Thursday, 22 January 2015

Final Birthday Party

By Diana Gitau


The room is full of people milling around, talking and laughing in small groups. The liquor is flowing, after all, what is a party without lots of liquor. True to our African tradition, there is food displayed all across the room. I wouldn’t want my guests to talk about my party later and only mention the fact that the food wasn’t enough. That is not a reputation that I want to leave behind.

Although it’s my party, I am seated at the corner of my massive living room all alone. I try my best to smile but after a while, the corners of my mouth start to hurt and my face is twisted into a scowl. Maybe that’s what is making everyone keep their distance.

I wonder why they are all here. Could it be the food? In this community, People never turn down an opportunity to enjoy a free meal. That explains why they shamelessly turn up at weddings and funerals uninvited. It’s all for the food. We all pretend that it is the African way of doing things, it is tradition to share meals but truth be told, we just love free meals.

I look at my eldest son, Murua, standing at the corner across the room talking to young curvaceous woman who I had never seen before. Murua has always had a way with the ladies. Sometimes, I think he is trying to show off for my sake. The young man knows nothing about women. Even at 70, I am sure that I can steal away that young thing that he is talking to in just minutes. Women love money, and I had plenty of that. 

Murua catches my eye and raises his glass to me. I loathe my son. He is an ungrateful bastard!

I have provided him with everything including his home and the truck that he drives. I have tried to make something out of him but all he ever does is chase skirts and drink my money away. He also spends every day watching me like a vulture, waiting for me to take my last breathe so he could pounce on my property. I am so sure he would waste it all in just a month. Never worked a day in his life but that doesn’t make him feel any less entitled.

“Happy birthday grand pa…”

I turn around and found a little ugly thing looking up to me. Not sure whose brat she was. Chubby cheeks, wide set eyes, head full of curly hair. Ah must be, Muthoni’s, my daughter who decided to get married across the border to a Somali man who, of course, I despise.

Soon, Muthoni and her brood comes over to say hi.

“Happy birthday, dad.” The Somali man, Husseini, Hamisi or something stands next to her smiling goofily.

Her voice sounds mechanical and she makes no attempt even to shake my hand.
Muthoni was once the apple of my eye, a bright, disciplined little girl who always did her best to please me. I in turn ensured that she was well taken care of. After University, I went a step further and found her a suitable suitor.  He was a wealthy man, just a couple decades older but very capable of providing for my precious daughter. Needless to say, Muthoni ran away from home and years later came back with this tall, scrawny looking man with curly hair from Somalia.

I have tried over the years to mend fences with her but she simply refuses to forgive me. Instead, she drifted further from me and hasn’t been home in the past three years. That girl broke my heart!

I have a few other children. Sometimes, it gets hard to keep track of them. All of my wives are also at the party, Maria, Wambui and Nduta. Three women who really despise me but they still showed up for my birthday party. Three women I who I guess have born me eleven children in total. Who knows whether I truly sired all of them? Either way, all eleven with their little army of free loaders were at my party.
Well, there’s something about turning 70 years old that makes you an instant hit with everyone. A single cough from me is enough to turn all heads in the room. They all watch me with bated breath waiting to see if I will drop dead and make their dreams come true.

This all started Last month when I had a moment of weakness and went to church. Like everywhere else, I was treated like royalty, never mind the fact that the last time I was there, was when I was fifteen. I was quickly given a seat at the front and even the pastor came and eagerly shook my hand. I knew they were not celebrating my return to church. Instead, they were thinking of my deep pockets and what I could do for the church. I saw the incomplete structure nearby which is assumed was a project that has stalled probably due to lack of funds. Anyway, I definitely had no plans to spend a single coin in the church. To prove my point, I had even left my wallet home.

The sermon was about forgiveness. A bible thumping preacher jumped up and down the pulpit spitting on everyone near him as he spoke about life after death. This got me thinking about heaven and hell. I wondered if I still had time to make amends before departing from this world. 

I quickly went home after the service and called my lawyer and by the end of the day, I had redone my will leaving everything split equally between my three wives and the remaining 5% of my estate going to the church. By the time I went to bed that night, my whole family had found out about the will, thanks to my loose-tongued lawyer.

By the next day, ‘the love’ had started. My house that was accustomed to tomb-like silence became a beehive of activities. My children with their kids in tow descended on my home like flies on a carcass. I started having good meals and some company every night because my wives suddenly showed up. I had heard rumors that my youngest wife, Nduta had gotten re-married but there she was, each and every night by my side. I am not sure what arrangement she had with her new husband but I guess desperation has made people do worse things.

The birthday party was obviously their idea but of course I met all costs. They wanted to have an opportunity to spoil the grandfather that they ‘adored’. 

What a load of hogwash!

 One thing that amused me is how much money they spent on things I didn’t need. They spared no expenses and bought four goats, despite the fact that they know that I don’t eat red meat. A truckload of liquor was bought, though they knew that my liver problem didn’t allow me to enjoy the bottle that was once a daily indulgence. In addition, there was a band that was playing some song. I have no idea what they were singing about. Nobody cared to at least ask me what I wanted. So really, this party had nothing to do with me. It was a show.

“Are you having fun?” Murua finally acknowledge me. His words were slurred and his breathe foul with a mix of beer and nyama choma as he leaned unsteadily over my seat.

“I just want to let you know, I will take care of everything, the house, the land, everything…” He went on as he dramatically solemnly put his hand over his heart as if taking an oath.

You see, Murua like everyone else thinks that I have a month to live due to my liver cirrhosis. This birthday party was more of a farewell that a celebration of life. However, greed has no bounds, even though the doctors gave me a month, I could tell everyone wished I would leave sooner. 

I had seen the cars, I knew loans had been taken, and plans of living a wealthy lifestyle already been made. They were already spending their inheritance even before my death. I silently encouraged them to keep digging themselves into more debt. 

Come on guys, spend it all!

It may not seem like it but I really enjoyed my birthday party. I enjoyed being surrounded by my family. It seemed like the perfect way to spend my last night on earth, adored like the king that I am. I had already decided to end my life on my own terms, in my bed on my 70th birthday and I had enough pills and a bottle of whisky to do the job. The whisky will probably fry my liver before the pills send me to other side.

My will is to be read a month after my death as per my orders; I will long buried by then. I have no doubt that I am going to hell but I do hope that the devil will be seated right next to me as I watch the drama that will unfold after I am the in the ground. I would like to watch the fake mourning at my funeral and chuckle at fake tears. I know my wives will definitely give the best performance of their lives. 

A month later, my family will come to realize that I had changed my will again with another lawyer who was paid handsomely for his confidentiality.  I decided to give to the church after all and not just 5 %, the church gets everything! My family gets absolutely nothing. 

Why am I leaving all my wealth to a church that I attended only once, well because I can and also because I think the whole thing is pretty hilarious. I will rolling around in my grave or in hell, laughing at the confusion and havoc that my will cause.

To my family, thanks for the birthday party and yeah, good luck with the debts.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Party Ache

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

Neon lights sweep across my chest as if scanning it, looking for a culprit. The culprit is my heart. I shouldn’t have come here.

“Hey.”

A hand holds me back. It belongs to a god. Hair shining with each glare of the strobe lights, carelessly ruffled so that my hands itch to smooth it, eyes like searchlights, penetrating copper. Beyond the grey jacket and worn jeans, his skin radiates heat, heat I cling to my chilled heart, throbbing dully as it thaws. Thawing hurts.

I turn towards him and smile. “Where’s the bathroom?”

He smiles amusedly. “Just round the corner over that-a-way.” He points then nods. “I’ll be over with the others. I’ve shown you where they are, right?”

I resist the urge to ask if he should be coming with me to make sure I find the bathroom alright. If he didn’t think about it, I figure, then it’s not that big a deal to him. Me that is. “Yeah, I’ll find you.”

I watch him leave – he doesn’t even look back – and slink along the walls to avoid the writhing mass of flesh in the centre. It’s like looking into the mind of an acid tripper: a big bulge of jelly flashing in different colours steadily obstructs my view of anything else. Once it’s the only thing I see, I lean against the wall and close my eyes. What I receive is a massage, or a synching of sorts. Each surface pounds to match my chest. Ground and wall, we all become one in a restless, desperate beat.

“Wanna dance?”

I open my eyes and raise an eyebrow. Greasy hair and a twitching smile point to sleaze central. “I’m not buying it,” I say out loud.

“What?” He leans towards me and his smile widens. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Can you say it in my ear?”

I push him away and plunge into the mass. Immediately it engulfs me in its embrace, drowning me in sound and substance. My breath becomes shallow. How much oxygen is there in here? I push and Newton’s third law shoves me back. I’m stuck. My lungs deflate, throat clenches up. Maybe I’ll die here and he wouldn’t care. I let my eyes close again. Would he care? I let my body go slack. I dare you…

Arms go under my armpits and drag me out of the melee. As they retreat, my body slides down the wall. Sitting now, I open my eyes again.

“Are you okay?” Sleaze central is still smiling. The corners of his mouth twitch uncontrollably now. His palm is poised to touch my forehead. “You running a fever?”

Slapping his hand away, I storm off, until I’m sure I’m hidden again, back to being the wall and ground of the nightclub. My chest shakes. Ha, I think. This is ridiculous. I stare at the bulging body of people, at the colours that both conceal and illuminate them. They’re all desperate. It’s more obvious here, though it’s dark enough to hide it.

“Hey.”

Sleaze central looks deranged. That twitch makes me want to slap it off his face, but then I finally notice it.

“Um,” he runs his hand through his hair. “Sorry if I offended you. I just…I really want to dance with someone tonight and you looked available so I…I’m sorry if I came on too strong.”

Those eyes are the same, I realize. I should have noticed them before, seen how hungry they were, how fixated. They’re my eyes, wide and pleading. Tears well up. It’s not fair, I think. I swallow them back.

“First of all,” I shout so he can hear me. “I dance solo.” His face falls and he stares at the ground. “But for you, I’ll make an exception tonight.” He raises his face, questioning what he just heard. I grab his hands. “No groping, thrusting, or any physical contact outside of my hands.” I look him straight in the eye. “Deal?”

His eyes widen and I let go, letting my body take the reins of motion. The pounding ground lifts me up, carries me onto the melody’s track. I let go and close my eyes for a moment, without caring for whether or not I look ridiculous. The beat reverberates through my bones, so that my whole body pounds to the beat of my heart, that desperate aching heart. If I dance enough, maybe everything will ache and I won’t be able to tell the difference, and it won’t matter. Opening my eyes again, I notice sleaze central is gone. Maybe he’s realized it too: that we don’t need this, this begging for someone to feed us. For now, we just need ourselves.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Life of the Party

By Kindell C Lewis


January short story club


 Life of The Party


 

Kindell C Lewis

 

I haven’t really thought of my neighbor Armando much since he disappeared over a year ago. At least not until today. It’s crazy how people come into your life, make themselves at home, and then disappear. What is even crazier is how quickly they can be replaced or erased. Yes Armando was a part of my daily routine. He was a part of my every day  life. I can't say that about many people.
 
 Armando was charming charismatic and always smiling. He seemed to fall ass backwards into money. Women loved him, and yet  the women he juggled never brought drama. Yep, dude was a mystery…   The man could throw a party, that’s for damn sure. I admired and envied him.  Everyone gravitated towards to him. It was almost as if he was too good to be true.  Should have known he wouldn’t stick around.

I try not to dwell too deeply on these things. Being a single, childless 47 year old man living in Jacksonville Florida, is depressing enough. If I dwell on friendships past I’m likely to just jump from the highest bridge into the closest gator ridden swamp. Instead I just focus on routine. I work. I drink. I fix things. Repeat, repeat. Today I was forced down memory lane at emotional gunpoint thanks to that damn pinna colata song…I don’t care how old or young you are, you know you’ve heard it. That trashy nautical ballad will never go away. Even though I knew I would hear that dreadful melody again someday, I didn’t realize the power those idiotic lyrics held. When the chorus came through my car stereo speaker system, I felt an emptiness I hadn’t felt since my 4th fiancĂ© left. Man, I hope Armando is ok.

 

“"If you like Pinna Coladas and getting caught in the rain

If you're not into yoga, if you have half-a-brain

If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape

I'm the love that you've looked for, write to me, and escape"

 

The reason why Escape reminds me of Armando is because he must have played that out dated piece of crap a twenty times at his last party. It was a nautical themed bash. It was a going away party, but the thing is no one but Armando knew that.

 

I am not exactly a ray of sunshine. I do not stand out in any way. I am neither handsome nor ugly. I am exactly average height and weight for a white man my age. I grew up in Jacksonville Florida. I followed my father into the mechanic industry. I don’t smile much. My name is John… you get the picture. I am a boring bastard. So when this outspoken Latin man moved in next door with his BMW and his Rolex and his outgoing persona, I was annoyed. I was sure this jerk was going to screw up my nice neat routine with his handsome bullshit… I just wasn’t sure how.

 

Before the movers had finished moving his fancy leather couch into his condo, Armando had introduced himself and somehow won me over. What a charming prick. I actually found myself looking forward to his house warming party that he had insisted I had to be at. I don’t’ remember much about that first party, but I do know I had too much to drink and a whole lot of fun. Armando and I talked like long lost brothers, Even though I only had a few steps to go to make it home, I was the last to leave. I don’t remember having that much fun. Ever.

 

 Instead of calling me John as most people did, he called me Johnny boy. I don’t know why but that made me happy. Usually when I came home from work Armando would be outside barb q-cuing chatting up random strangers, or entertaining beautiful women. He’d call out “heeeeerrrrrreeee’s Johnny boy!” Then he’d tell me the plans for the next party. It never stopped. Christmas parties, chaunaka parties, and birthday party’s freedom Friday parties, bar milts bashes, Flag Day get togetherness and anniversary celebrations for everything you can think of. Armando was the life of the party and I saw myself as his right hand man. For as close as I thought we were, I honestly couldn’t tell you much about Armando. He looked Cuban, spoke the dialect of Spanish known to Puerto Rico, yet told everyone his beloved mother raised him in Juarez Mexico. Then Armando would pour another drink and the party would go on.

 

There were other things about my neighbor and friend that should have been red flags or at the very least indicators that he wasn’t quite what he portrayed himself to be. The man never seemed to work yet always had money. I’d asked him once what he did for a living. I believe the answer was. Anything that can hold my attention.”

 

Occasionally he would go out of town for a day or two but then again, who didn’t. For six months I had a friend. I had fun; I looked forward to each day.

 

I suppose that’s the real problem with a good party. You never want it to end.

 

With the liquor flowing daily and my mood better than ever, I guess I never stood a chance of seeing the party come to an end. If I had known now that the nautical nonsense themed summers get together would be the last, I would have treasured it. I would have at least bought a tacky Hawaii shirt to wear like Armondo asked me to. I would have joined my buddy in a karaoke round of Escape. Hell, I would have begged him to take me with him, wherever he was going.

 

When I came home from work the day after the nautical nonsense bash there was no sign of Armando. The next day the house remained still. By the third day, I went to see for myself. Panic rose in my throat as I knocked and knocked on his door. Finally I peeked in through the windows.

 

Staring back at me was an empty house. Not just anyone is home kind of empty either. All furniture was gone, all pictures removed, the walls and floors wiped clean. It was as if Armando never existed.

 

A couple weeks later, while sitting at home bored and sulking I caught what might be my last glimpse of Armando. It was on pt. Yes, Armando had earned a spot on America’s Most Wanted. Granted he wasn’t on the actually top ten-which is reserved for mobsters, murderers and terrorists, yet he was there just the same. I listened as John Walsh read unveiled the mystery of Mondo in his fifteen seconds of shame segment

 

“Now we’ve got a real dirt bag for you. Look closely at the face on your screen. Armando Rodriguez- Gozellous is an international con artist who preys on the elderly and the lonely. A native of Puerto Rico, he stands only 5’10 weighing only 195 pounds, but when it comes to crime, this is no light weight. Rodriguez is wanted for charges ranging from pyramid schemes to identic theft bank wire theft and mortgage fraud. He is known to frequent North and South America, as well as Europe and the Caribbean. He goes by the alias’ Hector Garcia, Jose Rosa, John smith and Eli Carter. He is believed to be in the Sothern states, most likely Florida. If you have any information on the whereabouts of this creep, call our 1-800 numbers. I promise you can remain anonymous. Together let’s put this career criminal out of business and behind bars.”

 

I stared in shock at the screen. That was definitely my buddies smiling face up there in his Hawaiian shirt and Discoid beer in hand. My brain slowly went through the information that I had just gathered. After about 20 minutes I had come to 2 definite conclusions. Number one- I was grateful he had told me his real name. I don’t know why but I just was. Number two I had better call my bank.
 

After checking my bank and finding all my hard earned money right where I left it, a strange thing happened. I found myself silently cheering on Mondo, wishing him luck. Even stranger, I elected myself the unofficial torch carrier to the block party and carefree lifestyle that Armando blessed me with. I now host Mondo Mondays which eventually was shortened to Man Mondays because no women ever came and the legend of Armando was fast fading. No one has ever heard from him. AMW website still has him listed as a person of interest.  Now I just call them my Mondays.


As I listened to the last verse of that obnoxious Pinna Colata song I silently Thanked Armando for making me the life of the party. For forcing me to listen to cheesy music and for teaching me to loosen up.

 Armando my friend wherever you are, I hope you have a drink in hand and may you always Escape.

Such Heavenly Waters

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014


Danny Fitzmaurice had always felt paranoid at parties and this one was no exception. A housemate had dragged him out last night to a club and he surprisingly had had a good time but was still a tad paranoid at the after party. It was in a terrace house in Redferne, on the first weekend of 2014’s spring, Saturday to be specific, blessedly warm, and the post clubbing party, with about twenty young lads and lasses, was just now getting under way, especially in consideration of the imminent arrival of a quarter of an ounce of ganja, marijuana. Elizabeth’s presence also accentuated his discomfort. Not that she was being snobbish and giving him the cold shoulder as a result of his not having taken her hand when it accidentally and unnoticed fell onto his own hand the night before last, both of them side by side at their share house and watching telly. No, not snobbish, just indifferent: to be honest she never really liked him anyway; he was too nice and nice guys always lose. Certainly holding his hand had been accidental, when she did notice that she was in fact doing so, but it was also the perfect prank to play, as things naturally turned out, upon his sensitive and earnest nature. Danny did not take her hand when she pointed out such because, although attracted to her deep sense of irony, her dry humour, her finely wrought facial features, and fine, long, blonde dreadlocks, did not hold her accidentally proffered hand because he had learned from bitter experience that getting involved with a flatmate was a good way for one of the parties to be homeless at short notice.
     The ganja duly arrived. There was the resultant jubilation and one of the hosts went off to collect a few bongs. Danny though was not so enamoured of its arrival. Over the past six weeks or so bongs had made him feel very anxious and disoriented, very paranoid instead of the usual calm relaxation upon a fuzzy, warm cloud. He also felt that he couldn’t really refuse the cones as it just wouldn’t do to admit that the drug had made him slightly crazy of late. It was fine to go crazy on drugs just do so in the privacy of your own home and don’t bring down the others with no problems in their chosen drug use.
     What to do?
     It was taking a sip on his tinnie that made Danny see a solution: he could just make a show of being drunk, which he almost was, and excuse himself from the communal tokes on the grounds that he was high as a kite already on the beers. It was virtually the truth anyway.
     By the time he had reached a decent drunk, halfway through a fresh tinnie, the bongs began to be passed around. Danny was sitting next to a packer and after she had had the first cone, she packed and passed him one. Danny held up his right hand, saying with a slight slur,
     ‘No, thanks, not now. I’m pretty wasted on these beers.’
     ‘Ah, go on,’ insisted the packer, whose name Danny didn’t know. ‘One’s not going to kill you.’
     ‘Yeah,’ replied Danny, ‘but it might send me off to sleep pretty quick and then no more free beers.’
     ‘Suit yourself,’ said the nameless young lady, and passed the packed bong to the neighbour on Danny’s left.
     Elizabeth, sitting opposite Danny, had been watching this transaction with a wry smile on her lips, watching him also wryly at times at the club last night. The boy is far too sensitive, she was thinking, licking an ice cream and wondering how any man could have such a low tolerance to even such a simple drug as alcohol. Without even being aware that she was doing so she began licking her ice cream more vigorously, turning it fairly soon into a misshapen, sloppy blob of frozen dairy confection on an ice cream stick.
     ‘Here, Danny,’ she said, once again not realising that she was planning to do this, ‘have my ice cream. Maybe it’ll absorb some of that beer and you can join the rest of us for a good smoke.’ Danny, right hand trembling ever so slightly, took the ice cream.
     ‘Thanks,’ he said. He brought it to his mouth, wanting very much against his will to taste her heavenly waters on the cream. But he couldn’t do it. He offered it back to her.
     ‘I’m sorry, Ms Lizzy Bell, I really can’t eat ice cream, it always makes me nauseous for some reason. I have had myself checked for lactose intolerance but it’s not that. Ice cream just doesn’t suit me.’
     ‘Do it for me, Daniel,’ she mocked. ‘Just two or three licks. I promise to rub your tummy when it gets upset.’ She laughed, moving forward on the couch as if to prepare herself for the imminent medical aid. ‘Besides, I bought a big brekkie and can’t finish the ice cream. It’s a sin to waste food when so many are starving.’ She had a point, wasting food is a sin.
     ‘Okay, Elizabeth, I’ll try. But if I get sick, and I probably will, I really will need any help you can give me to soothe the pain.’ He took a lick, then another, and almost a third.
     ‘Sorry, Elizabeth,’ he said, holding the ice cream out from him, ‘I can feel my stomach revolting already. Are you sure you can’t finish it?’
     ‘Well if you’re going to be such a big baby about it give it here.’ She held out her hand and Danny returned the confectionary. She promptly took a big dollop of the bounty.
     ‘You’ve ruined it, Danny,’ she then said. ‘Your boy germs have taken all the flavour out of it!’
     ‘What do you mean? I had to lick your sloppy girl germs.’
     ‘I’ll finish it though,’ she said, ‘despite your horridness. Wasting food is a sin.’ She then finished it in two large bites. She laid the barren stick on the coffee table, the packed bong simultaneously making its way for her turn to smoke. She pulled the cone, passed back the bong, and said almost as if to herself,
     ‘Nothing worse than plain, boring, tasteless ice cream.’
     ‘I can buy you another one.’
     ‘Chocolate?’
     ‘Any flavour you want, if they have it.’
     ‘Well if they don’t have chocolate any flavour except banana. Banana ice creams always seem to be trying too hard to have any real flavour.’
     ‘You’ll have to come with me.’
     ‘Why?’
     ‘I don’t have my earphones with me and I always find walking a real chore unless I have my music going.’
     ‘I can’t walk out there, Daniel. That ganja is really strong and I’m way too paranoid to be out in public.’
     ‘Well I’m almost as drunk as a lord and walking up there will be so much the more difficult if I’m alone with my thoughts.’
     ‘Okay, I’ll go with you, but you’ll have to hold my hand on the way up there and back to make sure I don’t freak out.’
     ‘Agreed. That’ll also help me to not let this drunk take over.’
     Elizabeth stood up. ‘Let’s go then, Daniel.’ Danny joined her on the way to the front door and after it was closed behind them they left for the nearby shops hand in hand, Danny subconsciously considering friends that he could move in with at short notice.
     When they returned to the party after Elizabeth had slowly consumed her ice cream at the shops the bongs were still being passed around and three couples were dancing next to the large speakers.  Danny and Elizabeth were still naturally holding hands upon their arrival back and it only took a look between them to join the dancing couples. Elizabeth had a few more cones throughout the morning but Danny kept off the smoke and the strong drink. The longer he remained with her the surer he became that he would have to find a new share house. Ah well, he thought, that’s life.

~~~

If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his novel, This Mirror in Me, which tells the story of how Tonia achieves her life's fundamental aim of having her home as a social hub, by staring at herself in the mirror. It is available as a Kindle book at http://amzn.to/1gXGF9h. Denis also has a short non-fiction book available, King Street Blues, which is an encouraging tale of Denis' willfully chosen five years of homelessness in the inner cities of Melbourne and Sydney. It too is available as a Kindle book at http://amzn.to/1xwiVGb. If you don't have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for free onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer.