AUTHOR’S NOTE: Inspired by a fever dream caused by a spoiled chicken salad sandwich, I actually turned this is in as a writing assignment for my twelfth grade English class. I got an A, but my teacher never looked at me the same way after that…
“And how strong is your friendship with Harold?” the blonde asked, taking a deep drag on the small metallic pipe.
She exhaled gently and peered at me through the wisps of smoke with her soft blue eyes, now bloodshot and watery. Gazing back, I took the pipe from her and placed in between my lips. With a flick of the Bic, I ignited the contents of the pipe’s bowl, never breaking from her sultry stare. I lay back against the carpeted floor of the van we occupied and smiled.
“All pigs squeal when you cut them.”
“Wow,” she replied. “You cowboys are deep.”
Then I woke up. Two days later, I rolled my ’74 Volvo station wagon into Harold P. Smith’s driveway for a dinner party put on by Smith and his new fiancée, still wondering exactly what that dream was all about. I mean, why had I been blazing up in a van with a seductive blonde? And why did she refer to me as a cowboy? And since when did I say things like All pigs squeal when you cut them?
But I digress.
The house was large and white, standing ominously over the other houses on the block with a sense of authority. I wandered up the concrete walkway and stepped meekly up the front steps, the motion-sensitive porch light illuminating my way. I lifted the mighty brass knocker with all the strength I could muster and then let it go so it would swing back against the door with a deep clang. I fixed the cuffs of my blue jeans and brushed the lint off my red pullover sweater. Soon the door opened and Harold appeared wearing only a loincloth.
“Tarzan?” I inquired.
“That would be a fat positive big guy,” he answered. “And you, Joe Hardy?”
“Close,” I replied, a bit upset at my host’s inability to correctly guess my identity. “Encyclopedia Brown.”
“I should have known,” Harold said with a grin, motioning for me to enter.
I was led through a dimly lit hallway into a large dining area, over strips of plastic laid out to protect the pristine white carpet from the threat of any foreign substances clinging to my shoes. The room was not well lit, all the lamps having black light bulbs in the them, and the most illuminating object was a large disco ball that spun persistently from the string attached to the ceiling. In the middle of the room was a large oak table, around which sat several acquaintances, all in costume.
I was the last to arrive and I sat myself quietly next to Delilah, who was dressed as her biblical namesake. Harold swooped to my side and poured brandy from a flask into a large silver goblet. I was at first hesitant to even come near the ominous-looking glass – I was still on probation for a MIP citation from last March – but Harold assured me that since we were in a private setting no harm would come of it.
“Just don’t spill it on the carpet,” he added. “My ‘rents will have conniptions if they come back from Pismo to find anything wrong.”
Convinced that it would be safe, I took my first sip when I was startled by the person sitting on my right.
“Charlieeeeee!” shouted Delilah, leaning towards me violently, almost falling into my lap. Perhaps Delilah had been tipping back a few of her own. My name is not Charlie.
“I’m sorry,” I replied mildly, “my name is….”
“Not you,” she quipped rather rudely. “This is Charlie.”
She held out a small yellow pepper.
“Charlie the happy pepper.”
Realizing that I was being introduced to a vegetable, I suppressed the urge to backhand Delilah across the face and instead politely bowed my head. After all, it was a party and a little mingling was expected, even if it was with the appetizers.
Trying to ignore Delilah and her happy pepper, I focused my attention on the other guests, and noticed that I was seated across from a beautiful flaxen-haired stranger wearing a leopard skin bikini. Since I had never before met Harold’s fiancée, I assumed that this was she, the Jane to his Tarzan. Although this was the first time I had seen this girl, she looked curiously familiar, and as I tried to place her face she caught me staring at her and smiled sweetly.
I was about to ask her name when the door to the bathroom door opened and out came Becwar and Tucker, followed by a vast billowing cloud of smoke. They were dressed as Oscar Wilde and John Wayne, respectively. Harold then appeared to inform us that the macaroni and cheese would be ready in five minutes and placed a large bowl of corn chips in front of Becwar and Tucker in order to tide them over, seeing as they had suddenly become ravenous with hunger. The two attacked the chips in a mad frenzy, like coyotes feasting on recent roadkill.
Becoming sickened by their sloppy display, I poured myself another glass of brandy and turned my attention back to the blonde. It was hard to tell – the room was filled with smoke from the macaroni and cheese that Harold had somehow managed to burn, plus the brandy was starting to affect my vision – but the girl seemed to have the most intriguing blue eyes. They were almost like…
“Charlieeeeee,” screeched Delilah for no apparent reason, save that she was seeking attention. She turned to me with a confused look. “Is the room spinning?”
I looked at her disapprovingly; my pet peeve is people who just cannot hold their liquor.
“Delilah,” I stated boldly, “you are crocked.”
“Crocked?” she cackled.
“Crocked?” she iterated.
“Crocked?” she reiterated.
Ignoring her, I turned and looked at the beauty seated across from me, smiling rather suavely. She grinned back, only her smile seemed a little condescending.
“Excuse me,” she whispered, opening her mouth for the first time all night, “but you’re shedding.”
I looked down and noticed that my hair was beginning to collect on my shoulders and my plate. Becoming aware of my surroundings, I realized that Delilah had a pair of gardening shears and was cutting off my split ends.
“I prune you of your Nazirite powers, my Samson,” she was murmuring.
In an attempt to free my head from Delilah’s drunken wrath, I picked up her happy pepper and chucked it across the table. It landed in front of Becwar and Tucker, who had just polished off the bowl of chips.
“Disco!” exclaimed Becwar. “Ethnic food.”
He then gobbled up the pepper in one bite.
“Charlieeeeeee!” screamed Delilah, picking up the brandy flask and hurling it at Becwar with all her might. She missed by a good two feet, but the flask was going a good sixty miles per hour when it hit the far wall and shattered, spilling brandy and glass onto the previously untouched carpet. Seeing what had happened, Harold began to hyperventilate and attempted to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, being unshod, he found himself stepping on shards of glass, causing red blood to spew from his feet, corrupting the pristine white carpet.
“Here, pardner,” Tucker said, taking the ten-gallon hat off his head and placing in onto mine. “Watch this for me while I wrangle up Delilah’s drunken self.”
I sat there watching Harold hop around the room, clutching his feet and squealing in pain, as Tucker chased Delilah into the hallway.
“Well, pardner,” the blond said with a smile. “It looks like dinner’s going to be delayed while Harold rolls around the room like a little pig.”
Then it hit me, and in some bizarre way everything made sense. The blonde; Harold; the blood; and me, the cowboy.
“Tell me,” I whispered, “do all pigs squeal when you cut them?”
“Wow, you cowboys are deep.”
I leaned forward and smiled. “It’s getting a little too crazy in here. What say we take this conversation elsewhere?”
“My van’s parked outside,” the blonde offered.
We migrated outside quietly and didn’t return until dessert was served.
And to answer the question, I guess my friendship with Harold wasn’t so strong after all.