Lunch with Cocaine Stain–1

Another lunch with the folks. 12:35, boiling hot with a mild breeze that only pissed me off because it cooled the sweat on my three quarter length black on white Nirvana T-shirt, chilling me. I climbed out of my car, locked it, a quick mechanical thwip, thwip ejecting from my black Volkswagon GTi, as I dragged my ass over the melting parking lot towards the smiling doorman stuffed in a beige suit and top hat. I was late and had absolutely no clear idea as to why I was here. My wobbly mind wondered if it had something to do with the e-mail that was sent to me by an unknown source at 5 o’clock in morning. Entitled “Be Born Again” it contained the following cryptic message: “Naturally, in nature, disasters strike no one who is prepared.” I headed into Prestos my final thought: Here comes another natural fuckin’ disaster.

       The decor was pure Titanic chic and I could practically hear the screams of the damned and the drowning. The walls were covered with large flowers on faded yellow wallpaper, fake gold sconces clung to the walls in fifteen foot intervals, and a thick red carpet with a river of footsteps crushed into its center snaked toward the dining room. Everything was awful; a counterpoint to my neon lit night. The maitre d’ informed me that my party had already been seated and with a wave of his hand he lead me down toward the dining area, “Zis way, zir. Follow me.”

       The carpet’s soft anti-gravity feeling reminded me of last night and buying drinks for girls I didn’t know and snorting lines off the back of toilet seats. I smacked my lips. My mouth tasted like chewed rib bones and dried seaweed, flattened and brown, and I had this sudden feeling that I was going to choke. I wanted to spit or throw up so I stuck my finger in my collar to get some breathing room and forced down the lump in my throat. I knocked my shoulders back and slurped up the sopping wet saliva of polite conversation soaking the ballroom-sized dining room and this steeled my nerves. It was familiar territory and I knew how to use it. And I would. This luncheon would require full concentration and commitment.

       My family was seated at a round table by the window, which worried me. Window seats usually meant something big. Or something bad. My mind flipped through its mental planner searching for birthdays and anniversaries and as usual the pages were dog eared and blank. I switched to “Plan Two” and did a quick mental search of all possible excuses as to why I forgot to bring a card or a gift for whatever it is we are here for and I couldn’t seem to settle on anything and I gave up trying. The maitre d’ pulled out my seat and I sat down, surrounded.

       I tried to break the silence and smiling said, “I got stuck in traffic. Those damn tour buses are taking over the city….”

       “You know” my brother Frank broke in, his finger lifting Ghandi-style, “‘Life is a race, where some succeed, while others are beginning….’”

       “Yeah, Frank.” I said. “Spare me the quote. I know how it ends: ‘Tis better late than never.’”

       Frank leaned back tucking his yellow Saks tie into his blue double breasted pinstripe by Ralph Lauren and then, inhaling a deep breath, he folded his arms across his chest careful not to wrinkle his suit and I knew an attack, gooey and jellyfish-like, was coming my way but before the hammer sparks could fly Frank’s Ericsson bleated out a tinny version of Edvard Greig’s In The Hall of the Mountain King. Without taking his eyes off of me Frank let it ring through the first sixteen bars, smiling. I thought again of the e-mail. Could it have been Frank? He was a prick like that. The ringing stopped. Frank picked up the silver knife from off of his crisply folded white napkin and dug the blade into the white table cloth. He spun the knife idly and watched the triangular prisms of light flash across the table top. A full three minutes of this passed before he sent a quick three word text message reply. Wagner came on again and with a smug smile he excused himself from the table. As he walked away he looked at me over his shoulder and flashed me a grin that said–this ain’t over.

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