Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Social Gathering

           As the night had gone on, it became increasingly clear to Mr. Carlisle and his guests that his party was beginning to die down. The excitement that had happened previously in the night, involving drinking and dancing and gossiping, had done a complete turnaround. Where there once had been drinking, there was flat-tasting beer and wine that had been drank so much it had lost flavor. Where there had once been dancing, there was Mr. Carlisle and his five party guests, who were all friends, who were all couples, who were all sitting in a semi-circle on his sofa and living room chairs and piano bench. Where there was gossip, there was awkward silence.

As Mr. Carlisle took this all in, he realized that his guests were becoming bored. Mrs. Astor took a long drag of her cigarette in its long holder, blowing the smoke out into a ring in the center of their semi-circle. Mr. Brighton sighed and finished the little wine he had. Mr. Carlisle looked to his beloved wife for help, for anything of use, but she was too busy staring at the rest of the guests. Suddenly, Mrs. Brighton spoke up.

Thank goodness for Barbara Brighton, Mr. Carlisle thought to himself.

“I have an idea.” Mrs. Brighton said aloud.

“Oh?” Mrs. Astor inquired. “I forgot you knew how to think, Barbara.”

A gentle smattering of polite laughter followed, which Mrs. Brighton took part in herself.

“You are such a comedian, Alice. An idea to entertain ourselves, I mean. No disrespect to Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle, of course, the party has been quite entertaining for all of us, I’m sure.” she continued, not missing a beat. “But what of a scavenger hunt, like we used to do?”

Mr. Carlisle heard his wife chuckle lightly to the left of him, just outside of his peripheral vision.

“You cannot be serious, can you Barbara?” Mrs. Carlisle asked. “We were younger then. We have lives now, and responsibilities. Those silly hunts won’t work anymore, they won’t have that spark of fun they once had.”

“And why not, Candace?” Mrs. Brighton retorted. “We had fun back then, didn’t we? What has really changed?”

“That is true, Candace.” Mr. Brighton agreed. “Don’t you remember when we were younger? When our parents would go off on business trips out of the country together and we would be holed up our mansions all of the time? We had to think of something else to do. Those hunts were our lives when the yacht club closed.”

“I say we should do it.” Mr. Astor said, grinning widely, sweeping his feathery brown hair (with a recent streak of grey, Mr. Carlisle noticed, no doubt from the most recent stock market crash) back behind his ear.

“I agree, love. Should we play with the same rules?” Mrs. Astor asked. “Three items to scavenge? The gentlemen versus the women? An hour allotted to obtain each item?”

“Splendid, Alice. You remembered the rules after all of these years?” Mrs. Brighton asked, clearly impressed.

“Oh yes, dear. One doesn’t easily forget the rules to our scavenger hunt.” Mrs. Astor sniped back with a smile.

A second gentle smattering of polite laughter followed, which Mrs. Brighton, again as always, took part in herself.


It was the third hour of the hunt, with only the Carlisles left to complete their task, obtaining a beef tongue. The Astors versed each other in finding a pig’s ear and the Brightons had successfully found a chicken’s foot. Mr. Astor had found the right ear, scoring a point for the gentlemen. Mrs. Brighton, however, managed to find a chicken’s foot and get it back to the Carlisle house before the hour ran out, scoring a point for the women. It had all came down to Mr. Carlisle versus his wife.

Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle had departed for their item with a kiss to each other, as was custom for the game. It was a symbol of good fortune and sportsmanship on their part, and was something that made Mr. Carlisle proud to be among such noble and good friends.

The barn the Carlisles had chosen for their task was off the main road about ten minutes out. Mrs. Carlisle had chosen the particular one, her husband had chosen the O’Shaughnessy property, but she did not care for the cow there. It was too moody and unpredictable. So, Mr. Carlisle had repented and there he was, in the heat of the moment, ready to get his prize.

He had begun, as he always had, sneaking around the barn stealthily, so as to not wake any of the filthy animals inside. He approached the barn door cautiously. He moved it just a bit, to test it for any creaking. It had none. Mr. Carlisle loved it when he was this lucky on the hunts.

The door swung open easily, and he crept inside. He could already smell the poor hygiene on the animals in the barn. If Mrs. Astor had been here, he knew she would have gagged quite a bit, and maybe even thrown up. But he would press on.

He walked further into the one-room barn, which was lightly furnished. He quickly searched for the cow. It had to be the right cow and the right tongue to win the hunt for his fellow gentlemen. It had to be just right.

Finally, in one corner of the room lying on the floor on damp newspapers, Mr. Carlisle saw her. She was perfect.  She was slightly darker than the rest of the animals, but not significantly so. She was not a hideously overweight animal, but just enough to where Mr. Carlisle could tell that she was an overeater. Gluttony was in this beast’s vocabulary.

His wife was nowhere to be seen, and he had found the perfect cow; the perfect tongue.

The eyes of Mr. Carlisle’s prize began to flutter and awaken (which was due, he assumed, to the long period in which he stood over her) but he quickly shushed her so she didn’t wake the others.

She struggled for a moment, but he kept a steady hand and worked quickly.


The socialites sat again in their semi-circle, each with a drink in hand, reminiscing about their most recent scavenger hunt. Mr. Carlisle had won it for the gentlemen, and they were all toasting to their success in good fun.

“So, did everyone enjoy themselves tonight?” Mr. Astor asked.

“I did, Arthur. I haven’t had that much fun since college. The whole thing really is exhilarating, isn’t it?” Mr. Brighton replied, brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other.

“Oh yes, indeed, Benjamin.”

“Did anyone have trouble with their items?” Mrs. Carlisle asked. “Who did everyone choose?”

The Astors began, as Mr. Carlisle knew they always would.

“We had pig’s ear, and we chose Mr. Louis Farrell, age forty-five.” Mrs. Astor said. “He lost his job a few months back, and hasn’t found one since. He had been living with his mother, and refused to work picking the crops in favor of sleeping. He was like a pig in his lazy ways. We agreed that he accurately represented sloth, the sin of laziness, and he became the pig’s ear”.

 “We had chicken’s foot, and we chose Ms. Selena Gutierrez, age twenty-two.” Mr. Brighton said next. “A drug addict with serious violent issues from the Seaside District.  Barbara threatened her with a pocketknife for money, and she obliged, and threatened my poor wife. She was like a cock in a cock fight, so violent for nothing. Made me sick. We both agreed she accurately represented wrath, the sin of anger, and she became the chicken’s foot.”

Mr. Carlisle let his wife relate the story of their item, the beef tongue. They had not chosen Audrey O’Shaughnessy as he had suggested, but had instead gone with a Mrs. Opal Jennings. Her tendencies for overeating and gluttonous ways of not feeding her starving children lead to her ultimate choosing.

The group of wealthy socialites continued their light discussion, while a severed human ear, amputated foot and grey, slimy tongue sat in individual buckets of ice on the Carlisle coffee table.

“Oh, how I loathe being around them…” Mrs. Astor said, shuddering slightly and nearly spilling her red wine. “Those impoverished ones, those filthy animals, so unclean and unhealthy. The poor really are a nuisance to this country.”

“That’s why it is fun, dearest wife!” Mr. Astor said jubilantly. “These silly little games provide us with a challenge to go into those hellish animal pens. To let us reaffirm ourselves of our good choices in life over their poor ones when we feel low. It is simply life’s way, and a hell of a good time!”

There was a gentle smattering of polite laughter, and Mr. Carlisle joined in for the first time in years.


After their friends had left for the evening, the Carlisles destroyed the items and got ready for bed.

Mr. Carlisle felt very good that evening, he felt young and fresh and alive. He was pleased with the latest scavenger hunt, and wanted to do something else to recapture the days of his youth. He got his idea once he and his wife had settled into bed.


“Yes, Campion?”

“We should gather the others tomorrow night, as well. Hold another dinner, you know. I could prepare my famous filet mignon I’m always going on about.”

“I think that’s a splendid idea, dear. But what ever for?

“Now that we’ve done the scavenger, I believe it’s time for us to do a fox hunt.”

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