Rap, rap, rap-rap.
The door echoed through the halls, bellowing my name. I had expected of course. In fact, I hoped desperately for it as I feared the rapper on the other side would not show to my gathering. The gathering a dialogue between two men over the discourse that took place only a few weeks prior. A matter which I could not help but believe to be left undone despite my guests protests to the contrary.
Luckily for me, Mr. Featherbone was a man who enjoyed elegant cocktails made with premium spirits and a well-placed humor. I had procured the very same type of spirits during my last out of town business venture, which, as Mr. Featherbone would attest to if he were an honest man, led to this day’s gathering.
Two men enjoying hard liquor in the summer sun to deliberate a recent and most unfortunate transgression against I and my family.
Or so it seemed to me.
He, as I had mentioned before, did not perceive nor comprehend the level of outrage I underwent through his callous and frankly, neglectfully abusive behavior. Again, because he lacked the primal intuition found in most men, he wouldn’t recognize the purpose of his visit. Yet, he stood outside my door. The door, wide framed and painted red, was deceptively welcoming and considering the purpose of my design that was all the better for me.
So, I made my way to the front door clad in the clothing that represented a man of great wealth even though I had not the faintest idea what that lifestyle consisted of. It was a gathering of two men drinking high quality and subsequently expense spirits. I chose to dress the part of a man living beyond his means.
Much to my chagrin my guest rooted through his closet. A closet that I presume to have had at least dress of higher than standard quality or even a single suit to spare. Perhaps one with the slightest of pinstripes or a navy-blue number. It mattered not because he bypassed the feeling of a quality garments and opted for a pair of dark denim jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt two sizes too long and a hoody that read Italy implying that he was either Italian or visited the country on occasion. I could not confirm or deny either, but severely doubted the latter.
On the opposite end of the spectrum sat I. A bourgeois man sporting a tan linen sport coat, matching slacks and brown leather loafers, loafers as soft as well-worn baseball mitt. A great deal of care and money went into my selections and he could hardly spare an extra thought to the nature of our gathering.
Despite this, despite the gnarled purposed behind my invitation, I bade him good fortune and welcomed him into my home. A quick dip and flow of the arm and the devil swooped into my personal bastion and shut the door behind him.
We took respite in my den. It was an after thought when I purchased the house, but now was where I expended the majority of my time, free or not. The wet bar was across from the two leather club chairs and provided a perfect view of the collection of spirits I had amassed over the years. Strangely, most sat unopened, collecting dust, but I selected a few for tonight’s occasion.
I became the first to speak as I poured the first drink. Just two men enjoying each other’s company to discuss high quality spirits.
The first was a round of bourbons. Nothing out of the ordinary to a person that lacked the understanding of palette on a minute level. A dance of vanilla, tobacco and oak buried beneath the burn of twelve years hidden in the catacombs of a barrel house. The house which sat in the open plains like a warehouse prison, like something you might find in Dachau during the not so pleasant era of Third Reich, yielded a delectable and purely American delight.
I choose this time to utter the first words of our unnamed dispute and as a contrarian might, he deflected the conversation to the bourbon. He remarked on the taste, the burn and how each whiskey he’s tasted in the course of his life time tasted precisely the same no matter the age and no matter the price.
The indignation of such a thing pressed me again, but I continued until there was not a drop left in my glass. And again, as is the contrarian he is, passed over his portion with most of the amber liquid remaining in the crystal ware. Audacity was the only word that came to mind, but I looked past it as his disdain for America’s sweetest of alcohols was not the purpose for his invitation.
As I went to address the matter at hand, he again did what contrarians do, he avoided it and picked a topic that bored me dreadfully. Prattling on about his hometown, I drifted listlessly in and out of his drivel about the drug problems, loss of business and the final nail, that his hometown had become the worst place on the planet. Of course, that was nonsense as I believe most would agree that the bottom of the Mariana Trench would be the worst place for a human to reside.
Returning to the wet bar I pulled my second selection, a tequila. Not traditionally a favorite of mine, not the least of which because I struggled to drink it neat, but because it recalled days of my youth and nights filled with debauchery, sexual urges and ultimately vomiting. I never choked on my own bodily expenditures, but there was no shortage of debauchery or fulfilling sexual urges.
As I carried over two and two quarters ounces of tequila my guest requested a glass of water. Not as a measure to cleanse away the burn of bourbon, but because as he put it “he needed to drive home.” I felt at that point it would be prudent as a host to offer a means of transportation home although that would be a bold-faced lie and I’m many things, but a bold-faced liar is not one of those things.
Finally, I returned with the water and he drank….and drank….and drank…and drank. I had reached a point of exasperation when he placed the glass on the table and leaned back in the chair proclaiming that his thirst had been slaked and that the cold water had been to his satisfaction. He knifed again at my pride when he remarked on the goodness of the water versus the expensive and difficult to procure bourbon.
The tequila fared little better as my guest winced and struggled to put down the tequila. The tequila had sat hunkered down in bourbon barrels for what the distiller described as “mucho aňos.” Meaning that it aged longer than a pet dog or cat had years on this earth and where the agave gave its flavor the greater good of humanity’s vices.
He threw it back and demanded lime and salt. That was the proper way to drink it and I denied having either despite that too being a lie. Salt and lime both were housed in the kitchen and I’d be damned if I let a man, this unappreciative of the finer points of liquor, into my kitchen. The mere sight of him grazing the granite countertops after what he had done.
He lifted his grungy hoody and showed me a picture of a crudely drawn woman slugging back an entire bottle of nondescript alcohol which I correctly presumed to be tequila. He insisted he was an expert on the matter and again encouraged the inclusion of limes.
As with before and this time with more than a hint of frustration I denied the existence of either in my house and again, as with before, I fought off the urge to imagine him on the counter-top his skin against the cold granite.
I could not continue so I didn’t and shook the image from my mind.
Now I pressed him harder about the ruination he brought upon my life. More directly and forceful than before. I mentioned the counter-top, the evidence acquired from reliable sources and the countless message shared. He became agitated and tried to remove himself from the situation. That isn’t the hallmark of a contrarian, but a man who knows when he has been beat. He knew the consequences of his actions as she did, and both embraced it in primal heat, in my fucking home. Oh, he wasn’t going to get off with simply departing.
That was far from the purpose of this gathering.
I took the high road and apologize for being so forward and that the reason for my irritation lay not with him, but with the apparent poor choices of liquors I selected to mark this occasion and that he had not appeared to relish a single drop.
The adamant nature of his denials was, of course, forced, but I compelled him to stay through a series of hackneyed apologies and supplications that I had been the one out of line.
The absurdity of it all.
I pulled two bottles from the cabinet and presented them to my guest. A bottle of vodka and a bottle of gin.
He eyed the two bottles and studied the labels before settling on the gin.
Nothing made me happier and more nervous than the gin. It was a particularly interesting bottle of gin infused with a variety of botanicals. The obvious juniper berries, but also angelic root, orris root, meadow sweet, cardamom, kaffir limes and the thing that made it stand out among the rest, gunpowder tea. A special distilled gin, an infusion of the ancient Chinese green tea named after the pellet shape of the leaves and the aforementioned botanicals. Gunpowder gin was the namesake of the inclusion of the tea. Those Brits are certainly a creative bunch if nothing else.
But I of course added a separate ingredient that made this particular gin and why I kept it high on the shelf and locked away.
That’s when my guest did the one thing I asked him to do prior to his arrival.
He offered to cut and light two cigars or “stogies” as he kept repeating. He admitted that he preferred the sweet scent of tobacco and the burn on his lips to any alcohol I could possible provide him. I must have scowled because he apologized if I was offended, but I rectified my feelings and poured him the gin intently watching the clear liquid fill the tumbler. My eyes glazed over in anticipation as the gin reached a point most necessary.
The procession I took in my mind to serve my guest was a silent symphony reverberating Beethoven’s Ninth in D Minor and a downpour of confetti and ticker tape until I set it beside him. I watched in nervous anticipation as he lit the cigar and reached for his glass. A single sip would be all that was needed.
I could’ve done without the endless carrying on and the blood curdling screaming, but I suppose flaming hot liquid, when put to exposed skin, would reasonably cause extreme pain. The clawing only caused more damage to the blackened and cracked skin. The putrid stench of charbroiled skin hung in the air of my den, as I imagined it would for weeks to come, I decided it was a measure of collateral damage I was willing to take.
As the first responders questioned me I looked over the paramedic’s shoulder to see my dear guest’s face for a final time as I doubt he would be welcomed so readily back into my home. The horrid appearance would be a blighted reminder of what it meant to do what he did to me. He had chosen to burn down the sanctity of the love I provided so I paid him back in kind. His vanity would no longer be the enticement he so heavily leaned upon to corrupt.
I was sad that the ambulance left with my bottle of gin which now was nothing more than evidence of an unfortunate accident or rather a happy one for the likes of me. Even if my dear guest found it compulsory to report it to the police, nothing would point to the direction of foul play. Each bottle had been opened prior to his arrival, but the gin had been different in a non-detectable way. Just enough of an odorless, yet highly combustible liquid, applied only to the gin prior to serving, was what made it truly gunpowder gin.
Rap-rap, rap, rap.
The door echoed again.
I had better get the wine. She always liked wine.