Wednesday, June 17, 2009
by Mark Paterson
Pascal was drunk as shit and carrying on about paper towels. “Humanity started its slow descent down the toilet when we invented them. I mean, think about it for a minute. Think about it as a concept. Paper. Towels. We all deserve to die for coveting that kind of convenience.”
We let him talk, let him say whatever he wanted. It was his book launch and twelve people had shown up. An hour before last call, the four of us left in the place with him – his girlfriend, his two brothers, and me – were all sticking around for our own reasons, our own obligations. He thanked us excessively and incessantly, called us the noble prisoners of his failure.
“It’s not a failure, babe,” Stephanie wined, draping an arm across his shoulders. I hated the way she called him babe, hated the way he slithered from her embrace even more. She took a copy of For Short Attention Spasms from a stack of them on the table and waved it about. “Who else here has a book? Who else here could accomplish this? A short story collection. Who else here could even dream of doing this?”
I could dream, I thought, but didn’t say.
The brothers were silent, too. Pascal, moving only his eyes, glanced at each of us around the table. “Well,” he ventured, “I guess you’re right, Steph.”
I swear I could have killed him right then. Right in front of everybody.
“Plus, don’t forget, I write book reviews.”
“And they’re good!” Stephanie raved. “They’re so thoughtful! You’re a good writer, Ben.”
“Well, I guess it’s, it’s – ” he searched for the words, found some pretty crappy ones, “I guess it’s because of what I write.” This time he accepted a kiss on the lips. Then he pushed back his chair and announced he was due for a piss. “Order me another Carlsberg, will you?”
“Me, too. On both counts.”
On the way to the men’s room he put one arm around my neck, half-tackling, half-hugging. “At least you, you respect me. I know I can count on that.” His breath was worse than salami. Still clutching me, he used his other hand to rub my scalp and muss my hair. I tried to extract myself but he held on tight and we squeezed through the bathroom door side by side.
Before the urinal Pascal unzipped and let out a long, animal groan. I stabbed quickly and repeatedly, in the back, jailhouse-style, as instructed, with my pen. My hands were bloodied and ink-stained and the fucking paper towel dispenser was empty.