Beer, wine and hot buttered rum were essential ingredients for our annual Mega-Pistachios’ holiday party. Over the past seven years, I arranged this armpit of a function. Office Manager, Eliza Dolittle—a nom de plume the staff bestowed—totally didn’t get the joke that she did little while the rest of us slaved away. She remained deaf to the tittering that ensued when we used it behind her ample back. But it stuck and no one remembered her actual name anymore!
In Dolittle fashion, she delegated this horrendous party planning to me, Regina, a copywriter, who reported to her. I suspect she tasked me with the worst job in the company because she was jealous of my svelte figure and articulate, capable handling of our ad campaigns. Plus, she had to have someone besides herself to bear the blame for all the parties that, like lemmings, followed each other off a cliff. Hell, who cared why she handed the party over to me. I was stuck with it. So once a year, this baby was mine to try to salvage and ultimately screw up.
The one item Eliza hovered over was the hot buttered rum. Serving this libation was essential and an abundance of it a necessity. We all knew she totally dedicated herself to Mega-Pistachios’ owner, Harvey “Pip” Green, and might even be involved in a sexual dalliance with him.
The rum was his family’s secret recipe, handed down from generation-to-generation. Even the crystal punchbowl we served it in was a family heirloom. So she literally took the hot buttered rum into her own hands.
Two weeks before the party, this conversation went on between Eliza and her boy-toy tag-along, Lancelot, as I stood there, ignored as usual, until the shit work needed to be shoveled. Lancelot had begun. “It’s all going to be fab, sweetie. But if you could stretch the budget a bit, my love,” he nudged his boss, “I could get some great, perhaps a bit off-color cakes to compliment el tree.”
She pinched his handsome chiseled cheek and said, “I’ll ask Harvey.” Though she was our boss, Harvey was the owner and he needed to sign off on all expenditures at Mega-Pistachios. Somehow, she convinced him to okay these cake disasters-in-the-making.
Eliza informed me, “Regina, you should be glad to have one less task. It’s official. I’m putting Lancelot in charge of cakes.” Then she smiled her evil smile.
Meanwhile, I was nearing the end of my planning and patience. “Sure. Whatever.” I knew from years of experience, this party was just a fiasco away, for something awful happened year-after-year. This year, obscene cakes were in the running. Then the party would be inscribed in the running book of disasters. Meanwhile, yours truly had planned, would execute and complete all preparations—minus the cakes—faced with certain failure. I just wanted the party to be over and return to my actual job.
# # #
On the day of the dreaded festivity, I march-stepped into the dismal hall we always rented from the VFW and prepared to oversee this year’s attempt at a “Ho Ho Ho” Celebration. Naively, when I first was tasked with this celebration, I used to stupidly think, isn’t this party planning supposed to be her responsibility? However, as she often reminded me, swaying her wide hips in one of her designer rip-off red or black or white polka-dotted circle skirts, she was my superior on the company flow chart. And so onward, Regina, I told myself. Onward.
“Over to the left,” I directed my team of workmen, as they situated the fake ten-foot pre- lighted pine tree that we no longer could label a “Christmas” tree, due to the era of political correctness. Being Jewish, I didn’t really care what you called this gathering.
My twin assistants, Lana and Tana, hung tree decorations. They began with the slightly off-color ones, which caused twin laughter. I spied the coy bare-chested Santas flexing their muscles and the female elves bent over with only G-strings covering the intimate cracks in their bottoms. At the foray’s conclusion, everyone would draw lots to see who would take one of these ridiculous adornments home.
“Now the boring traditional ones,” Lana or Tana said. I still could not tell the two apart, as they dressed and coiffed and made up their freckled faces the same, sometimes each doffing matching berets of many colors. They loved to confuse us. But since they were so very capable at their actual jobs, typing, filing and looking attractive, especially when they flicked their long red ponytails, their twin tricks were tolerated, especially by Harvey. In fact, I think he fantasized about having them both beneath the sheets, but between his wife and Eliza Doolittle, he found little opportunity for that. As usual, both wife and wooer were scheduled to attend the annual office bash. In my usual perverse way, I would just enjoy watching the dance they would dance, knowing about each other and yet, keeping it all on the up and up, so to speak.
Ah, Harvey, what the hell did they see in you? Let me describe the owner of our little pistachio company. A man with a mustachio, of course. Dyed black with a tinge of green in the right light, of course! I suspect, if he had his way, it would be a pistachio-colored mustachio. He stood about five foot-five, his bulging belly always festooned with red suspenders, even outside of the holidays. He dyed the thin hair fringe circling his head black. I must have imagined the green highlights. The top bald spot would have been perfect for target practice. I imagined red concentric circles on an archery target with suction cups scattered across his head. I heard he tried gluing pieces of the side hair across the empty round pate, but gave up when he heard giggles as he walked to the elevator one Tuesday.
Lana, Tana and some of the more discerning women, including me, refused to use intimacy and fawning with our little sex-oriented leader. Truthfully, we strong-hearted, Non-Pipsters (as we referred to ourselves) were totally turned off by him. But not Eliza Doolittle. In fact, if there’s anything she managed to accomplish around the office, it was to hover over the owner, ready to serve his every need. No one knew for sure if this included sexual favors. The images my conjectures brought to my mind were disgusting. I needed an old-fashioned eraser.
His wife, Scandinavian Gertrude, was the tallest, skinniest, palest platinum blonde I had ever encountered. Her milky hair and skin were almost translucent. Her fake big round melons rose and fell on her painfully obvious rib cage with every breath. She always wore tight-fitting silk tee-shirts in a variety of pastels, for her frequent office visits. She would stash her shopping spree bags from Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord and Taylor, Tiffany’s, for Harvey to motor home in his chauffeured limo. Most interesting to some is that she spent time locked with the head bookkeeper, Ralph Luno in his private office suite. No one knew if this was an affair or not. But of course we enjoyed speculating.
We witnessed one exception for Gertrude’s attire, what she wore to the yearly office party. For that ridiculous mandatory event, she had a couture gown fashioned, while the rest of us sported simple pant suits, cocktail dresses with jackets, designer jeans even. She could have saved our leader a bundle. Our low-budget affair did not require such extravagance, even for the wife of the owner. Didn’t they go anywhere like the opera or a fancy, elite racetrack town like Saratoga, some place where she could wear such a gown? Was this holiday party the height of their yearly forays or whatever they termed them? Really, what did I care? None of my business. I just needed to make sure the innocuous snowflakes, angels, the tangerine and lime green miniature boxes and cans of our Mega-Pistachios were festooned on the tree and full-size cans and boxes were positioned about the room. Even the star at the top of the fake tree had our newest trademark, a tangerine profiled silhouette of Gertrude’s face with a mouth full of lime pistachios. Supposedly it sold well in Europe. I thought it was dreadful and I even had an outburst at a meeting, “It is more likely to lower sales on this side of the Atlantic. It could keep potential buyers from munching our nuts!” But since it was the owner’s wife represented, no one supported me.
At this point in our party preparations, I announced, “Let’s just plug the tree in, Chancy,” our pseudo-electrician. “Everyone step back and make sure it’s a functional, attractive centerpiece for the party.” At this junction people made disgusting snarky sounds. The fairy lights, small in size but plentiful, lit up successfully.
Once the catering staff had set up the high-top tables and placed the green cloths on the food tables, the head caterer signaled me with an, “All’s ready,” and a thumbs up. Then I’d phone and notify Eliza, and by the time I went down my “To Do” list, she’d arrive. I would stand soldier-straight by her as she passed final judgment. I hated that part but it was necessary. I always made sure something wasn’t done right so she could point it out and we could fix the simple mistake and be done with it.
# # #
The moment of reckoning arrived. I entered first. Then I heard the fingernails-on-chalkboard voice of Ms. Eliza, “So how’s our party planning proceeding, Miss In-Charge?” The glint in her eye may have been a refraction from her blue contacts. I believe her true eye color was just brown, not deep and soulful but just brown on the Pantone color chart. “By the way, I brought Lancelot with me, just couldn’t keep him away. Plus, he’s our cake man this year.” Oh shit, she just had to rub in that he was dealing with the cakes, not me. Well good luck with that. For her go-to boy-toy was not to be trusted. Plus, he always had an opinion, a ridiculous one. So he could hold up the whole operation with his request for changes.
“Of course,” I promptly answered.
Since Eliza Doolittle (oh dear, what was her real name!), had a “special” relationship with our Harvey, he might be persuaded to agree with anything the dynamic duo of Eliza and Lancelot came up with for the dessert. I just didn’t want the cakes to be too obscene. After all, not everyone in our tight-knit company was a free-thinker. I mean, they put up with the naughty Santas and sexy she-elves on the tree, maybe ignored them, but still, big cakes with perhaps naked people or pieces of anatomy might not be their cup of hot buttered rum.
But Harvey had bestowed his blessings on Lancelot and the cakes . . . most staff knew there could be bonuses in the air if Harvey was pampered, pleased, cuddled and carefully embraced, as long as we initiated it to avoid impropriety on his part and lawsuits, dismissals and all that shitty stuff.
But as I said, I was a Non-Pipster and would rather produce good ad copy than ply the owner with affection, sexual innuendos and God forbid, more.
# # #
We had just begun imbibing cupfuls of the notorious hot buttered rum when Harvey, Eliza and Gertrude ascended to the lime and tangerine dais. This year the family recipe seemed stronger than usual. But I rationalized that would just help blur the party and the inevitable mishaps and hopefully add to the jolly holiday spirit.
Harvey launched right into his spiel. “I just want to thank you, my loyal employees, for being here, on behalf of the company and me and my wife, Gertrude, during these difficult days.” Master of Ceremonies and our leader, Mr. Harvey Green, began and quickly ended as he burst into tears. We had hardly begun the festivities. The hot buttered rum, his own old family recipe, had just been brought out fifteen or twenty minutes ago. So, dear god, why was he blubbering in front of us? Eliza climbed the steps to the stage in her peculiar duck walk and headed straight to him. She proffered what appeared to be a hankie with embroidered pistachios on it. And she let him lean on her. Since he was so short, it wasn’t much of a stretch for her to gather him into a supportive embrace.
I mean, how much could our Harvey have drunk? He toasted us earlier when the family rum bowl was brought out, fifteen or twenty minutes ago.
As Harvey collapsed in a chair Lancelot heave-hoed onto the stage, the younger, fit man displayed his fine pecs to the women surrounding our leader. Of course, the grande dame of the Harvey Patrol, Eliza Doolittle, began soothing him with baby talk. The microphone picked it all up. “There there, sweet Harvey, how bad could it be? You’re just the sweetest little man. You have a great family pistachio business, a fabulous group of employees who love you. We all love you so much, Pipkins.” Oh, no, was that her private endearment for him? Yuck!
Then he blubbered out, “But my tall drink of water, my sustenance, Gertrude, doesn’t.”
“Doesn’t what?” I found myself asking loudly, as I stood right in front of the stage.
“Doesn’t love me and is moving back to Sweden or Iceland or wherever she’s from and taking the company with her!” He was topsy-turvy, not even remembering what country his own wife was from.
Lancelot brought over a double hot buttered rum for “Our Owner.”
“Our Owner.” What did that mean? Did he own our souls, our lives? Well, he owned our jobs unless his ridiculous wife was leaving him and could actually take the company with her . . .
“You can’t take a company with you to another country!” Lancelot yelled out.
Ignoring this outburst, Eliza said, “Sweet Harvey, you must not worry. Surely there’s some mistake here. For you own this company that has been in your family for decades.” Then Eliza proceeded playing with his extra-long tie and plinging, actually plinging, if there is such a thing, his red suspenders. He was so much smaller than her that she had gathered him into her lap, his head cushioned by her hefty bosom.
Gertrude grabbed the microphone, and with her long red, sharp index finger that resembled a skinny lobster claw, beckoned Ralph Luno, the head accountant, to join her at the podium. It might have been the first time I heard her voice, which was many octaves deeper than I thought humanly possible.
“Dear loyal Mega-Pistachio employees, Ralph and I are here to tell you that we are madly in love and will be moving to Sweden, you nitwit Harvey, with my company.” There was a burst of shrieking horror from the crowd. Then confusion and then much dipping into the punch bowl.
What the hell was she talking about, her company? How could this be? I was soon to find out.
“Of course, tonight, you must enjoy yourselves at your last party here in Kingston, New York, a place I’ve despised. But anyone who has a ready passport and a wish to travel can help us pack up and put in the paperwork for a job transfer to Sweden.” I thought, she’s got to be kidding.
“Of course,” Ralph, as tall and thin as Gertrude with the same milky white hair, began to explain, “It will take quite a while to get the proper papers. And I’ve had mine for a year. So auf Wiedersehen.” He grabbed Mrs. Green by her bouncing tits and pulled her into an obscene embrace.
Suddenly the cakes came out much too early. This error was probably because, well because, I was supposed to be in charge of timing and schedule and was too flabbergasted by the whole scene unfolding to direct. In the midst of this confusion, with me letting go of the reins for a few moments in absolute wonderment, the caterers took it upon themselves to bring them out and ease us to the end of the strange holiday event.
The first cake was fashioned into a semblance of a man’s genital organ with a sparkler lit at its tip. I certainly wouldn’t have approved that design. Lancelot, you cur, I thought. I’ll get you for this. Mr. Harvey Green groaned when he saw it, as he continued to sit on Eliza’s lap and she pushed his face into her amble bosom over and over. “Don’t worry, my love,” she actually pseudo-whispered so we all heard her as her spittle drooled out of his ear. “We will fight this company extradition.” Then she turned to the rest of us gathered ‘round. “Won’t we, Team Pistachio?”
What could we do? I noticed Lancelot eagerly eating parts of the penis cake as I now thought of it. Everywhere I turned disaster and chaos loomed. Not surprisingly, the careful party I had orchestrated was falling apart, twisting into a bacchanalia. There were Eliza and Harvey, as he snuggled into her on her lap and others kissing, embracing, slobbering over each other, pulling off shirts, belts, camisoles – anything and everything.
Then I thought to my horror, perhaps Doolittle would be the next Mrs. Green . . . I definitely needed a new job.
As if reading my mind, Lana and Tana asked loudly in unison, “Do you think we’ll have jobs in the morning?”
I smiled a rictus smile as I swirled my index finger into the crystal punch bowl.
Finally, as the party planner, I spoke up to one and all. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen to Mega-Pistachios. I’m not a lawyer. But tonight, let’s just drink hot buttered rum, scarf canapes, stuff our faces with absurd cakes,” —one with two prominent breasts and a cherry for each nipple had just arrived—and live for the moment.” I found my very inebriated self declaring, as my silver-sequined blouse slipped off my right shoulder and someone from accounting began nibbling my earlobe.
The third cake was the back end of a woman with a G-string. The fourth, two people in the sixty-nine position, gender unclear. “Shall we eat cake?” my ear nibbler asked. “Although you’re mighty tasty, Regina.”
“What the fuck,” I proclaimed. “Yes, let us eat cake, drink hot buttered rum, eat oodles of pistachios, for tomorrow we may be jobless and hung over.” I then snorted, un-lady-like, off-kilter, wondering if I should take a doggy bag home for my greyhound Weasel, who should have just chewed through all my party-planner notes, since nothing had gone according to plan.
My simple declaration got a “Hear, hear,” with fellow office mates clinking crystal cups of rum. Others smashed them against the VFW’s knotty pine walls. Many couples accelerated their kissing and fondling. Lancelot or some guy asked, “How can you move Mr. Green’s family business to another country?”
But there were more pressing issues, so to speak, as Ralph managed to get his right hand entangled in Gertrude’s many-strapped red and black silk sheath. So he just left it there and grabbed the microphone with his left hand. “Some of you believe Harvey Green owns this nutty company. But that’s not true.”
Gertrude, in her unique deep voice, grabbed the microphone again. “The truth is, I had Harvey sign the company and all its assets over to me one passionate night when we had drank a lot, well, he did, peppermint schnapps I believe, and I fucked his brains out and had my way with him so to speak and voilà, I own Mega-Pistachios and adios to you silly clowns and your ridiculous country.”
All of a sudden, the caterers brought out a final cake with sparklers on it as the song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” scratchily played on the VFW inadequate sound system. And when the sparklers were burnt down, while piles of half-naked, unemployed to all intents and purposes employees looked in wonderment, pistachios shot out of little canons from inside the cake while a naked man and woman popped out, working the mini-canons and each other.
Meanwhile Eliza Doolittle did an about face and dropped Harvey Green onto the platform, following Gertrude and Ralph to number one of the waiting limousines, squeaking to them all the way to the limo door about how she could help them run the whole operation in Switzerland. As my nibbler and I took limo numero two out of there, undressing each other with tinted windows to give us some privacy, I came up for air and stuck my head out a window, only to see Eliza Doolittle, doing little, abandoned on the sidewalk as limo one sped away.
As I melted into a fabulous naked embrace, without clothes and without a job, I felt free and screamed out the window, “Tomorrow be damned. This is the best holiday party I ever planned! And thank you God, the last one too!”