(From the Author – in this extract from the world’s longest and least successful suicide note, we find Lucky Saurelius at an old friend’s wedding dinner, sitting at the speciously named “head table,” and realizing that his life could be, in all likelihood, just a drill.)
my plate was withdrawn. replaced with salad greens in a balsamic reduction. topped with Roquefort, candied pecans and a slice of rolled ham.
James motioned for the server to give his salmon a stay of execution. moved the plate aside and made room for his salad.
i offered him my ham.
he accepted. didn’t do much with it. readied some bread, buttered it. took a bite and let it languish next to his plate.
“you ok?” i asked.
“i’m fine…” he reached for a glass of white wine. “it’s kind of funny.”
i reached for my red. “what’s that?”
“you were Nick’s mentor growing up. i don’t know… the way he would talk about you. every time, the few times you and i have seen each other over the years… i just continually expect you to be 80 feet tall…”
my throat tightened. a dense ball of half-chewed salad got stuck in traffic. turned to compost. i poured another glass and washed it down. “yeah. abstractions being what they are.”
“well, it is quite an accomplishment to do right by my brother. you really must’ve been something else back then…”
maybe. “can’t honestly say i was there.”
James took a another sip wine. “got this speech in a minute…” he scratched his chin. eyes floating across the floor.
i saw the front man motioning towards his microphone.
“ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got someone coming up here right now…”
as James stood, i took hold of his arm. “hey, James…” i reached out with my free hand. gathered my glass and brought it in for a clumsy drink… “take your time. seriously. due course. it’s like eternal return. everything you have to say has already been said. there is no focal point, no wrong set of words that are going to make this any less memorable… you know that. you do. and you are going to do fine.”
James blinked… “yeah, I know…” he smiled, amused. “yeah, don’t worry about it, Lucky…” gave my shoulder a squeeze. “i got this.”
he left me and my glass to exchange a perplexed look.
i watched him stroll to the microphone. snatch everyone’s attention from their food. travel with ease to center stage, and then simply blast off. stiff limbs now limber and flowing. calm, uninhibited. adoring stories finessing the crowd, weaving all threads into one, every anecdote in perfect sync.
it might have easily been the best speech of that entire weekend.
capped with a standing ovation like you dream about.
Chester leapt from his seat. with three silken bounds, he commandeered the microphone. counted out a one, 2, 3, 4.
the band struck up its cover of 8 Days A Week, arrangement doing supreme justice to the original.
James was bum-rushed. the entire dance floor set ablaze.
head table abandoned, save for myself.
i postured as though that was where i belonged. orders from above. Mr. Lucky Saurelius, designated steward of the House of Reckless.
the room growing some 80 feet around me.
across the floor, i caught sight of the girl in black gauze. chair at an angle. bum leg extended. heel resting on the floor, where a young anybody crouched at her feet, gentleman caller in a tailored suit. the two of them engaged in a lively bout of back and forth.
saw her laugh. arm reaching up to tousle her hair. elbow knocking one of her crutches to the ground. smooth words from her suitor, as he moved to pick it up.
she bent over at the waist. raised her head. with a few dark curls falling along her face, she sent a glance across the room.
eyes landing on mine.
any second, i would venture a smile.
and maybe she would reciprocate.
but i couldn’t imagine any scenario past that moment. chances, outcomes, all truncated. possibilities like toll roads. occasionally rewarding the brave, but mostly bleeding the meek and bold alike. and i had long since gambled away the necessary luck to even glimpse what lay beyond those heavily guarded junctures.
let alone pretend i had the choice to travel.
i turned away, stood in one rending progression.
knocked over my chair. picked it up, set things straight.
lifted what was left of the bottle.
good a time as any to grab a smoke.
have a stroll and see if maybe there was someplace i was actually needed.
a collision with another nameless guest was narrowly averted. our drinks saved from a nasty spill, sparing us both from an exchange of basic misunderstanding.
i took my bottle of wine out for a leisurely walk.
let the music fade, drifting towards the links. squat lights embroidered the accompanying path, casting a snowy blanket. i breathed in the isolation. cold mountain air, crisp on my lips.
fully intending to return to the ballroom. something in the polarity of the evening instructing otherwise. i headed for the gates, through the garden. easing my way between the ghosts of a wedding in progress.
took the steps one at a time. reached the top, onto the terrace.
faced with large, lodge windows.
caught sight of another party inside. a little less fancy. a little less dancing. little less conversation, a little less action.
retreated down a ways. sat down on one of the steps.
lit a cigarette.
i heard footsteps on the stairs.
took a breath, ready to see what Bobby might have to say.
the approach was punctuated by a boy, taking a seat beside me. somewhere in his tweens. freckles and sandy blond hair. shorts and a white Jay Z shirt. feet planted on the closest set of steps. forearms resting on his knees.
i nodded. “hey there.”
i repositioned my cigarette to keep the smoke out of his face.
“what are you doing here?” he asked.
“I mean, you know… all over here?”
i coughed. “oh, no. god, no. not mine… thanks, though.” i brought the bottle to my lips, rough taste of plumbs scraping my tongue. “you?”
“family reunion. sorta.”
the boy began to nibble on his fingernails. “why?”
“odds are, it could’ve been a lot harder if you hadn’t.”
he looked mildly unconvinced.
“or not,” i amended. “can’t claim to know the future.”
“Carl says nobody can…” no time to ask who Carl was. “what do you do?”
“that’s kind of a sanitized question for a kid your age.”
“i don’t know how old i am… they say 11.”
“once knew a girl by the name of Zelda Calhoun. same dilemma. she was adopted, too. from Ethiopia”
“ok, but… what do you do?”
i sighed. a kid his age, no matter what his age; there was no way around it… “i am a writer.”
“published a few books. young adult market, for kids ‘round about whatever age you are… and they didn’t do so hot. couple of years ago, my publisher dumped me. tried shopping myself around. didn’t get any bites. went indie, self-published online. then i went to a wedding.”
“believe it or not, i was actually invited.”
“why did your publisher dump you, i mean?”
“wasn’t making them any money… truth be told, i even lost them a couple of figures…”
the boy scrunched his face. “weird. sounds like they don’t like books very much.”
“most of them love books…” i took a drag, washed the smoke down with more wine. “just so happens they love their jobs a little more. everyone kind of has to… can’t say i wasn’t warned.”
“i think i get it.”
“when you do, feel free to explain it to me.”
he seemed ok with keeping it a secret. which was fine. i kept smoking. listened to the music wafting from the lodge. a slight breeze hit us from the right.
i fought the baffling urge to ask him if he had brought a sweater.
“why are you here?” i asked.
“family reunion, i told you.”
“no, i mean this time. the other here. out here.”
“so, i’m adopted.”
“so, it’s… ok, don’t think i’m weird.”
“Carl says nobody can claim to know the future, kid. sorry.”
“i have a crush on my cousin…” he glanced over his shoulder, cloak and dagger. “like, a serious crush.”
“ah…” i took a sip of wine. “so it’s actually ok, because she’s not actually your cousin, but it’s not actually ok, because for all intents and purposes, she actually is.”
“for all intensive purposes, yeah.”
nice to know i wasn’t the only one who had spent most of his life fucking up that particular idiom.
“i don’t know what to do,” he said.
“probably nothing you can do,” i said. “sucks, i know.”
“do you have a girlfriend?”
“so. no advice?”
“none.” i put out my cigarette. stood up. “sorry, kid. you caught me at a particularly useless moment in my life.”
“that’s ok,” he said. rising to meet me. “i gotta go, too.”
we shook hands. another whistle of wind, lifting our goodbye up towards a waxing moon.
“i hope i get a chance to read your book,” he said.
“anyone ever publishes it on paper, i’ll send you a copy.”
“you don’t know where i live.”
“then i’ll send you 5, hope one of them gets to where it’s supposed to go.”
he thought about this. “where do you live?”
“about to move to New Orleans.”
“neat. what are you going to do when you get there?”
again, there were some things you didn’t tell a kid his age… “going to wait until i turn 35.”
“then everyone else gets to keep waiting, i guess.”
“well…” the kid began to head up the stairs. “it was good to meet you.”
he stopped, turned around.
“you’re going to be all right,” i said. maybe lied. “there’s lots of other cousins in the sea.”
he laughed. “ok. i think i get it. thank you.”
i gave him a tiny salute.
he trotted back inside.
i knocked back the rest of the bottle. drained it.
set it down gently, out of sight.
had a session with my lips.
met my mind halfway and settled on a half-smile.
i stared through the ballroom windows. party at full throttle.
behind me, the concrete patio was mostly empty. what few smokers were left in the world had already formed their own tribe. tightly bound in a corner. laughing between taboos.
couldn’t bring myself to reintegrate, alone at that enormous, starched domino.
i took my place at one of the bar-height tables placed around the perimeter. had a smoke. glanced down and found a glass of red wine on the ground. courtesy of some compassionate traveler. i staked my claim, helped myself.
gave it a chance to settle.
i heard Chester’s voice from across the way. “yo.”
my people had found me.
or most likely, just happened upon me.
Chester, Korben, Alley, Milo, Laura, and Joyce were streaming out through ballroom doors.
Chester was holding a pair of snifters. sizable pours of brown nectar swirling in each one. “they’re not allowed to serve shots, so i just got them to pour us 2 aquariums of Jack…”
we passed around the twin grails of sour mash.
2 rounds, and we were halfway through our enterprise. in an unspoken agreement, Chester and i took custody of the drinks. split into smaller groups. took the bullets, let the others avoid certain overdose.
Laura asked me for a smoke. odd request for a black belt, but i was happy to comply.
“i want you to dance with me, Lucky,” she said.
i glanced at Milo. he smiled, shrugged.
either he had come a long way from his days as a jealous youth, or i had simply fallen to the point where i was no longer a threat to any man on the face of the earth. it was anyone’s guess.
i had another taste of Jack. “Milo and I actually used to be quite the ravers.”
“oh, it’s true,” Milo said.
“how very true,” i added. “probably the only kids in the whole joint who were completely clean. no booze, weed, no hallucinogenics. just twistin’ the night away.”
“why don’t you dance anymore?”
“what happened back on ‘05?”
“we were talking earlier at The Pour House. about you moving down to New Orleans… Milo mentioned something about what happened in ‘05…”
i lit my own cigarette. “if i happen to be around next time we meet, i’ll be sure and tell you all about it.”
“but, seeing as how my time on this planet is severely limited…” i polished off my drink, blistering cascade coating my stomach… “yeah, why not? i suppose i’m curious to see if i can still cut a rug.”
my body was hit with shudders from the liberal intake of Jack Daniel’s.
“you ok there, champ?” Milo asked, squeezing my neck.
“you actually eat anything tonight? or even yesterday?”
my entrée had been sheltered by a steel cover. i removed the protective dome. placed my hand inches above a pristine arrangement of broccoli, spinach, wild mushrooms and polenta.
couldn’t say i was hungry. couldn’t say how any of these people managed to jump around with so much food packed into their bodies.
i replaced the cover. picked up my plate and skirted the dance floor.
walked out of the ballroom. found the nameless nanny, still seated by the fireside. texting away, plugging in breakneck letters.
she glanced up.
“i had some things to take care of, and didn’t get a chance to eat my food. still got some things to take care of. wondering if you were still hungry.”
she stared, determined to see right through me. “that’s your thing? you get me leftovers?”
“i certainly ain’t getting anything else right.”
“no doubt about that.”
“well…” i hiccupped. “oops, then.”
hit the bathroom. found a stall and got to my knees before the porcelain throne. dish held aloft upon my fingertips, a little trick from days running food at a zero star dive in North Carolina. certain I was about to throw up.
took it as a good sign, until i blacked out and came to in the middle of the dance floor.
or for fucking free in digital
so long and thanks for all the pish.