Short Story: Dinner Gathering

A friend of mine spoke to me recently about a dinner gathering he had attended. I had invited him into my study to talk, and he entered bearing smiling tongue and gifts of tobak. He peaked out the closed window of my sun-infused study, “Nice view. You like having this window here?”

I nodded. The gathering, he insisted, took place somewhere that wasn’t heaven – he didn’t quite understand the invitation, but in no manner did that fact obstruct his ability to get there. Regardless, ’twas a night stamped permanently upon his mind’s recollecting vision.

“The invitation lacked an address,” he said, leaning forward a bit and interrupting himself with the series of quick inhalations customary for a man whose comrade is lighting his pipe. “But it was no issue – I simply began to go and eventually found my way. Or, at the very least, I found myself someplace where someone who knew the address found me. So this young lady, very pretty, told me politely that the route was long and I’d best buckle in. Funny, I did not once see a car in that entire day.” He chuckled. I remained a little confused.

“The pretty chauffeuse walked me all the way to the door – which was a powerful blood-red color by the way – great paint job – she walked me all the way to this door, of a grand grey manor the structure of which stretched wider than the space between my peripherals.” His arms extended to imitate such magnitude, and his face showed a similar expression.

“I’d describe it to you but, you know, it was big.” He shrugged. “And I knew, you know, that we didn’t drive there… She said we did but, no, that wasn’t it. But-” He continued to drone on, somehow captivating my attention without fail, “She stepped through the door, beckoning for me to follow, and sped me through hallway after hallway, all of which sported the same regal stone in their respective tiled walkways and bricked walls, but differentiated themselves each from the others by decor. Just like a man who contends for a competitive promotion might don a custom suit that evinces a touch of professional flair, so each passage presented diverse & copious habiliments for a most pleasing pedestrian experience. It’s a shame I was pitifully unequipped with the knowledge necessary to deem one of these the best of them for hire, since the sheer number of them in such quick succession dismantled any inkling of their purpose which I assumed to have had.” My friend paused, apparently having momentarily forgotten where he was going – with the story, that is, though I suppose in this instance he forgot where he was going within the story as well.

“Don’t look at me,” I said. I had no clue where he was going neither with nor within.

“Oh yeah, so we arrived in a large hall, the pretty hostess and I, and the first thing I noticed were the sheening opal floors that clacked when you took a step. I could see in the floor’s clear depths the glimmers of blue and bright reflected from the starred night sky through the intricately sunroofed ceiling into the glass chandeliers hovering above the place. There were purple and blue & gold and red & gold tapestries hung upon the paneled walls all around the room. As I observed all this, I gravitated toward the centre of the peaceful commotion, which is what one should call it if a small crowd is behaving politely in a social setting.”

“Sure.”

“So, at the delightful hub of the happenings – the middle of the room”

“Oh.”

“- everyone began to be seated at a glass table which went round in a perfect circle such that its ends concluded shy of each other by a few feet. And the diameter of the gap between was fitting for intimate conversation yet just long enough to accommodate a richly stained and finished mahogany platform complete with ornately carved railings of the same style and shade. The platform sat within the larger circle on a sunken floor, so that the height of the smooth railings leveled with the tabletop. Suffice it to say, the invitation had left a certain impression of how the evening might taste on a civilized tongue, and on that nerve-wracking journey from the standing position to the seat of my chair at the circular table, I was tasting wildly unexpected and frankly uncouth flavors in this sophisticated façade.”

“So who was there? What’d you eat?”

“Doesn’t matter – I’ll tell you though, there was a course towards the end that I still don’t understand. It was a crème brulee, but it lacked a bowl! It stood on a small dessert plate, with a perfectly torched caramelized top if I do say so myself, but the base custard was very gooey! I couldn’t for the life of me understand how it remained standing. Anyways, I had become oblivious to my surroundings & time itself as I marveled at the dessert, when suddenly a clink at a glass & an individual’s motion toward the center wooden platform snapped me from my trance. Our aryan host was to make a speech, and I’ll tell you what he said, ‘I thank you for finding your way here today. We dine amidst the ensuing thralls of an great future, from the total halls of furnished purification, at the mushrooming balls of glorious justice. You, the elect, are privileged beyond belief.’ He beamed earnesty bereft a smile, ‘Truly, soon enough we shall subjugate the land and cripple the tyranny of inferior peoples. The future belongs to our nation, and what shall come with the passing of these presents to the next? Suffering? Weakness? No,’ He smiled, ‘Greatness. Your journey here was a testament to that greatness. The drive you took, the hallways you traversed,’ – Oh, you know, that reminds me. Those hallways, my friend,” He shook his head, “each time I began to think I knew where I was going, I found myself in one I knew not. You know, the virtue of a map is the friendship between the route and the destination, and as people we have to rely on that sort of comradery which never fails nor falls fickle. Can you imagine? If the path betrayed the end? And if road that guides to the place at its end on account of a newfound humanity became estranged from the destination? And all roads leading there led somewhere else? Or if the destination became surly and discontent with the quirks and curves of the way to its heart, and renounced the connection between itself and that way. Would not a clueless man assume he is going in one direction, when in fact direction itself has conspired against him to send his confused bones toward some other place? The love manifested amidst path and place saves man, who is rooted in his time and unable to understand fully even his own inheritance. If he knows not the destination, the route informs his travel. If he knows not the path, his ultimate place is the star that guides him. Do you recall ever living a day or week or lifetime in which these two friends have forgotten their vows? When a man turns to the life in front of him and having seen it, feels lost – have you experienced this? When a man turns to the route and begs it to carry him toward unknown coordinates, but the route claims to know not such coordinates. So then the man turns to the destination and begs it to reconsider the path whose ends touch its heart and the heart of the man, that it might share its considerations with him & together, they might puzzle out the route between them, but the destination claims to know not such a path. So a man – have you experienced this – knows not what is next nor what to do, finding himself in a series of hallways that interact with each other if by any pattern or algorithm God could only tell. And I watched, you know, I was watching. I saw all sorts of colors and styles and structuring in those hallways, as though their own blueprint failed to describe them – hardly cohesive.” He humphed, “Well uhh, regardless, he continued a little while longer, ‘Your route was there to inform you, to establish your education. You might remember walking the grey stones of the hall of our national grandeur, or traveling across the purple-laden hall of the royalty of our People. What you may not have learned then, I will tell you now:’ He rotated slowly to capture us in his sights like a hurricane trembling before the approach of the storm that ends the world, staring into our souls yet not revealing his eyes, ‘Justice is today. Restitution is today. Restoration is now! Justice lies in our laps! Our enemies have oppressed us in the name of their god,’ He wrinkled his upper lip, annihilating the air for breath between himself & his circumferenced audience and conflating the two circles, ‘but they number among themselves genetic miscreants, weak people – they author their own destruction, just as they have authored their own god. And before we purify the land of their plague, we shall purify them of their ill-conceived faith. The regime shall be your faith and creed, my honorable guests. I shall take my fist and strike down God himself!’ He stood in his own wine. No one saw the glass fall, but it shattered enormously in every ear.”

The mood in the room. I got up to switch on the lamp.

“So, that was his toast.” We sat silently. “At the conclusion of the evening as I was setting out to depart, he seemed to catch a hesitation in me that I couldn’t articulate to myself then and I wouldn’t be able to tell you now. He saw it. I knew it.” He trailed off.

“We both knew.”

My friend experienced a dangerous thing.

We both knew.

“He stopped me as I fled quietly for the exit and told me, ‘Greatness is in our reach, comrade. Greatness, we stomp upon those against us on every front; the era shall belong to the Reich.'”

I found my attention stuck in his eyes, “Well? What did you say? Did you say anything?”

“Yes,” He replied, “I said, ‘mazel tov.'”

It was at this point I realized that the strain in my pipe was not what I had assumed it to be this entire time, and I consequently found myself in a room full of a smoke I did not understand. Because I invited my elaborately-spoken friend into my study and accepted his gift no questions asked, I was solely responsible for this current set of conditions. I brought them about, assuming knowledge of their outcome, but I did not understand the ingredients and therefore found myself lost in the consequence of my doing.


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