The Party, Fiction by Jim Meirose

 
Walter believed that the senses of the body were the inputs to the soul—and he wondered what the soul was. Watching the houses going by—watching the sidewalk rolling by underneath. The passing cars. What was the point of being alive and perceiving all this? The soul was the point. The soul—but what was the soul—

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Smiling, he rubbed his hand over a passing telephone pole and ran the other hand over the top of the hedge gliding by. Not wanting to be late for his job at Fox’s dollar store, he picked up the pace. The road ran by him and the cars and the wires above danced from pole to pole. He pulled his briar pipe from his pocket and as he walked removed the tin foil from atop the bowl. The bowl was full of pipe tobacco mixed with ground up opiated hashish; his good friend Parkie had been good to him this time; extra special good. Pausing at the intersection with a one way street, he lit the pipe with a big blue Bic. To get through the grinding dollar store job required an alternate reality—and, finding himself actually thinking this thought, he grinned to himself as he began to smoke. Passing by a row of decrepit boarded up peeling frame houses with yards of weeds and dirt and abandoned stripped cars he thought what a fine town this is indeed; the plume of smoke from his mouth was sweet; it tickled his nose. Reaching Main Street he turned right and went in the front door of fox’s after smothering his pipe and popping a strong breath mint. Old Fox came up all hook nosed bald and gaunt in blue coveralls like a mechanic would wear, and as dirty, and nodded to Walter. Words came in Walter’s head as clear as if Fox had been saying them. He twined his gnarled fingers together as Walter heard the words.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

Walter nodded back at Fox and passed him by and headed to the storeroom, where the work was. A shipment of men had come in yesterday and needed to be shelved. A shipment of men, smiled Walter. Men. He gripped the softened knob on the door to the back room and stepped in. The palace that was the storeroom unfolded before him; incense snaked upward from censers about, the ceiling domed and a light shone down bright as the sun; and the boxes of men lay there from yesterday. With shaking hands Walter ripped open the first box and ran his hand through the mass of plastic toy army men inside; green and haughty, weapons at the ready, the men lay in a mass jumbled into what seemed almost a solid thing; like you could pick one up and all the others would come with it. Walter tried this and it didn’t work. Just one man came up in his hand, a green man down on one knee sighting his rifle with an ammo belt and helmet and uniform and meaning to kill; all the men were the same they were meaning to kill. Walter knew Fox was in his chair way up front far beyond the storeroom door sitting behind the counter checking people out and watching people coming and going with his hawk eyes. No one would steal anything from the dollar store; and not just anybody could stroll in and walk the aisles and finger the merchandise. Fox would come down from his perch and hover and watch and make them uncomfortable so they would leave. Walter took out his briar pipe of hashish and opium and went to the back door; incredibly ornate and gilded it was, amazing work; he stepped outside under a roof in what seemed like a carport but was just a patio and he began to smoke and fires began to burn all around; the smoke snaked up and around and came down outside the patio and touched the grass and where it touched the grass the grass ignited ablaze with holy fire. At last Walter stood surrounded by a square of fire; and he smothered out the pipe and put it in his pocket and went back inside because now he was prepared to really deal with the men.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

The men leapt out of their golden treasure box into his hands and each one told him Sir! Sir! Reporting for duty! Shelve us where you may! Though no one man even approached the size of Walter’s palm their weapons made them deadly so he obeyed and carried them from the king-sized golden arching room into the store to the bin of men and placed each one down straight and tall and brandishing his weapon out toward the dangerous store by this time full of chalk faced browsers and Melanies and Joneses. Half a day he spent dealing with the men, going out back each time onto the patio to smoke, reentering that seething space full of snaking snapping fumes. At last they were all in their bin and he had not been shot or maimed. And he carried the boxes they had come in to the dumpster out back and when the boxes hit the floor of the dumpster they burst into balls of flame. The rest of the day he spent shelving other items and stamping on the prices with a stamper and he wondered why bother Dymoing on the prices when everything was just a dollar anyway; and the men watched him from their bin and Fox sat at the checkout counter, dealing with each customer squarely and fairly, a dollar at a time. Walter walked the aisles between visits to the flaming square patio out back and touched fondled stamped priced and shelved hundreds upon hundreds of items. The plastic sealed list of item categories chained to the wall in the back said the store was nothing more than a vast box piled high with auto items, baby items, candles, candle holders, cleaning products, ceramics, polystone statues and figurines, lighters, key chains, dinnerware, glassware, stoneware, electronics items, food, cosmetics, hair accessories, health and beauty aids, housewares, hardware, marble statues, frames, plastic items, party items, hosiery, underwear, socks, stationary, plus as applicable items appropriate to the seasons; Christmas Easter Valentine and Halloween items, and toys, and, of course, the writhing bin of dangerous green heavily armed men—Walter let the list slip from his grip just as it went up in flames on its chain to the rack. He felt his pipe warm in his pocket and went out back for one last smoke and found the flames around the patio subsided, replaced by aromatic fumes twisting and turning up all white from the burnt black grass; and he smoked and left the store for the day without even a nod to old Fox; and Walter let the flaming door close dangerously shut behind him and was back on the sidewalk facing the traffic that flowed like filthy slimy white maggoty insects flowing in a line along a crooked branch and he wiped his eyes and turned right and knew it was now time to go home and prepare for the party. After mouthing four Percocets he started off down the way.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

What did fun mean, was the question. He believed that the senses of the body were the inputs to the soul—and he wondered what the soul was, and if the soul knew about fun, as he watched the houses going by and watched the sidewalk roll by underneath and smelled the smells of the passing cars. What was the point of being alive and perceiving all this? The soul was the point. The soul—but what was the soul—

Walter walked back up past the flaming rotted houses with people coming shrieking from the doors shouting Fire! Fire! But there were no fire engines and there were no people, only old grey-haired ladies directing traffic and placing orange cones to mark the way. But this did not affect Walter’s sidewalk, straight and true it took him toward home and his belly felt empty, a hole in him, a hole inside with great lips fins and scales like a great fish flapping to be fed and this amused him and he thought what if all the organs of the body were actually creatures inside of you, mouths open, slavering for food, and he thought of how when he got home he would heat a microwave dinner and have a Coke and feed the food into the fish that was his stomach that would then shit into the intestine snake’s mouth that wound round inside him that then shit into the mouth of a larger snake wound round and finally, finally, when the time came Walter would go let down his pants and sit on the white pot, and it would come out of him no worse for wear, but first he had to get home to feed this process get it started prime the pump so to speak so he strode out a little longer and moved his legs a little faster and the lead plated sky above began to press down on him and droplets fell so he pulled out his pipe as he walked on the street and lit up and the smoke from the pipe in his nostrils and his lips and his mouth held up the sky from crushing down on him, and kept him safe, especially since his feet were beginning to sink sloshing through the water mud the sidewalk was becoming but at last he got home safe and went in the door careening in no worse for wear safe from the sky above and the mud below.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

The day is over so now time for fun. In the living room great rhapsodies played at earsplitting volumes but he was immune. The music arched under and over him but did not pierce his heart. He moved gracefully to the kitchen in the long dress that suddenly swathed him and prepared to feed his little parakeet, called Harold, for whom the rhapsodies were kept on all day even though Walter was gone. Walter tore off the dress because it did not suit him he was not a woman why was he suddenly in a dress and at last nude and male he fed the little bird, whose blue and white stripes intrigued him. Like bindings about the bird to keep him from exploding into a puffball of fluff which then being dead would have to be flushed; because Walter’s apartment had no yard for burying. He seeded and watered the bird and changed the paper and when he opened his kitchen garbage can a column of smoke rose from the great exhausts of the ocean liner below that pulled the house forward through the sea and filled the house; so, frightened for the bird not for himself he popped another pill and the smoke went down his mouth like his mouth was a vacuum cleaner gathering up all the smoke and now the bird would be safe; no drafts; no fumes; nothing was what the bird needed but seed and water and swirling shimmering rhapsodies as they plunged forward through the sea.

Walter opened the freezer and got out a brown veal meal with cheese and tomato sauce frozen solid and unboxed it with trembling black and blue hands and he nearly dropped it putting it in the microwave because all he could think of was My hands, My hands, My hands hurt so. My job is so hard on my hands so he cut his hands off with a sudden knife and put them on the table and his new hands were all white and pain free so he pushed the buttons on the now closed microwave and the air filled with the sighs of hundreds of clean nude men working hard, a clean sound and the bird chirped and for a moment silence came between rhapsodies and he dug a foxhole there and waited in the foxhole but thank God the armed men never came so he flung away his gun and opened the microwave and took the meal to the table, ripped off the plastic top, and began to eat right from the black plastic tray while downing Percocets and muscle relaxants as a chaser. His bottles stood before him making an arc if seen from above. They arced over the tray so if you looked down from above and turned it all around it was a smiley face with the arc being the mouth and the tray being the face and Walter’s eyes being the eyes. But Walter could not see this view but it was there if you can’t see a view in the room is it really there like a tree falling in the forest might or might not be there, that old crap, but the fish inside of Walter flapped its great steel scaly tail and demanded food. So he cut and forked veal into his mouth and the great fish lips inside him slobbered down the food and he thought of Angela—who wants him at the party tonight because he is fun and whose words he carried with him all day.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

Fun; what is fun; the fish ate and the insides of the fish were all acid and broke down the food and it came out the fishes great round rectum, into the mouth of the waiting snake that thrashed and Walter thought of Angela and the thought of her seemed to give him a stomach ache but it was just the fish thrashing inside him and the food moved and he forked more and more food into his mouth chased by percocets and the thin snake shit into the mouth of the thick snake and it all backed up down there like that waiting for the day Walter would sit on the great white toilet and it would all be reborn; and Angela sat across from him in silver and white all shimmering and told him what was what.

Would that you would just eat your dinner, she said—like this—and she leaned out and reached and got his fork and began feeding him the veal and it went in steadily so as he ate he had hands free so he lit his pipe and smoked a drag between each mouthful Look ma no hands and Angela said I am not your Mother and the fork fell to the floor and Angela was gone—but no matter he would see her again tonight and they would have a laugh about how the fork fell to the floor and about the great thrashing fish and the writhing bloated snakes that lived inside them both; because Angela was an anatomy major she knew the truth about what went on inside of a person.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

She knew how all this eating business worked; and she knew that when you walked it was really great pythons under your skin holding you up and writhing you forward and that when you reached out it was really long fat jungle centipedes in your arms hungry for what you were reaching for so with the food all back up inside him being processed Walter took the empty microwaveable tray to the garbage and the column of smoke rose and he sucked it in before realizing it was really his newly loaded and lit pipe again.

Walter you’re foolish, said Angela, suddenly there; you’re foolish filling this house with fumes for the bird the poor bird cannot stand it!

Angela, you are not here! he snapped. He turned and walked through her after stubbing out his pipe—he would have to reload it again before the party tonight but maybe just maybe the pills would be enough. He went upstairs and got in a tall strange white box that shot water over him when he turned a valve but then he realized he was still dressed but when he looked down he was nude and he seemed to remember stripping off his clothes but it was not important but suddenly he felt ashamed, he had eaten his whole meal nude in front of Angela so he came out of the box after turning off the water and quickly dressed without drying himself and he thought how uncomfortable all this getting ready for the party is; but it was worth it because she had told him he was fun. Dressed but wet under his clothes he shoved a bottle of pills into his pants and went down and finished his pipe outside on his stoop where he was concealed by the great plumes of smoke from the vast volcano in the distance but he was safe; so he locked the door, started off toward the party though he had no shoes he didn’t even know. The trees were above the walk was below but what was to the sides? Desolation is what. He wouldn’t look at the boarded up peeling houses and abandoned cars he didn’t want to know where he lived though in its own way it was a beautiful place, so he didn’t know because what he didn’t want he always got; so it all became palaces spired and turreted under the wide blue sky passing over in all its serene and utter majesty with God in his place above and in his beard.

What did it all mean, was the question. He believed that the senses of the body were the inputs to the soul—and he wondered what the soul was. Watching the houses going by—watching the sidewalk rolling by underneath. The passing cars. What was the point of being alive and perceiving all this? The soul was the point. The soul—but what was the soul—

He squinted forward through the thick distance and between the rows of temples spires and minarets all gold he saw Angela again, all in jewels this time with a golden headpiece and she seemed miles away; she was at the door to the party he was going to; she was waving him on. He walked quicker. Openly smoking going down the silver and gold sidewalk he remembered what she had said to him.

You are fun.

I don’t want to be there without you.

Because you are fun.

And through the bejeweled tunnel the sidewalk had become he watched her—and he walked faster and walked and realized once more that he had no shoes but it didn’t matter the silver and gold sidewalk was soft as a beautifully made plush carpet and he half-drifted down it, briar pipe in his teeth, feeling like a General taking the beach after a victory and still she waved but she was no closer he turned onto the street the party house was on—oh yes it was Gregor’s party and Gregor was inside behind Angela waiting with his bowl of weed and his wine. Walter spoke to Angela though she was still what seemed like hundreds of yards away.

Angela, he called out—you must have some of this! This pipe! These pills! The world is a beautiful place—

An old woman appeared out of the golden air surrounding the sidewalk and she passed him by giving him a wide berth because to her he was just a rude derelict swaying and smoking along the sidewalk talking to himself and she wondered what this world was coming to. In this neighborhood you saw all kinds. But Walter ignored her and he went on and from this far out he could see that Angela held a bottle of wine in her hands and she was actually the door to Gregor’s place—she was built into the wall how did Gregor do that why would she let him do that Walter had to save her—he walked faster and people passed him and he could hear cars going by beyond the golden haze to the left and he felt like the pythons were getting tired and the centipedes were crawling under the flesh of his arms and the fish throbbed within him having shit his meal into the snakes it was hungry again and Angela waved for him to come save her. What kind of food would there be at his party the fish flailed inside him the fish and the sick feeling came up in him and he felt dizziness closing in wreathing his head’s crown of thorns.

What did it all mean, was the question. He believed that the senses of the body were the inputs to the soul—and he wondered what the soul was. Watching the houses going by—watching the sidewalk rolling by underneath. The passing cars. What was the point of being alive and perceiving all this? The soul was the point. The soul—but what was the soul—

Walter reached the door of the party and Angela was there and she went to open the door and just as the door opened the dark of too much came up from his feet through the pythons and snakes and the dizziness filled him from bottom to the top and the truth was, he had overdone it so he collapsed and the dark rushed into his head shutting him down and as his face pressed hard to the concrete and he heard Angela call his name.

Walter—are you going to Gregor’s party tonight?

Yes I suppose so.

Good—I wasn’t going to go if you weren’t.

Why not?

Because you are fun.

Fun?

And he finally saw what the soul was; but as soon as he saw it, it was gone into the dark and he lay there unknowing, with people pouring out of the party to help, with the party over for him before it started and in the emergency room they pumped his stomach roughly and the nurse’s face filled the room all round and cheeky and she said what are you on son? What are you on? And she was not his Mother, he told her, turning his head away—she was not his Mother—his Mother was over there—over there—Angela. Angela was here—now the party can begin, he muttered—what does Gregor have to eat? The fish is hungry and thrashing but a nurse’s needle slid into his arm and it all was over before it was over somehow he lay on a gurney stone cold sober, the next day, the entire preceding day being gone.

 

Jim Meirose‘s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Collier’s Magazinethe FiddleheadWitnessAlaska Quarterly Review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, ClaireMonkey, and Freddie Mason’s Wake are available from Amazon.