Church

We went into the church and walked over to the bar. George stood still
for a moment, crossing himself and then began to wring his hands. I
shook my head, touching his shoulder.

“Maybe we shouldn’t.” I said, "Anyway it doesn't seem right. How many
churches do you know that keep a fully stocked bar? How many, I ask
you?"

“Yeeeeeeh…” he hissed, slapping my hand away, “It all goes down the
same way. And so what if we shouldn't. That’s easy for you to
say; you haven’t got the itch! Beetles and weevils crawling through
my veins. This is the one and only cure.”

He gathered an armful of bottles. A woman near the bar opened her mouth
wide in protest, but I silenced her with an outstretched palm.

“It’s quite alright madam, we’re with Parks & Recreation.” I said. She frowned.

I reached into my coat pocket and produced an empty wallet, flipping it
open in her face. It was all very official. Blinking, she scratched her head and waved
us on.

George clanked his way into the main hall with his bounty and I
followed behind. He made his way to a table in the back and hefted his
armful of booze onto it. Two large bottles of wine rolled off the table
and shattered onto the linoleum, eliciting screams from a nearby table.
George took no notice and sat unscrewing caps and popping corks and
pouring contents from one bottle to another. Everyone in the place was
staring. I stood up and cleared my throat.

“My apologies ladies and gentlemen,” I said, “There’s no cause for
alarm. This is a very sick man. A terrible affliction has taken hold
upon his body. You needn't worry. everything is under control. Try and
enjoy your meals.” I waved and flashed a grin to nobody in particular.

“We’ve not been served our food yet!” a voice shouted.

“My Harold needs to eat, he’s a diabetic!” cried another.

“Rabblerousers…” I muttered under my breath, adding, "Please, please,
folks! There's plenty of food to go around. The chef will be out
momentarily with a bowl of roasted nuts." A series of boos echoed
through the room. 

“I’ll fix them,” George
said. He leapt to his feet and flung an empty bottle into the crowd
with a shriek of rage. There was a clunk and a muffled thump. Someone
screamed. George sat
down and put his head in his hands and whispered, “I can’t look, tell
me
what’s happening.”

The crowd fell silent and soon the murmur of dull conversation again filled the hall.

“Alright,” I said, “Two attendants are rushing into the crowd.”

“No…”

“They are dragging a limp body across the room and out the door,
leaving a trail of smeared blood behind them. There are chromatics in
the blood, like an oil spill in a filthy parking lot.”

“No, no, it isn’t true!” he clutched his head more tightly, tears streaming between his fingers.

“Now small children clothed entirely in rags are filing in and beginning to
scrub the floor with yellowing horsehair brushes. They've done a fine job. Now it’s all over. Thank
god it’s over.”

George took away his hands and his eyes were a dark red. An ancient
woman scuffed her way to a chair adjacent to me and sat down. I smiled
in her direction and she nodded.

Spilled

“I do so love weddings.” She said, sucking her lower lip and twirling a lock of white hair between her fingers.

“Who doesn’t?” I said, picking up a bottle and pressing it to my lips.
“How about it?” I pointed the bottle at her, but she waved it away.

Across the table George spilled a great deal of liquor and swore under
his breath. Harsh music began to crackle over the speaker system.

“Pipe down. The ceremony is about to begin,” I whispered to George, who paid no attention.

He had fished a paper packet out of his pants and was
pouring a stream of fine white powder onto the table, his head
tilted to the side like a bird’s. Guests at adjoining tables pretended
not to notice, but I sensed menace in the air. I took a final swig from
the bottle, letting the last few drops drip onto my tongue.

The wedding party entered the hall from a nearby door, and began
rumbling down the aisle as the wedding march was played. The old woman
turned in her seat and clasped her hands excitedly.

Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. came a noise from behind
me.

I turned and saw George tapping at the powder with an American Express.

“Shshshshshsh!” I hissed, “Not now!”

George flashed a smile and raised a finger to his mouth, licking the tip
of it gently. His eyes grew wide and I turned back around. The group
had reached the altar; I could hear the low buzzing of a sermon being
given.

SNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKK! came the noise from behind me.

I turned and
looked again at George who sat tilted back in his chair with his palms
pressed to his eyes. I felt a powerful surge and rush and
a shiver of energy flowed through me.

“Nnnnnnnnggg…” George said.

I looked at the old woman, who sat staring at the altar with a faraway
look in her eyes. I reached over and grasped another bottle, hoisting
it stealthily away with shaking hands.

“rmmumrmrmrmmmummrmmummummmrm pronounce you husband and wife!” went the voice of the priest somewhere off in the distance.

A raucous cheer erupted from the crowd and I celebrated by gulping what
was left of the bottle. I did not normally drink, and all this liquor
seemed to be having a tremendous effect on me. My thoughts began to
glide together in an uninterrupted stream; one idea blending easily
into the next. I looked at George and his face was wild.

The DJ began to play some music.

“Pee-yew” I said “what lousy stuff.” The old woman turned and said “Now
that’s not a very nice thing to say is it they’re trying the best they
can.” I said, “That’s no excuse I could do better than that in my
sleep” and spat on the floor. She shook her head. I jumped to
my feet.

Tendril

I’d better go after him I said and stood up. Go after who? The old
woman asked. George. I said and yawned. The old woman furrowed her brow
"I don't know anyone by that name" she said. Up in the front a speech was
beginning and the crowd climbed to their feet, everyone talking at
once.

I couldn’t make sense of anything and I thought it sounded like the wild turkey pen
and I said it’d better get quiet around here or someone might carve
these turkeys up for Christmas dinner. A man at a nearby table snorted loudly.

I began worming my way up to the front and someone asked me where I was
going. I said I am going up there to the front because I can’t hear a
thing. They said I wouldn’t make it but I said you just watch. By the
time I got up there I didn’t remember why I had come, but by then the
dance floor was being cleared for some dancing.

I sat in a chair nearby to watch all the people dance and boy was it
interesting. There were a few real drunks that went up there. A lot of
them just lunged around the stage giggling and shouting loudly and
pointing to nobody in particular. I noted one woman with her hands on
her knees. Her legs were spread wide and she was shaking her head in some kind of
twisted spasm. Get a load of that I said elbowing the man next to me.
Hmm he said and nodded knowingly.

Suddenly an irish folk tune was playing and a small child scurried onto
the
dance floor and began to execute a complicated jig, hurling his legs in
every direction like a Speed Freak. A wild cheer erupted from the crowd
and I saw a young woman faint, a pool of blood slowly spreading out
around her collapsed form. A pack of wild dogs scrabbled around and
began lapping up the blood. That doesn't seem right I said who let
those beasts in here.

Soon more dancers joined the boy in a twisted chorus line; tossing
first one leg, and then the other into the air like rustling redfaced
scarecrows. Wonderful! I cried punching the shoulder of the old man, my
hand sinking in up to the elbow. I shouted and pulled it free and crawled
inder the table and curled into a ball.

I couldn't take any more:

I’m tired of this party and I’m tired of all of you I said and got to my feet banging my head on the underside of the table
christ I said rubbing my head as blood streamed into my eyes and
someone was laughing then everyone and I scream WHAT ARE YOU ALL
STARING AT and now walking to the front door of the church I pushed
open the door and felt a cool breeze on my face and I could hear sirens
and passed by a bum spare some change mister he said and I heaved a
handful of change into the street sends him scrambling on his hands and
knees and I got to my car and sat inside and turned the key and put my
head on the steering wheel.

Try to set the night on fire the radio said.

Try to set the night on fire.

Try to set the night on fire.

Try to set the night on fire.

What sort of a thing is that to put on the radio? I thought.