Capricorns at night…

2 Jan

9635983330_3e6333e000_bCapricorns at night…

All I wanted for Christmas was a few days off. But my boss suggested that, if I hoped for a bonus this year, I should volunteer for holiday overtime. Our company’s next board meeting was the first week of the New Year, and they needed our year-end report. It had been hanging over our heads like Damocles’ sword since the first of December, and now it was time… Chronos, that old bastard, demanded his due.

Saturday morning, the last weekend before Christmas, four of us gathered for duty at one of our branch offices. The plan was, out here in the suburbs we would toil without distraction, finish the report by day’s end and join our fellow employees for our office party tonight in the downtown entertainment district.

5ha27z-lThere was Karen from HR, a total slave driver with an eye on the VP’s office. Since we all expected to go straight to the party afterwards, she was wearing black leather pants, little boots and a crisp white blouse with military-style epaulets. I didn’t know whether to salute or grovel at her feet. Maybe later she’d bring out a whip and clarify my options.

Capricorn_MugshotIrving from Finance had arrived in his dark blue pinstripe. An archetypal brown-noser, he worked every Saturday anyway. Rumor was, he had a specially-designed Murphy bed with a desk, and liked to work on Sunday mornings too. Many of us suspected he wore dark blue pinstripe pajamas.

Joan was there on behalf of Marketing. Whereas Karen’s hair was black as a vulture’s wing, Joan was a platinum blonde with a body modeled after a joanBarbie doll. None of it was real of course, but that was marketing for you, and we all knew that if Joan didn’t make it to the top of her ladder, she could always go into politics.

The day went by in a blur of coffee, pizza and more coffee. We convened in one of the conference rooms at six to review our draft. Multiple errors were found in the report, and fingers were pointed in a paroxysm of passive-aggressive accusations that left everyone with wounded egos, acid stomachs and looming migraines. We again hunkered down over our respective contributions and toiled until well past nine PM.

By this time we’d missed dinner with the rest of the office staff downtown. We’d be lucky now to join them for drinking and dancing at a popular club. Seeing the evening spiralling into a black hole of corporate servitude, someone from Operations (maybe me) scooted across the street and bought a few bottles of wine before it was too late to salvage any happiness from this day.

We poured a round of drinks into four of the Marketing department’s complimentary coffee mugs and pressed on into the night. Another review revealed more errors, unleashing more recriminations, more cursing, more tears of frustration and anger. I went to the bathroom and cried for a little while until Karen came in and dragged me out by the ear.

It was after midnight before we were finished. If it weren’t for the fact that we’d been drinking as steadily as we’d been working, I would have said, screw this shit, I’m going home to bed, see you Monday morning. But there was something in the fact that nietzschetogether we’d wrestled this 40-page bear of a report to the ground, and stood upon it now with leather heels on its bloodied snout, beating our breasts – both natural and enhanced – in a blood-curdling cry of defiance. We are corporate, hear us roar!

We were ready now to join the gang downtown and rip that joint. The trains had stopped by then so we had to call a cab. It was there in minutes, an Atlas taxi whose driver was a middle-aged man with a mustache the size of a gerbil. As soon as we told him our destination, he sped off toward the highway but when we got to the on-ramp, he went through the underpass instead and headed north.

“Hey, that’s not the way downtown,” I said.

“Big accident on the Metropolitan,” he said. “Alternate route.”

“North? Downtown is south of us.”

He didn’t answer me.

I examined his driver’s card posted on the door column above his shoulder. Bahman Bazouki, it said. I looked in his rear view mirror and saw him glance at me.

“You are going to a party?” he said.

“Yes,” Joan said from the rear. “We have wine.” She was a bit loaded, and was cradling the two remaining bottles of wine to her breasts like they were babies.

“Wine is proof that God loves us and likes to see us happy,” the cabbie said.

“If God wanted me to be happy, he would have let me sleep in today,” Karen said.

DSCN5701The cab pulled off the road to enter a long lane that ran through empty fields beneath a full moon. We passed through a perimeter of cedar trees, within which was a house, a barn and several sheds. There were lights in the house and dozens of people dancing around a backyard bonfire.

“What is this place?” Karen demanded.

“This is where your worldly ambitions go to die,” said the cabbie.

“Sorry,” Karen said, “I already gave at the office.”

“By going under, you shall cross over,” the cabbie insisted.

“Thus spake the lunatic?” Irving looked at our driver. “Who are you? And do you have a night pass, or does the asylum just let you out every full moon?”

“Doctor Bazouki, at your service.” The cabbie got out and opened the door for Karen.

Dance-clothing-trousersShe stepped out and walked a few steps toward the fire. I saw the curve of her thighs limned against the firelight. Her hip twitched, picking up the rhythm of an extremely loud and funky dance tune that was blasting from quadruple speakers around the courtyard. “This looks like fun.” She snapped her fingers and we all followed. Because if you can’t trust HR, who can you trust?

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said Dr. Bazouki. “Who will pay the fare?”

“Finance,” I said, and Irving coughed up. Natural order of the corporation.

“Could I also ask of you some small assistance?” Bazouki said.

“Sure.” I could give him the name of a good barber. Or a vet. Whatever it took to trim that gerbil down to a less frightening size.

“Give me a hand with these?” He opened the trunk to reveal three cases of what I assumed was wine.

Irving and I each took a case and walked with Bazouki to the house, a big old two-story brick monstrosity from the Victorian era.

franciscogoya-saturn-eating-cronus“So you’re a doctor?” I asked to make conversation.

“In Iran I was doctor of psychiatric therapy.”

“You’ve come a long way,” Irving sniped.

“This is true.” Bazouki stopped us just outside the verandah. “Shoes off here, please.”

I could see a protest half-formed on Irving’s lips. But we looked around and saw there were rows and rows of shoes laid out on wooden planks, and each plank had a number from one to 17. We took off our shoes and left them there on plank number 13.

“Now you are grounded,” Dr. Bazouki said.

“Does that mean I can’t hang out with my friends at the mall?” Irving quipped.

Dr. Bazouki led us down a hallway to a giant kitchen which featured two of every appliance. We opened the cases and put out the bottles. I noticed that it was not wine – neither red nor white nor blush – but a smoky cream that looked like organic apple juice with a bit of milk added.

“What is this stuff?” Irving said.

“Soma,” said Dr. Bazouki.

“Which is what?” Irving shook a bottle and held it up to the light. “Some kind of shampoo?” He looked around, suddenly realizing that almost everyone around us was making out or working up to it.

saturnalia_histories_by_karzrave-d3fvud6Couples were standing in the kitchen, seated in the dining room, lying in the living room. And yet there was constant flux, people getting up and going outside to where the music was pounding like tribal war drums, and people were coming in, breathless and laughing, to grab something to drink from fridge or counter, and relax wherever they could find space, to hold hands, kiss and more…

Dr. Bazouki insisted on pouring us each a tall glass of soma. We had little choice for the moment, since Joan with our remaining two bottles of wine was out there in the crowd somewhere with her other two jugs. Irving and I took tentative sips of our new drink. It tasted like Bailey’s and milk after a trout had swum through it. Irving drained his straight off.

“Like a slightly chilled matzo broth,” he said, and poured himself another glass.

“Mazel tov,” said Dr. Bazouki, raising his own glass to Irving.

I nursed my soma. I had learned from hard experience not to dive into dark waters. Like that year in college when I’d eaten five bags of morning glory seeds and almost passed out with strychnine poisoning. Other than wine, I was now a Scotch man. Single malt and smoky, like the way the air smelled right now…

I followed my nose outside. I don’t know what they were throwing on the fire to make it smell so good. Pheromones, maybe. There were about fifty people dancing around the fire and they all looked hot. Out here in the courtyard, there was primal magic in the air. The drums thudded in my bones. The bass was doing something to my gonads.

capricorn_by_engkit-CROPI saw Karen in the middle of the dancing mob. She’d pulled the pins from her bun and was now flailing a dance-mate with her waist-length hair. This dweeb, as stoned as he was, looked a little bit frightened. As well he should be. Because when HR gets down and dirty, they’re going to rip someone a new one.

“Karen!” I called and waved.

She abandoned her dance partner and came out through the crowd to hug me. “This is fucking wild.”

“What about the office party?” I said. “The cabbie’s still here. If we want to go, we need to go now.”

“Go now? Are you insane? We just got here. What are you drinking?” She borrowed my glass and took a bold sip. “What the hell is that? A sperm smoothie?” she took another sip. “With banana and turmeric?”

“Don’t ask me, I only helped deliver the stuff. It’s called soma.”

“It’s som-a good!” Her Italian imitation was terrible, but she drained my glass.

“Where’s Joan? She has our two bottles of wine.”

“I don’t know. I think I saw her making out with two guys she just met.”

“What?”

Zodiac-Capricorn-59972“Just kidding.” She punched me in the shoulder. “What are you, stoned?” She tried to look me in the eyes but I’m sure all she could see was the reflection of dancers in the firelight. “Whoa!” she said, squeezing my bicep.

“What’s the matter?”

“I saw something in your eyes. It looked like you and me naked.”

“How would you know it’s me?” I said. “You’ve never seen me naked.”

“I’ve imagined how you look.” She corrected herself. “I mean, I can imagine…”

She paused as someone came running through the crowd, screaming like a banshee, and jumped over the bonfire.

“Holy shit!” she said. “Was that Irving?”

“I think so.”

Before we even had time to rush to the other side of the fire, to give him artificial respiration, or piss on his burning clothes, Irving came dancing around the inner ring. His jacket was on fire but he’d taken it off and was whirling it over his head as he danced clockwise around the fire. As the flames reached his lapels, he flung the jacket into the fire and screamed like a dozen women all giving birth at the same time.

museum2A huge roar went up from the crowd. People started following Irving around the fire, jumping and turning in a massive conga line. Some tore off their shirts, belts and skirts, and flung them into the flames. People poured out of the house, carrying glasses and bottles of soma. Suddenly, there was Dr. Bazouki at our sides with a bottle which he thrust into our hands.

“Dance the night away,” he said.

“You’re the doctor.” Karen poured herself a glass and gave me the bottle. She resumed dancing, and for the briefest moment I saw her as a cobra undulating in the firelight, her body a sinuously erotic mirage, her tongue flicking toward me.

I took a swig from the bottle. This felt good. Not another five-bags-of-strychnine night. I could feel the wave beginning to rise beneath me. I had my feet planted firmly on the board. I was the big kahuna and I was going to ride this monster all the way in to the breakers. I began to dance, doing the old shuffle to the left, shuffle to the right, grab your baby’s ass, it’s going to be all right.

“Ooh, what’s got into you?” Karen shimmied a little closer, holding her glass off to one side so that she could press herself up against me.

pan_childwall“The Devil,” I screamed.

“What?”

“Over there!” I pointed, but by the time she turned to look, he was gone.

“Are you hallucinating?” Karen said.

She thought I was crazy but I knew I’d seen him, just for a moment, a giant dancing goat with one of those big Pan flutes and an erection the size of a Louisville slugger. He’d scooped up two blondes – I think one of them might have been Joan – and run off into the woods behind the compound.

The music, as if it couldn’t have got any louder, rose in waves to buffet us from all sides. We danced like crazed marionettes, heaving and crashing into each other like slam-dancing punks in some testosterone-charged mosh pit of epic proportions.

I don’t remember finishing the bottle. Tell the truth, I don’t remember any other details from around the fire. I do remember Karen leading me by the hand into one of the sheds at the back of the compound. I remember tearing at each other’s clothes and collapsing onto a pile of burlap bags that smelled like potatoes or goats or both.

tumblr_mvs9nvqcx61rkkp04o1_500And I remember her saying, just before we did it, “You know what a non-disclosure agreement is, right?”

“Of course.” You could take the man out of the corporation, but you could never take the corporation out of the man.


“Well, I’m invoking one,” she said. “Right here, right now.”

“Is that a verbal commitment, or oral?”

“If you shut up, you can have both,” she said, and sealed the deal with burning lips upon mine.

In the morning, the place looked like the aftermath of a tornado, where capricious forces of nature had scooped up a Club Med party along with a business convention, mixed them violently in a giant cocktail shaker and spilled them back onto Earth. There were clothes and half-naked bodies everywhere, and a pall of hormone-scented smoke hanging over the courtyard.

capricorn_by_mavainFortunate to be early risers, we gathered up some clothes here and there, not caring if anything matched, like survivors of some inexplicable natural disaster. We found Irving and Joan naked in a corner of the barn. Unfortunately, we’d lost our phones and were unable to capture the moment for posterity and years of leverage. Maybe it was just as well.

The four of us walked to the highway where we hoped, despite our dishevelled appearances, to hitchhike a ride back into town. Along the edge of the lane, where the soil was black and muddy, I saw the prints of a giant cloven hoof. It might have been a goat, but I’m not much of a farm boy, so who knows?

~~~

Alan Annand is a writer and astrologer with the moon in Scorpio. Find his New Age Noir series and other mystery novels at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&NobleKobo and Smashwords.

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