottle, glances at the bottle, and smiles.
“Yes. The Amontillado.”
He turned to me, one eyebrow raised, and nodded. “An appropriate choice. Come, let us sit.”
So we sit, and we eat, and we drink. And we talk. Of humanity and the supernatural, of science and nature, of the darker impulses of man, and the perverse inclination to self-destruction. And I ask him the one question I’ve always wanted to ask: what happened in those missing days that led to such an ignominious end?
He smiles again, drinks the last of the Amontillado, and places the glass on the table. “I had a fine dinner with a friend, and after I left-” He takes out a pocket watch, and glances at it. “Good lord, so late? I’m afraid I have an appointment.”
He rises, collects his coat, and pauses at the door. “If people were to know something so prosaic as the truth, then there would be no cause to remember. So I prefer to leave with a little mystery, if I may.”
He then steps out into the mists, and into legend.
It is October 3rd, 1849. In a few hours my friend will be found in the street, delirious and wearing clothes that are not his own. And four days later he will be dead.
If I could have just one quiet dinner, with just one author, it would be this one.