After dinner they took their glasses of wine into the living room. Pulpy sat next to Midge on the sectional and Dan and Beatrice reclined on separate ends of the divan in front of their large bay window. ‘That was delicious,’ said Pulpy. ‘Thank you,’ said Beatrice. ‘I apologize for the peas, though. Dan did those.’ ‘I always do the peas.’ Dan made a shooting gun with one hand and blew on his index finger. ‘Peas are my specialty.’ ‘I love peas,’ said Midge. ‘Who doesn’t?’ said Dan. Midge perched on the edge of the couch. ‘Dan, would you mind turning the fire on?’ ‘Ho-ho!’ he said, and reached for the remote. ‘The lady likes it hot!’ Pulpy looked sideways at her, but she was watching Dan press the button. Flames roared up in the hearth and Beatrice lifted her glass. ‘To us.’ They all raised their glasses. ‘Clinky-clink,’ said Dan. ‘Clinky-clink!’ Beatrice giggled into her hand. ‘Dan and I always say that when we do a cheers.’ ‘Well, then,’ said Pulpy. ‘Clinky-clink from us too.’ Beatrice’s eyes locked on him. ‘How’s your booboo?’ she said, and gulped back her wine. Pulpy inspected the pink circle of his swaddled fingertip. ‘A lot better, thanks.’ Midge put a hand on his knee.
* * *
Dan leaned back. ‘You know, this makes me think. The lack of team spirit at our office is sort of like getting a cut on the end of your finger. It’s like a cut on the end of our collective finger. So what do you do? You can put a Band-Aid on it, but that’s not quite enough. So what then?’
‘You could hold onto the Band-Aid,’ said Pulpy. ‘So it doesn’t slip off.’
‘You could. You could indeed. But I think there’s a better way.’
‘Dan,’ said Beatrice. ‘I thought we weren’t going to talk about work in front of Midge.’
‘Don’t worry about me,’ said Midge.
‘No, no, she’s right.’ Dan held up a hand. ‘Midge, forgive me.’
Midge pushed herself further into the couch and drank some wine.
‘Work talk can make people feel uncomfortable.’ Beatrice stood and walked over to pluck the bottle of red from the dining room table. She set it on the coffee table in front of her and sat down again. ‘We don’t like to exclude anyone.’
Dan uncrossed his legs. ‘No, we do not.’
‘So, Midge.’ Beatrice smiled and reached back to finger the lacy white drapes behind her. ‘When are we going to take our shopping trip? How about tomorrow?’ ‘Our shopping trip,’ said Midge.
‘Dan did tell you about it,’ Beatrice said to Pulpy.
‘He did.’ Pulpy turned to Midge. ‘Remember I told you?’
‘No, no, yes. The shopping trip.’ Midge blinked at him. ‘Tomorrow would work, I guess.’
‘Perfect!’ said Beatrice. ‘Oh, we are going to have fun!’
Dan pointed at Pulpy. ‘You and me, then. They get a girls’ night, we get a boys’ night.’
‘All right,’ he said.
Dan made a fist and hit his leg with it. ‘Boys’ night!’ The four of them sat there and sipped their wine, and then Midge smiled at their hosts. ‘So, how did you two meet?’ Dan picked the fireplace remote off the coffee table and started to play with the settings.
‘Tell them, Dan,’ said Beatrice. Pulpy watched Midge gape at the flames as they grew, shrank, and grew again.
‘We were at a hotel bar,’ said Beatrice. ‘Sounds easy to remember, but Dan always forgets the story. Isn’t that funny?’ She filled up her glass.
‘Hilarious.’ Dan swigged the last of his wine and reached for the bottle.
‘I just like to ask,’ said Midge in a quiet voice. ‘It’s always nice to hear people’s stories.’
‘It is nice, isn’t it?’ said Beatrice.
Midge took a sip of her wine, which was almost gone. ‘Pulpy and I met at the mall. We were in a pet store.’ ‘Commerce,’ said Dan. ‘Good omen.’ Pulpy smiled at his wife. ‘We were both standing in front of the fish tank.’ Beatrice pivoted toward Dan. ‘Do you see that? Do you see how they take turns telling the story?’ She looked back to Pulpy and Midge. ‘Dan got his wedding speech off the Internet.’ Dan banged his glass down so it sloshed, and stood up. ‘It wasn’t the whole speech. Just part of the speech.’ ‘Oh, just part of the speech. That’s okay then.’ Beatrice glared at him. ‘I’m sure it was a very nice speech,’ said Midge. Pulpy finished the few drops left in his glass. ‘He gave a fine speech at Al’s retirement party.’ ‘I wrote my wedding speech. I thought of it myself.’ Beatrice nodded at her husband. ‘He used one of those automatic word generators.’ ‘She goes on and on about her speech,’ said Dan. ‘It really wasn’t that great.’ Beatrice slammed her own glass onto the table, spilling red, and stood to face him. ‘I put my heart into that speech!’ ‘Yeah, your heart.’ Dan slumped back onto the divan and picked up his wine. Beatrice did the same. Pulpy and Midge sat there on the sectional, holding their empty glasses.