The Mystery Guests

A tussle over the farmer’s market’s last rabbit leads to a dinner invitation — and mounting anxiety over who’s coming to supper.

By Sharon L. Hobson
Illustration by Patrick Corrigan

While enjoying a bowl of oatmeal at the Bristol Diner a dozen years ago, I noticed a large stranger step out of the kitchen to write lunch specials in a rounded script:Southern Fried Chicken with Lyonnaise Potatoes and Sautéed Greens $7.50.

Retired fishermen nursing their coffees shook their heads in amusement. Exotic at the Bristol Diner was Wednesday afternoon’s turkey chili.

“You’re new,” I said to the woman. Her name was Beverly, and she might have been from Boston, or New York, or from down South; it seemed to change during the three months I knew her. We became friends and, within a few weeks, she moved into the guest room of my little cabin.

I was managing the seasonal Coveside Restaurant in Christmas Cove. Beverly was cooking breakfast and lunch at the diner. We shared a passion for food and soon concocted a plan to try our hand at a secret restaurant. I knew people, and she already had a reputation as a larger-than-life woman who could really cook, so we relied on word-of-mouth.

Beverly took care of the food, and I ran the front of the house. The living/dining room of my cabin was emptied and set up for ten diners. Guests were instructed to leave cash in an envelope for the meal. We sold out for our 
experimental Saturday night.

Cooking began days in advance. Aromas from slow-simmering braises filled the air as Beverly hummed in the kitchen. I ironed linens, arranged flowers, washed windows. On Friday, we drove to the Damariscotta farmer’s market to purchase local salad greens.

As I blissfully buried my nose in a box of locally foraged mushrooms, I heard an argument developing. I was shocked to see Beverly in a disagreement with a much shorter and older lady.

“But I just bought it!” I heard the woman say.
“Beverly, what’s going on?” I asked.

“This woman just bought the last rabbit and I want it!” Beverly complained.

“Rabbit is not on our menu.” I reasoned.

“But I want it! It would be perfect.” Beverly enthused.

With narrowed eyes, Beverly looked down at the woman and said, “I am going to pay you for this rabbit. You are going to come to Sharon’s cabin on Sunday evening and eat rabbit with us.”
It was difficult to say no to Beverly.

“Okay,” said the woman, “what can I bring?”