Debutante Ball

                  After the NY meeting

chapter 27

       “Miles, would it be violatin’ some reg or other if I distributed some party invitations on my route?”

       “Am I invited?”

       “Of course you’re invited, Miles. Could it be a party without you?”

       “Alrighty then.” Miles snorted with joy. “No reg I’m aware of. Where’s the party?”

       “I cut a deal with Morris to let me have the VFW for a couple hours on Mon night. Laterish, sorta after closing. Will you come?”

       “I’ll check my docket. I don’t remember any urgencies I could not reschedule.” Miles grinned so broadly his head might’ve cracked in two.

       “See you on the other side, Miles,” was heard as Celia left the office with the last mail bag for Mr. Stephens.

       Morris closed the VFW early on Monday or Tuesday, when he could. After hitting it hard on the weekend, dark Monday or Tuesday. provided a needed break for both Morris and the regular clientele.

       The VFW, which Morris and everyone else referred to as the VFW, not the bar or Morris’s joint or anything like that, provided Morris a small apartment round back and upstairs where he might shower or possibly have some personal belongings. No one knew. He did not have kin or visitors or a phone other than the pay phone in the vestibule downstairs. 

       Rumor and then some was Morris did not sleep in his apartment. He vanished into the night with his duffel bag and slumbered an unknown distance remote from the VFW. Guess he didn’t want to be caught off guard where someone might come looking for him. If weather prevented this, he stayed in the VFW. Upright. Sleep was different for Morris. 

       Folks started to arrive bout 9 as per Celia’s request. They parked mostly round back so cars would not be spotted from the road. All who were invited were in attendance. 

       Phil and Mike brought cheese and salami. Babby brought

something she had invented, which no one could quite figure out, but all agreed this was a new perfect food. Penny brought pretzels. Not perfect but salty and crunchy. Everyone was eating drinking and having a good ole’ time.

       For Celia, the wonder of wonders was that no one realized why

this group of people were assembled. No one even suspected.

       Amazing.

       There were, for Celia, 2 groups or sub-sets of people at the party:

       First there were those who Celia had definitively outed, like the crew and Babby. 

       Then there were those who Celia knew sure to be hideouts but

thus far remained enigmatic, but sure as sure can be, not natural 

products of this place. 

       Kinda’ natural-ized if ya know what I mean. Morris and Miles

and Jessie and Paula for example were members of the second

group.

       With a fresh bevidge in hand, Celia took the stage on the little riser kinda thing with the banister. She looked at the assembled 

group, and they back at her. Her theater training taught her to gauge when all eyes and attention were on her, and now, she gauged, it was time to speak.

       “My friends, first can we thank Morris for allowing us the VFW for tonight’s assembly? To you Morris.” Celia raised her glass as did all and all drank.

       “You know me all as Celia Stax the new mailman. Though this is true in a sense, it’s only half true. What’s true is the job is my cover. Really. I’m a location scout for one of the big TV networks. My mother who is an exec there, sent...forced me out here in preparation for a big fucked up TV show which will, in its conclusion, destroy this town and the lives and traditions of the people who live here. I live here now and here, now, is where my loyalty hangs its hat.”

       On the one hand, folks getting their first breeze of this bulletin, after allowing it to be true, were, well, put out by this woman come to say she was an agent of destruction to their home, but had a change of heart. I’d be pissed too. “How about you just stayed home and away and leave us alone.” On the other hand, everyone there, maybe except Morris, had a hankerin’ for a little excitement. A little adventure. There was already a definite thing, a vibe, a buzz in the room. The curtains of secrecy that kept these disparate folks apart, though not drawn, were becoming somewhat sheer.  

       “This is my confession. Ya heah!! I'm confessing to you. My precious neighbors and friends. In return, and as events demand, tonight we all confess. Tonight the veils come off.” Before the veils, the smiles came off, and the moment chilled.

       “Nothing leaves the VFW tonight. No one can know, because that is what we want...need to avoid. Now, everyone here has a story to tell. Let’s get on with it. Who wants to go first ahh, second?”

       At the part of Babby’s story about shooting her boyfriend, Mary inquired if she killed’em. “Nope, but the FBI did.”

       Mary received the answer with mixed enthusiasm. “Fuggin’ Feds.”

       As the jacket revealed, Penny was Weather Underground. She was at the beach the day they busted the bomb factory. All her friends were killed. What she told Celia about being from the South was true as well.

       Miles was a genius. Is a genius. Born into a very wealthy Connecticut polo & tennis crowd advertising dynasty, he was in a sense banished for not looking like Tab Hunter. Miles was smarter than the whole bunch of’em and they knew it. They hated Miles and he them, so he just left.

       The night was rolling, and sobriety was nowhere to be found. 

Paula was a retired assassin. Really. Her last gig was wiping out her boss and associates. Then she disappeared with her daughter who was now a junior in college in Mexico.

       Morris: Special Forces. Maybe the most dangerous person the U.S. Military ever produced. Fearing he might lose it in dense population, they provided him gainful retirement in Ardensville and crossed their fingers.

       Curtains drawn and veils lay scattered everywhere. Sunlight bathed all souls in the VFW that particular night.

       “Is that everyboby?” Celia asked now, holding on to the banister more and a glass not at all.

       Even in this darkened room, Jessie had kept his absurd sunglasses on. Slowly he rose. His shades could not conceal the tears that ran down his cheeks and into his beard. He assumed his place on the riser, and there was a gravity about Jessie greater than  all those who preceded him. So much so that all in the room rose, which was no small feat as all were thoroughly ossified. It was a couple of minutes of breathless anticipation of an unknown something.

       Jessie abruptly whipped of the shades.

                             “Well itsa one for the money!”

       Mary fainted straight away falling backwards into Phil’s arms.

                             “Two for the show.”

       Celia dropped her coffee, and she too fainted, into Miles’s arms who could not support her, so they both hit the deck.

       “Jessie, what’a’ya doin?” yelled Mike now on the floor with Penny, failing to revive her, fanninig her with his hat.

                             “Three to git ready now go cat go...”

       Clearly clearly, the VFW had become a wondrous place.

                             “Now dontcha step on my blue suede shoes...”