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October 1, 2011 | Fiction

Aristocrats

Rebecca Leece

Aristocrats photo

I arrive at the party and there are about four people there—wait, there are ten more in the back room. Now there are six more at the door! The radiators are hissing out champagne. Everyone is vibrating like a cicada, singing out partyparty. One woman wears a white fur dress. Is that made out of dog fur, I ask? She gets offended. Oh, sorry. I mean, seal fur? Even worse.

I start dancing around because it is a party but a man puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Not yet.” Okay. I go back to drinking gin on ice cubes. There are schedules to be observed and I’m still learning. The ice cubes are shaped like stars, nine-pointed stars, and they sparkle in the light, which is low. It’s so low that I can’t make out anyone’s face, but I might know some of these people, so I just half-smile at everyone, an expression that I hope can pass for both “hello & how are you” and “I don’t know you but I am a friendly person.”

How long have I been at this party? Has it only been 20 minutes? Settle it down, I instruct myself. Observe the mood. Participate. I try to vibrate a little more to show that I’m a normal person, that I’m jovial and grateful and lively. I hope so much that people will like and respect me. I get a little upset and vibrate too hard, and I knock a painting off the wall. A wail goes up from the kitchen, and there is another crash and now there is a stampede into the bathroom. I’m swept up in the current and we go flying down the hallway. I am wearing my special feather hat but it gets blown off my head and trampled. Is it time to start punching people yet? Can I aim my pistol at you? No, not yet.

The hostess is nowhere to be found. She has fled her own party. Perhaps she has moved out already. There is a crash outside—maybe the party has spread to the outdoors? But no, it is just the sky and clouds crashing around.

Now everyone is looking at each other through their telescopes except for that one Swedish guy who is looking at the ceiling but we think he might have swallowed some Swedish pills. Bill Horsetail is here, condescending to a woman in the hallway. She weeps, fingers her pistol, grinds her teeth. He keeps talking at her. I have met Horsetail seventeen times but he still doesn’t know who I am. That’s a problem I have—I want people to believe that I’m an important person. There’s one thing you can say for Horsetail, though—he gets the pistols out! It could happen any second; that woman has murder in the set of her teeth.

A herd of good-looking goats has arrived at the party; they are milling, mingling. A man has started to weep in the corner. Is it the goats or something more internal? The goats are wearing tiny wooden clogs, and they start to dance a foot-stomping dance, all in a line like the Rockettes, spindly legs flying and heads cocked coyly to the side. The dance is infectious, all of those hooves in wooden clogs clattering around, and one guys starts vibrating so hard he lifts up into the air.

I can’t help it—this song, those goats—I leap up and join in. I happen to be wearing wood clogs myself so I slip in with the goats naturally, and it takes me a few rounds but I learn the dance and then am up there in motion and everyone is cheering and I’m part of a moving system. We are beautiful and holy.

Chunks of concrete are falling from the ceiling; we synchronize our dance to sidestep them. We finish and a cheer goes up around the room.  I am exhausted but exhilarated.  I can’t wait to do it all over again.  A few people near me smile nervously and clap me on the back, “And you did just fine too, that was quite brave of you.” Oh. A few others come up to me laughing, saying “My, my! We have quite a dancer here on our hands.” Hm.

A man in the corner is singing. It’s a low and warbley sound. No one is listening to him, but he’s not upset. He is a big man, with a curly beard and glasses. Now he starts to dance, and his dance is a bounding up and down. He looks happily around him. A few of us start to bound with him; now everyone is bounding!  We forget all about black moods and fatness and anxiety. The room is filled with amber party air. Concrete boulders fall, anvils fall, we bound out of the way.

Pistol shots crack up and down the hallway. Hey! Time for shooting! Everyone takes out their pistols. I run out into the hallway. Horsetail’s been shot in the femur; I take another crack at him. Bullets go whizzing by; it’s a blizzard of bullets. People start crashing into the walls. There are a few broken arms, a few more broken wrists. All part and parcel of parties. I am having a good time shooting but I am thinking about the bounding man. Maybe, with enormous focus and concentration, I can be like him.

A bullet goes through my hand. A goat wheezing against the wall is knocked out by a boulder. Small fires burn up and down the hallways. Alright, alright. Let’s all limp home. Brush the ash out of your hair and take vitamins to heal your broken toes. It will take weeks to recover from this party; we will swear off parties altogether. Too dangerous, too expensive. But we will try again. We will gather our courage and refill our pistols and breathe deeply and go out to see what might happen.

image: Valerie Molloy


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