The topic was a party, a topic I found particularly uninspiring. Eventually I ended up modifying a brief outline I'd written a few years ago about a rather strange hippy party I attended in England in the early 1970s. The modifications included inserting some dialogue to bring things a bit more alive, and giving the whole thing a coherent structure with a well defined beginning, middle and end. Sticking closely to the principle of Chekov's Gun, I also made sure that everything I mentioned had a part to play in the story. It is complete and it is a story but nevertheless I don't like it very much.
The address matched the one Id been told, but I really wasnt sure that Id got the right place. The house was quiet and still. There was nothing to suggest that a party might be happening inside. There was no music coming from it and no happy chattering. On the other hand, there were no arguments or fights either. That had to be a good sign. I walked up and down the street a couple of times to check the other houses but none of them showed any indications of a party, so I returned to the original house, pushed the door open and went inside.
The lounge was dimly lit and crowded with silent people. Nobody was talking to anyone else. A stereo burbled away very, very softly to itself in the corner of the room and the heady smell of incense didnt quite disguise the beguiling scent of marijuana coming from the several joints that were being passed around. Everyone turned to look at me as I walked in. "Ssssh!" someone whispered in admonishing tones. "Dont wake the baby." Well, I thought, that explains the silence...
I had brought a large bottle of home made gooseberry wine with me. I took it into the kitchen and hid it in the oven so as to keep it away from thirsty, thieving throats. It seemed unlikely that the oven would be getting much use tonight. Everyone was far too stoned to think coherently about cooking. When they got the munchies, which they inevitably would, theyd probably send someone out for takeaways. Some other people had obviously come to the same conclusion that I had because there were already four bottles of wine in the oven, along with a six pack of beer.
Id brought the gooseberry wine because I needed a lot of help to drink it. Once you open a bottle of wine you have to drink it all, otherwise it goes off and thats a terrible waste of a good wine. Its a terrible waste of a bad wine as well assuming that there is such a thing, which I doubt. Either way, the wine wont keep once youve taken the cork out, and you have to drink it in one session. Unfortunately this particular gooseberry wine was so strongly alcoholic that one person could not finish a bottle of it without falling asleep half way through. So I thought Id share my wine with the party. I was sure that it would all vanish quite quickly. None of it would be wasted. Marijuana makes you very indiscriminating.
A three-legged dog joined me by the oven. He was a black labrador. One of his back legs was missing. Presumably it had been amputated after some sort of accident. The dog didnt seem to mind being a tripod. He was very friendly and I made a big fuss of him. He swished his tail backwards and forwards and he nuzzled my hand searching for treats. "Sorry," I said, "I havent got anything for you." He didnt believe me and he searched me all over again.
Someone who looked like a bank clerk came into the kitchen. He was smartly dressed in a snappy suit with a neatly knotted tie. His shoes were polished to a high gloss. He made an amazing contrast with everybody else at the party. They were all wearing the standard party uniform of scruffy jeans and tie-died tee shirts.
"Hello," I said. "Would you like some home made gooseberry wine?"
"Home made?" He sounded surprised. "Did you make it yourself?"
"I did indeed," I said. I poured some wine into a plastic cup and handed it to him. He clasped it in the approved manner with his little finger stuck out at a pretentious right angle. He drank the entire cupful in one swig. Then he smiled.
"Not too sweet," he said. "Not too dry. I like it." He held his cup out for more. "I smoked some jimson weed before I came to the party," he said. "Jimmy weed gets me wasted much faster than pot does. Ive been practically living on it for the last three days. But I bet this home made wine is a lot better for that than the jimmy is. After all, you made it, that has to count for something. I just picked the jimmy weed from where I found it growing by the side of the road."
I was surprised. "Havent the council sprayed it with weed killer?" I asked. "They are usually quite good at getting rid of the roadside weeds."
He shrugged. "That just makes it tastier," he said. I poured some more wine and the bank clerk became loquacious. "Interesting that we are both getting wasted on totally legal drugs," he said. "Which do you prefer? Wine or jimmy? I have some jimmy left if you want it. Fair exchange for you sharing your wine with me."
"No thanks," I said. "Jimson weed is too scary. Too many side effects."
He shook his head in disagreement. "Home made wine is much scarier," he said. "Its made by people. People make mistakes. Jimmy is made by God. God doesnt make mistakes."
I returned my attention to the dog. I had some mints in my pocket. They had been there for ages and they were covered in fluff. They looked quite disgusting. I had no desire to put them anywhere near my mouth so I offered one to the dog and he wolfed it down. You dont realise how many edible things there are in the world until youve made friends with a labrador.
More people came in to the kitchen in search of alcohol. One and all, they were fascinated by the idea of home made wine and they asked me for details of how Id made it. One thing led to another and it wasnt long before we were all eagerly swapping recipes for this, that and the other thing, most of them perfectly legal and all of them wholesome and tasty. The labrador begged for titbits and everyone fed him something. His tail wagged faster and faster. This was the most wonderful party hed ever been to.
"Do you realise," said the bank clerk interrupting an intense discussion about which was the very best kind of chilli to cook a con carne with, "that we are all men, we are standing in the kitchen and we are all talking about cooking. Where are the women?"
"I imagine that they are in the lounge," I said, "talking about rugby."
The bank clerk nodded his agreement. The labrador asked him for a treat and the bank clerk glanced down. "I thought that dog only had three legs," he said.
I counted the dogs legs carefully. "Thats right," I said. "Three of them."
The bank clerk shook his head. "I can see four legs," he said. He closed one eye and squinted. "I tell a lie," he said. "The dogs got six legs. And every one of them is blurred around the edges."
"I think the jimmy weed is kicking in," I said. "Have another drink."
"Ive had lots to drink already," said the bank clerk. "Lots and lots and lots. But I havent had a pee for a day and a half."
"Jimmy will do that to you," I said. "If you dont pee soon, guess what will happen to your bladder."
"What?" he asked.
I put a finger into my mouth. I dragged it across the inside of my cheek and out of my mouth again, making a loud popping sound. "It will explode," I said. "Just like that."
Somebody laughed and the bank clerks face grew red with anger. "Dont laugh at me," he shouted. "Dont LAUGH!" His voice rose to a shriek and from the lounge came the sound of a baby crying.
"Which one of you bastards woke the baby?" demanded an angry voice.
The bank clerk slumped down on to the kitchen floor. He leaned back against the oven, closed his eyes and passed out. Presently he started to vomit, and the labrador started to feast. His party was getting better and better.
"Now that the babys awake, can we turn the music up and have a proper party?" asked another voice.
The bank clerks body was blocking the oven door. Since he was preventing me from getting any more to drink I decided it was time to go home.