It’s round six of the Music Be The Food flash fiction event. This time around we’re turning the clocks back to the early nineties and one of my favorite of the “goth” bands (although Siouxsie would insist that term does not apply), Siouxsie And The Banshees. This is my favorite song of theirs, “Kiss Them For Me”. Give a listen to the song and then read the fiction by Jay Wilburn.
He sat at the table in the corner facing out into the room. His daddy always taught him that’s how a man sits when he wants to live to see morning. And he had followed that advice since before he could afford to eat in ballrooms wearing steel grey suits and black ties like he did tonight.
His mother sat across from him with the dancing going on behind. Her clothes weren’t up to the gowns and black ties of the party going on around with the big band horns on the stage. Her back was to it all, so she didn’t seem to notice. He did his best to enjoy her company despite the distractions of the room, but men have a habit of letting such things slip away from them. She wiped her mouth and covered her plate before she stepped away from the table. She told him she loved him before she left, but he forgot to say it back. That regret hung with him for much of the evening until other regrets took the place.
The women that followed were really just girls. Too young to be interesting or important. He took his drinks slowly in their company and ordered each of them a Shirley Temple. Most barely had time to finish before it was time for them to leave.
Angel was next to sit down. This was a meal he intended to savor. She ordered steak medium and ate it with wine. She was fun and full of light. He took his drinks faster with her, but did his best to draw out the meal. The dresses grew shorter and the music faster as they ate. He had a ring in his pocket and waited for the right moment. He was only halfway through his steak by the time she wiped her mouth the way his mother had done. He panicked and searched his pockets for the ring, but it wasn’t there. She excused herself and their time was done. He pushed his plate aside in her absence having lost his appetite.
Lucy joined him shortly after. She was lovely enough, but wouldn’t meet his eyes as she ate her salad. He just took a few more drinks, but opted not to dine again. He found the ring in his pants pocket and gave it to Lucy because she was there. She took it because she wasn’t done with her salad and things would have been awkward otherwise. She got up once to see their kids off to bed. She stood again to check that they made it off to school and reminded them to write. He lit a cigarette even though they were going out of fashion among his friends and he thought those kids would probably never write or visit him. Maybe he should have invited them to the table to eat. Maybe it didn’t matter.
As Lucy still ate that damn salad, he noticed Jayne Mansfield pass through the room behind Lucy’s bowed head and clicking fork. It was a jarring sight. The Bombshell Era of Hollywood had passed, but she still had. She was with her latest husband and their three kids on their way to New Orleans for some TV or radio thing. He thought that Angel would have really appreciated this moment the way she knew how to appreciate a medium steak.
Lucy wasn’t hard to look at. She was quite lovely even as the evening drew late and the music became strange and unfamiliar to him. He could have made more of this time, he knew. It was on him as the host of the table, but he let this one slide too long to salvage. If he had met her first, it might have been different.
She stood finally with only a few scraps of damp lettuce stuck to the inside of the bowl. She did not wipe her mouth or say goodbye, but she left the ring.
He went a while without inviting anyone else to the table. A waiter cleared Lucy’s setting finally. After that, he noticed the ring had been palmed during the bussing and lost, but he decided to let it go.
Another young thing sat down at the table. He wasn’t sure if she was even at the party when Angel was seated, but she was here now and it had been a while. He pepped himself up and ordered desert for her and himself. She was barely old enough to be interesting to him at this hour of the night, but she was here. If she wasn’t, it would be him and the strange lighting and the new music which had taken on a head-rattling thump for some ungodly reason.
He enjoyed his dessert and she ate hers without complaint. It was him who got up this time and she stared up at him with expectant doe eyes. He couldn’t think of anything important to say. How did she expect this to end? He had been up a long time.
“I’m going to go out for one last smoke. Kiss the kids for me because I might be delayed.”
“Sorry. My mind drifted. I was thinking of someone else.”
He made his way through a crowd that seemed too young and too drunk to still be up dancing. Finally, he reached the balcony and the music muffled inside. An older crowd gathered to drink from proper glasses in the quiet of the night and open air. He did not see them, but wondered if Angel might be out here or his mother even.
He accepted a flute of pink campaign. Pink? What a disappointment. He took one swallow and knew it wasn’t for him, setting the rest aside on an abandoned table. He snuffed out the cigarette he forgot he was still holding.
Despite being shaky on his feet, he perched himself up on the stone railing of the balcony. He scooted himself back and managed to hang on by his aching fingers and joints a couple heartbeats longer. No one noticed the moment he let go and rolled backward over the edge.
He expected water, but once his body crashed through the glass frames, he remembered the addition which extended out from under the ballroom’s balcony. The shards of glass spun around and above him catching the light like stars in the sky. He blasted through another layer of glass and then another. The candles raced past his eyes in streaks as he fell. Mirrors and vases within the rooms reflected red like the angry brake lights of tractor trailers on lonely highways.
When he crashed through on the tenth impact, he started to think there would be no bottom to this fall and no final darkness to stop reflecting sharp starlight off the shower of glass falling with him.
Read more from Jay at jaywilburn.com.