I couldn’t see my way clear to make it to the annual Gala. I had RSVPed under self-imposed pressure, but I wasn’t above claiming a sudden illness should anyone mention my failure to attend. I’d cleaned myself up in a more fastidious manner than usual and had stuffed myself into my aging tux, which had over the years managed to elude mothdom. I’d then gazed with revulsion in a too-large mirror and asked: “Do I wish to present this person as me?” Who was this alleged person? Not someone I knew, I was sure of that. I imagined all the buffed-up human beings packing the Gala hall, beaming with merriment, chest-high drinks abetting the façade. How would I fit in, one who was unable to banish from consciousness my unpolished and fragmented self-image. I couldn’t arrive in my natural state of identity while in tux disguise, and I couldn’t tolerate hours of unabated grinning by everyone within eyeshot. I had an embarrassing history of rudeness when confronted with repetitive questions or stories from certain annoying people who seemed to lie in wait for me. My performances had the humiliating outcome of making me less bearable than they were. Take Trowbridge, who’d somehow caught wind of my prostate trouble and had grown excessively fond of sharing his prostate issues and asking me: “How’s our favorite gland doing?” I didn’t like the unintended implication that my prostate could be his favorite gland. After several similar encounters I’d asked if he wanted me to bend over so he could address his favorite gland directly or if he wanted to make an examination and reach his own conclusions. I should have been more sensitive, respecting the trauma of his prostate surgery and his desire to commiserate with me on the decline of one of our most private parts. Yet, I did not see it that way and didn’t care to pretend that I approved of his outsized interest in my outsized prostate. Trowbridge retreated upon hearing my heavy-handed message, and whenever I see him I sense enduring distress from my outburst. Also sure to be there was Mossland, a man deeply in love with his hunting dogs and full of stories detailing how they’d helped him kill great numbers of animals. I’d finally told Mossland that I envisioned a future dog breed that would halt in its tracks and point at fleeing flocks of hunters so that highly evolved apes could more easily shoulder their rifles and pick them off. He hasn’t come within close range of me since, and I sympathize with his desire to avoid me. I couldn’t doubt that if I attended the event, numerous people would be unhappy to see me there, despite my past charitable contributions. I thought it best not to inflict myself on others, conveniently eliminating the possibility of others inflicting themselves on me. By staying home, I was making a small contribution to social well-being at the Gala. I heard it was an unmitigated success.
Glen Pourciau’s second collection of stories, View, was published by Four Way Books. His first story collection, Invite, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He’s had stories published by AGNI Online, The Collagist, Epoch, New England Review, New World Writing, The Paris Review, Post Road,and others.