"Hey, Denny, have you given any thought to Thanksgiving? We need to finalize plans," Alan said the first Saturday in November. The two men were sitting in their home's library with the newspaper divided between them; Denny had the financial and sports sections while Alan had the arts and leisure and world and national news sections.
"The only thing about Thanksgiving that I was thinking is: Why do the Lions play that day every year? Why not the Pats? It's not right!"
Alan held up his hand. "Honestly, I couldn't care less who plays on Thanksgiving Day or any other day. I just want a different Thanksgiving than last year's*. I want to be someone's guest this year, I think. The staff should have off, so let's stay in town in our condo. I understand the Mayor is hosting an invitation only fundraising dinner at the Museum of Fine Art for his upcoming campaign. Supposedly, it will be one of the 'must attend' social events of the season. I think I would like to go."
Denny listened as Alan voiced his wishes. "Sounds to me like our plans are already made." He smiled indulgently and winked at the younger man. "What do you need me for?"
Alan replied, "Denny, I'll always need you. You're my best friend, as if you need me to tell you. Besides, if you don't want to go, then we won't go."
"Hmmph," Denny grunted, "So, you're sure you don't want to go out of town for the holiday?"
Alan grinned wickedly. "I am quite sure. I think the Cranes need to make the social rounds this holiday season. We need to be seen out and about enjoying ourselves. Think about it."
Denny put the newspaper down and looked hard at Alan. "We need to be seen? Does this have anything to do with whatever happened at our Halloween party that you won't tell me?"
"Let's just say that I received a challenge that I can't ignore. I'm changing the subject: Let's have dinner in town tonight."
Late morning the next day, Denny dialed the number to Mayor Johnston's cell phone. He waited patiently as the phone rang and rang. He knew Brian Johnston always waited until at least the tenth ring to answer because he felt that if you really wanted to speak to him, you would leave a voicemail. "If you hung up, it wasn't that important" is what he always said. Denny's patience was rewarded when a brusque voice finally said, "Go for Johnston!"
"Brian, it's Denny Crane! I understand you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at the Museum of Fine Art. Alan and I talked about it and we'd like to attend."
Mayor Johnston swallowed loud enough for Denny to hear. "Hello, Denny. Um, I'm so used to you being in warmer climes this time of year; are you sure you'll even be around for Thanksgiving?"
"Well," Denny said, "this year, Alan and I have already traveled so much that we are looking forward to spending the holidays in Boston. Is something wrong, Brian? You don't sound exactly pleased that Alan and I want to attend your fundraising dinner and you know how much money I donated to your last run."
"Denny," the mayor sighed, "This is awkward. I've already invited the Lanfords and the Gladstones and they've accepted."
Denny was starting to feel the stirrings of anger. When the mayor didn't say anything else, he retorted, "And?"
"Well, when Jessica received the invitation, she called and asked if you and Alan were on the guest list. I said no because you've been traveling the last three holiday seasons. Her response to that was 'Good, because Alan made a pass at me during their Halloween party and we had to leave.' So, you see, inviting you now would be…"
"Would be what?" Denny broke in, "How dare you take the word of that lying cow over someone who has been nothing but supportive of you and your administration!" Denny was livid. As he stood up from his desk, he walked to the doorway of his study to make sure Alan was not within earshot. Closing the door, he began to pace back and forth as he continued to harangue the Mayor of Boston. "Let me explain something to you, Brian: This is the first I'm hearing of this so – called 'pass' Alan is supposed to have committed against Jessica and that proves it's a lie!Alan Shore – Crane is the most honorable man I have ever had the privilege to know and if he had put the moves on her, he would have told me!"
The laugh that came through the phone only served to infuriate him more. "Denny, your husband would tell you he attempted to cheat on you? Yeah, right. You're being naïve, my friend."
"And you're beingawfully flippant for someone whose term is up next year and wants to be a re – elected Republican in a very Democratic state. You listen to me, Brian, and you listen good. I want an invitation to your Thanksgiving dinner. And, I want Jessica and Hilton Lanford to be disinvited."
"Now see here, Denny, who the hell do you think you are telling me to disinvite anyone to a soiree of mine?"
"I'm Denny Crane! The attorney who represented you when you finally decided to divorce that leech you called a wife who tried to take you to the cleaners while I kept all the salacious details out of the papers. I'm the lawyer who proved that same woman had been carrying on an affair under your nose for years and therefore, was not entitled to any of your hard earned cash. I am the husband of the lawyer who managed to keep your bonehead son out of jail after he got drunk and beat up his girlfriend. Are you really telling me that Alan and I are not welcome to your Thanksgiving dinner?"
"Oh, alright! You two are invited; of course you're both invited. I'm looking forward to seeing you. It's black tie."
"And?" Denny added sweetly.
"And, I'll call the Lanfords to tell them that they are no longer invited. What about the Gladstones, Denny? Were they part of the problem?"
Denny shrugged. Remembering Brian couldn't see that he said, "I don't know; I only know they're best friends with Jessica and Hilton. I guess their invitation can still stand. They might beg off anyway when they find out about the situation. Who cares. Anyway, Brian, thank you so much for our invitation. We'll see you Thursday!" Denny said cheerily as he ended the call.
He opened the door to his study and saw his housekeeper passing by. "Maria, have you seen Alan?"
"Yes, Denny, he said to tell you that he would be back soon. He said that he wanted to go with Dave to gas up the limo and the Bentley and pick up that beer you like so you can have it when you watch the Patriots game."
"Thank you," he said as he headed toward the den. If he comes back with hot dogs, too; I'll know something is going on. He grabbed the remote and turned on the sixty – five inch wall – mounted flat screen TV affixed to the far wall and the surround sound. He loved watching sports, porn and Fox News in here while Alan enjoyed viewing CNN, Cspan and that show about attorneys Alan said reminded him of their days at Crane Poole and Schmidt. He was just settling in on the couch to watch "NFL Today" when Alan entered the room with a six – pack, pulled one can free to hand to Denny and then placed the remainder in the small fridge they kept in the room.
"Hey," he said affably as he lowered himself to the couch, "the cars are all gassed up and Olympia is putting together a lunch tray of franks, French fries and all the fixin's. I hope you're hungry."
"What I'm hungry for are answers! I had a very interesting conversation with Brian Johnston about an hour ago."
"Ahhhh," Alan replied as he reached over to snag the beer he had just given Denny. He took a swig and then handed it back. "That explains the very interesting conversation I had with Jessica as I was tooling around in the Bentley. She accused me of getting her and Hilton booted off the Mayor's guest list for Thanksgiving. I attempted to assure her that I had done no such thing, but she would have none of it. I take it we are on his guest list?"
Denny shifted his considerable bulk to get more comfortable. "Yes, you brat, we're going to that fundraiser. Now, would you mind telling me what happened Halloween night?"
"Oh, it was nothing, really," Alan said as he reached for some French fries that were on the platter Olympia brought in and placed on the coffee table in front of them along with Alan's large glass of milk before going out and closing the door behind her. "I was getting more ice when Jessica came into the pantry and kissed me. When I told her that if I were to break my marital vows, it wouldn't be with her, she became irate and made it clear that she would see the two of us blackballed from Boston society. So, in the words of that womanizing young man on that show about some guy looking for love, 'Challenge accepted.'"
The game started and the conversation took a backseat until halftime. Alan sat quietly using his IPhone while paying minimal attention to the screen. He cared very little about sports; in fact, the first time he had ever gone to a sporting event was when Denny took him to a Red Sox game after they had known each other about two years.** Alan simply enjoyed being around Denny; their friendship anchored him and helped keep him calm.
As soon as the clock wound down to signal the beginning of halftime, Denny muted the sound, got a fresh beer from the fridge and announced, "That bitch lied."
Alan looked up from his phone. "What?"
"Jessica. She lied to Brian that you approached her and when she rebuffed your advances, you threw her out. I don't appreciate anyone spreading lies about you. How dare she come on to you and then lie about it? And she had the, the, the balls to threaten to ruin our social standing? Alan, we aren't going away for Christmas or New Year's; we are staying right here for the holidays. I think we need to piss on this town to mark our territory and push the Lanfords out of our way."
Alan started guffawing and said, "Oh Denny, I am so hoping you are speaking figuratively! You are wicked!"
The halftime show was winding down and Denny picked up the remote in anticipation of turning up the volume. "No; I am about the truth. And the Cranes are about to show Jessica Lanford the truth about whose name carries more weight in this town. Mark my words, Alan: Jessica Lanford is going to rue the day she crossed us." With that, he hit the mute button again and focused his attention back on the TV, signaling the end of the conversation.
I should have told Denny sooner, Alan thought as he went back to playing games on his IPhone, because this game just got really heated.
Alan pulled the Bentley into the Museum of Fine Art's parking lot just before three on Thanksgiving Day. Dinner was being served at four – thirty with drinks and hors d'oeuvres served from three until dinner. The two men were turned out beautifully in custom – made tuxedoes. They walked into the main lobby where the cocktail hour was being held and Denny, the more gregarious of the two, began to work the room with Alan in his wake.
Denny seemed to know everyone and with one or two exceptions, actually did. The people there he didn't know personally he had heard enough about to engage them in polite, albeit brief, conversation. He shook hands vigorously with the men and graciously held the hands of the women as he charmed them with a compliment or two. He could have been a politician courting votes and would have behaved no differently.
Alan did his part by being the attentive, dutiful spouse who got their drinks from the servers and smiled. He knew that being with Denny made him more palatable to the social elite and without Denny; he wouldn't exist to them except when they needed an attorney and that suited him just fine. He was known for his bluntness and the enjoyment he got from bursting the ego – bubble of self – important people, usually at the most embarrassing moment. If Jessica had not said what she said, he and Denny probably would have gone to New York for Thanksgiving and St. Thomas for Christmas and New Year's. But she had, and here they were. And she knew it.
That thought made him grin as he looked around the room. In a far corner, he saw Frank and Joanne Gladstone conversing with Judge Peyton. "Denny," he said, "Sorry to interrupt, but I see Victoria speaking with Frank and Joanne. I'm going to join them."
Denny winked at him and replied, "I'll be over there as soon as I finish telling Gary and Lilly about our trip to Nantucket."
Alan smiled at the group he was leaving and then turned to walk across the floor. "Hello, all." When the threesome turned his way he said, "Frank, Joanne, did you know that Judge Victoria Peyton here was going to marry Denny and me?"
Frank said, "I had no idea; I heard a Supreme Court Justice did the honors."
Victoria smiled broadly and said, "It just so happened that Justice Scalia was at the Lodge at Nimmo Bay on vacation and Alan the Bold here asked if he would and he said yes. It was fine with me; I still had a free trip to Nimmo Bay."
"Indeed, and we were very happy that you were there," Alan said sincerely. Turning his attention to Joanne he said, "I've seen Frank around town, but I haven't seen you since Halloween. How have you been?"
Contempt was so obvious on her face that Victoria cleared her throat, mumbled that she needed to find her husband and walked away. "I know what you did to Jessica and I find it, and you, despicable!" she hissed, "She called me to ask if Frank and I had also been told not to come. We started to stay away to support her, but she insisted we come and I agreed just so I could tell you to your face how disgusting you are."
Frank was mortified. "Joanne, stop it!" he whispered fiercely.
Alan held up a hand to the man. "It's alright, Frank. As dressing downs go, this is one of the milder ones I've had to endure." Glancing back at the angry woman he added, "I understand she is your best friend and you want to defend her. I feel the same way about my best friend. You, however, are backing the wrong horse. I hope it works out for you, but I don't think so."
Before she could respond, Denny came up to the group. "Hey, people are starting to head into the dining area. Is everything good here?"
Frank shook Denny's hand and said, "Everything's fine. Joanne and I are sitting with the Coleys; care to join us?"
Alan said, "No, thank you, Frank. Denny's already made arrangements for us to sit elsewhere. We'll see you later." He put his arm through Denny's and led them away.
The older man's face furrowed in concentration. "Arrangements to sit where?"
"Anywhere away from them. And, not to worry, you didn't actually make any."
Denny visibly relaxed. "Oh, good. I thought I was slipping."
Alan stopped walking and turned to look at Denny. "I'm sorry; I'm an idiot. I just wanted not to sit with the Gladstones. It was a bad idea on my part to invite them and the Lanfords into our lives and once the New Year is here, they won't be. You were right, Denny; we didn't need to expand our social circle."
"Of course I was right; Denny Crane!."
Chuckling at Denny's trademark braggadocio, Alan rubbed Denny's arm affectionately and said, "You know what I'm thankful for today? Our friendship, our relationship and our marriage. I love that we are honest with each other, that you indulge me and want me to be happy and that you will do anything to make me happy. I love that I can trust you, Denny. Jessica is Joanne's best friend, but she has lied to her about me making a pass at her. I think she has probably lied to Joanne about other things. I don't know; I don't care. I know that you don't lie to me and that is everything."
Touched, Denny replied, "I'm grateful for you, Alan. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You are a comfort. I couldn't ask for a better friend or spouse. If the Lanfords and the Gladstones have a problem with you, then they have a problem with me. And you know what they say: Living well is the best revenge and we live better than anyone." Gesturing with his head toward the crowd he said, "Let's go sit with Victoria and her husband. Tonight after we get home, we'll talk about what we want to do for Christmas."
As they headed into the dining area Alan smiled and said, "Sounds like a plan to me."