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“She’s suing me for two million,” the retired entrepreneur says to the other guests, still seated at the table after a huge turkey dinner in the loftlike space of an old but renovated hunter’s cabin, bordering a state park, deep in the woods.

“Oh, that’s ridiculous!” says the big-boned Finnish blonde who was recently arrested for DWI and told the officer he’d be perfect in Iraq when he refused to open the handcuffs cutting her wrists. Her nostrils flare as she says in her heavy accent, “Did you see the heels she had on that night?”

“Eight inches!” says the psychiatrist who treats pedophiles. Her accent says Bronx. The psychiatrist is secretly called “The Receptacle” by those who know her voracious sexual appetite. “She had on eight-inch heels.”

“Are there shoes with eight-inch heels?” the writer asks. She believes she is better than the company she keeps. No one answers. Maybe no one hears. Maybe they are too caught up in the singer’s lawsuit. The writer glances at the hostess, busy at the work station in the open kitchen.

“I took her to the hospital that night after she fell. It cost me $5,000! She didn’t have any insurance,” he says. He pours Remy into a glass and gulps it down. The writer wonders if anyone else notices hair growing on his bald scalp.

Seated beside him, a woman with a knack for invisibility, offers him her empty glass. “I love Remy,” she says, in her invisible voice. When she speaks, her words don’t belong to her. They hang anonymously in the air.

The psychiatrist and a redhead with a raspy voice, say in unison, “Remy is the best.”

“Now she claims she can’t play the guitar!” the retired entrepreneur says, filling the invisible woman’s glass. No one has noticed how much wine she’s had this evening or, for that matter, on any other evening.

The psychiatrist says, “Didn’t she just have a gig in Seattle?”

The writer wonders why no one mentions the black ice in his driveway that night. Given his wealth, she wonders why he didn’t have the ice cleared before the party. After all, he has a live-in housekeeper and cook on his estate. She, too, would have fallen had she not grabbed the arm of the painter, seated directly across from her, stoned and silent, a badge with the old Rolling Stones tongue logo pinned on his pink shirt. He looks disdainfully at the other guests as he pours more Johnny Walker Black.

“I thought she just had a gig in Seattle,” the psychiatrist says again, too high to know she’s repeating herself. She smiles mischieviously which is how she smiles when driving her 2004 Ferrari. She drives so fast even the Finnish woman refuses to ride with her.

The painter stares at the psychiatrist and mutters, loud enough for the writer to hear, “She’s so masculine! So aggressive!”

“Of course she broke bones falling on that ice. She’s so skinny!” the Finnish woman says about the singer.

“But she’s beautiful and she looks so young,” the writer says, dreamily, envy in her voice, as she recalls the skimpy, spangled, spagetti-strapped mini-dress the singer wore that night and how she and the painter danced cheek to cheek as though they were lovers.

“No,” the retired entrepreneur says, shaking his head vehemently. “She’s not beautiful and she looks her age. Sixty-five!”

The redhead with a recent nose job, her brain burned out from heavy drinking and snorting cocaine in her youth, stands up and says, “Stop it! I’m her friend. I don’t want to hear you all talking behind her back! I can only imagine what you say about me.” The redhead claimed she had her nose done because of a deviated septum. The hook never bothered her, she said. The writer was surprised that most people didn’t notice she had her nose done at all.

“She’s my friend too!” the Finnish woman says. “But she’s anorexic. She said to me, ‘I weigh ninety-eight pounds. I feel so fat.’ She’s 5’8”, for god’s sake!”

The redhead sits down.

“She’s anorexic?” says the writer, incredulous. “No! I don’t believe that.” While waiting for desert, a chocolate mousse cheesecake and a scrumptuous, at least to her, blackberry pie, she takes another Ghirardelli Pure Dark Chocolate from the candy dish with truffles and Godiva to-die-for delectables.

The redhead who worries about her weight watches her. The redhead had one glass of wine. After Hepatitis B, this is her limit. She’s trying to save what’s left of her liver.

Nodding to the writer, the Finnish woman says, “Yes! She’s anorexic.” The Finnish woman drinks wine and eats nothing but chocolates. She had her Thanksgiving dinner at noon. Her son made her cook turkey. Her thirty-five-year-old son.

“She won’t get two million,” says the psychiatrist who closes her country house in winter because she can’t drive fast in snow.

“I have a $550,000 insurance policy. She can’t get more than that,” he says, looking worried despite the joints he’d smoked, the wine and Remy he’d imbibed. Whether he has taken Ecstasy yet is a matter for conjecture.

The writer likes to see him smile—which he hasn’t done since mentioning the singer’s lawsuit. When he smiles, he reminds her of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. That smile with perfect white teeth. Too perfect. Too white. His smile gives her chills the way scary rides in Palisades Park did when she was a child. His smile reminds her too of grisly scenes in horror movies with axe murderers and other deranged killers exalting in blood and gore. She wonders if other bipolar people smile like him. Perhaps bipolar people recognize each other by their smiles.

The hostess’ physical disability appears more pronounced than usual as she bends over the sink, washing dishes. The writer wonders if her pale blue eyes are always glazed. Nights when she’s out partying, getting stoned and dancing on all fours, which is her specialty, the hostess knows better than to try and drive to her secluded home, and stays with friends instead. “I can’t hear anything with the water running,” she yells, anxious when she’s not at the center of things. She probably thinks she’s missing something important.

Finished with the dishes, she approaches the table and asks, “Where’s the pot? The big plastic bag full of pot.” The guests look at each other, puzzled. “I saw it on the living room table before we sat down to eat,” she says.

The woman with a knack for invisibility suddenly rises and rushes into the living room. Frantic, she searches every table, every shelf, looks under cushions on the couch, behind the bookcase, the DVD player, the TV, beneath the chairs from Kenya. “Not here!” she calls out, her voice, for once, her own.

“Didn’t you have it?” they turn and ask each other. They shake their heads no. “Then who has it?” they ask, squirming, beginning to panic. Only the writer, who doesn’t do drugs, realizes that they’ve already smoked it. But she says nothing. She picks up another Ghirardelli Pure Dark Chocolate and pops it into her mouth.


Roberta Allen

ROBERTA ALLEN is (a short story writer, novelist and memoirist), the author of eight books, her most recent is the novel The Dreaming Girl, Ellipsis, Press. Her third story collection will be published later this year (by Pelikinesis Press). She is also a conceptual artist who has exhibited worldwide.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2007

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