Howard hissed in exasperation at the fly hovering above the dining table.
The napkin flicked at the unwelcome guest missed, snapping the fragile stem of the wine glass.
De-lux rich ruby seeped into the pristine white linen tablecloth, shards of crystal glittered in the pool of liquid as the cloth slowly turned to crimson.
He would have to start all over again, the presence of the unwanted fly had disrupted his routine of laying the table up for Sunday lunch. The ceremony for Sunday lunch was an elaborate affair, a four hour ritual including meal preparation performed with military precision.
He always began by placing a small square mahogany table in the bay window which offered a view of the garden. Once the table legs were lined up with the window frames, he would take a starched white linen tablecloth from the dresser, holding the cloth at arms length he approached the table, six steps in all, counting aloud as he went.
As he uttered six, he carefully allowed the cloth to drop, the creases pressed to fall at the table edges.
He would then take four steps back and silently survey the scene, very rarely would he need to adjust the material, the folds were always sharp and square.
He took great pride in carefully ironing the cloth, a task carried out every Friday evening at six pm precisely.
In all, nine perfect squares covered the table with number seven starting at the top left hand side.
One square draped over to fall in line with the brass screws of the hinged table leafs.
Once he was satisfied all was correct, a bamboo mat was laid in the middle, square thirteen.
A tiny Juniper bonsai tree in an antique porcelain dish carefully placed on top.
Moving down to square eight Howard placed another bamboo mat with ivory handled knife and fork in line with the creases.
With arms folded behind his back he slid four steps back allowing himself a smile of satisfaction as he gazed at the geometric pattern.
Next, he placed a napkin rolled within a silver ring to the top of the place mat.
He would again retreat four steps back to view the table.
He always liked to set the table this way, things had to be exact, the laying of cutlery had to be just so, nothing required adjusting.
It helped to pass the time, place an item on the table, step back, then place another.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, slow, sliding steps, like a dance, a tea dance, only he had no one to dance with.
Howard was quite content with his own company now after all these years.
There was a time the table was set for two.
As he sat alone looking down towards the garden he heard the faint buzzing of a fly.
Reaching forward he carefully moved the wine glass to one side and slowly removed the napkin from the silver ring.