Our host, Martin, tapped a utensil against a glass to get everyone’s attention and then directed us to the dining room. His booming voice, which rivaled a bull horn, seemed a severe contrast to soft lighting. As we entered the dining room I could make out the shapes of table and chairs but my depth perception was completely hoodwinked by the darkness. I wondered how we were going to make it to a table safely but my concerns were quickly relieved – our host was counting us off and leading us to tables much like a Disneyland employee steers patrons into ride car.
We had just enough light and time to introduce ourselves around the large, round table before the room went black and we were instructed to don our blindfolds. My blindfold was a silk mask with elastic straps which easily slipped over my head. I noticed Mary Margaret’s was a true blindfold and a waiter helped her tie it behind her head. We shared our table with Reverend Linda the Episcopal priest, and her parishioner Daniel. Reverend Linda had a short stint as a standup comic before deciding to join the clergy. Also present were Edward and Hillary Patton, retired teachers who now owned a small Asian grocery store specializing in high quality produce and seafood, and Sandy and Marty O’Neil. Sandy, my friend who owns the Ford dealership, is married to an underwater welder.
Marty sat to my right and Mary Margaret to my left. Sandy was to the right of her husband and the Patton’s were to Mary Margaret’s left. That left the Reverend Linda and her friend across the table. I memorized their positions since I couldn’t see them. I could deal with not knowing what I’m eating but I do want to know who I am talking to.
We felt the movement of air around us. I heard the sound of china plates bumping on serving trays before “your appetizer, Miss.” I always like it when I’m addressed as Miss instead of Mam. The problem with eating in the dark became obvious as I groped the table for my fork and then realized I didn’t even know what utensil I needed for the dish.
“Does anyone know what this is?” I asked. “Because I am not sure if it is solid or liquid.”
“Perhaps we should take turns using our hands. I’ll go first” said the Reverend. “Hum…well, its solid but it moving around the plate as I am trying to pick it up”
“Moving? Is it alive?” Mary Margaret’s comments had the table laughing. We were off to a good start.
“It’s a ball” said the Reverend “a pretty big one.” The others held their snickers although in the dark we would never have known who had the dirty mind. “I’m going to bite into it now,” Snicker, snicker. “It’s sorta crunchy on the outside and soft inside”. That was all some members of our table could take and they laughed out loud. “What, what’s so funny?” she asked trying to sound innocent.
I instinctually felt like protecting the Reverend. “It’s just the running commentary. Sounds funny when you can’t see what you are talking about. Go ahead, don’t let us stop you.”
The Reverend replied “it’s good. I think it is rice.”
At that point we all tried our appetizers. The consensus was seasoned rice around a morsel of fish and rolled in something crunchy. Whatever it was, it was tasty. When the waiter picked up the plates Sandy asked “are you going to tell us what it is?”
“The host will be around shortly” was his response.
Just as predicted, Martin arrived and explained our first dish was a crab stuffed risotto ball. “This dish was in honor of your Crab Festival. The risotto was flavored with three cheeses, formed around a lump of crabmeat, and then rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs before frying. It can be made with lobster, shrimp, or without seafood.”
He was gone as fast as he arrived. “That was very good. I could make a meal of the appetizer” Sandy said and the others agreed.
“OK, I’ll go first this time” I said. A couple minutes later the waiters returned. First, I felt for the container. It was round – a bowl. And, it was cold – what? I ran my fingers up over the rim of the bowl and into the interior until I made contact with a cold, thick liquid. I lifted the bowl to smell the contents but that was inconclusive. “I believe it is some sort of cold soup.”
My tablemates began to consume the liquid and there was much debate on what it was. It was accompanied by some sort of cracker. Not the usual packaged type but some sort of cheesy crisp that was very thin and pungent. The soup was a bit sweet yet tasted like a green vegetable. I didn’t eat much because I thought I detected the taste of sour cream.
When Marty came around he informed us that the soup was sugar pea served with parmesan crackers. Yes, there was a dollop of sour cream on the soup. I proposed to my table that the garnish was a wasted effort since we could not see it. That comment was worth a few chuckles. Marty explained that the entrée would be served next followed by a salad. He wanted us to understand the order of the presentation because it was not the typical American presentation of salad before entrée.
The entrée, like the appetizer, was delicious. It was definitely steak and I was guessing filet mignon because of the shape and size. It was smothered in a creamy sauce with small pieces of something earthy tasting. I also detected roasted garlic. Our table decided it was a mushroom sauce. Our suspicion was confirmed when Marty informed us it was filet mignon with a portabella & roasted garlic sauce enriched with heavy cream. I learned there was also a garnish of grilled root vegetable slices but I either missed them or devoured them with the sauce and didn’t recognize that they weren’t portabellas.
Once again I heard the swishing of waiters but this time a hand went over my mouth. I realized the hand contained some type of fabric that was pushed into my mouth. I struggled to remove the hand and fabric but I was falling backward in my chair. The hand was leaning me back and pulling my chair away from the table. I tried to get up but I was too far back for my feet to touch the ground. I tried to make noise but my assailant was holding my mouth closed around the fabric and my head was against his body causing pain to pulse through my neck.
I thought I was going to pass out or worse. What was going on? Why was this happening? For a moment I wondered if everyone was being assaulted but I heard my tablemates continuing in normal conversation. Suddenly, there was something warm in my face. It moved around to my ear and I could feel by the breath that it was a person. A person who had been drinking.
“Shut up you stupid bitch” a man’s voice whispered “I’ll break your neck right here if you don’t stop struggling. I have a message for you – mind your own fucking business” and with that the hand and voice were gone. I was frozen with fear.
I could hear my name repeated but before I could answer I took a blow to the head and arm then one to the abdomen. My injuries were followed by a rumble of bodies and voices. I pulled off my mask but of course I remained in darkness. I took another shoe to the head. I saw a beam of light moving rapidly around me. Then I saw blackness again……………