Finally! Three weeks of intricate negotiations had paid off. No more late nights. No more skulking in the woods. No more tribute gifts or cryptic message-tapping. Katie and Casper had agreed to come to dinner.
Sure, their request for “ambient night music” was a bit quirky. And the menu was odd, to say the least:
Large dead beetle?
Bottle caps filled with water?
Hurriedly, Elsa reviewed her second list:
Safety and Communications.
Front door open a crack?
[She hobbled to the front door.]
Seated at table, feet propped up?
[She switched it on, and it hummed.]
She was happily toying with the Decodamatic’s dials and knobs when two black splotches crept into her peripheral vision.
“OH!” Elsa startled slightly at the crickets’ sudden, noiseless arrival – but she remembered not to jump too much. “I’m so honored to meet you!”
The friendlier cricket jumped onto Elsa’s arm. “You must be Katie!”
Her front legs shivered slightly as she swept her antenna into a graceful arc of greeting.
“And you, sir – you must be Casper!”
Casper jerked one front leg in greeting. Katie spun to face him and waggled her antenna quite violently.
Interesting, Elsie thought. Casper doesn’t want to be here, and Katie is telling him to get his act together.
“You two must be hungry. Why don’t you relax and eat. You can give me the crickets’ perspective on haiku later, once you’ve refreshed yourselves.”
Casper made a bee line for the dead beetle. Katie’s antenna drooped till they rested on the tabletop.
Poor Katie. She’s mortified.
“Hey, dig in! My house is your house,” Elsie said – more for Katie than for Casper. “It’s very informal here.”
Katie waggled her antenna gracefully, then nibbled at the leaf mould. Then she bounded across the table, onto the decoder tablet:
THANK YOU MS PALOMA
Elsa beamed. “You’re very welcome, dear.”
She watched Casper dismantle his beetle. She watched Katie shuffle her leaf mould in nervous little piles.
And she realized – no decoder tablet was necessary.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Many thanks to Phylor for a fun first prompt!