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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Stories

 Pulitzer
• Oswaldo Jimenez
“Let me tell you about my lucky chair,” said the man wearing the ill-fitting tuxedo jacket, while nursing a cocktail in his hands.

OJ

Nursing is the right word because the man wearing a tuxedo jacket that was obviously at least two-sizes too small for him, had been holding the thin glass in his hands for so long, that the ice in the drink had melted, giving the scotch that he had requested from the host, a look of wilted white roses. Or so it seemed to the man sharing the sofa with him. The man sitting at the opposite end of the small love seat had left enough room between the two so as not to attract suspicious glances, and also to discourage the stranger, the man with the ridiculous tuxedo jacket, from engaging him in conversation, polite or otherwise.  He was not there to mingle, you see, he was a friend of the family who had arrived from out of town and had happened upon the gathering, which, as he later found out from the host, was a sort of celebration for all the people in the office, (the newsroom) after having successfully won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, or some such other thing, that benefited the community they served. So, it was a gathering for everyone involved in putting the paper together.

“Let me tell you about my lucky chair,” the man reiterated, shouting over the chatter, noise really, coming from all the people standing around, mingling, towering over the two men sharing the love seat. They were the only ones sitting; the rest, most of them wearing well fashioned tuxes or little black cocktail dresses (the women, of course, some of whom were so devastatingly good looking that the men could not help but stand as close to the them as they possibly could just to feel the sensation of being next to a slender, high heeled beauty, with intelligence and flair) holding drinks, and nearly shouting to the top of their lungs. Every inch of the place ( a duplex in the high rent district of the fashionably desirable neighborhoods in Washington DC, near the well respected University of Georgetown; where, it was rumored, the owner of the duplex had attended but had never finished his degree) was basically filled with bodies, male and female, female outnumbering the male. 

The man sitting at a safe distance from the man with the ill-fitting jacket, felt uncomfortable, but was unable to say no to the man’s offer to tell the story of his lucky chair. The situation, the social gathering he was in, demanded that he listen, or at least pretend to listen politely, to anyone with something to say.

The man in the ill-fitting tuxedo leaned over, just his head and torso, while balancing the drink he had not touched and moving it to one side so as not to spill it on the love seat, which, looked like it was made of some expensive animal skin; distressed leather, or some kind of man-made material that just looked quite expensive, and repeated the phrase to the man, a virtual stranger, sitting far enough away so as to not engage him in conversation: “Let me tell you about my lucky chair.”

The man sitting opposite the man with the ill-fitting tuxedo jacket, looked like a young Frank Sinatra; the youthful and thin Sinatra, from the time of “Fools Rush In” with Tommy Dorsey. He was himself holding a bottle of some foreign beer, Guinness or Becks, difficult to ascertain because while sitting next to the man with the ill-fitting tux, he had been playing with the label, and peeling if off bit by bit, trying unsuccessfully to remove the entire label without ripping it. As soon as he saw the man with the tux leaned over, he slowly pressed his back against the arm of the love seat, trying to unsuccessfully increase the distance between the two of them, visibly trying to shrink himself in size, as much as he could, so as to avoid making physical contact, and not have to listen; all to no avail. The man in the tight jacket continued with his opening line: “Let me tell you about my lucky chair,” he said loudly, “I found it, actually, on the side of the road, some small, out-of-nowhere road  near the Rock Creek Parkway.” Just as the man in the ill-fitting tux had said this, he turned his head slowly and took a partial sip from the glass that was nearly hidden by the napkin that he’d been handed to him by the host when he’d first gotten the drink. In his awkwardness, the man in the tux looked like a nerdy child, he bore a striking physical resemblance to a young, 1950’s era, Truman Capote, fitting, to a tee, Capote’s description as it had appeared in the 1957 issue of the Paris Review: “He is small and blond with a forelock that persists in falling down into his eyes and his smile is sudden and sunny” Well, in our man’s case, without the ‘sudden and sunny smile,’ but otherwise, the physical resemblance was uncanny.

The two men uncannily resembled these two major figures of the music and the literary world, respectively, so much so that it makes sense to refer to them by their eponymous names: Frank and Truman. Of course, by this time the noise in the room had increased exponentially to the number of libations that the attendees had ingested. The joint was jumping. In fact, the music being piped from speakers embedded on the walls and ceiling of the room maintained a seamless streaming of music of a particular era, the included Ella Fitzgerald doing her Cole Porter songs book, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, with Dinah Washington slowing the pace down with her version of ‘Don’t go to Strangers”. Truman ( ill-fitting tux man) decides to slide himself slowly to the middle of the love chair, casually, causing Frank, (unwitting party guest) to slide his buttocks slowly to the edge of the chair, making fart noises in the process from the friction of the leather rubbing against the fabric of his pants. Frank’s mind is plotting his escape, trying to come up with a good excuse to rid himself of pesky Truman and his tale of the lucky chair, that, so far, has not come to fruition, to Frank’s relief.  Before Frank could come up with a plausible plan, however, Truman had made his way so close to Frank that the men were nearly rubbing knees, partly because of the proximity, and partly because the pliability of the expensive love chair and its malleable texture had made a concave formation where Truman had sank into.

A sinking feeling came over Frank as he realized that there was no escaping this formidable modern version of the Ancient Mariner. He felt like the wedding guest, but without enough curiosity to keep him from escaping. “Let me tell you” said Truman forcibly, “that lucky chair is the best thing that ever happened to me. No lies!”  Truman was not drunk. He had not touched his drink, other than the shy sip he had taken a few moments before moving closer to Frank, but Frank was under the impression that Truman had already had one too many. “Listen,” said Frank preemptively, trying to change the subject to keep the other man at a distance, “I don’t want to seem like an ass, or anything, but, I just can’t help thinking that you must be very, very uncomfortable wearing that tuxedo jacket.. It seems rather restricting.”

Truman ( the man wearing the ill-fitting tuxedo jacket) was not surprised nor offended by the comment, in fact, the question ignited some sort of air or camaraderie in him that led him to comfortably slap Frank on the shoulder, resting his hand on the edge of the collar bone, as he eased his face forward and declared: “Oh, you have got to hear the story behind this jacket!” Frank froze. “Let me tell you, friend” said Truman (he started calling Frank ‘friend.’ The lack of a formal introduction had left them both ignorant of each other’s names, and there was no imperative to learn them, or shared them from either of the two) “I bought a tuxedo outfit, of which this jacket is a part of, when I first got out of College; that must have been about, let me see, about twenty years or so ago, and I said to myself: I will wear this tuxedo when I win the Pulitzer! Mind you, I was young, and full of dreams, but I also knew that I had it in me to actually win the Pulitzer for my writing. So, I have kept this here jacket, and I am wearing the same, on the occasion of the paper winning this year’s Pulitzer. I know I was not directly involved, and my name will not appear in the plaque that will hang on the Publisher’s wall, but, hell, this is as close as I will ever get.  You see, I started at this paper right out of college. I was an intern for several summers, and it was during one of those summers that I happened to attract the newspaper editor’s attention. Well, what happened was, the man in charge of writing Obituaries had taken ill, then passed away. The paper had a ton of paid obits that needed to be published, starting with a biggie to go on the next day’s edition. So, I found myself there, ready to get on with the work. I remember the day clearly when I was called into the old man’s office with glass windows overlooking a large graveyard. He sat me down, pointed to the sea of gravestones crammed together like pebbles on a beach, and asked me, “what do you see there boy?” I said a graveyard with a lot of gravestones, and he said, well, look again; that there, he said, is a whole lot of coin, obit notices, and they keep coming, so we must keep writing them for the good of the community, and you,  you are the man for the job. I can feel it in my bones. Soon after he muttered those words I got to writing them obituaries.

Frank’s face had the pallor of death as he listened to Truman tell his tale. Frank was sorry he had bothered to bring up the tuxedo question. He had forgotten about the glass bottle he’d been holding in his hands. He tried to take a long drink, but the he was not used to the taste of warm beer. He spit the beer from of his mouth back into the bottle. He’d been holding the bottle for so long the napkin in his hand was wet from condensation. The place, was packed with people and the heat from their bodies made the place feel like a sauna. In addition, the owner of the duplex had a collection of cut Geodes of all shapes, sizes and colors, kept in glass cases with hot spotlights shining into them so as to highlight the brilliant colors of each geode. This added to the temperature of the place that had turn Frank’s beer into something he thought only a Brit could stomach. Truman was oblivious of Franks predicament, he was happy to have found, what he thought, was a sympathetic ear. Truman continued with the background story of why he was wearing that ill-fitting tuxedo jacket: “You see friend, writing obituaries is an art; and let me tell you one thing that nobody, NO-body, ever thinks about is what his or her obituary is going to be; or who is going to write it, OR, let me tell you, and this is something that just boggles my mind: the picture!, yes, the picture that people send to accompany their loved one’s obituary, the photograph that everyone is going to remember their loved one by and become part of the historic record, is never good. Let me tell you! We get all kinds of monstrosities: a picture of uncle bob at a hot dog eating contest; here’s mom during her wedding anniversary at hooters; here’s Jack at the bachelor’s party. Nobody! I tell you NO body, ever has a decent picture of their loved one to accompany their obituary.  So, friend, I have made arrangements, yeah, I have made arrangements so that when I croak, I will have a first rate photograph, from one of the better photographers of our paper, and, a copy of my personally composed obituary ready to be handed to the newspapers in the event of my death. I suggest that you should do the same, friend. Everyone should do the same, for themselves and their loved ones. I tell you it’ll make all the difference in the world.”

The only difference between this guy and death itself, Frank thought, is that the Ripper wears suitable clothes. Frank had had enough. He’d let himself be trapped in a psychological dead end, and he was ready to give up. He knew it was impolite, to walk away and leave in the middle of a story being told, but hell, if he didn’t, he’d end up doing the fellow some unspeakable harm, he thought. Frank, unlike Truman, had had three or four foreign beers already, which he had consumed rather quickly because he felt he need to be tipsy in order to fit into the atmosphere of the place, he felt he needed a beer buzz to endure the situation, and not insult his hosts by leaving too early.  But Frank had had it with the entire mess. The prominent Washington family were ‘Beltway insiders‘ which is what the media called anyone who has ever owned the ear of an elected official in Washington, and they were hosting Frank’s visit for a possible internship with one of the Senators who happened to be present at their gathering.  But Frank now felt there was no longer a need to kiss anyone’s ass, as he would have bluntly put it. Frank’s eyeballs scanned the room to find the hosts, so that he could make a quick escape, but just as he was about to excuse himself, the man with the ill-fitting tux jacket, Truman, grabbed him by the shoulder and spoke again:
“Hey, I haven’t told you about my lucky chair yet!” 
© Oswaldo Jimenez December 2012
artzineonline@gmail.
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