Looking back on it, it had been a weak excuse to escape. He stood on the back deck of Ching's new house, looking into the remnants of a wetland just over the new wood fence. Oranger than the parking lot lights at work, and reflecting in the iridescent swirls of water in the backyard, the intensity pulsed and ebbed.
The teenage girls were walking up the cul-de-sac again, promenading poodles with their painted nails and frizzy hair teased and tied in bows, posing for the neighbor boys as if they were judges at the Madison Square Garden Dog Show. Did they see it? No indication that they could see past the glowing screens of their iPods.
Maybe I should try to ignore it, he thought, Everyone else can. The cocktail party inside was like being in grade school again, insulting each other with phrases none of us understood. "Yo' mama wears Army boots." "Yo' mama got gold nipples" As if the posings of the designers weren't enough, Ching's wife spent her time breeding flat-faced Persian cats. She could talk forever about her champion stud, Galleycat Pride of Winghaven. Just hearing about the cats made him want to sneeze.
And the blonde had been the final straw. Sitting on one of Ching's fancy stools, talking about her work as a book reviewer. "Drop everything and give me ten...books", she said, and everyone around laughed as if it were the most original thing ever said. He decided right then and there to join Carroll hunting snark rather than stay in the room with her.
A flicker between the cracks of the fence reminded him of his original mission. What was that? Grandma would have said the lights were the will of the wisp, but he didn't think that malevolent spirits had taken up residence in suburban Maryland. Besides, Grandma was also in the habit of medicating her bunions with Dr. Jackson's special Cocaine Potion, which she had bought in cases prior to criminalization. Who knew what oddness would release itself from the muddle of her mind?
Ching stuck his head out the French door and turned it to and fro like a terrapin. "Hey man, You gotta come hear this thing Sarah found on the Internet. Some dude named Bat Segundo interviewing Dave Barry." The reverie interrupted, he waved and nodded, and the head rejoined its body indoors.
So, then, back. The roar of the greasepaint, smell of the crowd. One whiff, and he closed the door, walked down the steps, and pulled his flask of Dr. Jackson's out of his pocket. Twisting the cap back on, he felt the familiar burn as his legs stretched to their full length. Then he walked. out of the yard. Towards the light.
I'm joining Grandma for some of that hooch!
Scoring to come