Glen Pourciau ~ Gala

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.