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When in a pinch, use what you can to make your guests happy

Hilary (this is an assigned alias to protect the guilty) and I met downtown to do what women do best: Talk. This night we sipped pilsners of Rogue Dead Guy and exchanged stories that would stir him, and my grandmothers, from the grave.

Every southern township, worth its weight in tomatoes, has a garden club; or, as my girlfriends often slip into saying, gerden club. Since the advent of the working mother, many such organizations have long gone grey; thus, the flourish of recruitment efforts to snag more supple branches. That's how Hilary got involved in The Society of the Sisters of the Lily, participating in projects like decorating birdhouses, hats, and pocket books to resemble mini Rose Bowl floats.

Her favorite part of meetings, nonetheless, is watching as the delicate ladies of the sorority of the flower politely, yet pointedly, throw verbal pyracanthus thorns at each other's backs. "It's priceless," she chortles, "when the white gloves come off."

That is precisely why you can never breathe a word of the following story Hilary confidentially shared with me. I, myself, at the telling, giggled so hard my mug shattered. Rogue Dead Guy bled all over the table.

Several months ago, on Hilary's assigned pettifore day, her child presented with an oozing wound requiring immediate medical attention. As the club's by-laws clearly state, however, members unable to fulfill their duties must notify the snack committee chairwoman, vice president of affairs, and corresponding secretary. With only thirty minutes to meeting time, she called Mrs. Betty Anne Renfrowe and reported the dire circumstances in which she found herself.

"Well, you do have your dessert prepared," Betty Anne asserted.

There are two things about Southern women: First, we exude unruffled perfection in all tasks, large or small, regardless of our circumstances.

Therefore, Hilary lied, "Yes."

Secondly, the better half of the south will die a martyr's death before putting on the face of impoliteness.

Betty Anne replied, "I'll swing by on my way, deah. Don't worry about a thing."

Wrapping another towel around her child's gushing gash, Hilary dutifully waited. This gave Hilary just enough time to crawl into the freezer and close the door.

Instead, she sensibly pulled strawberries from the fridge, sliced them, arranged them on a crystal tray, and snatched a few mint leaves from an herb planter for garnish. The only thing missing was dip. She had no powdered sugar.

Not to fret. Two generations younger than most matrons in garden club, she happened to have certain supplies on hand. Things that, shall I say, make life a little sweeter.

From the farthest corner of the top shelf of her pantry, she pulled out a jar of deliciously tantalizing chocolate body paint. She'd been saving it for a special occasion.

Setting aside the accompanying paintbrush, she carefully poured the contents of the jar into a crystal bowl placed in the center of the berries. Just as Betty Anne let herself in with a, "Yoohoo, I'm heah," Hilary whisked the tell-tale container and brush out of sight.

Later, Betty Anne called to say how much the ladies of the Lily enjoyed the fare. "We all simply tittered with delight. Miss Cicily had seconds and thirds and all the girls want to know your recipe for au chocolate. I don't think we've evah had such a grand time judging the plant samples befoah."

Hilary and I flagged down our waitress and each ordered another Rogue Dead Guy brought to our table. Through uncontrollable laughter I quipped, "So they really got sauced."

"Dahlin," she rejoined, "they were happiah than cockroaches on a pop-taht."

Web posted on Thursday, July 6, 2006

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