I arrive the usual twenty minutes early for lunch
Not that it’s lunch. It’s a gathering with a buffet.
My wife is coming later because of her work. She doesn’t like me going to social gatherings alone cos — well — things happen.
Still, this isn’t anything too heavy. It‘s my friend Mike Charvel and his passive-barbarian wife, Cassandra. We are celebrating the birth of the latest in a long line of Charvel children.
Mike and I have been friends for a long time, but his wife doesn’t like me since I mentioned that Cassandra liked family photos to an unhealthy degree. After the comment, Cassandra ceased to be warm to me in any way whatsoever despite my continued efforts.
Do I feel bad? Not at all. Their loungeroom probably has a hundred pictures of family on the wall. Their bedroom would probably have eighty. You have to say something.
I mentioned it one night to Mike, and he couldn’t see it. He just thought that’s what people did cos they had been together since he was eighteen.
He’s forty-three now, and they have just given birth to their sixth child, who they decided to name after Nikola Tesla. I just pointed out that it’s confusing to call a child Tesla. They then said something about how the world was modern and that I needed to catch up.
“That’s not modern. It’s delusional.” I told them. “You know, back in the forties — I don’t know. Ya know — Ford, let’s say. The FOOrd motor company. Ya didn’t get anyone naming their kid’s Ford, did ya?”
I should have checked that first.
I notice a priest speaking to Mike’s second oldest girl, Truth, in one corner of the room
I hate it when clergy come to parties. Not that this is a party, it‘s lunch. No, it’s not. It‘s just a gathering with a buffet.
But fuck it, there’s always this expectation of behaviour adjustment when clergy are hanging around. It’s probably worse with nuns, but I’d rather be a nun than a priest. As a priest, you would know that everyone you meet is wondering if you are a paedo. That would be hard to deal with. Nuns don’t get it as much, even though they hand/ed out their fair share. Not that I ever got beaten or fucked by a nun. Most of the ones that taught me at school were nice. Stern as fuck but nice (to me).
Anyway, he might not be a priest. He might be a vicar or reverend or one of the others. I’ve been staring for a while, so he excuses himself from the conversation with Truth and reaches a hand out in front of me.
“Chris Anderson,” he says vigorously.
“Nice to meet you, Father,” I say, shaking his hand and simultaneously realising he doesn’t have a priest’s collar on.
It’s just the damn cut of his shirt. But, I called him Father.
That wouldn’t be so bad if you could use it in a cool way like Brother. But you can’t.
“How, how, how do you, do you, do, do, do you, do, do, do you—”
Chris has a stutter. Either that, or he thinks I’m claiming to be his son, and it’s freaking him out. He is stuck on do/do you, and I’m wondering what the correct etiquette is in these situations. Should I smile and wait for Chris to traverse the obstacle himself? Or give him a helping hand by saying ‘DO’?
Surely, he knows it’s DO. He just can’t get past it.
This is just too much. I think I’ll just leave.
Yes, I’ll do that. I walked off. Don’t look back.
I always wanted a damn conservatory. It’s not much to ask, is it?
“Damn you, Capitalism.” I say.
“Yeah, damn you, Capitalism,” comes a voice from the couch.
Mike and Cassandra’s third child Dave has a virtual reality headset on.
“What ya playing, Dave?” I ask. Dave can’t hear me as he is wearing headphones. The voice was Dave’s younger sister, Ruth.
“Dave is playing a car washing game,” she says.
“Yeah. You have to wash as many cars as possible and do a good job, then get paid and get better equipment. The better your place is, the fancier the cars that come. Dave is washing a Rolls Royce right now,”
“Don’t let your dad know you are playing this, will you?” I tell her.
“He knows,” Ruth says. “It makes him angry, though.”
I nod at Ruth and open the glass door into the garden.
I have to say, that game — that carwashing game — you see, it threw me. Like, it dislodged me, thinking about kids doing that in the virtual world and the technological advances of the world. It’s too fast, for god’s sake.
I feel fucking dizzy. I haven’t felt this bad since I watched In the Night Garden after being up all night.
And there’s this damn ache in my balls. That’s where I store guilt. I’m guilty about walking away from the stuttering priest, and it’s manifesting as a pain in my sack.
It could also be testicular cancer.
Don’t think about In The Night Garden.
Don’t think about In The Night Garden.
I’m alright — just breathe. Come back to the present.
In the present, it’s just a gathering with a buffet.
I grab a cigarette from my pocket and spark it.
“You can’t fucking smoke in here.” It’s their oldest, Zenna.
“In? What do you mean in? We are out, Zenna. We are outside.”
“Yeah, it was a joke.”
She’s wearing yellow. She always wears yellow.
“Who’s the priest inside? In the house?” I ask.
It’s not a priest. It’s just a man with a stutter.
I look at my watch. I‘ve’ been at the party for about five minutes, and I’m already wondering when my wife might arrive to pick me up.
“Just how stoned are you, Uncle Frank?” Zenna says.
“Hey, can you not call me Uncle Frank?”
“Well, one, because I’m not your uncle. Two, it reminds me of Uncle Frank in Home Alone. He was both an arsehole and a thief.”
We laugh, and Mike comes into the garden.
“I hope you’re not giving her fags, Bird,” Mike says.
I try to explain again that you can’t say fags for cigarettes anymore, but Mike won’t listen. He’ll keep saying it. He has used up all his adaptability juice by having seventeen damn kids or whatever.
Besides, I’m not giving up my fags. They cost about a fiver each these days.
It‘s raining. Zenna smiles and heads back in.
“The buffet is good, Frank,” Mike tells me. “There’s chicken legs, Mate.”
I take a drag on my cigarette and pass it to Mike, who takes a drag and puts it out with his foot.
Mike knows I love a good chicken leg.
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