Orgy

I was planted firmly on a cold toilet seat, browsing dusty American classics stacked on a pressed wood shelf underneath a small stack of tissue and a large clam shell filled with neon condoms, when I heard:

“Tom?…T-o-o-o-m?”

“What, goddamnnit? What is it now?” Tom bull-horned from the plastic-wrapped living room sofa.

“Tom?”

“What?”

“They’re not coming.”

“Who?”

“The caterers, Tom.”

“What? Why?”

“Why don’t you tell me, Tom? Did you call them, Tom, after I placed the order? Did you tell them this is a ‘sex party’, Tom?”

Their arguing and my hand-washing can’t conceal the low horny howls from several souls being worked on the other side of the wall. Or the wailing from the floor above, the Palmers’ locally very famous “rubber room”, a glorified closet large enough to accommodate a California king fitted in latex and an impressive collection of items one doesn’t typically bring up in casual conversation—unless, of course, you’re at the Palmers’.

“What? No. No, come on,” Tom said. “What I told him was ‘bring your sunglasses, there’s a lot of folks here fuckin’.”

“Tom?”

“It’s a courtesy.”

I met Tom Palmer when I was fresh out of high school. I was wearing the world’s rattiest fungus-green sweater, playing Chess at the Barnes & Nobles down the street from his signature mid-century home. He was an emerging engineer, getting patents on almost everything crucial to every plane you’ve flown on. One day he got “bored of life,” hopped a train north, got a job maintaining airline engines, and met Linda while waiting in line for a port-a-potty at an R.E.M concert.

“’A courtesy?’ Tom?

“Linda, what’s gonna happen when some kid rings the bell, and I open the door, half-naked with a bunch of people fucking behind me, Linda? There go the cold-cut sandwiches, all over our porch.”

“Well, they’re not coming, Tom.”

“But we paid.”

“They’re refunding us.”

“Jesus.”

“Tom,” I said.

“What’s up, Sean?”

“In the spirit of courtesy, you shouldn’t argue on top of Clare,” I said, plopping my ass down on the thin cushion of a rocking chair.

“Yeah, Tom,” Clare said, swimming in sweat, “You’re soft, you deflated. Does talking to Linda always do that to you?” Clare laughed.

Clare was a longtime partner of Linda’s. They met at a Vespa rally after divorcing their first husbands—they’d always go on together about it over Clare’s homemade biscotti and coffee every other Wednesday. Clare was working at a morgue, and Linda found her sense of humor irresistible: “Sucicycling,” Clare poked at anything on two wheels. Their continued relationship was a non-negotiable stipulation of Linda and Tom’s marriage.

Tom peeled himself off Clare and inquired, “Subby’s?”

“Closed.”

“What about a pot-luck?”

“Jesus, Tom, what’s wrong with you? People are already here. They’re probably getting hungry.”

“More are gonna come, right?”

“Tom, what the Christ do you want me to do, call them and tell them to start their crock-pots?”

Tom paused and stared at the ceiling.

“It’s not gonna happen, Tom.”

“Mike’s Grill?”

“We’ve been over this already, Tom.” Linda’s chestnut curls bounced as she stomped around the kitchen, looking to ease her own hunger, “Dammit, Tom, I told you to get some groceries.” She mumbled to the fridge. “Tom, you can’t eat that shit anymore.”

“It’s just once!”

“NO, Tom!”

“Jesus, Christ.”

Tom has been warned by every doctor since his first artery blockage to avoid anything that tastes good. He’s had a difficult time of it. “I’ll pick up food,” I offered.

“No, no, no.” Tom shot back. “Take over here.” He stood up and started to wander around the living room,  “Where’s the phone book, Linda?”

Phone book? “Get a cell phone already, Tom.” I said.

“Sean, how many times do I have to say it?”

“Cancer,” Clare said, lighting a cigarette.

“It’s all over the internet, I got an e-mail about it,” Tom said.

“Tom, if cell phones gave people cancer, then everyone would be dead except you,” I explained, as he shuffled through a line of books underneath his worn oak coffee table.

“Clare, go open a window,” Linda yelled. “Sean, can you Google someone to feed us?”

“You guys, just give me a second,” Tom said before I could respond. He pulled the yellow brick from underneath a stack of Hustler magazines and a yellowed cigar box, home to old pictures and foreign money. “Found it,” he announced, “Sandwiches are on their way.”

“Would you just get over here, Sean,” Clare demanded, bringing her knees apart and smashing her American Spirit against the emerald tinted ashtray. I heard Tom and Linda’s muffled voices continue to argue over every facet of food until Clare couldn’t stand it anymore and blurted out, “Just order a few fucking pizzas.”

Linda? Tom asked with his eyes.

“Fine, Jesus,” Linda sighed.

There was a knock on the door 50 minutes later. Tom answered, rum in hand, wearing a worn blue button-up and off-white briefs.

“Hi, uh,” the delivery man, further up in age, laboriously breathed against the fleshy white noise, “Ten pizzas here for, uh, Tom.”

“Yep,” Tom said, taking hold of the stack and passing it to Linda.

The man thrust the receipt at Tom and said, “Just need you to sign this for me.”

Tom scribbled “Scooby-Doo” on the line and handed it back as the pizza guy suddenly became flushed and distraught, “You alright?” Tom asked. The man stared past Tom into the pool of bare bodies, dumbfounded, he clutched at his chest and collapsed on the threshold.

“Jesus Christ.” Tom  launched at the man, searching for a sign of life. “LINDA!”

“WHAT, Tom.”

“Call an ambulance.”

“What?”

“CALL AN AMBULANCE!” Echoed through the suddenly silent home.

“Oh, Christ, Tom, not again!”

“It’s not me, Linda. The pizza guy…”

“What?”

“He’s dead.”

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