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"The Last Party" by Nicole Brogdon

Cosimo was looking distractingly handsome. We were celebrating his 75th birthday that day, at the Party Palazzo, and I know he likes that phrase, so I said it aloud. His tanned face—highlighted with bronzer—lit up. I licked his grey stubble. “My sexy demon.” He smiled with Vaselined lips, squaring his shoulders in his lush grape-colored birthday shirt.

We’d nearly canceled, due to three local school shootings that week. We keep up with news—we aren’t heartless. But we are celebratory!  Besides, the Palazzo employed two security guards, wearing stormtrooper boots and automatic rifles. The weapons gave our guests pause. I wolf-whistled at the guards, then my party of twenty strutted inside, arm in arm—gays, straights, non-binaries, and singles. 

        At first, we wore face masks, disturbing my cheek blush. I fingered Cosimo’s N-95 strap, reminding him, “There are four pesky new Covid variants around.” One variant, resembling a green French poodle, trotted right past the Palazzo’s downtown-facing window. 

      “We dodged a bullet,” Cosimo chuckled. “And a virus.”

       Inside the venue, nurses of all genders, sporting optic-white short-shorts, lured us to the Covid testing booth. We slingshotted our masks like thongs across the room, staring at people’s face holes—so naked, so free! Nurses lovingly deep-dived our nostrils with swabs. Soon they cleared us of the virus, and handed out lime-colored virus-dolls.  

          Before us lay the famed venue trampoline. I tugged Cosimo’s large hand, before somersaulting onto the fleshy jumping pad. There we were, two married men (me, decades younger, Cosimo, quite limber!), leaping, trying not to knee or elbow tender spots. The oiled Brazilian couple wearing Speedos—show-offs!—hopped in on sculpted legs, bouncing on and off each other’s bottoms. My niece filmed and posted the entire jump sequence, including our tangled collapse into belly laughs.

        You see, the Palazzo was the only venue remaining open over these long, opioid-infused, war-ravaged, Pandemic-ed, homicidal years. Outside the venue, the battle raged on, punctuated by explosions and screams. The war was going badly—young people, drafted, grocery shelves, nearly bare, primo foods pulled for troops. Rumor was, the enemy had changed. Meanwhile, no muddy-booted soldiers clomped through the Palazzo, guards barring entrance without invitations. War refugees pressed soiled faces against the thick glass walls. There’s never a perfect time for a party! Always, homeless in tents, reactionaries storming the capital, rebels live-streaming beheadings. And now, workers in hazmat suits, wheeling virus-succumbed bodies into freezer trucks. 

      “Be here now!” Cosimo intoned. 

       Cosimo’s co-workers clapped, including the lithe yogi-architect Sylvie. She entertained us with moving tattoos on her bare arms—parrots traversing the screen of her skin. Sylvie lifted her spiked juice pack, garnished with a cock-shaped celery, toasting Cosimo. “To an artist, a lover,” (she winked at Cos), “a one-man party. Here’s to another near-century!” Our friends kissed Cosimo, tongues darting into his mouth.Next, our guests took turns bowling the neon lanes, bordered by a flowing human-made stream inhabited by graceful dolphins. Cosimo, that clown, grasped me lovingly by my ankles, slinging my body down the bowling lane on my belly—Stimulating! Strike!  I stood, bowing in those cute leather bowling shoes. “That’s nothing, compared to our bedtime ritual!” 

      A small missile burst through the supposedly unbreakable Pyrex wall. Party Palazzo waiters rushed, cleaning shattered glass and debris. Such well-trained young employees! Apparently, they’d avoided fentanyl, extremism, and suicide, to work the party. And they were working it! These young people engender hope—and a well-deserved five-star Yelp review tomorrow.

      Meanwhile, the DJ cranked up his turntable, grinding with his orangutan assistant, blasting Donna Summers. I leaped across the parked missile, strutting to, “Last Dance”. When the DJ played that husky Pit Bull, Cosimo led us in a conga.

      Soon, it was time for the Eiffel Tower-shaped birthday cake. Cosimo’s friend Fernando sprang from the cake! Tossing bomboloni pastries at us, the delicacies exploding with cherry jam when they struck. I pressed two treats like breasts against my shirt. 

      “Delicious!” Cosimo chortled, licking the jam.

       Lightning and rain deluged the glass ceiling as we danced and raged, gulping tequila shots. We expected a freeze later that night. Knew our state electric grid was as flimsy as an old porch screen; our infrastructure, disintegrating. Trees would fall, roads would ice over; asphalt, blister, crack, and likely swallow us up. Still, downtown forest fires blazed dazzling orange behind the Palazzo. But dammit, it was forever since we’d cut loose! 

     Cosimo, that bon vivant, murmured in my ear, “You’ve always been my favorite houseboy.” How his musky scent drugged me! My orifices tightened with pleasure. I lead him by the belt toward the “NUDIES” room. Alas, before we could enter the private room, we were called to a candlelit dinner, to slurp blood-colored spaghetti. A pesky homeless man groaned—somehow, at my elbow—staring at our loaded plates. Liberal guilt wafted off some guests, as two guards lifted and carried him out by the arms. Cosimo sang out like Pavarotti, “We donate leftovers to the indigent!” Through marinara mouths, we cheered, a peaceful carb coma descending like smog. For dessert, Chef Luigi—a shirtless confection, himself—marched out holding a tray of winsome dancing cannoli.

        Cosimo clambered onto the table, waving cannolis like pistols. “King of the Mountain!” 

       We danced, we played roulettes, till midnight. Behind a velvet curtain, I ushered Cosimo into a patent leather suit, affixing a dismembered monkey tail to his pants seat. Cosimo was now a human projectile clothed in animal skin. He clutched me. “I hate to leave you here, in this world as it is now.”

  “I shall meet you later,” I answered. “Among the stars.”

     You see, I had sprung for la piece de resistance! At midnight, I would shoot Cosimo out of a cannon through a mechanical opening in the Palazzo’s magical roof. Yes, there were holes in the ozone layer. Yes, fossil fuel, dwindling. Why blame one individual for every environmental slap? I recycle! Cosimo, that Apollo, couldn’t bear turning ancient, irrelevant, or flabby, on this hostile planet. He would leave tonight. 

      “No live streaming, please!” I announced. 

       While our guests sipped glowing aperitifs, the roof—Cosimo’s design!—opened like lips. I gave my husband one last probing kiss, aquiline noses, touching. “I see you, Cosimo.” He coughed—no more virus tests—mounting the stainless steel cannon, waving, descending. 

      Sylvie climbed the cannon, wrapping her tattooed body around it. “I’ll send him off in a blaze!” She kicked her bare legs, revealing the tangerine slices of her crotch. 

       “Sylvie. Time and place!” I pushed her. “I’ll light his fuse, this last time.” 

      A drum roll. The hostess struck a giant match against the cannon, handing me the flaming stick. Guests waved sparklers, smoke filled the air. Strangers, inside and outside, peered like creatures. Gasping, I lit the fuse, propelling my greatest Love, up up up, into the dark sky. There flew my flaming Italian Love, master of dramatic exits. Combusting, like our world. “He burns at both ends, he will not last the night,” I recited. 

      “Armistice!” a megaphone announced. “The war is over!”

       Surely not. I focused on Cosimo, shooting like a comet across the wretched sky—for a long time, my neck cramping. I had to turn away soon and close down the party. But “Oh, my friends, he gives a lovely light.”

Nicole Brogdon is an Austin TX trauma therapist interested in strugglers and stories, with fiction in Vestal Review, Cleaver, Flash Frontier, Bending Genres, Bright Flash, SoFloPoJo, Cafe Irreal, 101Words, Centifictionist, etc. 2024 Best Microfiction, and Smokelong Microfiction Finalist. Twitter NBrogdonWrites


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