Sunday, November 30, 2014



Minette was there. And —tucked in the back of the church like a periwinkle —her partner of many years, Mignon.  They kept to the center aisle quickly filling up with people, soon overwhelming the First Presbyterian.  Mostly American women. A few American men —timid, pussy-whipped, keeping to the back like sheep. Intimidated. Guilty. Crest-fallen. Potty trained.  Jack and John were among them—two important members of the gay community —giving little greeting hugs to everyone. 

Three volunteers puttered on the podium, hooking, electrifying, screwing things, loosening, tightening. Another one brought out platters with snacks: brownies, Coke, mineral water.  Baby carrot and cauliflower bits, neatly sliced and laid out in red, white and blue plastic trays on a long table along the side wall. A burly little man in sportive red and blue suspenders, the stars n spangles motif matching well the plaid shirt he wore, adjusted the microphones. Four of these. Testing testing, the fellow muttered. The room carried the sound flawlessly. Somebody from the back called out. Paul. He looked up.  One can't say he was the best looking fellow, rather frog-eyed, his eyes on the bulimic side, but healthy and with the rude optimism characteristic of the East Coast big city refugees —there was even something French about Paul, a touch of Jean-Paul Sartre, the timeless existentialist.

Incredibly, the guy who called Paul up was one named Ezra.  Unsure, he stood on the threshold. Almost contemplating if he should come in or not. Luckily, Cab Holman gently pushed him from behind.  Just go in, nobody will get hurt, he joked.  Ezra's face remain stone cold.  Lingering in the lobby of the First Presbyterian, chatting to Cab Holman and his wife Molly who, the rumors churned, was cheating poor Cab with Louis the butcher, Cab's poker buddy —was not Ezra's idea of fun.  

In a minute, as Paul came back to say 'hi' to Ezra, Philippe, Jackie and Lulu  arrived, causing quite a stir. For some months now their ménage-a-trois was talk of the town. It shook the monotony of the long winter in the plains.   How could they expect to keep such colorful goings-on under the bushel?  Can anyone miss Philippe with his wild black mane falling down his back and a goatee in the manner of Diego Velázquez? Then Jackie, of course, with her glass-eye (the left one, the lime green one). Then Lulu who stole Philippe from Jackie. A paraplegic with a spectacularly domed 1970’s Afro. How exactly did the threesome get entangled, nobody quite could tell but everybody was keen to know.  People love soap operas.  Fashions, hairstyles will change but a good soap opera stays popular for a long time. 

Philippe is now tossing the politically correct platitudes in face of the huge Marx-sized head of professor Sergey Troika, head of the Russian Folklore studies department.  The latter nodded.  Its mouth stammered,  shy of its heavy accent, but always solemn. It preferred the last row of the church as a safe vantage point away from his gregarious wife, the chatty Larissa who just could not stop jabbering.  Everybody knows them :  trigger-happy or, rather, word-happy the type can never finish a round of conversation without, at the very end, chiming in, sideways, always, the last word.  Which of course triggers a new spate of words.  And so the merry-go round the bend... To deepen the crisis, George and Rebecca, the Bergmans, walked in through the First Presbyterian with their Syrian guests—and the room tensed with curiosity.  Who are these mysterious guests?  And who is making their hands clap though? Ezra? Before you could say ‘hi’ to either of them, Becca already moved to the front introducing her three acquaintances Jasmine, Jasmine and Jasmine. George, on the side, pretended to listen to Phillip, while nodding to Paul and keeping an eye on Ezra.

Again broke the spontaneous, brash sound of the two hands clapping. What the hell? George looked around. The conference was to start at eleven. Ezra, the town-crier has been known to have caused these little scandals. Yes, a good old-fashioned town-crier. Employed by the city.  A government employee so to speak. Paid not only to shout but also to clap for no discernible reason? Before an important lecture on the Middle East? No wonder his Romanian wife, Victoria Eugenia, run away with Blanche, the Canadian mail woman.  Didn’t Ezra sacrifice everything to have Victoria Eugenia live in a free country? How he loved to crow about this point. A free country.  Even though lately the 'mystique' has become somewhat thin, the land of the free more like the land of the freaks and lunatics as Victoria Eugenia brazenly claimed.  No matter as Ezra was single again and maybe had to draw the ladies attention... and if it meant clapping without an apparent reason, who is there to slap him?  Well, George Bergman for one, never much a fan of those obscure Eastern riddles.  

Cones, he heard them being called.

© Boris Gregoric, 2014