Party Time by Tantra Bensko

Friday, May 16, 2014 § 1

Innovative Fiction by 
Tantra Bensko

     The man in the yellow suit is out of place. Eaves drip water like thin clay off spiked houses with fleshy turrets. No where do the animals play. They stay indoors, staring out the rare openings to the outside world that are left unveiled. The moon rules here. The sun is given no quarter.
     Yet the man in the yellow suit skips. This has not likely been done before in this town that is not his town. But no sirens go off, no dogs are set loose, and no one comes to slit his throat. He gets away with it. He swings on the lamp post and whistles a jaunty tune. He rises like a teen ager on the balls of his feet as he steps forward, which raises and lowers him in the air. He surveys the scene with his head held high.
     His name is Clyde Hancock. He is not a spy.
     Not in the usual sense. More like a voyeur for pay. His trips into the town bring him to the most gruesome scenes imaginable, and he makes the most money on those. He knows well how to hide in the shadows of bushes besides windows to peer inside. People of the town, which is called Naryway, don't even register yellow amongst their bushes. It's like when natives saw no ships as ships approached to kill them all.
     Again, the rain comes as it does every night at this time, and that allows him to run to a building to hide under the tattered overhand. He waits out the quick rains often in Naryway. He meets the best people that way.
       Tonight, it is an owl that greets him there.
    It almost flies away but he walks up to it slowly enough, becoming more saturated with the rain by each flat and careful step. He wants to reach out and touch it, to pet the beige feathers. The giant owl turns its head completely sideways to look at him and his cheerful blond hair. The owl eyes are on a vertical axis, with the head bent so. They are yellow. They blink.
     The owl spreads its wings, and juts forward, grasps onto his jacket and tries to become it from the inside out, throwing him on the street, in front of an oncoming car. The car swerves and hits a mailbox which has tied to it 24 black, brown, magenta, and royal blue balloons signifying the birthday party for a little girl. The balloons bob and pop, and some unravel to float into the sky, some pieces are shriveled like areolae and anuses on the cobblestone.
     The driver gets out of the passenger side and pops a balloon with his teeth.
     Clyde rises, and flips his head around in the rain, water flying out from the spikes his hair makes.
     A person of indeterminate gender comes out from the doorway Clyde had been standing in. This person prefers to be referred to as an other. The two men stop moving. They stare at Other. They decide it's a man, and they prepare one set of muscles. They decide it's a woman and they prepare another. They are both stuck wavering in between, unsure how to smile.
     The birthday girl runs out from the house. She pushes Clyde down back onto the street. Water rushes over his face. "Now no one will know how to find my party!" she yells at him.
      He gets up and says, "I'm sorry. I'll be your birthday balloon." He rips the address tag off the crumpled mailbox and puts it in his mouth. He stands by the crumple of mailbox pointing to her house, his eyebrows raised, eyes wide open.
      The owl is nowhere to be seen.
     The driver kicks the mailbox, and then his car. He then stands stylishly. He is still undecided about Other. Other walks toward them, swishily, waving its hips widely in the dry oasis under its umbrella. Other is clad in clingy grey wool. Other only goes so far as the edge of the street, with its rushing water. Other stares at them, pulls back its sleeve, shrieks ear-shatteringly, holds up its hand to the sky.
        The owl lands on it.
     Clyde runs. The owl flies after him, holding Other with its claws, smiling under the jiggling umbrella. The little girl and driver grab onto balloons and set them loose. They float through the air after them, the wind being in their favor, sometimes. The girl bangs into a building, and slides down, letting go of her balloon. The driver continues on.
      He gets caught on a phone line. He will remain there for a week.
     But no one will know it. Everyone who lives in Naryway forgets everything overnight, every night.
      Only Other is left to sell the information to. And no way the owl will let that occur. The owl reaches into Clyde's neck. Now, Clyde will not be able to report to the members of the melee what has happened to them. As always in Naryway, none of them will remember it the next day. The owl will get away with murder another time. It will eat the memory of the incident, sucking it through Clyde's gaping, bloody throat. Clyde will not make money on this evening's voyeuristic venture.

Tantra Bensko is the author of Lucid Membrane (2011) and Collapsible Horizon (2012). She teaches Experimental Fiction and Fiction Writing through UCLA Extension Writers College. In 1989 she was awarded an MFA from the University of Iowa. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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