Two whiskey sours, one Old-Fashioned, and a Madras. Two whiskey sours, one Old-Fashioned, and a Madras. Where’s the cranberry juice? I’ll have to cut up another orange. I can’t find a sugar cube; I wonder if Mr. George will notice it missing. Be very careful about which whiskey sour gets the antifreeze. Add extra lemon juice to that one, so that Larry doesn’t notice the chemical sweetness of the methanol.
The drink on the far left is the one I want him to take. I’ll make sure to hand out the glasses as soon as I reenter the living room, so that no one has a chance to grab for something that’s not meant for them. I’ve read that people sometimes piss all over themselves when their heart suddenly gives out from poison. The waste that chokes Larry’s bloodstream after his kidneys go offline will probably cause his fat-marbled heart to seize up, and maybe if I’m lucky he’ll ruin his nicest pair of pants when the big moment occurs.
These glasses are dirty around the rim, near the gold-foil lip. Larry will definitely notice. He’ll get the fire poker tonight after all the guests are gone, if he’s not already too weak from the poison, and he’ll use it on me like a truncheon. I tip more antifreeze into his glass. I’d rather him be perturbed by the taste of the drink, but die quickly. He’s too stupid and vain to ever suspect an attack against him, and I’d much prefer that he croak during the party if the alternative is that he enjoys his drink and then beats me senseless a few hours after everyone has left.
I reenter the smoky darkness of the living room. Larry’s laughing at something one of the prettier girls has said. His eyes flash towards me. I can tell that he’s already displeased with me tonight, because the corners of his eyes are sharp. They’re strained with the effort of artificial gentleness. I enter the circle of his friends and their immature, young dates. Hands reach for drinks. I’m too paralyzed by Larry’s smile. Pursed lips and raised eyebrows. He’s going to knock me around until I’m like a ragdoll, and then he’ll go to bed once I’m broken for the night.
The tray I’m carrying is suddenly empty. Oh, Christ. Who took what? Which glass does Larry have, and which of the whiskey drinks went to Sarah? That glassy-eyed girl is cracking her gum again and again into my good ear, and so I turn away to stifle the sound. I haven’t heard so well on my right side since I went too fast over a speed bump, and dented the undercarriage of Larry’s new coupé. He caught me across the face with a phonebook later that afternoon while I wasn’t paying attention, and later I found that my eardrum had burst from the impact.
Larry asks why the hell I didn’t make myself a drink. I laugh nervously, and apologize, and then laugh again. Then, I make a screwdriver and stand in the kitchen for a while. They won’t miss me, and I can’t bear to watch them slurp their cocktails. God – which glass did Sarah take? I’m sure Larry grabbed first, but which side did he reach from? Sarah is Mr. Clark’s date, and Mr. Clark was sitting on my left side. Still, I think I remember her taking from the far side of the tray. Damn – I don’t remember!
After what must have been a half-hour, I rejoin the party with my drink and my most winning smile. I don’t want to seem anxious, especially if someone’s about to cough up their drink and die. My eyes adjust again to the dark, and I see that Sarah’s gone. Mr. Clark, too. Larry informs me that they’re in the washroom because something made Sarah very, very sick. Larry wonders out loud whether it was my dinner, or the drinks I made, which have stricken our guests so ill. The tendons in the sides of his neck are coiling; he’s tensing with barely-pent anger. Mr. Clark’s stringing together obscenities from the hall bathroom, only stopping to shout, “Where the hell did your wife learn to cook?” to Larry through the closed door. The guests that are still in the smoky living room circle are jeering too, playfully telling me that they’ll all sue if anyone else gets sick from my dinner. I refuse to look back at Larry. I won’t frighten myself needlessly.
Did I put the antifreeze back under the sink, or is it still on the counter? Maybe I can talk Larry and all his friends into one more drink before we all call it an evening. Something sweet to settle everyone’s stomach, along with my sincerest apologies, would be very pleasant indeed. There’s an expensive amaretto we still have from our trip to Italy, and it’s so syrupy that I don’t believe that anyone here would notice an extra little swish of something saccharine and noxious. If I have to, I’ll even pretend I enjoy everyone’s company terribly, and beg them all to stay for just a little longer. I’m not worried though. Which of these churls would ever turn down a nightcap?
CREDIT: David Feuling