The last party had been the worst. Lamont (One-up) Wimple spoiled it for us. ''Give me any line in the book,'' he announced, ''and I'll give you the next one.'' The problem cried out for solution. Wimple must be silenced! But how do you silence a man who does indeed recite accurately any line in a book, if given the previous one?
Early on, Wimple actually seemed to stimulate our discussions, as spice seasons food. But the illusion gradually became apparent. ''Experience is the child of thought,'' Gertrude Bosley had articulated, clinching a point about Disraeli. ''Only if one concludes,'' Wimple injected (with obvious delight), ''that thought is the child of action.''
Wimple was precise, certainly. But Gertrude's line of reasoning had not allowed for Wimple's crime. The number and intensity of such incidents accumulated.
Our collective sense of humor held the problem in abeyance until JoEllen Smickney, concluding a beautiful thought concerning Gertrude Stein, had us wet-eyed: ''America is my country and Paris is my hometown and it is as it has come to be,'' she concluded and sat down. In less than a second, Wimple had thrust his cherubic face, dimples at full power, into our circle, proclaiming with his hearty laugh Stein's next line: ''After all anybody is as their land and air is.'' Wimple's accurate quote lingered like staleness in a closed room. Our hearts turned hard against Wimple.
When MacNeath - quoting fervently the first witch in Macbeth (during our heated discussion of the effects of thunder and lightning personification in Shakespeare's plays), immediately drew Wimple's: ''When the hurlyburly's done, when the battle's lost and won!'' - everybody got up and went home. There were no more parties for a long time. The solution to the problem, we lamented, was not in not having our book/author parties, but in not inviting Wimple (or rather , not allowing him inside, since he was never invited anymore). Haley Finn phoned around and rounded us up at her house, and we planned, over tea and cake, how to keep Wimple away. After we decided on a way, Amanda Fiske stood, triumphantly smiling, and said, ''Try again, if at first you fail (from a current bestseller)!''
''Then,'' returned the ominously familiar voice from the shadows cast by the potted plants, ''we will not wail and wail!''
Following another discouraging interim, Sally Zraffkin gathered us, like strayed lambs, together again, enticing us with her famous baked goods. We barred the windows, drew the shades, bolt-locked the doors. We convened in the attic - posting Harvey Goldman at the base of the stairs and Jerome Clumberton at the top. We placed Irving Sporman outside the door with a bullhorn. We voted not to have a fire in the fireplace, and Sally began to pass around her Danish and almond delights, quoting: ''Intelligent beings can conquer anything,'' to top it all off.
''But only,'' came the devastatingly well-known voice from the maw of the fireplace, ''if they don't exclude anyone!'' As usual, Wimple's quotation was exact. I suppose we could have tried one more time - with a fire in the fireplace, or assigning somebody to turn up the stereo at the instant we concluded a discussion, or we could have promptly slapped in our wax earplugs. But we decided to give Wimple one more chance to repent.