Painting by Sarah Fletcher
by Duncan Birmingham
The party, in a loft downtown and hosted by a dental hygienist notorious for his parties, is by all accounts a fucking success.
Issue #6 soundtrack: nisei23 "Bare Bones"
We mill about by the seven-layer dip, not because it’s so delicious but because it’s the best place to survey the crowd. We count half a dozen reality show personalities, four well-followed bloggers, a frequent game show contestant, an often-blurbed movie critic and the lazy-eyed redhead who once gave a blowjob to a (at the time) very-of-the-moment indie rock band’s bassist. The bartender looks familiar because, he informs us, he’s played one in various TV shows and films. The DJ keeps reminding us of the time and station for his own local radio show, which he adds, is on the verge of syndication.
The daughter from our favorite 90’s sitcom is there. We didn’t even know she lived in our city; we didn’t even know she was not dead of a drug overdose. A visual artist better known for his philandering than his feces paintings is there; so is his wife who has far surpassed him with a series of high-profile suicide attempts. A grown-up dumpster baby says he saw Bruce Willis’s granddaughter by the beer pong table.
“Who’s that?” an 8-year-old skateboarding prodigy asks and we look over as a guy in a cheap blazer and dirty undershirt unwittingly dribbles beer on himself. We don’t recognize him and blame it on the dim lighting. After a brief debate, a tipsy hand model volunteers to stumble over and ask his name; which she does and then just as abruptly lurches back to report to us.
We all hesitantly admit we’ve never heard of him, which is curious, as it’s a unique name. A couple of us simultaneously look him up on our phones and when that yields zero results, we exchange looks of embarrassment. We try different Internet browsers and various spellings. We question the host who tries to bluff us, but under scrutiny admits she can’t shed any light on the mystery guest either.
By now the same one syllable question ripples through the party. “Who? Who? Who?” Everyone casts glances over at this unknown guest lurching spastic, alone on the dance floor. Everyone wants to know, but no wants to ask him the obvious question. We pride ourselves on knowing everyone.
“This has to be some kind of prank?” a graphic designer with a well-circulated sex tape says. Some people begin searching the apartment for hidden cameras while others question the three different guests with their own prank reality programs. Then the photos start, subtlety at first; guests nonchalantly snapping shots with their phones to send to friends, trying to find someone who knows this guy’s deal. He seems not to notice what’s going on, not to see the party swarming around him, the pointed fingers, the bleary-eyed stares; all of which makes us even more curious.
The photo snapping grows more aggressive. A guy accused of being a pedophile on prime time blinds the guest with his video camera’s spotlight. A couple Guinness World Record holders lurk behind the guest, shoulder-surfing him for their friends to snap photos. At one point the mystery guest is knocked backwards by a cable-access host with a telephoto lens. He lands on the sofa with a belch.
No one is getting any answers worth a damn to their text or phone calls; in fact people hearing word of what’s going on are showing up in screeching taxis or double-parking and flooding into the party.
The loft is packed tight; it’s hot and the floor trembles under our weight but nobody seems to care. Still seemingly oblivious, the mystery guest is sitting where he landed on the futon.
“Take my picture with him!” screams a music video background dancer. “Take my picture with him!”
She throws us her camera and races to the futon, but it’s too late.
He’s already getting his photo taken with someone, lots of photos. The lazy-eyed redhead is twisted over, her head buried in his lap and she goes to work on him. He sits there blinking at us, with his arms outstretched the length of the futon’s back. We would never love him more.
Duncan Birmingham writes for film and TV in Los Angeles. He is the author of the humor blog and book Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves, and his fiction has appeared in Opium, Satire, Nerve, Word Riot and the world's wackiest tabloid, The Weekly World News. Visit Duncan online at duncanbirmingham.com.
Sarah Fletcher is twenty years old and attends college in Newport, RI. She has always been drawn to art as well as creating it, and plans to write and illustrate children's books in the near future. View more of her work via her ConceptArt profile.
nisei23, previously a member of Perfect Blue, is a British artist living in Asia who has released 3 EPs on Hong Kong avant-garde label Lona Records and 1 Creative Commons album on German netlabel Rec72. No synthesizers, sequencers or MIDI equipment are used in the creation of his music. Visit nisei23 online at nisei23.wordpress.com.