By Thomas Mundt
Albie and I were on the balcony. We were watching the Polish people below us dance, some to polkas with lots of concertina and clapping but most to American songs about ass. We kept dropping our clear plastic cheese plates over the railing and onto the guests below because we were shitfaced.
Albie had questions. They all pertained to Mieczyslaw, the father of the bride. What his deal was. Heard he bootlegged Nikes back in Gdansk, got roughed up by some dock goons and that’s how he lost it. Heard he wouldn’t trade a Gypsy his touch lamp for a dance so she smashed it, cut his face real good with the shards and some got in his eye socket. That sort of thing.
He wanted an explanation I didn’t have, an answer I’d never have, on account of my not giving a fuck. I loved Mitch, as he preferred to be called. I came of age in his rumpus room, celebrated several Firsts there during junior high and high school (First French, First Old Style Consumed, First Under-the-Bra Breast Stroke, etc.). I’d eat paczki in the linoleum kitchen with him while I waited for his daughter Elka to finish applying concealer upstairs, would listen to him exhaust the then-current list of NBA Euros, always culminating in Toni Kukoc, the bests of the lots. What he did in the Old Country to make ends meet and, possibly, sustain an irreparable eye injury in the process was of no import to me as a resident of Mundelein, Illinois.
I’d had enough of his CSI: Miami routine, so I grabbed Albie by the lapels of his cheap-ass sport coat, pulled him an inch from my face. I could smell the Skittles on his breath, cover-up for all the Absolut.
“Is this about the eye patch?”
It was true that Mitch looked like a renegade, like he might’ve sunk a schooner or two at some point in his life, but I still didn’t appreciate the line of questioning.
Albie closed his eyes, gurgled. I wanted to shake him like a newborn, slam his brain against the walls of his skull so as to retard him, but I didn’t. I let go of his low-budget, sub-K&G Fashion Superstore bullshit, and he leaned back and into the wall behind him, bent at the knees and slowly slid down and onto his ass. Once safely on the hardwood floor, he found someone else’s vodka tonic and killed it in two swigs.
Disgusted, I returned my attention to the dance floor. It was there that I saw Elka and her half-glass of pinot slink across the parquet and over to her father, seated and laughing with some old Poles about this, that, and the other. I watched her extend her right hand, her arm slender and ivory like a crane’s neck, and grab Mitch’s, pulling him up and off his chair. It was thereafter that I witnessed an old ne’er-do-well spin his newlywed daughter like a dreidel, his beautiful bald head glistening like Swarovski crystal in the house lights.
I decided, then and there, that I was through with backstories. I’d deal only with presents and futures and life would be much, much better that way.
About Thomas Mundt