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The Pity Party

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April 19th 2013  |  2  |  Category: Drama  |  Author: Jennifer  |  942 views

The wine-cheap. The chairs-itchy, and guaranteed to pinch the thighs. Only the crystal chandelier relieved the severity of the tone, but it couldn’t be helped. One can’t always have a room as miserable as one would like it.
They had drawn up the white sheet over poor Harry’s face, and the widow considered that there was nothing much left to live for. She had no use for cards, flowers, and the common sorts of well-meaning visitor. Instead, she much preferred to throw an old fashioned pity party.
The guest list for this party was exclusive. In the drawing rooms of her late husband’s acquaintances, she had listened, fascinated, to the stories of the century’s most tragic figures. These stories held a weird obsession for her. She believed that these people had suffered, and through their suffering passed through a sort of gateway that led them to a deepened understanding of life. Now that life had dealt her a cruel blow, she planned to deprive herself off sensual comfort, and enter a material desert. Since she could no longer be young and beautiful, she meant to be wise.
Ferdinand and Paula were the first guests she selected. As young people, this pair had met on the steps of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Barcelona. At a glance, they loved; at the first word exchanged, they were bonded for a lifetime. However, Ferdinand was the son of a tailor, and Paula’s family had amassed great wealth. The marriage was impossible. Out of respect for the other, each remained celibate, though it was said, when hearing the news that he could not marry her, Ferdinand nearly starved himself to death, and poor Paula wept so long, for so many days, that she was temporarily blind. Eventually, Paula was forced into marriage with a lecherous and abusive Count. Through many years the pair was separated; the Count took poor Paula to Germany, and placed her under guard in a secret section of a great castle. Eventually, through drinking and debauchery, the Count spent his health, and died, leaving Paula a great fortune. She sent for Ferdinand immediately, but when he saw her he was repulsed by her appearance, so changed from the lovely girl he once knew. They retained a sort of contact, but it was said that each was conscious of the loss of a great love, and that Paula had even traveled as far as America seeking a fountain of youth that would return the years to her—but alas, alas.
Next, there was the case of Monseigneur Pucello, from Rome. This man’s piety was notorious. Once he nearly caused a riot in Budapest, when thousands mobbed the streets to touch the hem of his robe. It was said that had even raised a man from the dead. However, that must have been just a story, because this man, so pious and inspiring to others, had lost his faith entirely. Secretly, he prayed to regain it, and his body was covered in scars, where he mortified his flesh. However, it was to no avail. This spiritual leader feared death as he feared nothing else, lacking hope in redemption.
Finally, there was the case of Miss Parker, an Englishwoman. This woman was a brilliant writer and a talented musician. She had penned twelve novels, and a jazz symphony. However, for many years she suffered from an incurable illness that slowly was paralyzing her. Eventually this illness would reach her throat, and stop her breathing, but not before she suffered the frightening reality of being trapped in her own body. As a result of this, she had developed an addiction to laudanum. The opiate blurred the edge of her pain, and gave a sort of pastel glow to her existence. However, soon the effects of this drug would overtake her, and she would lose her intellect as well. A sad, sad tale…fitting with the others. She would be quite at home on the third floor of the widow’s rambling mansion, and a welcome addition to the Pity Party.
At the appointed hour, the old chandelier was lit, and the guests were ushered into the room where the widow, resplendent in her grief, received each in turn. Miss Parker, in her wheelchair, was positioned to the widow’s right hand. The other guests were in a kind of semi-circle, facing her.
“Paula,” began the widow. “I am so glad you could come. How is it with you and Ferdinand?” She reached out to place her hand on Paula’s knee. “We are all friends here.”
Paula’s appearance was as dowdy as one would expect. Her hair was dyed black, and pulled up hastily. She wore a simple tweed suit, and sensible walking shoes. Her vision was poor, so she was obliged to wear thick glasses. Her skin was a ghostly white, almost transparent, and she could not stand the sun, finding the glare intolerable. Blue veins radiated from her elbow to her hands, and along her calves. Truly, she her appearance was not only plain, but a little disturbing.


At the widow’s impertinent question, she looked towards Ferdinand, who was handsome, in the prime of his life. They exchanged a look that recalled the years past, and the passionate love first delayed, then abandoned forever. Then she spoke again.
“Ferdinand and I are great friends now,” she said. “Although to most people we must lead a quiet sort of life. He comes to me every day at five in the afternoon. My tabby cat perches upon his knee while he reads his paper. Sometimes my cook whips up a nice fish broth. Always, always, there is tea. I read a novel. Sometimes I read out loud to dear old Ferdie, but I always skip the racy parts.”
Here Paula blushed, though she was, at that time, a woman of forty five years.
“But do the two of you talk over old times?” asked the widow.
“We never mention it. It’s too disturbing to both of us, and we are at a time of life when we prefer a calm contentment. Instead we talk of everything else…the weather, mostly.”
“It may snow later,” offered Paula. “I see flakes in the air.”
The widow turned to the Monseigneur.
“I want you to know, Monseigneur, that you are quite among friends. Tell us of your spiritual struggles, and the horrible nightmares you are said to have, where you believe yourself in an open grave, staring upwards at a grey, unfriendly sky.”
“I am quite done with all that worry,” said the Monseigneur, smiling gently.
“How is that possible?” gasped the widow.
“It is true I traveled the world in search of spiritual truth. Abandoning what I believed to be the false precepts of Christianity, I met with an Indian guru in the Himalayas, but he could not help me. I even traveled to Cuba, and spent six months with an old witch doctor there, a female one. She said I had a bad spirit attached to me. She said she must dress in chicken feathers and chase me through a swamp, at midnight on the first of June. I refused, naturally, but came back to Rome desperate, ready to take my own life.”
“That must have been quite horrible,” breathed the widow, very pleased.
“It was. However, soon after I learned of the solution to my problem.”
“Tell us,” breathed the widow.
“I wrote to an Austrian doctor, who said he would remove a part of my brain with an ice pick, and thus restore my joy in living. I packed my trunk and bought a train ticket; after a brief recovery time, I was completely cured. I no longer worry about anything now.”
He stood for the company.
“Aren’t these trousers fantastic?” he asked. “I am over the moon about them.”
The widow took a deep breath in, and shook her head. She turned to the Miss Parker.
“And I suppose, despite your illness, your retain a hollow optimism? You have a cat? You quit the laudanum, and instead you watch television?”
“Yes, lots of television,” said Miss Parker.
“Out, out, the lot of you!” yelped the widow. “I expected misery, but not the sort you all have adapted to…a sort of pale reflection of life. Out, out, you are too horrible for me! Worse than suffering, is the ritualized denial of pain…akin to Ms. Parker’s paralysis.”
The visitors rose, and made for the door.
“I daresay, you could use some pictures for this dreary room,” said Paula. “A cottage scene, with wildflowers and roses on the walk, and trees framing a purple evening sky.”
“Out!” bellowed the widow.
“When you’re ready, I have some brochures for you,” suggested Mr. Pucello. “Keep an open mind, or, rather, empty your mind of all conscious thought.”
“Out,” said the widow again, weakly.
The visitors departed. The widow felt a blow akin to an electric shock moving through her thin frame. She heard the men and women talking on the stairs in a bland, perfunctory way. After seeing them out, the butler came to the door.
“I have had my fright for a year,” the widow said to him. “Bring me a glass of absinthe, and a volume of Montaigne. The party will continue…with the one person who seems to understand it.”
“Yes Madam,” said the butler, hurrying to comply with her request.

 

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2 Responses to The Pity Party

  1. Avatar of priyanka priyanka says:

    What an amazing drama story… :D
    Good one Jennifer.. Really enjoyed the whole story!!

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