You were planning it – the Party of the Century – when you got the call. The one you were, but weren’t, expecting. The call you had misplaced somewhere in your brain, filed under it-is-going-to-happen-but-please-God-don’t-let-it-happen because you were planning the Party of the Century. Your work pals – dudes and chicks from the office who you think you like and who like you or you think they like you because you have a truck to help them move or a witty zinger for that supervisor nobody actually likes (or says they do not like) – are all going to be there; it was not going to be a disaster like last year’s office “Winter Festival,” but you would create the Party of the Century. You read about it in Homes & Gardens or Southern Living or O, but you won’t discuss that at the party.
You wish you hadn’t answered the phone, because planning the Party of the Century requires all of your concentration, and you don’t want to think about last year or the “Winter Festival” or Shelly or why you picked up the phone in the first place. You think about last year, anyway. Besides the great office party, it was also the year you bought the gas mask and the year’s-supply-of-food pallet and the water purifier and then you realized:
- You had no way to defend all that stuff (besides the .22 Marlin in your closet), and
- You had no one to spend the end of the world with.
You didn’t feel foolish when the world didn’t end, either; it was another day at the office, another reason for you to plan the Party of the Century.
You didn’t think that mattered, but holding the phone away from you as if it were a copperhead, you are starting to rethink that philosophy. You think what will I do now? Your subconscious grows a pair and speaks up for the first time since your high school best friend had been called a nigger by that Pizza Hut manager. Your subconscious says:
You will wake up. You will make coffee from a pot you brewed three days before but only because you are too lazy to make a new pot. You will want to believe that and not that it was because Susan had made this pot and that it has actually been a week since you last saw her. You don’t want to face that you are alone.
You ignore your subconscious and think about checking your email, which is what great party planners do, but you are tired of reading political posts on Facebook and Twitter. And you remember that you turned your computer off with a five-pound sledge you had bought so you could become a blacksmith in order to prove your degree in medieval studies had some worth but you never finished your thesis, which had something to do with animal husbandry, but you realized no one cares about animal husbandry except maybe Temple Grandin. You were going to smash your phone next – go completely off grid – but you needed that phone. You thought Susan might call or something, but you did not expect your sister, Rachel, to ever call.
There’s a crackling like a whisper down a long hallway, a hallway you don’t want to go down but not because it’s dark or that the light at the end makes funny shadows or hurts your eyes but it is the tinny voice of your sister Rachel. It sounds like she is under water; swimming in the pool y’all used to visit off Brentwood Street. You forgot you had answered the phone.
“David you need to come home,” Rachel says, and you can hear the rum and Xanax behind her throaty voice, and her kids, your niece and nephew, and her husband, Ralph, in the background. They are one big happy family. They are the mirror image of your childhood, but no one is yelling or snapping belts or drinking Wild Turkey.
You tell Rachel – Rach – that you are planning the Party of the Century and that coming home right now is not an option. You like to use quasi-military lingo with your sister because she has never had a job nor has she been to college. She has always been a mom.
“We need you.”
You want to ask if she needs you. You miss your sister, but you don’t have time to plan for a funeral. You don’t want to show up in High Point alone. It was the reason you moved away; moved to Wilmington.
The phone is buzzing again. It is Rachel’s voice. “David, he’s your dad, too.” The phone clicks. You sit down, and think about taking your grandfather’s .22 Marlin out of the closet and doing it right now, but you remembered you weren’t much of a shot, which is why you never finished things with the Corps, but you got those anchor tattoos on both forearms and you wanted people to call you Popeye, and then your pal, Larry, pointed out that “Popeye” is a derogatory term reserved for the Navy and that you never finished basic, which he called “Boot,” but he’d only served three years in the Air Force in a missile silo in Mountain Home, Idaho cleaning toilets and praying some shit would get stirred up somewhere across the ocean.
You let the thought go – there are things worth living for – the party for instance. It was going to be the bombdigity. You had invited everyone you knew using your Facebook account before smashing your computer with a five-pound sledge. Luckily you can check your account from your phone.
You secretly hope that Shelly will show up. She gives you funny looks at the office sometimes like she remembers you were both “intimate” last year, but she was really drunk. You could do worse, probably, because you have. You arrange the magazines on your coffee table, which you notice has a few dings in the particle board from your move to Wilmington, but nothing too noticeable. You cleaned the kitchen, threw out the old coffee, cleaned the coffee maker, put away all the dishes, shampooed the carpet, dusted everything (twice), and now you were ready for the guests to arrive. Then the microwave timer dings and you move from kitchen to living room transporting hors d’ourves and drinks and bowls and platters to the table you set up in the living room. It is almost “magic time,” but you are concerned because no one has responded to the event you created on Facebook. No one has even given it a maybe. You eat a stuffed mushroom and wash that down with some wine. Just look at this party, you want to tell Rachel. It is the bombdigity.
T. O. Davis has a Masters of Fine Arts in fiction from Boise State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Idaho State University. Although he was born in Alabama, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina; however, after his discharge from the U. S. Army in 2001, he moved to Idaho with his family (his wife, Jennifer, is from Idaho). He has recently returned to North Carolina after a 15 year break. T. O. has been teaching writing for seven years, and his writing has appeared in The Storyteller, Black Rock and Sage, Plain Spoke, Cold-Drill, Shotgun Honey, and Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine. He currently teaches for Halifax Community College and lives in Greenville, North Carolina.