It should be nearing evening as you set the table, first covering with a gingham tablecloth, then arranging the two place settings — yours on the left, and one for Agnus, your lily of a sweetheart, on the right. Place two candles mid-table, taking care to leave sufficient space between them so as to be able to view Agnus through the bosom of fire. A decorative arrangement of stephanotis is lovely at the base of the candelabra, or leaping lilies of the valley. The table should be round, and small enough for you to reach, at an easy arm’s length, for Agnus’ liebfraumilch cheeks, or claret lips, or her stocking incarcerated leg. And between the two of you, in a semi-circle arching like a sickle toward the wall, arrange the following buffet so that it spans the table, a collapsed bridge between you and Agnus:

1. One teak bowl filled with Triscuit wheat-wave crackers, another humped with almonds.

2. One butcher-block cutting board arranged with Imported Swiss, Kashkaval, Camembert, and melt-in-your-mouth, breast soft Brie, all surrounded by a moat of apples.


3. One wicker basket lined with linen, filled with warmed slices of French bread, an air of garlic that rises to steam a photo of a hen.

Good. Now the wine, selection of which is both an art and a science, both of which you may at present ignore, for Cabernet Sauvignon (Red, sturdy, full-bodied! Strong in flavor and bouquet!) most easily mingles with blood. Although quite expensive, B.V. Reserve is the best of this varietal, and is therefore suggested. To determine the amount of wine needed, add together the body weights of both yourself and Agnus (who, it seems, has gotten a little chubby lately), and move the decimal point of the sum two places to the left. The resulting number will give you the required number of bottles for complete submersion, for thoroughly marinating the liver (for example: you weigh 175 pounds; Agnus weighs 145; Total: 175 + 145 = 320. Now move the decimal two places to the left and the quotient is 3.20, or approximately three fifths and a split).

At the last minute, when everything is set (make sure the required number of bottles are on hand, open and breathing; the buffet is arched in its crescent moon; and Bach is slowly drenching the curtains), at the last minute, just as the sun rubs its breast on the mountain, telephone Agnus and call the thing off — explaining how suddenly you are feeling ill (O the vomiting! O the uncontrollable niagran diarrhea!). No, you don’t need a doctor. Yes, you’re sure. Yes, you’ll call her in the morning. You’re very, very sorry.

Sit at your place at the table and, after swimming to the bottom of your wooden goblet, look across the table — over the stephanotis and through the flames (to grandmother’s house we go), that is, to the glow where Agnus’ breasts would be. While focusing there, on this purer than Platonic image of a woman, you may drink, and drown, and fill up your lungs with a rich bouquet, and pump up your heart with dead, predictable blood; and at last when you’re drunk with the wobbling earth, and at last when the vines yield a rich harvest of raisins, you can put down your face in the dish and lick it, as though sucking the moon, or you could squeeze out the life from the scars on your liver, or fill a chalice with blood and take it and drink from it, and spill it, and swim in it, because an excess of sorrow is laughing.