part four (entertainment)
Around 11 o'clock, I told Bow-legged Pete that it was time to break out the case of cheaper wine. By now, most everyone's palate would be too desensitized to know the difference.
I noticed that Sonja had attracted a little crowd, owing paradoxically, to her coiled lack of demonstrativeness, to her disarming, intense self-possession. And most likely also owing to a subconscious sense that she was our general protector. After all, we were out here in the middle of nowhere. Anything could happen.
But so far, the night was going splendidly. Perhaps it had something to do with the number of people. As they say, the more the merrier. I had become gradually conscious that the room had become gradually more populace as the hours waxed. At least a dozen complete strangers -- mostly men, two or three women -- were in our midst. Uninvited. The gents were dressed in black tuxedos, the women in elegant ball gowns. It occurred to me that while in Tupelo yesterday I had seen a poster on the court house door: "Hobo convention tomorrow night." Perhaps, these were Hobos who had caught wind of our party. And had wandered away from their own gathering, then making their way through the forested night to our skyscraper. I hoped the wine would hold out.
"Listen up, everyone!" I declared, becoming more comfortable in the guise of MC as the evening progressed. People began listening up. I felt important.
"It's time for the festivities. You will notice that Peter has set up something for us in front of the large plate-glass window." We all joined him to see what our man of amateur science and professional sardonic wit had brewed up.
"This is a special telescope I built myself." He pushed a red button on top of the tube. The telescope came to life, whirring and gyrating in a slow, elliptical motion. It soon locked onto some distant target way beyond the still cloud-covered moon.
"You see, folks, this instrument is automatically programmed to pick up super-sensitive radiations revealing the presence and location of worm-holes in space. Please line up and have a look. You'll get to see your own eye glaring back at you."
We formed a queue, and everyone got to see their own, alternate eye looking back at them from an alternate universe, on the other side of the M-brane. There were many "oohs" and "ahhs."
Yesterday, the three rednecks had ripped out some load-bearing studs from a floor below. And re-purposed some sheets of wall panels. They built a stage in the party room, against a wall. It was two-feet off the ground and 10' deep by 20' wide. I flipped off all the lights except for two fixtures directly over the stage and then directed everyone to gather for the performances.
Charles read a new poem for the occasion. Several women fainted.
Then, I sang a song about staggering through a bog to reach a magic tree the fruit of which would make me dream in reverse and wake up before anything sad happened. I accompanied myself by playing air-guitar on a house broom that Merle had found in a janitor closet.
Yael and Olga then took the stage. Both were draped in beautiful beige shawls. And in a perfectly synchronized choreography, they performed a Russian folk dance. Amazing! They didn't even know each other. Yet there they were, dancing as if twinned in spirit. Or as Tolstoy might have said -- having set their arms akimbo, their shoulders and waists came alive....their heels clicked the floor as they slowly twirled....where had they learned these mutual motions, these unteachable, soulful Russian gestures? I was so happy that tears fell like raindrops into my wineglass.
When it was over, Olga hopped down from the stage and Matt came bounding upon it, with inebriated aplomb. Yael, with a fluid, dramatic sweep, removed the shawl and flung it out toward the audience. It sailed like an albino manta ray and landed on top of Nels's head.
After a sideways jerk of her head and a grinning hard wink toward the "band," Yael began snapping her fingers like a beatnik. Merle, Jasper, and Bow-legged Pete ripped into the Jitterbug Rag. Believe me, you have not lived until you have experienced such a thing played by xylophone, nose flute, and gong!
Matt and Yael began sashshaying and jiving in rhythm to the music. Then they went crazy. They danced across the stage, swinging wildly and grooving happily. All of us in the crowd below clapped our hands in tempo and wiggled our behinds in sympathy to the spirited big-band proceedings.
Next, it was Chansonette's turn. She set up an easel and placed a fairly large virgin canvas on it. Holding in one hand a wooden palette arrayed with shiny oil pigments and a long-handled brush in the other, she began a spontaneous painting. While slowly, pensively reciting "Three Blind Mice" in extinct Sumerian dialect, she painted with intense concentration. A wondrous abstract image emerged on the canvas. Each of us, I knew, received this fantastic image into our souls to slightly alter our brain-waves forever.
After everyone's glasses were refilled by the circulating redneck waiters, Nabina, Bonnie, Nels, and Regina took the stage. Each had a large white rectangle of poster board on their chest, draped from a string around their necks. Nabina -- "Spring," Bonnie -- "Summer," Nels -- "Autumn," Regina -- "Winter." Performance art was about to happen.
They formed a circle -- like points on a compass -- about eight feet in diameter and then began walking in a druid-like perambulation. Three times, they walked in a circle. Then, they stopped, with Nabina facing us.
"I am Spring. You'll hurt when I sing!"
Three more rotations, then Bonnie:
"I am Summer. My heat is a bummer!
"I am Autumn. Grief knows no bottom!"
And finally, Regina:
"I am Winter. Your soul will splinter!"
They then left the stage to resounding applause.
Now, it was Robyn's turn. She somehow got to the stage with the wine bottle still balanced on top of her head. And now, she was holding two other unopened bottles. While singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (not the real melody -- one scarifyingly morphed into something like Schoenberg's Erwartung), she began miraculously juggling the two bottles. Never did the bottle on her head give the least sign of sliding off. When the performance concluded, Robyn giggled and curtsied.
I looked around for Kris. I had not asked him to perform. But I thought now that he could provide just the right touch to end the entertainment part of the evening.
"Kris, would you mind doing something on stage?"
He thought for a full minute, then:
"Sure. Let me get something from the cockpit." He headed off for the stairs to the roof. Shortly, he reappeared carrying a parachute pack. He unzipped it and removed a shiny onyx-black box, with strange carvings all over its surface. A hinged box, like a music box.
"You flew here...in that plane...without a parachute inside the pack?"
"If you intend to fly, don't plan on falling."
"So, what are you going to perform?"
"First, we'll need to build a fire in front of the stage. I have certain instructions in my head. For what I want to do, a fire is necessary."
"Kris, I really don't think it would be a good idea to make a fire here on the top floor of a building."
"Never question inspiration. Go with what comes. And besides, the floor is ceramic tile. Perfect."
So, I got the rednecks to gather up the wood scraps from the stage construction. Soon, a good-sized blaze was blazing in front of the stage. I asked everyone to come form a semi-circle, to sit cross-legged on the floor around the fire. Everyone that is except Joseph, who continued to wander around with his hand-held camera, under the sway of his directorial muse. Also, Sonja remained standing, aloof in the shadows near a wall, weapon at the ready.
I noticed that Paula had passed out in one of the plastic lawn chairs. I walked over and gently shook her. She burst from her dream with:
"Noooooo!! The Black King has stabbed the White King on top of my besieged harpsichord!"
A few moments later, Kris somersaulted onto the stage, while holding the onyx box. And then addressed the Facebook and Hobo crowd:
"I acquired this special box by selling 30% of my soul to a Calvinist headhunter priest in New Guinea five years ago. I don't mean that he hunted Calvinists. Rather, he had converted. Sort of. A syncretism reeking of predestination and justified corpses. Anyway...I thought you might enjoy discovering with me what is inside this box. I've never opened it. Never even asked that priest what it contains. All I know is that it's some kind of good-luck charm."
He then turned his head toward Bow-legged Pete and gave him a significant nod. The cushioned mallet struck the gong, sending out a resonant, beckoning wave of sound.
Holding the black box out in front of him, like a magician about to conjure rabbits, Kris gingerly opened the lid.
Seven Chinese demon-ghosts and three dragon-spirits wafted out in semi-transparent mode. All of us leaned back involuntarily from the shock of this revelation. Kris's eyes lit up, a fascinated smile enlivening his lips.
The ghosts and spirits began to slowly swirl above the box and then wafted out into the room. All of our mouths hung open as the ectoplasmic creatures zoomed and danced in the air above us.