If only I could forget Jack’s party. It was in early February, or was it March? We were invited by a little dirty card. I say dirty because that was the state of the paper, with smeary fingerprints, and a ripped corner, not that it was pornographic. In fact, he used a kid’s invitation with a clown on the front. He must have dropped it in our mailbox. I said to K—let’s not go, okay? let’s not. And K said—I know why you’re saying that. And I understand. But not going is not an option. I wish you hadn’t even said it.
I told K—but I’ve already said it.
K is often confusing like this. Denying reality. As if the two of us could stick our fingers in our ears and sit down in a corner of our cluttered living room and make up our own reality if we could just agree on what it is.
And if K is like I’m saying then Jack is several notches up on the dial. Jack’s house is like another reality. You never know what you will find. I thought he was a hoarder because the first time we visited, his house was full of ancient puppets, vinyl records, board games, and piles of costume jewellery from the 1950s. I told K my opinion, but K just laughed—you’ll see K said.
Then the next time we went there, the whole place was empty. We sat on the floor with four others drinking red wine from Dixie cups and there wasn’t a stick of furniture in the place. I didn’t understand what anyone was talking about. At the end of the night, Jack went upstairs and came back with a black snake coiled around his arm.
Another time it was people speaking Chinese or something like that, sharing home-cooked noodles so spicy they made me sick.
There was the collection of discarded Tim Horton’s cups a few months later. Jack took us around and told us where they had been found. He had written out a little card for each one. Hundreds. I didn’t wait for him to get through more than twenty.
I am a nervous person and I like to know what’s going to happen, so as time went on, even the suggestion of Jack’s house made my skin contract in a chilly sweat. What K thought of Jack is hard to know. He never agreed with me when I said—Jack is crazy. K said—Jack is an artist.
It was so cold the night of Jack’s party. I was wearing a parka and could hardly see a thing because the fake fur was in my eyes. K knocked on the door but no one answered for a long time.
Oh God, now I’ve built it up and you will want me to describe it. You’ve listened this long wondering what on earth happened at Jack’s party. You know you might have to say—there, there. You know you might have to calm me down if I get hysterical, but still, you want me to tell you about it.
But I told you at the beginning. I don’t want to remember. I have no idea why I’ve even told you this much.
Beth E. Janzen’s fiction has appeared in Riptides: New Island Fiction and in Galleon III. Her poetry has been published in journals such as The Antigonish Review, Grain, and The Malahat Review. Her book of poetry The Enchanted House (Acorn) was nominated for the PEI book award in 2008.
She can be be found at: www.bethejanzen.com