THE HOST

[I had previously speculated ("Dumplings") on the way in which Juditha Brown lost her glasses. In that I believed that Juditha was caused to realize that she had lost her glasses after she got home. A recent review of the transcript shows that both she and Denise say that the "lost glasses" were discussed on the trip home, so apparently Juditha knew about this when she left the restaurant. If so, many people have commented on how odd it was that she did not go the short distance to the front of the restaurant and look for herself at where she had alighted at 6:30. But, she did not. Furthermore, both Juditha and Denise comment on the fact that Juditha was overcome by a great mood of foreboding on the drive to Orange County, even though they both say the dinner was fun and enjoyable. In order to explain how the glasses were lost, and also account for Juditha's incomprehensible actions and mood, I offer a new concept, below. It's spooky, but so is this crime, in my judgment. -- rjw]
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Five women, one man, four children, at a long table by the front window... Outside was a late afternoon summer street scene. Nicole's dinner party was in full swing; and everybody was talking; the kids were fidgeting, sometimes squealing with delight. Three independent conversations were going on at once up and down the table.

A distinguished, but not tall man, impeccably dressed, and wiping his hands on a napkin, walked over to the table, and stood beside Nicole's mother. He put his hand on Juditha's shoulder, very close to her neck, and she looked up to find him staring intently into her eyes, but smiling kindly. She stared back.

"Call later," he said quietly, but firmly, "We will find them for you."

She was uncomprehending and their eyes were still locked together. She did not know who this man was, or how he knew her. He seemed so sure of what he said, but it meant absolutely nothing to her. "I... I beg your pardon?"

"Forgive me," he apologized graciously. "I am your host. It is my job to make sure that everything works out right."

"But, you said..."

The host very naturally laid the napkin over the eyeglasses on the table and raised his empty hand in a gesture of greeting. He said more loudly to the group, "Hello. How's everything? Is everybody enjoying themselves?"

Everyone agreed they were enjoying themselves. The host beamed and promised to return later to make sure the food was just to their taste. Then he picked up the napkin he had laid at Juditha's place. He smiled at her and said again, "Just remember. I'm here to make sure everything works out right." He took his hand from her shoulder then, and walked away. Juditha's glasses were in his napkin. Although she did not realize that fact, a feeling of foreboding began to come over her that would last all night.

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (1/22/98) NG_507

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