So Lucinda throws her masquerade, and laughing Harry blows in like a summer squall—tan, blond-hair outlaw type in a tricorner hat. Ostrich feather swaying and a plastic scimitar. Pitted cheeks. Eyes like pica. Lucinda just loves that outlaw type. Merrymakers all around. Harry makes a progress through the room—like, the pirate king, scattering party favors—packets of blow in cheery-colored envelopes—laughing the whole time.
Was he a storm or was he a pirate, I don't know. He's an egg these days. Bike, no helmet, straight off a cliff into the Mississippi river out there in Minneapolis. No arms, no legs. Three shifts of nurses to wipe his ass, and the only word he ever says is Lucinda. Lucinda. She told me.
When I was a kid, my first try at sex was jerking off to the paper dolls in magazines. I liked the treatment of pubic hair in Playboy particularly well. Romantic. Not like porn on the web these days. We got Internet here.
To me, Harry looked like Hefner. Harry and Heff.
I see Nina scoop up some of the pink and blue envelopes and sit down at the coffee table. She swishes some grass leaves out of the way and sets up a tea tray. Razor, straws and powder. Sitting there in a fairy-godmother gown. I'm scared she has a needle, and I don't want to see that, so I look away.
Lucinda always had Fleetwood Mac going on the record player. Rumors. Who's that singer? That beauty. Her voice was marijuana. That was marijuana music. Lucinda played that record so much, I think maybe she thought she was that singer. It was going at the party all through.
First thing was, I got something off Harry in a pipe and I smoked it. Hot scratchy air with a sting to it, which I inhaled very cautiously. I was watching Lucinda bark it up with her pals from the lab. All of them in white coats, very impressive. She had a job running rats in the psych department at the college, lots of good it did her. Paid nothing, and she was always crying about after the maze, when they beheaded the poor little dweebs and ran their brains through the slice machine.
I'm watching them, and the coke is nothing. So I thought. That annoyed me. I was planning for days to get high and speak my piece, but I wasn't high. I was sober. So I thought. I said, "I'm horny," but nobody listened.
I said it again louder. Heads turned and I said it again — "Lucinda, I said I'm horny."
She blows a smoke ring. Then she turns from her friends, who, by now, are goggling at me.
She says, "I heard what you said."
The buzzing in the room got quiet and I could hear that lady's voice on the Fleetwood Mac album.
"I need to talk to you," I said. Loud.
"Well, now's the wrong time, Willy," says she.
"No it isn't," says me, "no it isn't. No it isn't."
"Yes it is, and that's all," she says.
And I say, "Well it isn't," and I notice that the room is pretty empty. I emptied the room pretty quick that night.
For good measure I gave her one more "I'm horny."
"We're all horny," she says.
I sat down on a kitchen chair that somehow had situated itself in the parlor and I sulked. After a while, the only people left were us two and Nina. Nina was on the couch. Out. Smoke was wisping from her nose. I don't know where Harry went. I wasn't keeping track of things. I thought there was a funny light in the room.
Lucinda started to clear up. She wouldn't look at me. Uh-oh, she's mad, was my thought, and the fighting spirit that was in me went up in smoke. I followed her around the room with my eyes. I was just thinking what to say.
Then there was this like ululating sound, everywhere, like, Jesus Christ, where is it, unearthly, and I see Nina's on her back, doing, what. Spazzing out. Pushing up on her palms and heels and elbows, bulging her belly towards the ceiling — a fit. She has the gown, and a cardboard tiara with glitter on it. She's foaming some kind of black shit at the mouth. Bare teeth, purple ropes standing out on her neck. Her eyes are popping and her tongue is twirling like a goddamned fucking Picasso horse.
Then she coughs and pukes and sucks it all in with a like gargling sound. Horrible. What you call blood-curdling. Sheets of vomit spreading all over the floor, under the couch and the table and the chairs and soaking all of the throw rugs, and does it ever stink. Foul. Function of surface area. Man oh man.
She gags and she gags, eyes shut. Clutching her throat like. Turning purple.
I jump up. I was retching myself and I didn't know what you do. What you do in that situation. Lucinda's whispering, "Oh man," walking off backwards and staring at all this, quick tippy steps. I had a thought about CPR. I knew you take their clothes off. I knew shit!
I said, "Get the dress off" and I rip it off, rip the buttons off, rip it all the way off. One tit and one kind of, prosthesis, I don't know, it looked home-made. It was sewed in there, in the dress.
We got it off—Lucinda and me—and I reached in for Nina's tongue. Then she arches in this like extreme gasp. Seen a dying chick sparrow do that in my bedroom once when I was ten, neck stretched like a giraffe's and its beak wide wide wide open.
Nina, her face looked like a baby tasting something bad. Then it went blank and she made the worst sound you ever heard. Many ghosts in there. I never felt so sorry for someone, so it seemed. Then she was limp. No more breathing. Her eyes opened filmy and wide and stared up, and that was that, apparently.
We kneeled there, in vomit. I felt my whole life go sour. The record was over. It got so quiet, after a while, you could hear crickets.
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